Boundaries

We Always Have Control

Our lives are filled with so much out of our control like illnesses, political decisions, weather, other people’s choices… So what’s a person seeking to live a healthy life supposed to do? Look at each situation in your life and pull it apart, investigate it. What’s really going on? Who are the players? What is their role? Is this something you have absolutely no control over in the happening part of it? Where do you have control?

We always have some control. At the very least, we can control what we are going to do in any situation. If a person has a gun to my head, I can still make choices around my words, my thoughts and my actions. I might end up shot anyway because I don’t have control over the other person. I can dress appropriately for the weather, but I can’t control what the weather does. I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, but I can’t make it be healthy. I can write a letter or call my Representatives in the US government, but I can’t force them to vote how I want.

When we look at and act on the areas where we do have control we get a sense of empowerment, which usually spurs us on to take more action within our control. Remember when exercising control to keep it in the realm of healthy, legal and wise. Very rarely you might find yourself dealing with an oppressive government or situation which might call you to do something illegal. I’m thinking of the underground railroad during the time of slavery. It was illegal to provide shelter and escape for the slaves, but people did it anyway because the law was wrong. Breaking the law was about preserving human decency, not taking it away.

Most of us aren’t, and hopefully will never be, in that type of situation. For now, find the areas in your life where you think you have no control and give it another go. Process through it and find strength in your God-given right to decide how you want to deal with it. 🙂

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, self care, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Take Control of your Holiday

In Fluidity I suggested being open to change. This week I’m continuing on this thread specifically geared toward the holidays. We have the first night of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa on three consecutive days beginning December 24. What do you want your celebration to look like? As long as it is healthy, legal and wise you can do whatever you want. Obviously you can choose unhealthy, unwise and illegal options but I never recommend doing so because the ramifications for you will not likely be good in the long run.  Choosing healthy options might not feel good in the short run but over time you will reap the benefits of making choices that fulfill my three qualifiers: healthy, legal and wise.

If you have always spent your holiday with people you don’t enjoy being around, why do you keep doing that to yourself? Is it for them but inside you are resentful? If so, this action is not wise or healthy for you or them. You are living a lie of sorts. “I’ll pretend to like these people so they feel better.” If you resonate with that statement, you are choosing a co-dependent and toxic action. None of us want people to be in relationship with us out of obligation. We want to be around people who genuinely like us. They might not like us all the time and we might not like them all the time; that’s just the reality of being messy but, at the the end of the day, we count them as those we want to be with.

What about the way you celebrate? Maybe you want to do something different this year. Maybe you sit alone lamenting how lonely your life is. Walk into a homeless shelter and hang out with others. You might even decide you want to start spending more time there to help out. Usually when we see that we have something to offer others we feel better about ourselves. This isn’t out of obligation. This is a two-way street. You help others and in return, without them even realizing it, they help you. You see it in movies all the time. And this time, the movies have it right. When we contribute our time, we benefit. Our heart grows, our purpose becomes clear and our loneliness dissipates.

You have choices regarding how and with whom you celebrate the holidays. Take your life back and exercise your choice! Remember, keep the choices healthy, legal and wise 🙂

Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Enjoy Kwanzaa!

Karen

Categories: Boundaries, co-dependency, Growth, Recovery, Relationships, self care, Self-Help | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Fluidity

Change can be beneficial. Really. Just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean it hChristmasas to stay that way. This is true especially around the holidays. Think about the areas in your life where you have stress. Is it possible to change something up that will result in less stress? Usually our first answer is, “No!” But stop and ponder the idea for a bit. What would happen if you did things differently? The obvious answer is things wouldn’t be the same but is “same” always good/best/helpful/beneficial?

A stagnant body of water with no fluidity, no change, no movement of water coming in and moving out is a breeding ground for all manner of parasites and bacteria. When I looked this up the first bit of information said it’s a breeding ground for dengue and malaria. I do not want my life to be like a breeding ground for nasty parasites and bacteria. I want to be open to changing. Whether that is related to how I prepare for and celebrate the holidays or how I function in relationships, take care of myself, approach my work or faith.

How about you? What areas in your life need some fresh, clean water running in and clearing out the old stagnant parasite breeding ground? Let this holiday season and your entire life embrace and thrive with change 🙂

Categories: Boundaries, co-dependency, Growth, holidays, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Self-Love…Selfish?

valentines-day_110001316-012814-intSelf-love is critical if we want to enjoy this life and relationships. Some wonder if self-love is selfish, “Is it really ok to put myself first? Won’t people who need me get mad about that and tell me I’m being self-centered?” Yes and yes. In order for us to be able to authentically love others and truly be there for and with them, we must have that love for ourselves. We can’t give what we do not have. Not everyone will appreciate your self-love. Some will challenge you if you say no to them so you can take care of yourself, especially if people are used to you saying yes all the time. When we say yes to someone or something, we are saying no to someone or something else. If the no has been for yourself, then the switch to yes for yourself is going to feel strange and wrong. The people you were always saying yes to will tell you that you are wrong. That dynamic will mess with you and your journey toward self-love.

How do you navigate this journey toward self-love? Start by being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in your body. Just notice yourself. Notice what you like and what you don’t like. When you are eating ask yourself if you like what you are eating. Does it taste good to you? Does it feel good in your mouth, going down and settling in? When you bathe, do you like the method; shower or bath, warm or cold? Ask yourself these questions with everything you do in your life. If you run into hurdles and can’t answer or the answering becomes emotionally painful for you, you may need the help of a professional therapist. Ask if he/she will guide you toward self-love, awareness, mindfulness and boundaries.

Once you are aware of what you like and don’t like, it’s time to start voicing it. “I started listening to myself and have discovered I don’t like this. I’m not going to do it (eat it…) anymore.” There are some limits here. If you have a baby and don’t like getting up in the middle of the night to feed or change him or her, sorry! Some things we must do. If you don’t like your job, I don’t suggest quitting until you find another job you like better if you don’t have any reserves to tide you over until you find a job you like. If you don’t like driving the speed limit, again, sorry! Some things are have-to’s because of morals, laws and positions we have put ourselves in. Beyond those areas, there are a lot of other areas where you have the choice, so exercise your choice in those areas. This self-love action will fill you up to deal with the areas you can’t change because it’s not legal, healthy or wise to change them.

If you have always bailed out your alcoholic brother, it is not wise for you to continue; although your brother will tell you that you are selfish not to help him. He is not a helpless baby. He is an adult who is making unwise choices because of his addiction. It is up to him to decide to deal with it. Not you. You can say no. “I love you. It is not my job to take care of you. You are an adult and it is up to you to go get help. I will help you find an AA meeting, but it’s up to you to make sure you get there and keep going.” (You could go if you want to. Also, you don’t have to help him find the AA meeting. That’s your decision.)

This is just the beginning of your journey toward self-love. Get started on it…it will be the best decision you ever made for yourself (and ultimately everyone around you!).

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, co-dependency, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unmet Expectations

This post is inspired by Valentine’s Day but can apply to anyone in any situation so don’t skip past this if you are not in a romantic relationship 🙂 So often we are left disappointed by others. We hope they will notice what we like or want and when they don’t fulfill our expectation we are hurt or angry. We wonder why they don’t know us well enough to know what we want. The truth is, unless you specifically state what you want, the other person must guess. It’s up to you to speak your expectations clearly and be sure the hearer understands you.

Often I get objections to this. Like, “If I have to ask for what I want then it doesn’t feel as good when I get it.” Back to reality: if you don’t say it, you can’t expect to get it. I’m not sure where the idea that partners should be able to read our minds came from. It’s a common yet destructive belief.

What happens when you’re told directly and then the person reveals that’s not what they meant? I remember a line from The Breakup with Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn where she says he never gets her flowers. He tells her she told him that flowers were a waste of money and her response was, “Every girl wants flowers!” How was he supposed to know that? He listened to her request but she was not being honest. So who’s at fault here? She is. She did not speak what she really wanted but expected him to read her mind.

How are you doing in this category? Do you expect people to read your mind? Are you being honest about your wants and desires? If not, it’s up to you to speak honestly and directly. This doesn’t mean you will always get what you want but at least you will have made your expectations clear.

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Lost in a Sea of Opinions

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe.  Following the horrific and numerous murders in Paris, a barrage of information and opinions are circulating. I see posts and blogs that cover beliefs spanning the spectrum from love to hate. Sometimes it’s hard to know what you believe. “Should I believe what this person is saying or that person?” You are being presented with one of the best gifts of humanity, the ability to choose for oneself.

When you don’t know what to believe it usually has something to do with not being fully defined. Yes, this is a boundary post! It’s your responsibility to know what you agree with and what you don’t. If you are unsure, do a bunch of research on various topics and ask yourself what you think and feel about each one. Go back to your foundational values. If you don’t know what they are, start thinking about what they could be. What is important to you?

It helps to think of things from a personal perspective. You can use that perspective as the filter through which information and thoughts pass. If this thing were happening to you, what would be important to you? Imagine being on your death bed and having the opportunity to reflect on your life, what beliefs would you imagine being truly important when all is said and done.

 

 

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Cover to Cover

The world of seeking emotional health can be confusing. We are to have solid boundaries and also seek to understand others. We are to be aware of our emotions, feel them and not let them take us down emotional black holes. It’s important to feel authentically and seek contentment. Like the Bible, the healing world should be considered based on all the information available not just one isolated piece of information.

I was thinking about last week’s post on contentment. It is a challenge at times to both feel what you happen to be feeling and find contentment. I remember two years ago when my daughter, Anna and I were waiting in North Carolina for her lung transplant and last year when we walked through cancer and chemo. If someone had told me I just need to be content I might have smacked them! Not really, but I would have thought about it 🙂

Sometimes when we are hurting deeply, we aren’t going to move quickly to contentment. The shift from our misery to contentment is a slow one and no one can make us get there. The shift is part of our journey and it’s important to embrace the journey as much or sometimes even more than the destination.

Anytime I suggest a growth piece, please take everything I say into account. I try to cover all sides in a single post but sometimes that takes too many words! Remember that I encourage a whole picture approach. There are so many ‘ands’ in the emotional health world.

While we can generally focus on one new change at a time, keep in mind there’s a whole book full of them and each should be taken into account, not isolated from the pack.

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning to Receive

You find yourself easily giving others your time, your love and your best but when the table is turned you find it very difficult to accept the same from others. You may think this is very noble of you but in fact it’s a sign of a destructive crack. To only give and not receive creates an imbalance in the relational system. We were designed to be on both sides of the equation and reality dictates that at times we will have needs. If you are not receiving, then you are perilously imbalanced. Your relationships are perilously imbalanced. You are likely not being honest with yourself and others.

What do you do if you are a non-receiver? Start by noticing it. Be aware of compliments you receive and your reaction to them. Notice when people try to offer help to you or show their love in a tangible way. What do you feel physically and emotionally? Next notice your thoughts connected to your emotions. Why do you respond the way you do? Did you grow up believing it was selfish to need or arrogant to receive a compliment? A lot of us did so you are not alone. There is likely an undercurrent of an inaccurate belief feeding this unhealthy behavior so do a little digging and find out what it is.

Next, challenge this inaccurate belief. Can you really give, give and give but never receive? No! At some point in your life your needs will come rearing their held-down heads and they just might be voracious. Better to deal with them early before they try to tank your life! Remind yourself that it is not selfish to receive from others. In fact, you are giving them an opportunity to do something for you, which is a gift in itself. We like to show our love and gratitude, if the receiver won’t receive, then the giver doesn’t get to share in the lovely exchange of giving and receiving. By not receiving you are robbing others of the joy of giving. That is where the selfishness lies. You are being selfish by not receiving from others and you are showing arrogance by communicating you are too good to need.

When someone gives you a compliment, practice saying “Thank you”. That’s it. No follow up with, “It was nothing” or “I don’t really deserve that”. Just a simple “Thank you” will do. When someone wants to show their love, let them by challenging the inaccurate belief with truth. Neither the “Thank you” nor the acceptance of being given to will be easy for you. That’s ok. Anything worth changing involves work and some discomfort. Work through it by reminding yourself of the truth.

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Growth, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Getting out of the Comparison Trap

We live in an image conscious society. We compare ourselves constantly to others in every area of our life: work, social status, appearance, competence and stuff. No matter what we are doing we can find a place to compare ourselves to someone or even something else. The act of comparing generally leaves us on the short end of the stick. We see ourselves as “less than.” Sometimes we compare to feel better about ourselves. We find someone who is definitely worse off and realize we don’t have it as bad as “they” do. Either way, comparing puts us on thin ice.

When we compare we are looking for some kind of validation for ourselves. The problem is the validation is coming from outside of us, it’s not always accurate and we generally don’t stack up well.

If we’re looking to the outside for support or validation and get it, we feel good about ourselves. If we look at others and don’t get validated, we feel bad. Neither is beneficial. The best way to deal with comparing is to STOP. Whenever you notice you are doing it, say the word stop to yourself. Next, remind yourself that comparing is not going to benefit you. Ask what you think about yourself in that area.

Let’s say it’s your body. You see someone who looks better than you. Remind yourself that it won’t be helpful if you compare yourself to this person (which would result in feeling bad about yourself) or someone who you don’t think looks as good (which would lead to feeling better). What do you think about your body? Notice the parts you like and state why. Notice the parts you don’t like and state why. Do you have control to change the negative parts, like exercise or eating healthier? Sometimes not liking something creates a catalyst to make a change. As you think about the changes and what it would take to get there, do you want to put in the work? You might decide the work isn’t worth it and you accept yourself as is.

You can translate this same process to any area where you compare yourself to others. Practice accepting yourself or your situation, change what you can or want to, let go of what you can’t or don’t want to.

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Growth, Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Always Have A Choice!

Viktor Frankl space choose

What I love about these words from Viktor Frankl is the clear communication that we have a choice. We can choose how we are going to respond or what we are going to think or how we are going to act. Now I know it sometimes doesn’t feel like we have a choice but that is an illusion. Unless you have a diagnosable brain malfunction that makes it literally impossible to choose, you can choose. Viktor Frankl survived being a prisoner at Nazi concentration camps in the 1940’s. I think he knows what he’s talking about. Think about your circumstances, how they seem so awful and you think you don’t have a choice about how you respond. Now think about being in a concentration camp where you literally have no visible choices. Dr. Frankl has communicated to us from real life experience that we always have the ability to choose how we will respond in any circumstance.

What is it that you are facing right now that you think you don’t have a choice? Is it true you don’t have a choice? Do you have to yell at your partner because you are so angry that she won’t listen to you? Do you have to believe you are not enough because that’s the message others have told you? Do you have to go on ruminating on everything you have to do because that’s what you’ve always done? The answer to all three and many more is, No! You get to choose. Right now you can choose to believe that you have value and worth. You do. Simply because you exist, you matter. You can choose a healthier way to communicate your frustration with your partner. You can stop those runaway-train-like thoughts. You really can. I know all of these for a fact because I have done each one.

It seems really hard at first to start choosing and not being a victim to the world around you. Don’t give up. Stay with it. If you find you need help, then reach out for it. You may need a counselor/therapist. Go for it! You have a choice there, too. 🙂

Categories: Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Parent-wounds, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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