The next basic tool to go in my toolbox was what rights do I have as a human being? My abusers convinced me I had no rights. I had no right to expect respect, no right to expect to be fed, no right to expect anything….nothing belonged to me and I existed because they allowed it. Very messed up. My counselor believed in using many different books and letting me learn from each perspective. The book that introduced me to my rights as a human being was Men Who Hate Women & The Women Who Love Them written in January 2002. Joan Torres opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. I had rights….I never knew….my abusers made sure I didn’t know. From a young age, they convinced me that I had no rights. I carried this on into my marriage and work life. My counselor emphasized that I needed to personalize my list. What I am sharing is part of my list. I was encouraged to be very specific to my experience. I modified and rewrote my list with the help of my counselor.
I have the right to be treated with respect.
I have the right to chose not to take responsibility for anyone else’s problems or bad behavior.
I have the right to feel emotions – anger, excitement, sad, glad, afraid, courageous, etc. and the responsibility to accept the consequences of any actions brought about by those emotions.
I have the right to say no. When I say “yes” to one thing I inherently often have to say “yes or no” to something else that is not always obvious.
I have the right to make mistakes and the responsibility to take the consequences for those mistakes.
I have the right to my opinions and convictions. Just because I have them does not mean I should always state them. Sometimes the best reply is silence but I need to keep in mind that with some people silence means agreement. The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable is on going training.
I have the right to determine when someone is yelling at me or not. I am aware that I am hypersensitive to negative reactions but if I feel someone is yelling at me I will respond that way.
I have the right to change my mind and the responsibility to take the consequences.
I have the right to ask for emotional support or help. I have the responsibility to work on things myself. Learned helplessness is as unhealthy as never reaching out to anyone.
I have the right to negotiate for change. The responsibility to express myself to the other person. The other person can not read my mind.
I have the right to protest what I believe to be unfair treatment or criticism. Being defensive can sometimes make a situation worse. In protesting unfair treatment I need to keep in mind who I am talking to. Some people are not healthy enough to engage in this type of conversation. In these situations, I have the right to walk away.
I have the right to have friends. I have the responsibility to recognize that friends take time and energy which I have a limited supply.
I have the right to ignore advice. I have the responsibility to take the consequences of ignoring that advice. I recognize that the source should be considered when I am considering someone else’s advice.
I have the right to take breaks that can be beneficial when working on large projects.
I have the right to throw away or give away things that I no longer want or need.
I have the right to lock the doors or not lock them depending on how I feel at the time.
I have the right to have extra food in the house.
I can add to this list whenever I feel the need.
Anyone creating their own toolbox, I recommend taking the time to create your own list of human rights. This particular list took weeks to write. I checked in with my counselor to make sure that I was not infringing on the rights of others in the process of establishing my own rights. Understanding my rights was essential to adding the next tools to my toolbox.