I spent the morning thinking about 'icky'. And, I think, in a nutshell, it boils down to this:
There are people in this world with whom I feel a strong need to keep my boundaries explicitly clear.
This can be interpreted as my thinking something is 'wrong' with them, the other people. In fact, in white-bread culture there's an implicit rule against highlighting boundaries: the implication is that it's impolite. That it implies something negative about the other. That it will hurt someone's feelings. That it is selfish. ...This is probably the dynamic that runs the widespread and fabled reticence of saying 'no' to a request, at least in white American culture. There's a sort of phobia to being anything other than 'nice'.
There's a difference between feeling a need to delineate boundaries and a criticism or accusation of another. But sometimes that distinction gets blurred and it's hard to tell one from the other. Certainly it's not occurred to me before to interpret that feeling inside in that way, instead: I need to make my boundaries absolutely clear became I-don't-like that-person/something's-wrong-with-that-person (which in turn became something's-wrong-with-me-for-feeling-that-way). I've interpreted it before in terms of the 'worth' of the Other. To see it instead as a need for distinction puts it in terms of mySelf. This feeling is a fact; I can't deny that I have this feeling. This is about a personal internal experience which has little to do with another's intrinsic worth.
It's interesting that in the same way distinctions between the need to clarify boundaries and the worth of another become blurred, I think it's the sense of an impending boundary breach that activates the need to clarify. Most other people I know don't activate the need, but occasionally someone enters my life who does. Traditionally I've second-guessed that need and thought if I wanted daylight between myself and another that it was because there was something about them I didn't like and there must be something wrong with me for feeling that way. Maybe it meant I was mean-spirited. And I'd be troubled when the feeling persisted.
In a way I owe this family gratitude. It was through my ruminations about the escalations of their requests that I got the 'Yes/No' insight, which was big. This latest insight...might be huge.