When working with couples or families it is often necessary to articulate based human rights – particularly as they apply to family life. Just as there are many people caught in social and cultural environments where they are persecuted, discriminated, and abused it is equally so in domestic life. As most of you know, there are many adults and children caught in family situation where they are abused, controlled, and even terrorised. In less extreme situations, there are chaotic families where all family members abuse and are abused by others. In these families the climate of the family is ‘crazy’ – there is little respect given or received and each family member basically has to fight for him/herself all the time.
At times in working with people we will of ten walk someone through their rights. This is done in order to offer an alternative view to what they are experiencing. When one gets used to a family life where one receives little respect, is verbally and emotionally abused, is not permitted to be different, and is the subject of daily hassle and emotional pressure one begins to adjust to this and begins to feel it is normal. One’s emotional and mental life gets used to the crazy life and begins to believe that walking-on-egg-shells is just the way things are.
The truth is, we are entitled to and deserve much more from life. In our centre we will therefore walk someone through the list of rights presented below to encourage people to reflect on their own and others attitudes and to begin to think that every person has basic rights that should be honoured.
YOUR ADULT BILL OF RIGHTS
There are some essential issues identified in this list that should make you think – even if you are living in a relatively stable family. All of us can get caught up in other people’s lives to such a degree that we lose touch with ourselves.
Equally, I could write out that Bill of Rights in terms of a Bill of Responsibilities within which you could look at yourself critically as someone who neglects others – this would be more applicable to the self-centered or self-absorbed type individual who only thinks of themselves and their entitlements. Therefore, the controlling or abusive personality needs to be challenged to honour a Bill of Responsibilities while the controlled or abused person needs to be reminded of their rights.
Think about your rights and responsibilities and how the climate of your everyday life has fuzzied your thinking about these things. Next week I will look at how these rights and responsibilities might apply to children and teenagers.
Dr. Colm O'Connor is a Cork Psychologist. He has written hundreds of articles on family psychology - some posted here.