by currantdesignsllc | Dec 19, 2014 | Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships
The previous posts for this series have, in part, led up to today’s post. Before we can set boundaries, we need to be aware of our thoughts and emotions, attempt to understand where the other person is coming from, drop our pride and seek peace. Sometimes, we have taken these steps but they do nothing to curb our frustration, hurt or anxiety about being around really dysfunctional people. This is the place for boundaries. A boundary in this context sets a clear expectation in a crazy-making situation. Let’s say you have a brother who drinks excessively. Your memories of holiday gatherings with him involve everyone enjoying themselves at the beginning but after the alcohol starts flowing, over-indulging Al starts getting loud, obnoxious and is picking fights. Maybe his hands are roaming to places they don’t belong or his language is distasteful and hurtful. What do you do?
This requires a preemptive conversation with Al. Before the holiday event have a conversation with him either in person or over the phone. If in person be sure to have at least one other person with you for safety. Let Al know that you love him and you want to see him at the annual family holiday party. Unfortunately his drinking has contributed to past behavior which has been uncomfortable for you. He is welcome to come as long as he agrees not to drink alcohol. Chances are Al isn’t going to take this well. He may throw it back at you in some way, that it’s your problem not his. That’s OK. You just stay calm and use a gentle tone while maintaining your stance, “You are welcome to come as long as you agree not to drink.”
Generally, we don’t like setting boundaries because we feel mean. In reality, the meanest action is enabling a person’s unhealthy behavior. Yet, in the spirit of trying to keep the environment copacetic, we placate Al and essentially just keep putting drinks in his hand and feeling miserable while we do it. We know the answer, it just feels so harsh. Rehearse to yourself again and again, “The meanest thing I can do to Al is be untruthful and pretend everything is ok.” In addition, “The meanest thing I can do to myself is continually put myself in harm’s way.”
When we stand up to dysfunctional behavior, two positive trajectories can begin. The first is you are developing a backbone: a healthy “no” muscle that speaks what you are OK with and what you are not. The second is you give the other person the opportunity to see how their unhealthy behavior is affecting connection and relationship with others. This realization has the potential to move a person toward healthy change. Al could see that his drinking is hurting others around him. He could recognize his drinking is a problem and if he doesn’t address it he may push his family away. The Als of this world don’t always see this, that is not your concern. Your work is to set a clear healthy boundary. What Al chooses to do with it is up to him.
Previous posts intros series: Dreading the Holidays, Dreading the Holidays: Understanding and Compassion, Dreading the Holidays: Dysfunction with a Dose of Curiosity, and Dreading the Holidays: The Power of Peace
by currantdesignsllc | Nov 20, 2014 | Acceptance, Boundaries, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships
The first of a tightly knit string of holidays is almost here…one week for those of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving! Are you ready to be around people you find challenging? You know, the ones who say things and suddenly you no longer feel very good about yourself. Perhaps drama trails around them like Pigpen’s dirt cloud or maybe you will be around an active alcoholic. For those of you who happen to posses and actively display dysfunctional characteristics, I am not slinging shame your way. Reality is reality and often our unhealthy behavior profoundly affects those around us. If you are the offender here, take a deep breath and own that your unhealthy behavior is dysfunctional and negatively affects the people around you. This may be the perfect time to get help: join a recovery group and get into therapy. As long as you are breathing you have the potential to change.
For those who are the receivers of dysfunctional behavior, remember that you are never very far from hurting others. As long as we are breathing, we are capable of hurting people around us. This awareness generally aids us with the next valuable action to help us deal with dysfunction: seeking to understand. Understanding where someone might be coming from, what he might be thinking or feeling, helps us develop compassion for him.
Understanding and its closely linked friend, compassion can dramatically change any dysfunctional system, at the very least for you. As you put on understanding and compassion, you will notice you are not so negatively affected by the dysfunction. You are more easily able to feel the effects of the dysfunctional barbs, recognize them as a product of the other person’s pain, process the feeling and realize, “This is not about me.” Once you have metabolized your own reaction, you can then shift your focus onto understanding this person. “Wow, that is really interesting Aunt Sally that you are so emphatic about me getting married. Are you afraid I’ll be depressed and alone if I’m not married?” You can actually have a dialogue with Aunt Sally rather than become withdrawn and shut down by her comment.
Engaging with another person from a place of understanding and compassion requires you to avoid being on the defensive. If this is too big of a step right now, that’s ok. If recognizing and understanding the barb coming from the other person is about his own issues is as far as you are ready to go at this point in your own healing process, that in itself is an accomplishment. Celebrate that you are not allowing another person’s dysfunction to sideline you from enjoying the holiday gathering.
Here’s the link to last week’s post: Dreading the Holidays?
by currantdesignsllc | Nov 13, 2014 | Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships
I’m sure the reasons for your yes are varied. On the top of many lists is having to deal with dysfunctional families. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and bring our own imperfections into every encounter. Since we cannot change the world or others, we can only focus on ourselves.
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you will know where I am going to begin: Awareness. My favorite concept! If we don’t notice what we are thinking, feeling and doing in any given moment we cannot possibly create change. We end up being reactionary and repeating the same old miserable scenario again and again. In preparation for dysfunctional family encounters, start now by paying attention to what you are thinking and why you are thinking it. Notice what you are feeling and why you are feeling that particular emotion at this moment. Notice your attitudes, actions and words. Why are they happening? How are they connected to your thoughts and emotions?
This is the preparation phase. If you were going to run a marathon you would not likely expect yourself to run 26 miles simply by reading about running. You would have to prepare your body for such an undertaking. Think about your mind in the same way. You have to train your mind to be prepared for the challenges in life. Spending time with dysfunctional people is at least as challenging as running 26 miles. Recognize that. Affirm that for yourself. You will have to train diligently to be prepared.
There’s more to come but for now, practice awareness. Practice being in this very moment and noticing yourself. If being aware becomes too difficult for you, for instance the emotions you feel overwhelm you and you don’t know what to do with them or you cannot access any emotion, get help from a professional counselor or therapist who advocates awareness.