Emotional Bill of Rights

Have you ever been with someone who consistently criticized, judged, lied, made you feel tense, sad, tired, or was unpredictable or explosive?

These are all forms of abuse, and unfortunately the most insidious and damaging because the damage is usually accumulated over time- done slowly, systematically, and often behind closed doors where no one else can see. It does not have any prejudice – as both male and female are equal victims in it’s clutches.

It’s no less harmful than being physically abused, and yet so many people have no idea that there is a name for their experience.  It’s called emotional abuse.

If you have ever been in an abusive situation then you’ve known what it’s been like to have your inner compass broken.

If it’s broken, it just kind of sits there ….spinning- unable to lead you home to yourself, or in a direction that feels like a “true north”.

When first born,  we come into the world with this shiny new unbroken thing – usually it resides somewhere right around the solar plexus.  It’s really like a big satellite that informs your being of it’s emotional response to things.  It’s how you learn to adapt to your environment, fine tune your radar in situations of danger, learn to relax and unwind and ultimately where you learn to regulate your emotional response to different situations.

bill of rights


Lots of kids are born into situations that are stressful or dangerous from day one, so unfortunately- their compass gets broken pretty quickly and they are left to navigate their situation like some really screwy GPS system that leads you into the middle of NOWHERE.   This can easily happen to an adult as well, who may have had a perfectly healthy upbringing, but who has been the victim of an abusive friend or partner over time.

Understanding ones rights can be a helpful place to start in understanding how to identify harmful behavior when it’s happening- even if it comes wrapped in something that initially looks really shiny and attractive.

Your Emotional Bill of Rights: 

We have the right to clear communication

We have a right to ask for the support we need.
We should not have to suffer injustice to get what we need.
Our needs are valid and important.

We have the right to take risks and start new adventures.
We have the right to fail, and learn from our mistakes without being shamed or criticized.

We have the right to good will, enrichment, joy, strong, positive connections, warmth, honesty, understanding, respect, rapport and concern for our well being.

We have a right to our bodies, to embrace physical self care, nutrition, exercise, relaxation.

We have a right to express our opinions, ideas and emotions. It’s all right to have our own view of the world.

We have a right to plenty of rest and sleep. Whatever problems we may be experiencing can wait until morning.

We have the right to free ourselves of guilt and shame that doesn’t belong to us, and to give back to our abusers what belongs to them.

We have both a right and a reason to be here. We are children of the universe, no less than the earth and the trees. We have the right to take up space and the right to just be without having to apologize.

We have the right to be out in the world, to explore, to relax, to play, to experiment, to be taken care of and to stand up for ourselves.

We have the right to our curiosity and intuition.

It’s our right to push and test to find limits, to say no and be separate.

We have a right to think for ourselves.

We have a right to think about our feelings and have feelings about our thoughts.

We have the right to be angry when our rights are violated. We have a right to let people know when we feel angry. We can be angry at people we love.

It’s our right to test our power.

It’s our right to take time to explore who we are.

It’s our right to make mistakes.

We have a right to our own morals and methods, and a right to do things our own way, or the way of others, or the way of the group as we choose.

We have a right to choose to be independent, interdependent or dependent. We don’t have to give up our independence to be taken care of.

We have a right to back out of any social, sexual, or work related contact if we feel uncomfortable, even if we initiated it.

We have the right take care of ourselves under any circumstances.

It’s our right to make choices beyond mere survival.

We have a right to say no to anything that we are not ready for or that feels unsafe.

It’s our right to terminate conversations with people who make us feel put down and humiliated.

It’s our right to be self protective, even selfish and set limits as we choose.

We have the right to share our stories, to share our triumphs and vent our pain.

We have a right to divorce ourselves from all abusive relationships and surround ourselves with loving, trustworthy people.

We have the right to reclaim our lives as our own.


  1. Jennifer Pratt says

    Monica- great article. My father always taught me that “no is an acceptable answer” – we all need to listen to ourselves and surrounds ourselves with people who lift us up.

    • says

      Amen to this Jennifer – I love that he said this. It’s so important that we find our tribe and community… those that will treat us with dignity and respect and model healthy behavior.
      Thank you so much for taking a minute to comment!

  2. says

    I am curious as to how someone can have the right to “be taken care of”? The definition of dependence implies a lack of rights… no?

  3. says

    Thank you Leigh, I really appreciate this question. So – sometimes in abusive situations you see a person get sick, and then get ignored or made wrong for having to “need” to be taken care of if they need that from someone – they have the right to be taken care of in their time of need. GREAT question! Thank you so much for reading!