16 February 2007

The Change-Back Reaction

People who take advantage of others - and operate that way routinely - are usually not nice people, nor are they usually honest people; they can get very bent out of shape when whoever they've been using refuses to be taken advantage of any more.

When you are being used, and decide that it must stop, there's no way you can stand up for yourself nonthreateningly. Any defense of the healthy self is a confrontation of the unhealthy dynamic you've been tolerating [whether willingly, knowingly, or not].

You can keep your refusal as adult and calm as possible, but you are still likely to experience some form of retaliation, some kind of vindictiveness.

This is called a 'Change-Back' reaction, and it can be very nasty indeed.

A woman minister, Melinda Fish, uses a vivid metaphor: dysfunctional groups are like a crab bucket. It's never necessary to cover the bucket; if any one crab gets near the top, and thus might escape, the other crabs will just pull it right back down into the trap with them again.

This is pretty much what happens when someone tries to set boundaries with people who do not respect them. People who are used to stomping all over you usually react to requests to stop by stomping EVEN HARDER. This response is automatic; it's rarely as conscious as I'm making it sound. It's more along the lines of 'You're different and I don't like it, so I'm going to pressure you to go back to being the way you were'.

Unfortunately, this problem is exacerbated because most people wait to set a boundary until all else fails, and they are absolutely fed up and exhausted. In those circumstances, it's almost impossible to defend the boundary from the attack that automatically comes. This is what boundary violators count on!

So don't set a boundary until you are fully prepared to defend it; and then, put your head down, and keep going. The only way out, more often than not, is through.

Remember: if boundary violators were nice, sweet, loving, perceptive, empathetic people, they wouldn't be boundary violators in the first place. Kind, empathetic people are generally sensitive to and respect boundaries. People who are not sensitive to boundaries and don't respect them are not, generally, kind and empathetic.

This doesn't make them wretched human refuse, but it does make them people whose vote about what you do with your time and your love and your life has no right to override yours. They don't have your interests at heart.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking it is kind and generous of you to continue to be used. If you make a grownup decision about that, knowing perfectly well you will be used, taken advantage of, and never supported when you have a need, then OK.... but how often can we really make that kind of high spiritual pledge, and then experience exactly the consequences we knew we would, and never feel even a flicker of anger or resentment?

Especially at ourselves??

That very anger, that very resentment, is a boundary crying out to be maintained.

2 Comments:

Blogger pip said...

Do you know of any resources about this 'change-back' reaction?

26 August, 2009 17:30  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Hi Pip

A Google [or other search engine] search on the term, "change-back reaction", with the quotes included, should bring up many references.

I think my first encounter with the term was probably 30 or more years ago, in the writing of Dr. Harriet G. Lerner, and a search on the term should bring up a number of her books. :-)

06 September, 2009 20:31  

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