Earlier I spoke of unrealistic expectations and their relationship to depression. When we expect something to happen and it doesn't, we feel disappointment. Sometimes we feel cheated. Anger, resentment and even estrangement may follow, leading to depression for one or both parties. When that happens, we have to look at our expectations objectively and determine whether we were being unrealistic.
For example, I personally know of at least a half dozen families in which some members haven't spoken to other members for several years because expectations of an inheritance weren't met. I also know of several instances where estrangement occurred because one party refused to give or lend money to another. I know one case in which the estrangement has continued for three generations!
When we have money, we consider it to be ours, to do with as we please; however, many people fail to realize that others have the same right. The unrealistic expectation is: If you are my relative (or even my friend) you have to lend or give me money when I ask for it. In other words, I DO NOT RECOGNIZE YOUR RIGHT TO SAY, "NO!"
In many cases, guilt is heaped upon the one who does say, "no." I know of several instances where grandparents have been denied access to their grandchildren for years as punishment for saying "no," to what they considered an unreasonable request usually--but not always--having to do with money. In such cases, no one wins; everybody loses.
A second fairly common unrealistic expectation is: I can make anyone do what I want by making threats. In this case, the person who wants to say, "no," is being emotionally blackmailed. I man I know was faced with a threat of suicide from a woman he was breaking up with. Fortunately, she did not follow through on her threat, but the man agonized afterward. If she had gone ahead and killed herself, would he have been responsible? He asked me how else he could have handled the situation.
I told him he certainly had the right to say, "no," to the woman, but I would have clarified that right by saying to her, "You are an adult. You have the right to make decisions, but you can't make me or anyone else responsible for your decisions. If you are seriously thinking of killing yourself, I am willing to find a professional who can help you, but I am not going to continue this relationship."
Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to say, "no." Sometimes the hardest thing is to accept someone else's right to say, "no."
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.