I have been seeing my primary therapist for almost 6 years. During that time she has helped me in ways large and small. I have a level of debt to her that will never be repaid. She has helped me see myself far more clearly than I would have been able to alone, and in that process has helped me see the world differently.
One of the most profound things she ever told me is also one of the most simple.
One of the things that I (and most survivors of childhood abuse) struggle with is having healthy boundaries as an adult. I was never able to just “be a kid” in the normal sense. I was forced into adult situations and adult decisions way, way too early. It left me constantly searching for approval and reassurance - wherever I could find it. And it left me completely afraid of ever disappointing anyone. Add it all up and it means I could not set limits for myself or boundaries for others.
My therapist helped me better understand my value and reset my ability to stand up for myself (even with myself if that makes sense) and draw lines to protect my energy and time.
No, my therapist says, is a complete sentence.
No means no. No does not need a qualifying sentence. You do not have to say “no, because…” or “I would, but unfortunately…” You should not say yes when you mean no. You should not say maybe when you mean no. If you know that your answer to a question / request / suggestion is no, then just say no and leave it at that.
As I read the second section of our first book I couldn’t help but think that everyone in this neighborhood needed my therapist’s advice. A LOT more people should have said no to James Harris.
No when he wanted to come in the house.
No when he (a complete stranger) wanted to invest money.
No when he asked for help opening a bank account.
No when he wanted to come to book club.
This whole group - the women and especially the men - had more than enough reasons to say no to “Jim” again and again and again. And they didn’t. They let propriety stop them. They let greed stop them. They let some romanticized idea of tradition stop them.
And evil came on in.
Some questions for section 2:
In order for society to function there must be a certain level of decorum. We have to be able to at least somewhat predict what other people will do in a given situation. Manners help with that. At what point do manners go from guardrails to shackles? Where on that continuum would you put Grace at the end of this section? Patricia? What about the other ladies (and gentleman) of Mt. Pleasant?
When Patricia goes to see Grace at the end of this section she talks to Mrs. Greene. When Patricia tells Mrs. Greene that she is on Mrs. Green’s side, Mrs. Greene responds “(y)ou’re on your side.” In what way is that true of each character in the book?
The men of Mt. Pleasant do not come across well. Which male character do you have the biggest issue with and why?
More twists and turns to come I am sure. Our next reading section picks up three years later, at the start of chapter 24. For next week, please read through the end of Chapter 33.
PS. Lurking is cool. I know not everyone has the chance to respond each week, but if you are reading the book please leave a comment or drop me a line. I would just like to get an idea of how many of us are reading. Thanks.
Reading., but very slowly...just beginning Chapter 12.
In advance of next week's questions, I must say that I can only think of comparisons between James and George Santos. Also, the section is very relevant in terms of James' gaslighting. Where have
we seen that?