How to Set Boundaries Within a Dysfunctional Family

Uncategorized Jun 06, 2020

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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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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Addressing Gaslighting that Takes Place in Church

Uncategorized May 31, 2020

A new group for divorced singles was opening up at Megan’s church, so she decided to join. On the first night there, she shared a story about the issues with her husband. 

“He was an addict, and I made excuses for his behavior all the time. I didn’t want to believe things were that bad, so I tried to overlook it for awhile.” 

Another member of the group interrupted her. “Well, did you pray for him?”

“Of course. With friends, too.”

“Have you forgiven him?”

“I’m working on that,” Megan said. “That’s why I’m here.” 

At the end of the group, Megan was hesitant about going back. She knew that she needed to forgive her husband for the hurt he brought in her life, but she was still working on processing the trauma that happened within their relationship. 

Sometimes when we’re sharing our pains with another person, they think they’re being helpful when they...

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Unsafe People Exist at Church, Too

Uncategorized May 31, 2020

I got an emergency call, and the office relayed to me that I had a suicidal client. I called Theresa on the phone. She was distraught.

“Tell me what happened,” I said.

“It’s not going to work,” Theresa replied, sobbing.

“What isn’t going to work?”

“Telling other people about my problems,” she said. “I went to my fellowship group tonight and told them about the depression and the problems with Joey, and they really came down on me for being depressed and for all the other stuff that has been going on.”

“What did they say?”

“Well, they said that I shouldn’t feel that way and that if I was still having all those problems then I probably wasn’t walking with the Lord. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve tried all this ‘safe relationship’ stuff, sharing and all that, and now it doesn’t work.”

“What would you say if I told you that you still...

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Wise, Foolish or Evil: How to Know Who You're Dealing With

Uncategorized May 31, 2020

If you believe that you’re a responsible and loving person, it’s easy to assume that other people think like you. You think that they care about other people and how their actions affect those people. Since you have a concern about how what you do affects others, then it makes sense that everyone else is just like you, right? The truth is that not many people take responsibility for themselves or care about how their actions are affecting other people or the mission. Moreover, some are even worse than that, and they’re actually out to do you harm. If you don’t want to accept this reality, then you’re going to waste time, money, energy, and resources on people who will either squander or destroy it.

There are three types of people in the world, or rather, three styles of behavior that a person can exhibit in a particular time or context. Depending on whether you’re a psychiatrist, employer, a spouse or a judge, there are different ways of...

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9 Ways Words Kill a Relationship

Uncategorized May 31, 2020

In a group I was leading once, a man held the floor for some time. He’d go off on tangents, change the subject and spend inordinate amounts of time on irrelevant details.

(I promise it wasn’t me this time.)

He couldn’t seem to get to the point. Other members were spacing out, dozing off or becoming restless. Just as I was about to speak to the man’s struggle with getting to the point, a woman in the group spoke up.

“Aaron, talk net, will ya?”

“Talking net” rather than “gross” means putting a net or boundary on how many words we use and how we use them — and that can be a struggle for many. How we use language can deeply affect the quality of our relationships. The words we use can be a source of both blessing and cursing. They can be a blessing when we empathize, identify, encourage, confront and exhort others. They can be a curse when we use them to do the following:

  • Hide from intimacy by talking nonstop
  • Dominate...
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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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