Unsafe People Will Not Give You Freedom, So Here’s What You Do

Uncategorized Jun 04, 2020

I remember one woman came into therapy with extreme anger toward her family and all of their "expectations." I agreed with her that her family's expectations were wrong and that I understood her anger. She was very comforted that I agreed with her on that point. But when I suggested that they were not going to change and that she had to free herself from them by changing her attitudes toward them, she would get angry with me, saying, "You're just like them. You don't understand, either." She felt if I did not agree with her victim stance, I didn't care.

I assured her that she had indeed been victimized growing up, but now she had to stop victimizing herself by freeing herself from her expectations of them.

She couldn't understand that and said, "I don't have any expectations of them; they are the ones with the 'shoulds.'"

"On the contrary," I said, "you're just like them. They say that you should be a certain way. And you say that they should be a certain way, or you will feel...

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A Toxic Behavior to Watch For

Uncategorized Jun 04, 2020

Please note that this is not meant to invalidate pain you've experienced. This is written in the context of resolving conflict that can happen between two people. 

Safe relationships are centered and grounded in forgiveness. When you have a friend with the ability to forgive you for hurting them or letting them down, something deep occurs in the transaction between you two. The healing process begins to liberate both people of the harm that was done. Guilt, shame, hurt and fear start to dissolve, so receiving forgiveness when we know we’ve truly blown it is a humbling and growth-producing experiencing. It’s the only thing better than forgiving someone else.

On the other hand, an unsafe person who is unable to forgive can be very destructive. Unsafe people are often good at identifying your weaknesses. They can quote the minute and hour you hurt them, and recall the scene in intimate detail and living color. Like a good attorney, they have the entire case mapped...

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Don’t Allow Yourself to Enable Irresponsible People

Uncategorized May 28, 2020

Christine was an administrative assistant in a small company that planned training sessions for different industries. She was responsible for booking the training sessions and managing the speakers’ schedules. Her coworker, Jack, was responsible for the training facilities. He took the materials to the site, set up the equipment, and ordered the food. Together, Christine and Jack made the events happen.

After a few months of really liking her work, though, Christine began to lose energy. Eventually, her friend and coworker, Lynda, asked her what was wrong. Christine couldn’t put her finger on the problem at first. Then she realized: The problem was Jack!

Jack had been asking Christine to “pick this up for me while you’re out,” or “please bring this box of materials to the workshop.” Slowly, Jack was shifting his responsibilities onto Christine.

“You have to stop doing Jack’s work,” Lynda told Christine. “Just do your...

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How An Addict Started to Make Changes to His Life

Uncategorized May 26, 2020

Sam, 28, was admitted into our hospital program after an accidental drug overdose. He had neglected to keep track of how much cocaine he was ingesting.

In the first few sessions, we discovered that although Sam had a genus IQ, he had failed out of two colleges and had never been able to hold down a job. His relational life was equally troubled. He would totally lose himself in a relationship and recklessly abandon the rest of his responsibilities. In the process, he would smother whomever he was dating and scare her away. At the time he was admitted, his last girlfriend had just dumped him.

When we asked Sam about his family, he told us that his father had died when Sam was four. Depressed and withdrawn for many years, his mother had never remarried. In an attempt to make up for the loss of their father, she had tried to be as nice to her children as possible. And she gave them everything they wanted. To hear Sam tell it, he had been “living his best life,” emphasizing...

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Let Go of the Toxic Friendships and Feel Good About It

Uncategorized May 26, 2020

Michelle and Kristin were partners in an online craft business they launched over social media. Though the two had seen a great deal of success, personal issues were starting to come between the two friends.

One day Michelle confronted Kristin on a behavior that had been bothering her.

"You always interrupt me when we are meeting with vendors,” she said. "It makes me feel inferior."

"Well, that’s because I think you’re too soft and undersell our brand!” Kristin shot back.

Michelle stared at her, stunned. "How can you say that?" she asked. "I've always worked just as hard as you, and I care about building relationships with our vendors!"

But Kristin could not take the implication that she was flawed, and when she heard about it, her immediate response was to insult Michelle. When Michelle tried to resolve the conflict, their friendship and the joint business venture eventually fizzled.

Michelle was devastated. But as she thought back over the years with...

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The Mistake You Can Make When You Think Someone Will Change

Uncategorized May 26, 2020

When you think about whether or not hope is realistic — whether it’s a relationship or a certain scenario — you have to ask yourself, “Who am I dealing with?” Character, giftedness and all of who a person is, the person’s makeup, is the future.

This is often the biggest error that people make in determining whether to have hope or not. They forget to think about whom they are depending on to get it done. Instead, they look at what they want or wish to happen and forget who that person is in their entirety. The mistakes come in a number of forms when they place hope in someone they shouldn’t.

  • The person who is not bringing results is really “sorry” and promises to do better.
  • The person who isn’t performing “gets it” and tells you that he/she is really committed “this time.”
  • You want the best for the person and want to believe that he can do it “this time.” 

There are a lot of...

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This is What Your "No" Muscle Can do for You

Uncategorized May 25, 2020

"Your safe people need to point out to you that you aren’t really 'present' when you can’t bring your differences to a relationship."

In most adult children of controlling upbringings, the will to be self-directed and separated is undeveloped. We all need the ability to decide what we love and don’t love, like and don’t like, want and don’t want. However, the children of controlling upbringings often can’t separate their feelings and values from those of the significant people in their lives: mom, spouse, or friends, for example. They aren’t able to be distinct in their relationships.

The process begins by first owning a “no muscle.” We can’t really know who we are until we know who we aren’t. That’s why babies go through the “no” stage first. They must first become aware of their differences from their parents before they can explore their own traits and characteristics. In the same way, you need to...

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Addressing the Fear of Confronting a Toxic Person

Uncategorized May 25, 2020

The following was written to address general unsafe behavior and may not be applicable for situations where abuse is/was present. If you have been in a relationship where abuse was present, please seek the help of a counselor and/or law enforcement.

As any psychologist will tell you, fear is stronger when we fear becoming afraid. This is called fear of fear. Suppose you need to confront a toxic person about their attitude, but you’re afraid they might retaliate. So you stay happy and positive on the outside but remain dissatisfied on the inside.

The longer you ignore the fear, the more you will activate it. And since the fear is associated with an uncomfortable outcome, having it burrow around in your mind naturally gives you an uncomfortable feeling. Eventually you learn to avoid thinking about the fearful situation so you won’t have to keep feeling the fear. And the more you avoid feeling that fear, the more afraid of it you become. It’s a vicious cycle, and it...

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How to Tell if Your Relationship is a Waste of Time

Uncategorized May 23, 2020

Laura had been in a relationship with Jason for about four years. Her biggest complaint was that he took her for granted and did not make her a priority. He was a nice guy, but too self-centered to make a relationship work. Over and over again, he would leave her feeling ignored and unimportant. She had broken up with him several times, missed him, reunited, and nothing had changed. She would break up with him again and then a few months later would run into him and, with the pain gone, begin to enjoy all the good things about him and want to try again.

They would both talk about how they had been foolish to break up with so much good in their relationship, how they really loved each other, and how they truly should be together. “I was wrong to leave. I miss you and want to be with you again,” would be their mutual feeling. So they would get back together and do it again.

So what’s wrong with that? Everything. But please understand something: I am not saying that...

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Why You Struggle With Dating

Uncategorized May 22, 2020

After more than 20 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. And just to note here, I'm not talking about situations of abuse. Abuse is never, ever your fault. 

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...

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