Some years ago, when I was going through what has been the most difficult time in my life, a friend gave me a copy of “Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics” to read. Replace ‘Alcoholic’ wherever you read it with ‘Controlling Person’ I was admonished. The two influence others in the same ways. There is some irony in this: I am the adult child of a recovering alcoholic parent who stopped drinking before I developed memories of it. Perhaps that is a benefit of being the youngest child. I never experienced an alcoholic abusing and controlling me. But, I learned first hand too much about ‘controlling people’ after leaving home as a child. In fact, one of my sisters and I agree. If our parents did anything wrong it, as it seems pop-culture to blame one’s parents for things: it is simply that our parents demonstrated love so well, and often, we both did enter adulthood understanding how horrible many people treat others whom they claim to love. The book also recommended writing your personal Bill of Rights.
Writing My Personal Bill of Rights
Upon reading it, I needed to write my own Personal Bill of Rights. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. As I typed the outline and turned it into the final work, I shook and cried often. Fear; waves of it. I feared others who did not see me as abused would think me a horrible person for writing it. We live in a culture that does not like to admit the inconvenient truth that men can be and are abused. Mere acknowledgment of it as a fact is seen by some to limit, diminish, or minimalize the abuse of women.
I feared in my emotionally pulverized state that I was no longer able to experience what it describes, because of the significant damage to my internal, self-image, the very fabric of ‘me’. I feared these things were too good to experience again in my lifetime. I feared it would provoke more of what I had already experienced in that relationship and from a community that not only supported my abuser but amplified it in their treatment and subsequent shunning of me.
What did strangers think of my Bill of Rights?
After writing, I took it to a few people who were ‘pro-David’: caring, intelligent, and able to provide constructive criticism – people I had known and trusted, almost all of my life. They all assured me these were the basic rights any person should have in any relationship. Yet, I wanted to hear that from complete strangers to eliminate the possibility of bias, since I had selected my ‘Pro-David’ cohort.
After that, while traveling for work, during frequent but short flights, I decided I’d wait until the flight was almost over, landing announced. At that point, I would ask the stranger(s) I had been talking with if they could do me a favor. I said, “You’ll probably never see me again – but it was nice to talk with you. Would you do me a favor? Would you read this ‘Personal Bill of Rights’ I wrote and tell me your honest opinion of it? Feel free to be brutally honest and I’ll not be offended. You won’t even have to put up with me asking ‘why, etc.’ as we’ll be going our own ways soon. Each person I did this with either said they loved it, that it represented basic human rights, or that they wanted to keep the copy to give to someone they loved that they knew needed it.
Share, Adopt or Write Your Own Personal Bill of Rights
Now, I’m sharing it here in hopes that others may benefit. Feel free to use it, in whole or in part, as your own Personal Bill of Rights. If you republish in a public forum, without substantial changes, I only ask that you cite this blog post. A brief word of caution: Don’t share this with someone abusing you or with whom you are in a strained relationship with without first seeking the advice of a Licensed Mental Health Professional. Extremely controlling people can be more abusive when they feel there is a threat of any kind to that control. If you feel someone you have to deal with would be angered upon reading this – it’s probably past time to get yourself some individual counseling. You might also consider reading https://shrink4men.com‘s articles.
Autonomy, Privacy, Assertiveness, & Enjoyment of Success
- I have the right to make choices for myself even if I have solicited opinions or advice from others. This includes the right to temporarily or indefinitely delay making a choice and the right to change my mind regarding past choices.
- I have the right to privacy and secrecy. I do not have to tell anyone anything unless I choose. If I choose to share my private and secret things I have the right to share only the parts that I want to share.
- I have the right to have my own feelings and opinions – and the right to choose to express them or to keep them private.
- I have the right to decide what to do with my own body. I choose when or if I want to have sex. This means that I have the right to say either “no” or “yes” when it comes to my body.
- I have the right to time for myself at a time that is good for me. Whether it is staying up late, hanging out in my office, or going out in the middle of the day – I have the right to time for myself. This includes the right to share that time with anyone of my choice – or I may choose to keep my time private.
- I have the right to say “no” without further explanation if I do not want to do something, am not ready, or do not feel safe. If someone compels me to do anything, whether or not that person is able to do it for themselves, I have the right to say “no.” In essence, I have the right to choose whether or to what degree I will meet other’s expectations.
- I have the right to make mistakes and the right to succeed. This includes the right to try again if I fail and the right to enjoy the fruit of my successes.
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