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Posts tagged ‘setting boundaries’

Q&A: Can I Have Good Boundaries And Be Compassionate?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Today’s Question: Where is the line between understanding and having compassion for your emotionally abusive spouse and protecting your own healthy emotional boundaries and beginning the healing process?

Answer: This is an excellent question. People usually fall in one of two categories. On the one side, you have so much compassion and empathy for someone that you have no boundaries. Instead, you enable and/or excuse destructive and damaging behavior that’s directed towards you and continue to suffer believing that God calls you to do just that. You say to yourself, he came from an abusive childhood, therefore you allow him to mistreat you because he was mistreated himself.

But would you think that same way with a two-year-old? Yes, you have compassion that your child is tired. He didn’t get his nap. He doesn’t feel well. But he bites you or kicks you or hits his baby sister. Do you allow it and make excuses for his behavior because you feel bad for him? I hope not. You can have compassion with firm boundaries. “I know you’re tired, or don’t feel well, but hitting mommy or your sister is not allowed and if you don’t stop, you will have a time out.”

When we don’t couple firm boundaries with our natural compassion our children grow up under a lie. The lie is, “I’m allowed to behave poorly when I feel bad or I’m unhappy, hurt, or angry.” Those lies underlie entitlement thinking. The belief that says everyone and everything should revolve around meeting my needs, feelings, wants, and desires and when they don’t, watch out. You will have a price to pay.

The opposite mistake you may fall into is hard-heartedness. You’re done. You feel only disgust, contempt, and hatred towards your abuser. There is zero compassion for his or her struggle or any pity for the sad human being he or she has become. We may start to retaliate, call him names, turn away in disgust, and sometimes in our own anger, we turn into someone we don’t like very much.

Neither place is Biblical or healthy. God calls us to love even our enemy. But that doesn’t mean God would expect you not to have any boundaries with an enemy. Precisely because Jesus uses the word “enemy” and not “stranger” he knows that an enemy is dangerous and has caused you harm in the past.

Loving your enemy isn’t a command to change an enemy into a friend. Its goal is to help you not be filled with hatred towards your enemy which would turn you into someone just like your enemy.

So your question of what exactly does it look like won’t be the same for everyone because everyone’s situation is a little different. However, to accomplish both goals, means you have to learn to walk in and stay in CORE Strength.

Two of the steps in CORE are the R step and the E step. The R step means you will be responsible for yourself and respectful towards your spouse without dishonoring yourself. It’s your job to steward your own physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and financial well-being.

This is your Biblical responsibility as an adult. So often we don’t fully mature and instead rely on others to do our thinking for us, make our decisions, take care of us or rescue us from our unhappiness or problems. This is not the posture of a healthy or godly woman (or man).

It’s now time to stop focusing on your marriage or your man and spend time on your own healing and growth so that you can become the woman God called you to become. This requires you to detach yourself from NEEDING your spouse to love you, take care of you, validate your choices, or meet your needs.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have needs, but right now you will learn to take responsibility for your own needs. If your spouse chooses not to voluntarily meet those needs, you will detach yourself from begging, pleading, threatening or feeling victimized because he refuses or he can’t. As you do this you will grow to trust God in a deeper way with what you need right now. You can be kind while not demanding he do or change anything. If you aren’t able to detach safely while living together, then separation might need to take place.

But detaching doesn’t mean disregarding someone else or being cruel towards him (or her). That would not be of God and we forfeit the E step of CORE, which states: I will be empathic and compassionate without enabling destructive behaviors to continue.

If your spouse and you can live together in a compassionate, respectful way, while you both do your own growth and healing, it may be possible to live together. This would require you both to be able to commit to being responsible to mutually care for the house, the children and the finances without power plays or abusive behavior. However, by your question, it sounds like your husband is not as committed to his growth as you are to yours. Therefore his destructive behaviors continue while you are working on getting healthier.

You haven’t described what kinds of abusive behaviors he engages in, nor have you gone into details about the impact they have had on you. Not every person is the same, not everyone has the same threshold for pain or ability to handle toxic people.

This is where the church makes some crucial mistakes in their advice to victims of abuse. “If name calling wouldn’t hurt me, it shouldn’t hurt you.” Or, “There is something flawed about you if this bothers you, you’re too sensitive.” Or “That’s not abusive, if I don’t see it as abusive.”

But what one person can handle, perhaps another person cannot. For example, if you are highly sensitive to smoke, you may have a boundary that says, “I can’t drive with you if you smoke in the car.” If your husband refuses to honor that boundary, you can have compassion on his addiction, but you still may choose not to get in his car or let him in yours if he refused to respect your right to steward your health. If he continued to smoke in the house and it impacted your health, you may have to live elsewhere. Not because you didn’t have compassion on his addiction, but because you are responsible to steward your health, and if chooses not to care about your health, you must.

In the above example, I would hope a church leader would talk to her husband for being disrespectful towards his wife and the effect his smoking has on her. Sadly, with emotional abuse, it’s often the woman or abused who gets chastised because somehow she (or he) is supposed to be able to “take it” without any thought to the consequences to their body, soul, or spirit.

So you can have compassion and have firm boundaries at the same time. Even with someone who is brain injured and dangerous because he or she isn’t thinking properly. Of course, you would have tons of compassion for the injury he or she suffered and the impact on their thinking and personality. But if they were coming at you with a knife, or setting the house on fire, or doing other dangerous and destructive things to you or your children, it may not be possible to live in the same house.

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How to handle those who get angry at your boundaries

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone, the most common form of resistance is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

I’m going to give you six steps to consider when someone responds to your boundaries with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Let the anger be in the other person.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your response.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while “speaking the truth in love.” If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate.

Setting Limits on Manipulative or Narcissistic Behavior

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

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 exposure, we are taking responsibility. If we call a friend every time we feel out of control in some area and ask them to counsel with us, we are taking responsibility for our own lack of limits. This tactic has worked for people with compulsive behaviors for years. They find themselves without limits, so they take responsibility for getting help in setting them.

Our limits are our fence around our property line. They define for us what we will allow and what we will not allow into our yard. The fence around our yard has an important function: it keeps the good things in, and the bad things out. Every one of us has different limits in different areas, and we must take responsibility for those individually. Here are some acceptable limits to set:

I will no longer allow myself to be with you when you are drunk. If you choose to drink, I will leave until you stop.

I will no longer let you undermine me. I will leave until you can treat me with respect and courtesy.

I will no longer be yelled at. I will not correspond with you until we can have an amicable conversation.

I will not let your narcissistic behavior affect me. I will create distance between us and choose not to respond to you until you show empathy.

I will no longer let you control me. I will say no when I want, even if you don’t like it. And I have support from my friends and family to back me up.

These examples illustrate ways of establishing one’s limits on what one will allow and what one will not. Establishing limits is essential in every relationship and is the basis for mutual respect and love. This does not mean that we will not forgive, or not continue to love and work on conflict. It does mean that we will require responsible behavior on the other’s part, for only then can the conflict be worked through.

Love Shouldn’t Be Withdrawn Because You Say No

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

“Every time I disagree with my mother, even on little things, I feel this terrible sense that she’s not there anymore,” mused Brandy over coffee with her friend Whitney. “It’s like she’s hurt and withdrawn, and I can’t get her back. It’s really a horrible feeling to think you’ve lost someone you love.”

Let’s be honest. None of us enjoys being told no. It’s difficult to accept another person’s refusal to give support, to be intimate, or to forgive. Yet good relationships are built on the freedom to refuse and confront.

Good relationships are built on appropriate no’s. Even when we’re children, young or old, we need to know our boundaries will be honored. It is crucial that our disagreements, our practicing of saying no, and our experimentation will not result in a withdrawal of love.

When parents pull away in hurt, disappointment, or passive rage, they are sending this message to their child: You’re lovable when you behave. You aren’t lovable when you don’t behave. A child translates that message something like this: When I’m good, I am loved. When I’m bad, I am cut off.

In essence, parents who pull away from their child, whether young or old, practice emotional blackmail. The child can either pretend to not disagree and keep the relationship, or he can continue to separate and lose his most important relationship in the world. Thus, he will most likely keep quiet.

Children whose parents withdraw when they start setting limits learn to accentuate and develop their compliant, loving, sensitive parts. At the same time, they learn to fear, distrust, and hate their aggressive, truth-telling, and separate parts. If someone they love pulls away when they become angry, cantankerous, or experimental, children learn to hide these parts of themselves.

Parents who tell their children, “It hurts us when you’re angry” make the child responsible for the emotional health of the parent. In effect, the child has just been made the parent of the parent — sometimes at two or three years old. It’s far, far better to say, “I know you’re angry, but you still can’t have that toy.” And then to take your hurt feelings to a spouse, or friend.

By nature, children are omnipotent. They live in a world where the sun shines because they were good, and it rains because they were naughty. Children will give up this omnipotence gradually over time, as they learn that needs and events besides theirs are important. But during the early years, this omnipotence plays right into boundary injury. When children feel parents withdrawing, they readily believe that they are responsible for Mom and Dad’s feelings. That’s what omnipotent means: “I am powerful enough to make Mom and Dad pull away. I’d better watch it.”

A parent’s emotional withdrawal can be subtle: A hurt tone of voice. Long silences for no reason. Or it can be overt: Crying spells. Illness. Yelling. Children of parents like these grow up to be adults who are terrified that setting boundaries will cause severe isolation and abandonment.

Please don’t misunderstand this. Parents setting boundaries with their children is crucial. Children need to know behavioral lines that should not be crossed. They need to suffer age-appropriate consequences for acting out. In fact, when parents do not set and maintain good boundaries with their children, the children suffer another type of boundary injury.

What we’re talking about here isn’t allowing the child free rein. Parents need to stay attached and connected to their children even when they disagree with them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get angry. It means they shouldn’t withdraw.

If Someone is Angry at Your Boundaries, it’s Their Problem, Not Yours

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone else, the most common form of resistance one gets is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

When they hear the word “no,” they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: “Bad Mommy!” They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is “bad,” and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done “to them” at all. Someone will not do something “for them.” Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others’ freedom.

The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they “lose it.” They get angry. Here are six steps to consider when someone responds with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. He will have to feel his anger to get better. If you either rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your reaction. You may even want to role-play the situation with your group. Then, make sure your support group will be available to you right after the confrontation. Perhaps some members of your support group can go with you. But certainly you will need them afterward to keep you from crumbling under the pressure.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while “speaking the truth in love.” When we get caught up in the “eye for eye” mentality of the law, or the “returning evil for evil” mentality of the world, we will be in bondage. If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

These serious steps do not need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. “I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?” Just remember that when you empathize, changing your no will not help. Offer other options.

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you. This is a true risk, and when people choose their own ways, you let them go.

How Controlling People Use Guilt and How to Set a Boundary Against it

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

No weapon in the arsenal of the controlling person is as strong as the guilt message. It’s likely you even heard one or two before in your life.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?”

“It seems like you would care enough about the family to do this one thing for us…”

“You know that if I had it, I would give it to you.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. People who say these things are trying to make you feel guilty about your choices. They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your own time and/or resources and about having a life separate from theirs.

Probably everyone is able to some degree to recognize guilt messages when they hear them, but not everyone is strong enough to not succumb to them. Here are a few tips to keep in your back pocket for when these situations arise.

1. Recognize they are guilt messages and are given in an attempt to manipulate and control.

2. Know that guilt messages are really just anger in disguise. The guilt sender is failing to openly admit their anger at you for what you are doing.

3. Guilt messages hide sadness and hurt instead of expressing and owning their true feelings.

4. If guilt works on you, recognize that this is your problem and not theirs. If you continue to blame other people for “making” you feel guilty, they still have power over you.

5. Do not explain or justify. Only guilty children do that. We do not owe guilt senders an explanation for our actions.

6. Be assertive and interpret their message as being about their feelings. For example, “It sounds like you are angry that I chose to …”

The main principle is this: Empathize with what distressed people are feeling, but make it clear that it is their distress. Remember, love and limits are the only clear boundaries. If you react, you have lost ownership of your boundaries.

10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

SOURCE:  /Lifehack Magazine

Codependency.

Many people are not  familiar with the term codependency and are often not aware that they might struggle with it.

Often a term used in recovery circles or counselling sessions, it is not usually talked about or brought up in regular conversations. The actual definition of codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

In some way shape or form, everyone is codependent on another to a certain extent.  Codependency becomes unhealthy when it affects your overall mental health and happiness.

I was a part of two very codependent relationships and did not realise it until I wondered why both of my relationships ended the same way even though they were with two completely different people. After I learned about codependency and examined my motives for why I did certain things in relationships, I was able to overcome many of my codependent habits.

Here are 10 signs you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. You might not feel complete as a person without that relationship

Often times when you are in a codependent relationship and not aware of it, the relationship can be confused as a Twilight version of true love which is actually not healthy at all. Edward and Bella’s relationship is actually the perfect example of a codependent relationship: If you feel like you cannot function without the other person around or that your life would be over if the relationship ended, that is normally a sign of emotional codependence that is often confused with “true love”. A healthy relationship is when two people that are happy and healthy on their own choose to be together because both of their lives are improved when they are together.

2. You feel the other person cannot function without you around

Many times this is true if you are in a relationship where one person caters to another and truly believes they do so much for that person, they would not know what to do without you. I truly believed that in one of my past relationships. When the relationship ended, that person was just fine without me catering to every need or request they had. Human beings in general are pretty self reliant. When involved in a codependent relationship, many times one person in the relationship is using the other to get what they want and the other is truly convinced they are needed or have to stay in the relationship for the other person. If you have ever thought about leaving a relationship but talked yourself out of it because “they won’t know what to do without me, I have to stay” – that is a clear sign of codependency.

3. You do whatever you can to maintain peace in the relationship

This might be where the term “walking on eggshells” came from. If you are changing your actions and reactions to try and maintain peace in a relationship or your household due to another person’s outbursts or anger, this is a sign of codependency. Instead of choosing to set firm boundaries of how another person is allowed to treat you, you are actually repressing yourself as a person to try and avoid another person acting out and causing emotional harm. What is important here is what are your true motives in any given situation. Many victims of physical and emotional abuse live this way and it is probably the worst type of codependency.

4. You feel responsible for the other person’s thoughts or actions

You might feel like another person’s actions are a reflection of you. You might also feel that because they made a negative choice or decision, you are a failure. This is often true of parents and their children or people in dysfunctional relationships. In these types of situations it is important to realise that we are responsible for our own thoughts, actions and reactions and no one else’s. If we ever feel emotionally responsible for the choices someone else is making and it brings us anxiety or worry, that is a clear sign of codependency. I felt this way for a long while until I realised that no matter what I do or say, the other person is going to make their own choices even if they are not healthy ones. My only responsibility with another person’s actions is how I choose to respond and what I am willing to accept in the relationship.

5. You allow their decisions and behaviours to emotionally affect you

This is similar to number 4, yet different. This is typically described as a martyr role. If you continually experience anger, worry, anxiety or guilt from another person’s choices, that is a clear sign of codependency. If you worry about another person’s feelings or emotions because of a situation they are going through, that is codependency. When you allow what another person says or does to emotionally affect you, that is not a healthy relationship. When what another person says or does causes you to act out in anger or your addition, that is codependency. I experienced this many times until I was able to take a step back and realise that I have a choice of how I allow someone else’s words or actions to affect me. Often times when codependency is modelled in childhood and growing up, it is harder to break those habits but it is possible. The first step is focusing on yourself instead of the other person and accepting that you are only responsible for you. It is not our responsibility to own other people’s feelings, emotions or decisions.

6. Your self worth is wrapped up in the relationship

At one time I believed that I was only worth something if I was in a relationship. I was afraid to go somewhere alone for fear of being judged. I believed that I was someone because someone else loved me. I sometimes believed the person I was with was an extension of me. In many ways I had lost my own identity in the relationship and felt almost too emotionally connected to them as well. When you begin to live life for another instead of doing life alongside of someone, codependency can slowly grow and cause an unhealthy balance in the relationship. Once you are perfectly accepting of yourself and who you really are, you can be happy alone or in a relationship. Once you realise that, your self worth begins to grow and relationships begin to improve.

7. You have little or no boundaries with how the other person in the relationship treats you

Sometimes the prospect of being in a relationship where you are not treated the best is still better than being alone. Often times it is easy to stay in a relationship that has turned into a draining one instead of ending the relationship. Many times people are afraid of the unknown or being alone, so they stay.  If you currently deal with any issues like emotional or physical abuse it is time to evaluate and ask yourself if you actually deserve a relationship that is currently causing you harm. We often get in our lives what we allow. If we set hard and direct boundaries with consequences for negative behaviour, we then protect ourselves from further harm and gain the strength to walk away from harmful situations even if it means ending the relationship.

8. You feel that your negative relationship issues are the other person’s fault

This statement is often a hard one to swallow. For true victims of domestic violence, often times the majority is the other person’s fault but we still have the power to stop that behaviour by walking away.  In my relationships, I was not the drug or alcohol abuser so I believed there was nothing wrong with me. I was the victim because that person continued to destroy the relationship because of their actions or addictions. I was a blamer, and I did not want to take responsibility for the part I played in my past negative relationships. I was in a lot of denial about the truth of my past situations. Once I took ownership for the way I acted to every negative situation I was presented with, I was able to slowly change. I eventually realised I had a choice to stay on a roller coaster of addiction with my past partners, or I had the choice to get off. Once I set hard boundaries with the other person as to what I was and was not willing to accept, it became easier. The other person’s refusal to get help or improve their situation ultimately ended the relationship. When I set boundaries it was easier to handle that relationship ending because it was the other person’s choice to choose their addiction over getting help or working on the relationship.

9. You are extremely loyal in the relationship and often remain in harmful situations too long

This is often found in abusive relationships. With abuse, control is a huge factor in the relationship and along with fear or even threats, often the victim stays because they believe their abuser will follow through with those threats. Other times, it is a negative situation or relationship that may not be that severe. It could be a relationship where many years have been invested and they feel stuck or even believe that their life will always be wrapped up in chaos and negativity. The truth is, we have the power to choose how people treat us. If every woman experiencing domestic violence knew that they had to power to say no, true change could happen. When we invest time and energy into a relationship that is not a positive and enriching one, it is time to move on. Leaving the situation does not always have to be the answer if both parties are truly willing to work on the relationship together by tracking and encouraging positive change.

10. You feel it is your responsibility to “fix” everything for them

I was a fixer. If something went wrong or my partner screwed up, I was there to swoop in and cover it all up or at least do my best to try. Some parents who have children wrapped up in addiction have the fixing problem. For a while, I truly believed I had to stay in the relationship to save that person from their addiction or issues. I often believed I had the power to force people to change their bad decisions, but in fact that was all a lie. I cannot fix anyone but myself. Once I realised that I was harming the situation by allowing that person to continue to make bad decisions without having hard consequences, I stopped fixing and stopped allowing them to continue to act out in their addiction with me around. Instead, I took a step back and focused on myself.  Eventually I realised I had no control or power over the situation and I decided that it was time to get out of the chaotic relationship I had chosen to be a part of. The decision was not easy but it was the best one I could make for my emotional health and sanity.

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