Tis’ the Season to Set Some Boundaries with Family

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2018

When you were born, you were placed you into a family for a season of time to help you grow into a mature adult. At some point this season ends, and your relationship with your parents changes from child-to-parent to adult-to-adult. The roles change from dependency and authority to mutuality. While you are to respect and care for your mother and father, you are no longer under their protection and tutelage. Children are to obey parents, while adult children are to love and honor them. Therefore, situations will occur where you need to make decisions and set boundaries with family with which they may not agree.

For example, you might decide to spend some traditional holiday time apart from your family. This can often be a cause for a confrontational talk:

You: “Mom, I wanted to let you know as soon as I could that I’ve made plans to go to the mountains with some friends this Christmas. I know this will be the first Christmas I won’t be with you and Dad, so I wanted...

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How to Set Boundaries with a Difficult Mom

Uncategorized Nov 27, 2018

“My mother is a narcissist.”

I hear it a lot. I can understand why some people feel that way about their parents or others in their life who have left them hurt.

I’m going to keep using “mom” as an example here, but these are guidelines you can use with anyone in your life when you’re making rules and setting boundaries. Let’s take a further look. …

If you’re new to setting boundaries, or setting them with a new person, it can be tough and a little scary. But let’s think about how we approach that. You might say something like, “I’m in a process of personal growth, and I’ve made some changes. Our relationships is important to me, so I want to share them with you.” Then explain what you’ve discovered about your character traits, attributes, likes and dislikes.

“But my mom will just say I’m just being selfish, that I don’t love her …”

You can still set the...

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What Makes Triangulation a Toxic Behavior

Uncategorized Nov 26, 2018

I have something I call the Deadly Triad, and it refers to a concept called triangulation. We've got 3 people: A, B and C.

Problems always seem to arise when we're dealing with A, B and C. Sometimes these three people are friends, sometimes they're colleagues. They all have relationships with each other and apart.

For instance, we could be talking about a situation in which A should be talking to B but is talking to C about B instead. This combination of people plays out lots of different ways. How do we approach it?

First, name the problem. Start by talking about the disease of triangulation with the people that it might be affecting. Sometimes people’s intent isn’t nefarious, but they’ve found in previous relationships that talking to someone directly hasn’t worked. Now they fear it for some reason. Sometimes A and C will talk to each other about C, because where they have come from, speaking directly could have been dangerous.

So tell them you’ve...

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You Can Set Limits on Manipulative or Narcissistic Behavior

Uncategorized Nov 23, 2018

In the alcoholic home, if a spouse chooses not to limit her drinking, this is their responsibility. However, other family members can set limits on how they will be affected by it. If an alcoholic continues to drink, the other spouse can only limit themselves, not the other person. They can say, “I will limit my exposure to your behavior. If you continue to drink, the children and I will move out until you get sober.” You can’t stop your spouse from drinking, but you can stop yourself from being affected by it.

I realize this is one example, and there are many different situations and outcomes that affect this situation, but I want you to know that you still have control of the decisions and choices that you make for yourself. And making those decisions involves myriad details. 

If we can’t set limits on ourselves, however, we need to enlist the aid of others. This is still taking responsibility. If we call the police and ask them to help limit our...

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How to Set Boundaries Within a Dysfunctional Family

Uncategorized Nov 23, 2018

Look at your own life situation and see where boundary problems exist with your parents and siblings. The basic question is this: Where have you lost control of your property? Identify those areas and see their connection with the family you grew up in, and you are on your way.

Identify the Conflict

Discover what dynamic is being played out. For example, what “law of boundaries” are you violating? Do you triangulate? Do you take responsibility for a sibling or parent instead of being responsible to them? Do you fail to enforce consequences and end up paying for their behavior? Are you passive and reactive toward them and the conflict?

You cannot stop acting out a dynamic until you understand what you are doing. “Take the log out” of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to deal with your family members. See yourself as the problem and find your boundary violations.

Identify the Need That Drives the Conflict

You do not act in...

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Your Boundaries Aren’t a Weapon to be Used Against You

Uncategorized Nov 21, 2018

Can you please do something for me? Would it be ok if I asked you for some of your time, your money, your energy? Would you mind making a sacrifice so that I could avoid having to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing myself?

If you're anything like me, you want to say “yes” every time someone asks for something from you. I really want to do whatever is going to make someone happy, and I bet you often feel the same way. However, we know that if we did this, we'd never have any time, money or energy to meet our own needs.

A woman I know, Lisa, once told me, "The biggest problem with telling my mother no is the 'hurt-silence.' It lasts about forty-five seconds, and it always happens after I tell her I can't visit her. It's only broken by my apologizing for my selfishness and setting up a time to visit. Then she's fine. I'll do anything to avoid that silence."

Lisa's mother has turned Lisa's personal boundaries into an offensive weapon that she can use to get...

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How We Find Safe Relationships with Others

Uncategorized Nov 10, 2018

After 30 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. In every kind of clinical issue that psychologists deal with, relationships are a big part of the picture in some way.

Consider these questions:

• Are you experiencing the same problems or feelings that you’ve experienced in previous relationships?
• Do you find that you continually pick people to fall in love with or become close friends with who hurt you in some way?
• Do you find yourself wondering if there are any “good ones” out there?
• Do you often go through periods of emotional turmoil as a result of choosing someone who wasn’t good for you?
• Is “How did I get myself into this?” a frequent question you ask yourself?

A lot of people can relate to these feelings. Their relationships leave them lacking in some way, leaving them to wonder why they end up in the situations they do....

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How You Can Understand the Toxic Habits of Unsafe People

Uncategorized Nov 08, 2018

I wanted to tell you about something I see all too often, and it really bums me out. I find it incredibly discouraging when people gossip instead of keeping secrets.   We all know those people who you can't trust with sensitive information. (In fact, some of us may be those people.) The second they hear something, they're already thinking of who they can tell. And most of the time, it's after they've just agreed to not say anything! 

We all have experiences, thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that we don't feel safe telling the world. We need someone in whom to confide. Some of us have secret past actions that plague us. Others have been victimized of abused. Still others simply need a person to tell our private stories to. 

Few things are more bruising than having your secrets betrayed. If you have ever entrusted part of yourself to another, and then heard about it from a third party, you have been triangulated.

Triangulation occurs when person A...

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How to Care for Yourself After a Divorce 

Uncategorized Nov 07, 2018

Divorce is, by definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved. 

Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience. 

When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of...

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Understanding the Pain that Comes From Your Family of Origin

Uncategorized Nov 06, 2018

Amanda had a problem that I had seen countless times before. This thirty-year-old woman would return from a visit to her parents’ home and suffer a deep depression. When she described her problem to me, I asked her if she noticed that every time she went home to visit, she came back extremely depressed. 

“Why that’s ridiculous,” she said. “I don’t live there anymore. How could the trip affect me this way?” 

When I asked her to describe the trip, Amanda told of social gatherings with old friends and family times around the dinner table. These were fun, she said, especially when it was only family. 

“What do you mean ‘only family’?” I asked. 

“Well, other times my parents would invite some of my friends over, and I didn’t like those dinners as well.” 

“Why was that?” Amanda thought for a minute and then replied, “I guess I start to feel guilty.” She...

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