In working with my clients over the last 20 years I am always delighted (light up) when I recognize a simple way of expressing and understanding a difficulty or a problem. The simplicity means it is easier to grasp and transform the problem.Just the other day, a client’s challenge with setting boundaries and meeting her own needs led to the recognition of 3 R’s of the soul: refusing, receiving and requesting. Most of us are challenged with one or more of these essential skills.

We all know the 3 R’s of childhood education – reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic. There is much more to education than reading, writing and arithmetic, but these three are essential foundations for learning:

  • The skill of reading allows us to learn the ideas of others.
  • The skill of writing allows us to communicate our own ideas.
  • Arthmetic teaches us how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, the four ways of manipulating and calculating quantity and value (not just in number, but in everything).
These are three incredibly valuable skills. Life without themwould be very frustrating, confusing and disturbing.Equally valuable are the 3 R’s of the Soul:

* Refusing – saying no
* Receiving – accepting help, support and acknowledgment
* Requesting – asking for what you need or deserve

I want to explore each of these three essential gestures of the mature soul. Yes, these gestures are about maturity. In the mature soul, these 3 R’s gracefully establish healthy relationships and a strong sense of self-esteem. If refusal, receiving or requesting are immature, they lack self-wisdom, lean toward selfishness and demand, and damage rather than build relationships.

But the challenge for so many of us is the absence or deficiency of the capacities and the confidence to refuse, to receive and to request.
How comfortable and mature are you with refusing, receiving and requesting? Do you have an inner permission to say no, to accept help, support and acknowledgment, and to ask for what you need or deserve?

Let’s look at each of the 3 R’s of the Healthy Soul beginning with Refusing.

Refusing is the skill that gives boundaries to your soul. I will not do this. I will not tolerate this. I will not accept this. I will not conform. Etc.

How were you educated about “NO!” Do you feel you have a right to say no? Are there certain contexts where you have difficulty saying no? Do you find that you refuse yourself, your own desires and needs, more easily than the desires and needs of others?

Refusal is such a powerful skill and one that is not encouraged in early childhood. Yet, the “terrible two’s” when a child is exploring “No!” is the same time when the soul is waking up to the experience of “I,” of Self-distinction. Sometime between 2 and 3 in the midst of delighting in “No” a child says, “I” for the first time and begins to reference self personal individuality. This simultaneity is not coincidence. Refusal is a gift of the” I.” “I will not….” Learning the skill of refusal is essential to the soul’s sense of selfhood.

Revering your Selfhood is reflected in your ability to refuse giving attention, time and energy to all that does not serve your practical and inner development. Saying no is often saying yes to a deeper reality.

Here are a few self-reflective exercises:

  1. Write down your feelings about saying no. No to yourself. No to others. No to family or social expectations.
  2. Do you remember having your refusals honored by your parents and teachers? What about your spouse or partner.
  3. How do you feel when someone says no to you?
  4. How would you life be different if you were more comfortable with refusal?
  5. Write a list of desired refusals. What do you want to say “NO!” to.

Explore refusing, compassionately and courageously.

My next posting will be thoughts on the skill of receiving.