Tag Archive: boundaries



ImageI’m wrapping up my series on abuse, with some tools to break the cycle! We’ve discussed verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as the subject of bullying and violence in the workplace over the past month. Today I want to equip you with some tools to know when to stay and when to go, how to hold your ground and maintain your boundaries, and respect yourself in the process.

The decision to continue or end the relationship will likely be a difficult one. You have history together, some good and some bad. You are likely fueled with hope for repair, that maybe ‘this time it will be better’. Envisioning your life free from the abuse is foreign and distant, and let’s face it, often things that are unfamiliar are fearful. What will life be like without him or her? You hold onto hope, because there is a part of you that is so attached to ‘need’ for the relationship. As I mentioned a couple weeks back while discussing sexual abuse, the same holds true for all abusive relationships: “our lack of connection is a big reason why we choose unsafe people. If we are not able to connect in an intimate way with others, then we will often pick people who are unable to connect as well. If someone is isolated inside, she will pick isolating relationships until she addresses her problem. Fear of abandonmennt fuels an ongoing isolating connection.Many times someone who is in a painful relationship should set strong boundaries or cut off the relationship altogether for a time. But he fears being alone so much that he can’t do it. Every time he thinks of standing up to the other person, or getting out of the relationship, he is overwhelmed by feelings of loss and aloneness, and he either avoids the difficult step to begin with, or he quickly caves in. Because he doesn’t have primary safe and supportive relationships, he would rather have the unsafe relationship ghan nothing at all. This… keeps the isolation and abandonment going.” Dr. Henry Cloud PhDImage

The above quote is the precise reason why choosing to end an abusive relationship is so hard.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

-William Blake

Before we examine reasons to leave an abusive relationship, let’s take a look at some good reasons to stay.

If your abusive partner has admitted to being abusive and has begun to take some of the following steps to change the abusive pattern, you may want to consider going the distance or at least staying a while longer to see how sincere or permanent this change is. The steps your abusive partner needs to take are as follows:

  • 1. Admit to himself that he is abusive and acknowledge the damage he has done.
  • 2. Understand the reasons why he abuses.
  • 3. Understand her abusive pattern and work on her unfinished business from the past that traps her in the abuse cycle (ie. having been abused as a child – hurting people hurt people)
  • 4. Admit to your partner that you have been abusive.
  • 5. Apologize to your partner and work on developing empathy for her and others.
  • 6. Learn and practice ways to identify her anger, pain and sress in constructive and healthy ways.
  • 7. Identify your triggers and false beliefs.
  • 8. Seek professional help. Be willing to see a counselor for the long haul until the root issues are revealed and being dealt with.

However, this is not the only thing necessary for change to occur. Believe it or not, the abused person needs to take some action as well in order for this process to work. If the abused partner is willing to do the following steps, there may be hope for real change in your relationship.

  • 1. Admit to yourself that you are being abused and acknowledge the damage you have experienced as a result.
  • 2. Understand the reasons why you chose an abusive partner to begin with. (ie. examine the isolation/fear of abandonment mentioned above).
  • 3. Examine and understand the reasons why you have put up with the abuse.
  • 4. Understand your pattern and work on completing YOUR own unfinished business. This can be done with a therapist if you are unsure how to go about doing this.
  • 5. Confront your partner on his or her abusive behavior. Believe it or not, but this is a CRUCIAL step. If you are unable to do this, there is little hope for real and lasting change. You will need to examine the subject of boundaries and how to set and maintain them for your protection.
  • 6. Pay attention to your feelings. Sometimes emotional abuse is subtle, and you may not even be aware that it is taking place, especially when you become accustomed, or ‘used to’ it. Notice physical reactions like knots in your stomach, or tightness in your chest. Pay careful attention to how you are feeling when you are with the abusive person. You DO have the ability to determine when things are ok, despite possible put downs you endure frequently that cause you to second guess yourself.
  • 7. Take your power back by setting up and enforcing your boundaries. I am a certified personal development and relationship life coach and spend a lot of focus on developing solid boundaries. Feel free to contact me for a complimentary coaching session with me if you feel you need help learning about and setting boundaries. You can find me on my website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com to book your free consultation to see whether working with me is the right fit for you. 
  • 8. Continue to speak up each time abuse occurs. If you let it slip just one time, you may be giving up your power, and allowing the abuse cycle to start all over again.
  • 9. Be prepared that if you confront, things MAY get worse before they get better, as being confronted most likely will not sit well with the abusive person at first. But setting limits is the only way to stop the cycle.
  • 10. Be on the alert for the moment it is not working, and you need to make preparations to leave to ensure your safety.

Other Reasons why you stay:Image

  • My partner told me it was my fault and i believed her.
  • I’m afraid I am unlovable, or unattractive, stupid, etc. because he says I am.
  • I am afraid I will never be loved by anyone else.
  • I’m afraid of what he will do if I leave.
  • I am afraid for my safety.
  • I’m afraid I can’t make it on my own financially.
  • You may also struggle with a strong desire to avoid confrontation or
  • a tendancy to try and believe that things are better than they are.
  • You feel responsible for their behavior.
  • You blame yourself for the problems in the relationship because you believe what she says that you ARE the problem in the relationship
  • You listen to the lies spoken and believe them as fact.
  • You make excuses for their behavior.
  • And once again… that dreadful fear of being alone.

Be prepared that if you confront, and say something like “I don’t want you to talk to me that way.” Or set a limit such as “If you hit me I will leave until you can calm down.” or simply let them know that their statement is abusive. In response, you will likely get an argument (or further berating or familiar abusive tendancies.) Are you prepared to stand your ground if this happens? Don’t engage in the argument. Simply stand firm by repeating the same thing you stated before. Be prepared to follow through on whatever limits and consequences you set on their behavior. They may give you the silent treatment. Don’t let him get away with that either. Remind him that this is also abusive and disrespectful and that you do not appreciate it.

If you can do all the above steps (there are tons more… too much for one blog) you may have grounds to stay in the relationship.

Another good reason to stay (at least for a time, to see how things fare) is if you and/or your partner have admitted to being abusive and have begun working with a counselor or marital counseling. Do not stay on the basis of the promise alone that she will go with you to therapy. If she makes good on her promise, then you might have a chance. If she makes a promise to seek professional help and does not follow through, her commitment is not sincere, and you are likely in store for more of the same.

If you make it clear you are unwilling to tolerate abuse of any kind, and your partner is willing to work on changing their behavior and makes positive steps toward change, then you may have a chance of making it work.

If your partner has begun already any of the processes or stages mentioned above and has become less abusive, or not as often, this may be an indication of their willingness to work on and change behavior. Change takes time. Abusive speech and actions are a learned behavior and will have to be unlearned. They may have slips from time to time, but if it is decreasing, and they have become more loving and treat you as an equal partner in the relationship and are actively working toward bettering themselves, deciding to wait and see may not be such a bad idea. Each situation is different, and if you feel in danger in any way, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you can before it has the opportunity to escalate further.

Some questions to ask yourself to determine the amount of good will in your relationship, as well as to help you determine if getting out or staying is the best choice for you at the time are:Image

1. Do you and your partner have an equal footing in the relationship?

2. Do you have an intimate connection?

3. Do you feel like your partner’s intentions are good when it comes to how he/she treats you?

4. Do you have much in common?

5. Do you experience more joy than pain in the relationship?

6. Do you believe your partner genuinely wishes you well, and may just have some bad communication habits, rather than an intention to deliberately undermine, control, manipulate or destroy you?

Even if you want to say yes to staying based on what I have said above, here are some things to consider when it comes to whether you have endured too much pain in the relationship to stay.

ImageGood reasons to Leave

If your partner refuses to acknowledge and take responsibility for his abusive actions, or admit to being abusive, he is beyond reasoning with, and needs the limit of your leaving to protect yourself from further injury.

If your partner does not seek out help for her abusive behavior… on their own. If you have to do it all for them, you are taking responsibility for something that is not yours to own. They must see the reason for help and seek it out on their own, thereby taking responsibility for their own actions.

If you have made yourself clear that you will not tolerate any further abuse, but she still continues to abuse, you should leave.

If you or your partner are unwilling to follow these suggestions and/or the ones given to you by your therapist, there is little hope for things to be any different. As the saying goes: “The definintion of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!” And another one I particularly like is this: “Until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change, then you will change.” If you continue to stay involved in the same cycle over and over, nothing will change until you are tired of the cycle and finally the pain is too much to remain trapped in the abusive cycle.

WHEN YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO LEAVE!!!Image

  • If you or your children are being emotionally, physically or sexually abused by your partner. If your partner is overly dominating, controlling, critical or rejecting of you, this pattern may be passed on to other members of the family, such as your children.
  • If your children are being damaged by the emotional abuse between you and your partner.
  • If your partner is physically abusing you or threatening to do so.
  • If you have reached a point where you now have become physically abusive as well.
  • If you are fantasizing about ways to kill or harm your spouse.
  • If you are seriously questioning your sanity.
  • If it becomes clear to you that your partner has no respect for you at all.

Seek outside help immediately. Go to your supportive friends or family members, or an agency in your area that can help you get the help you need.

Learn how to prevent abuse in the future.Image

Ways to spot an abuser:

  • someone with poor impulse control
  • low self esteem
  • selfishness and narcissistic
  • being needy and demanding of your time, attention, etc.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse or addiction
  • A history of abuse (either as an abuser, via his/her reputation among peers, or experienced it as a child growing up. Most kids who were abused grow up either as abusers or the abused.)
  • Any history of mental illness
  • If they exhibit anti social behavior, have a personality disorder.
  • Becomes agressive, demanding or abusive.
  • A need to feel powerful and in control.

Make a list oImagef what you will not tolerate in future relationships. For instance, “I won’t have a relationship that is not equal”, or “I won’t stay in a relationship if it becomes clear that it is all about him/her”, or “I won’t be in a relationship with someone who criticizes me,” or plainly and simply, “I won’t have a relationship with someone who hits me and does not have control of their anger.”

Make your list and set your limits. These will prove to be the boundaries you need to stand on and enforce when and if the time comes for you to have to confront the issue.

If you still wrestle with how to find safe and supportive relationships, circle back to a blog I did in my boundaries series a while back on identifying safe people if you have not already read it, or need a crash course reminder on the subject!

I hope that this information has been informative and beneficial to you, or as a tool to offer someone you know who is currently in an abusive relationship. Please tell them to read this blog and encourage them to seek outside help!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

 

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Codependency – What is it?


Are you codependent? Take this short quiz and see if you identify with codependency.

1. I am in a relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance or a behavior, or someone who is depressed.
2. I feel responsible for almost everybody and everything, but I feel guilty much of the time.
3. I can’t say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
4. I can accurately ‘read’ other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice.
5. I try very hard to please people, but I seldom measure up.
6. I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted or depressed person in my life.
7. I live in such a way that no one can say I’m selfish.
8. I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at them.
9. I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done or spoken better.
10. I am overly frightened of angry people.
11. I am terribly offended by personal criticism.
12. To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me.
13. I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad”.
14. Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone.
15. I trust people too much or not at all.
16. I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.
17. I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises, even if he/she has broken countless promises before.
18. Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed and ambivalent.
19. I often give advice, even when it is not requested.
20. I tend to confuse love with pity, and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems.
21. I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy.
22. I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships.
23. I am defensive when someone points out my faults.
24. My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life.
25. I feel wonderful when I can fix other’s problems, but I feel terrible when I can’t.

If you answered yes to 5 or fewer statements, you have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence or wisdom in relationships.

If you answered yes to 6-12 statements, your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones.

If you answered yes to 13 or more statements, you have lost your sense of identity, and you are consumed by the problems of addicted or depressed person’s in your life. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not.

Codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling and behaving towards others and ourselves. It is a learned behavior, and again, is one of those side effects of a lack of healthy boundaries in life. Codependent characteristics are demeaning and can cause pain, and the habits become self-destructive.

Some of the common characteristics of codependency are:

1. Care taking – This is where one feels as though they are responsible for other people’s thoughts, opinions, actions, choices, beliefs, well being, etc. If you feel like making a choice that would make someone unhappy with you, not only do you wrestle with codependency, but also enmeshment with another person, which I briefly discussed last Friday I believe.
If you feel compelled to solve another person’s problem, or feel anxiety, pity and guilt over other’s problem’s to the extent that you feel you need to be the one who has to rescue or ‘make it better for them’ at great expense to your own well being, you have adopted a care taking role in someone else’s life. Codependency and enmeshment often go hand in hand.
Do you try to please others instead of yourself? Try to anticipate their needs, feel safer when giving? Do you feel sad when you spend all your energy, resources, and life… giving to other people and feel like nobody ever gives to you? Do you feel bored or empty or worthless when you are NOT helping someone overcome a crisis, or a problem in life, or someone to help?

2. Low self-worth – codependents tend to come from troubled, dysfunctional families. They may deny that their family was/is dysfunctional – after all, if it’s all you knew, it WOULD feel ‘normal’. Do you blame yourself for everything – including taking responsibility for someone else’s displeasure with you or your choices? Are you afraid to make mistakes? Do you reject compliments or praise? Do you feel like you are not good enough? Do you fear rejection? Do you feel ashamed of who you are? Do you often tell yourself you can’t do anything right, or other self critical, self destructive, self hatred type of language? Do you think life is not worth living, or believe that good things will never happen? Do you try and prove that you are good enough for other people? Do you settle for being needed, and diminish your own needs?

3. Repression – Do you push aside your thoughts or feelings because of fear or guilt or to gain someone’s conditional approval that if you perform the way they want that maybe you will finally feel the acceptance you desperately need? I am here to say, if you are pushing yourself aside because someone does not approve of your choices, not only are you harming yourself, you are also accepting conditional acceptance, based on your performance, rather than on genuine, authentic acceptance, that loves you and accepts you regardless if your choices, values, or opinions are different than theirs. This is real love. Anything less than that is settling for enmeshment rather than intimacy, and it is not REAL love. You have great worth and value. Are you afraid to be yourself? Have you lost your sense of self because you have become enmeshed with someone else?

4. Obsession – Do you worry about the smallest things? Are you super careful with what you say and how you present yourself to others? Do you feel anxious and/or responsible for other people’s problems? Are you more concerned with other people’s problems while repressing your own needs and feelings? Do you focus all your energy on other people and their problems? Do you lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior? Do you worry a lot? What are you worried about? Finding the answer to that might just be the root, or at least the door to understanding the root issue.

5. Dependency – Do you feel unhappy with yourself, or lack peace and contentment? Do you look for happiness outside of yourself, in other people or addictions? Do you find yourself latching on to whoever or whatever you think will provide happiness? Did you feel loved and approved of by your parents? Careful now, before you say yes. Was their love and approval based on how well you performed according to their standards? Ie. if you successfully made it through university or picked the career of their choice for you? Or did they still love and approve of you even if you made decisions different than what they would have chosen for you? Do you feel like you need people more than you want them, like you can’t make it without them? Do you find yourself worrying or wondering or constantly making assumptions about whether people love you or like you or not? Do you believe that people are never there for you?

6. Poor communication – Codependents frequently blame, coerce, beg, advise, don’t say what they mean, don’t mean what they say, don’t know what they mean, or how to communicate it. They tend to not ask for what they need, or ask indirectly, leaving it a guessing game for others to try and interpret their needs. They find it difficult to get to the point they are trying to make, gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect, try to say what they think people want to hear. This is where people pleasing comes into play here.

7. Lack of trust – codependents don’t trust themselves, don’t trust their feelings, decisions, or other people.

Many codependents feel very hurt, scared and angry, have weak boundaries, struggle with having allowed themselves to be controlled, and often try to control the outcome of events in their current life. They may struggle with denial, sex issues, be extremely over responsible, or become irresponsible. They may struggle with feeling close to people, or wrestle with depression, among many other symptoms of the same root we have been discussing for the past few weeks -poor boundary development. Many of these symptoms first emerge out of necessity to protect ourselves from harm, and because legitimate needs we had were not met. and
These methods tend to feel like safe coping mechanisms to try and meet our needs indirectly. We think… If I meet someone else’s needs, they will reciprocate and meet mine. But instead, what usually happens, is that they just continue to take what we offer, and do not give back what we are looking for and desperately in need of. We are taking responsibility for them, neglecting our own needs, something we each our responsible for. We need to become safe enough to ask for what we need. We need to take responsibility for our needs and getting them met, rather then expecting others to automatically know, or mind read to try and figure out what it is we need.

This is just to get you thinking. I may need to circle back to this subject at a later time more extensively, but for now, this is an introduction to codependency. The roots of which, stem from, as I mentioned before… Lack of healthy boundary development.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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How have you felt impacted by codependency?  What have you done that has helped break this cycle?  What resources can you share with the community that has helped you?  If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to identify and break codependency in your life!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

Our Need For Adulthood


You might think, at first glance, “what a strange title” to this blog, since we all become adults eventually, and function in an adult world. We might even scoff, brushing it off as insignificant. But have you thought of what it is exactly that adulthood involves? Are you aware that it is actually a difficult process to come from a position of a one down relationship with our parental authority over us as we are growing up, and trying to learn how to mature into adulthoood, emerging successfully with the ability to have peer to peer relationships and feel fully sustained? Do you know what makes an adult an adult? Do you know what symptoms exist if your maturing process was incomplete when you first entered the adult world?

This is the fourth segment in my series on boundary development, that I blog about on Friday’s.
Over the last few weeks, we have looked at four major components to growth and development that we all require to grow up into healthy and whole, functioning adults with the proper sense of authority that comes with the position of being an adult. To quickly recap, in case this is the first blog of mine that you are reading, three weeks ago, I wrote about the first essential ingredient in boundary development: the need to attach, connect and bond with others. Week 2 was about the need to separate and individuate and begin the boundary development process, involving discovering what we are each responsible for and what we are not. A critical stage in development, no doubt, that unless we truly feel bonded, we cannot successfully develop a real sense of self. The third stage of growth was our need to know that we are loved completely, including our perceived ‘good’ parts and ‘bad parts’. To know that you are loved unconditionally. Reaching our climax in today’s blog, we find that we need to properly maneuver into adulthood, gradually taking on more and more responsibility, influence, power, authority and the like. To quote author Dr. Henry Cloud, from his book “Changes that heal” which has been my influence for this series, he suggests that:

“Authority has a number of different facets: power, expertise, office, influence and submission. Adults have the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions.”

The problem is that a lot of us are not ready for adulthood by the time we get there, which is why we see people abusing power in abusive relationships, because they have not yet resolved the issue of one up one down relationships, and are defensively taking on a persona of being one up from everyone else, while inside, and well hidden, even from themselves, they still battle feeling like they are incomplete inside. This of course is only one example out of so many.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the symptoms of an inability to properly move into that position and authority of the adult life:

If you relate to any of the following, you may still need to do some inner work and learn more about boundary development in order to successfully take your proper place in the world as an adult. Here they are:

-Inordinate needs for approval from others
-Fear of disapproval
-Guilt
-sexual struggles
-fear of failure
-need for permission
-feelings of inferiority
-feelings of superiority
-competitiveness
-loss of power
-judgmentalism
-looking at the world in black and white terms
-anxiety
-hate towards or issues with authority figures
-parenting others
-impulsiveness
-dependency
-depression

If you find you relate to any of the above, you may need to develop a few skills to exert your God-given authority you were meant to function in as He intended.

Here are a couple of skills needed to complete the maturing process and enter into adulthood, as a whole and complete person:

-Reevaluate your beliefs. As children, you were taught what to believe about a variety of issues, everything to do with family values, to religious opinions, to cultural convictions, and traditions. As an adult, you have the ability to decide what family beliefs and values you choose to hold onto, and what to let go of. To decide for yourself what you believe. This is a very difficult task in itself as it is often met with resistance from family members if we deviate from the expected family beliefs and traditions. But experimentation is a necessary part of determining for yourself who you will become and what you will believe. It is a difficult process for parent and maturing child.

-This is a toughy… The ability to disagree with authority figures. A lot of times, whether in the family unit, or at work, or in religious settings, this is met with extreme resistance. Believe it or not, but a lot of people in authority positions feel threatened when they are questioned by someone who is an adult in their ownership of themselves. Likely because they hold a position of authority but have not yet themselves graduated into adulthood themselves. As a properly functioning adult, being questioned or challenged on your opinion is most welcomed, as this person knows who they are, what they are responsible for and what they are not responsible for, and openly welcomes criticism as an opportunity for growth. How many people do you know who actually function in this ‘unthreatened’ way of true adulthood?

-See Parents and Authority figures realistically. Stop putting them on a pedestal or thinking and believing they will not fail you or are ‘super human’ in some way. Eventually, you will become disappointed and disillusioned when you realize they are not perfect either.

-Learn how to make your own decisions. Start taking initiative for your own behavior, choices, responsibility and the consequences that result from your choices and decisions.

-Practice Disagreeing when you disagree with someone else’s opinion on a subject.

-Give yourself permission to be equal with your parents.

-Recognize and pursue your talents and abilities.

-Learn to discipline yourself.

-Submit to others out of your sense of freedom, and out of a position of love.

-Deal with your sexuality. A lot of sexual issues in adulthood have a lot to do with how your parental system viewed sexuality. For instance from a religious background, one may feel shy and even like sex is a bad thing, causing you to shrink back from your sexuality in adulthood. Or coming from a sexually permissive background, you may lack a sense of commitment sexually in a marriage relationship, or struggle with body image or have come from some abusive situations because someone in your past has violated you while you were expressing your sexual freedom, leaving you more vulnerable and less sexual in your adulthood. There are so many different possible scenarios that may affect your sense of ownership in this area of adulthood. Are you able to clearly communicate to your partner what it is that you like or dislike sexually? These are other indications that you may need to finish maturing if you are unable to clearly articulate your sexual needs.

There are other tips as well, but I will leave you with this last one:

-The ability to love and appreciate people who are different from you.
This is probably the biggest indicator that you are well on your way to maturing into a healthy adulthood. This suggests that you have learned from the previous three stages of growth and development and are able to love people truly, flaws and all, without expecting them to be perfect and ideal people. It also indicates that you have been properly nurtured yourself, and have learned to develop boundaries and a sense of self to know who you are and who you are not, in order to be “ok” with others who are different from you, and to still love and appreciate them.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will provide you with many of the tools you need to help identify and move past the barriers that have been holding you back in life!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach


Sometimes we live a life where we feel like we have two selves, or a split self. The good ‘me’ we present to the world, and the ‘bad’ me, that we hide from others. It’s a lot more common than you think. Living a life that is ‘ideal’, setting the standard of perfection so far above anything humanly achievable, while denying the ‘real’ self that fails sometimes. I know many people who cannot accept or conceive of failure in others around them or accept failure in themselves. Where does this originate from?

If this is your first time tuning into my blogs, I am currently in the middle of a series on boundary development that I blog about every Friday, and encourage you to check out the past 3 blog entries I posted on previous Fridays. This week I am writing on what real love is about. That real love involves knowing that you are loved for both your “good” parts, and perceived or real “bad” parts of yourself.

Often times though, we learn that we are loved or accepted by what we do, or how well we perform at certain tasks, rather than being celebrated even when we fail. The expectation to get the best grades, or perform the best in your dance class or on your hockey team, meeting disapproval if you don’t get it quite right. Or being compared to others in your family by how well you perform vs someone else, making it into a competition to ‘get love’. This often is where the performance trap begins.

We all can imagine what the perfect “me” should look like. But who defines that? Who are you performing for? Now some of you may say, “I’m only performing for myself”, but where did the idea of performing at all originate? I challenge you to take a look at the root in yourself where you began trying to achieve a high standard for yourself that you can never meet, and the being harsh with yourself when you don’t meet your ideal expectation. Or maybe you can’t stand when others fail and set unreasonably high demands on others to perform to your ideal standard.

The reality is, we all have a “real self”. The self that we are when no one is looking. The self that we truly are, warts and failures and all. The real self is not who we wish to be, but us, just as we are.

When we begin separating the real from the ideal, it is often because we have believed a message that only the good parts of us are lovable and accepted, while the ‘bad parts’ or perceived bad parts are unacceptable. What happens to all that underachieving, bad habit, negative stuff that is unacceptable? It goes into hiding. If unattended for too long, psychologists label it a ‘split self’, where you only present on the exterior what is pleasing and acceptable and considered ‘good’ by those with whom we are in relationship because we grew up believing the struggles and failures and imperfections we had were unloveable. So we begin to build an outer world and a secret dark inner world that we are afraid to reveal to anyone, as we are sure to meet with rejection of the self as a whole – the real person, who is imperfect, yet loveable no matter what. But if the messages you received were that you are not lovable, you begin to believe it and begin to be your own worst judge.

What we all need is to know we are loved just as we are, the good and the bad, and that love is not lost or taken away if we neglect to perform a certain way.

When we fail to accept good and bad in ourselves, or in others, these are the symptoms that result:

1. Striving for perfectionism
2. Idealism – denying that bad exists
3. Inability to tolerate badness in ourselves or others
4. Inability to tolerate weakness in ourselves or others
5. Inability to tolerate negative feelings which then go into hiding, which have all sorts of negative side effects as a result as well.
6. Depression or moodiness
7. Self-image issues
8. Anxiety and panic
9.Eating and substance problems
10. Narcissism
11. Guilt
12. Sexual addiction
13. Broken relationships
14. Excessive rage
15. A perception that you are “all bad”
16 The “all good me” approach of being defensive about taking responsibility for any fault.

These issues can lead to all sorts of distorted thinking, such as believing you are not worth being loved, or that your badness is worse than someone else’s, or that you should be better than you are, all the while competing with a completely opposite belief that you are ‘ideal’. You may also believe your badness is unforgiveable.

How do you get past this? With great difficulty. Anyone who relates to this will easily tell you that once you believe that your unlovely parts are unloveable, it is a tremendous risk to bring those unacceptable parts of yourself -the parts you and others have judged- into relationship.

But it is the only way to heal the gap between the real and the ideal. A good test to tell if you struggle with this at all, is to try writing a list. Define, by using words to describe the external you, who you are to others. Then make a list of the ‘internal you’. The parts younkeep to yourself. Are they telling the tale of two completely different people? Or are they pretty much the same? If there is a huge difference between what you present on the outside and what is going on inside, you may be dealing with a split self. I am not saying that a split self means you have a personality disorder or anything, I am merely suggesting you may have not felt loved for who you are, the good the bad, the ugly. You may have been taught conditional love: that only parts of you are acceptable.

Real intimacy can only exist when the ‘whole’ self is loved, just as you are.

Quick tips to overcome the performance/people pleasing trap: confess who you really are with safe and trustworthy people in your life. Keep following, in a few weeks I’ll blog on the subject of how to determine who the ‘safe’ people are. So to recap: confess the ‘real you – the inside you – with someone. Forgive those who taught you parts of you were unloveable. And forgive yourself for being too hard on yourself and for your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of being human. It’s ok.

Next, integrate your negative emotions and attributes with the ‘good’ parts of you so that you can begin the journey towards becoming a complete person. Allow yourself to feel sadness and anger and fear. The very things you tried to bury because they were perceived or treated as bad. Or were merely discouraged. Stop medicating to avoid pain, whether it be drugs, alcohol or sexual addiction, whatever it is you go to to avoid your pain, is only making matters worse and increasing self hatred. Get help if you are using coping mechanisms to avoid negative emotions.

Begin to challenge your thinking distortions. Instead of assuming on what people are thinking or what you think they want you to be, ask questions. If you are performing in an attempt to please or in order to earn love you don’t believe you are worth receiving, ask. Ask someone the very thing you are afraid of. Ie “I think you are bored listening to me talk. Is that true?” instead of assuming that’s the case and responding as if it were fact, just ask. It may surprise you when they respond, “not at all! I love it when you share your feelings with me! If my expression shows otherwise, it’s because I’ve had this nasty headache all day!”. And then try to believe they are telling you the truth, so that you are not self-sabotaging the ability to receive love from others.

I would also advise that you begin to process and value your negative feelings instead of chucking them into the abyss of your soul, where they only lurk and wreak havoc on the inside, destroying self esteem and encouraging self hatred instead.

Those are a few tools to get you started. My final piece of advice: be authentic. Be your real self. It’s much more wanted than you believe it to be. You cannot achieve true intimacy or really know if you are loved for who you are, unless you take risks and give someone a shot at loving you. You just might be surprised, and find the love and acceptance you crave, rather than the rejection you expect. I know it’s risky. I know it’s hard. But it is achievable!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

Learning to Attach and Bond


By the time a child is 3 years old they have taken in astronomical amounts of information -we are created with so many genetic possibilities. So much of which depends on what we recieve from our parenting, the quality of relationship, to see which elements get developed, and which remain underdeveloped. The reality is that that none of us walk away from being parented completely unscathed! No one is perfect, and our parents are not fully responsible for what we missed out on in our childhood. This is due in part to the law of responsibility. We are responsible to finish growing in whatever areas we missed out on the first time around which is great news to parents who often beat themselves up over areas where they recognize that they were imperfect in their parenting.
But what is this astronomical amount of information that a child must take in and receive and begin to appropriate in life?
Children are always learning, and observing, and mirroring what information they see and take in. Kids need to attach and to bond, to learn to separate from mommy and determine who he/she is apart from mom. In the first year of life, they need to learn basic trust, developing a self soothing ability to have a relationship with his/her caretaker in their absence and develop emotional object constancy. Early on in child development, infants do not have enough love or structure within themselves, and require a great deal of nurture. Kids also need to learn to know what their desires are and their limits and to know that these will be respected. They are to learn how to own and take responsibiltiy for their own behavior, feelings, attitudes and abilities. They need to know they are loved no matter what. They need to eventually grow up and leave and become mature adults. But before they finish growing up and developing, they also need to process the imperfect parenting they receive. They may need to learn how to respond to physical or emotional neglect, abuse, deprivation, role reversals, physical abandonment, boundary violations, sexual violations, etc, etc.
That is an incredible amount of information for someone so young to have to learn all at once, which is why we often come away from our childhood feeling like there were pieces missing, unprepared for adulthood or recognizing that perhaps we are incomplete in our development.
My intention is to unpack this a little bit and help fill in the gaps a bit.

Today we will touch on the need to attach and bond. Before we can even begin to understand and appropriate healthy boundaries in our life, we must first be able to bond and attach and connect to someone who is safe and loving and can fill that lack of love that we first come into the world with. Before you can separate and become a complete person, you first need to be a part of something before you can individuate.

Many people struggle with the ability to receive love, due in large part to a lack of attachment or bondedness. Or, you learn enmeshment rather than intimacy, therefore lacking a clear knowledge of what the difference is. Enmeshment happens when your ability to separate and individuate is disrespected. I will touch on that more next week. I am merely trying to show that there are injuries that develop in us that we carry into adulthood as a result of a lack of bondedness, or unhealthy ways in which we bonded, such as sexual abuse as another example.

So what is bondedness? Simply, the ability to emotionally attach to another person on a deep level. The ability to share your deepest thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears, etc with another person and know you are loved and to feel safe. Emotional object constancy is developed over time as you continue to take in enough love, to know that even when the person giving love is not in the same room as you, you are still loved. Now, you may think this is silly that this emotional object constancy can still affect us years later if not enough love was taken in during our formative years, but it is true. Years later, if that part of development is incomplete, a person may feel a deep sense of isolation and aloneness and be unable to cope with such feelings, and needs to find varying ways to cope with a deep sense of emptiness and aloneness that does not go away. This learning to bond idea is really a BIG deal. It is the first step of growth and development, and the most important.

Some symptoms of a failure to bond include: depression, feelings of badness, guilt, sadness, panic, feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness, feelings of unreality, fantasy, addiction, rage, panic, distorted thinking, fear of intimacy, excessive caretaking, etc.

Unfortunately in one blog I don’t have time to get into more detail about how all these things work, but I can say that if you identify with any of this at all, I can leave you with a few simple tools about how to begin the process of bonding. Perhaps at a later time, I will come back to this subject more in depth and give more helpful tools for growth.

But for now I will leave you with this:

Here are a few tools to help you on your way to develp the skills to bond and complete the mothering process in healthy relationships in your current life:

Step 1. Realize the need for it. Often people live without even having an awareness that they need to connect on a deep level because they have lived so long without it that they have developed skills to adapt to the emptiness. Some people don’t even ‘feel’ the emptiness, because it is buried so deeply inside.

Step 2. Make steps to reach out to others. If you see someone who seems like a caring, nurturing individual, make an attempt to develop a friendship with that person to allow yourself the opportunity to learn to receive warmth, empathy and love.

Step 3. Be Vulnerable. This is big. This is hard…. and often feels extremely threatening when you are very disconnected. The fear of a loss of love is so great it prevents you from reaching out and allowing someone “in” to the deeper parts of yourself. Try not to let this fear rule. It will cripple your ability to attach and bond.

Step 4. Challenge your distorted thinking patterns…. such as the fear I just mentioned, or making assumptions about what other people are thinking, and how confident you are that they WILL reject you if you let them in. These distorted thinking patterns could also be about yourself, and how you have erected a wall of protection by saying hateful things about yourself so often until you believe them, and believe that everyone else thinks the same thing about you. Try not to interpret what you think others are thinking of you. When in doubt, ask, instead of assuming.

Step 5. Take risks.

Step 6. Allow yourself to experience dependent feelings.

Step 7. Recognize your defenses.

Step 8. Say yes to allowing yourself to receive love. Allow yourself to be compassionate to yourself instead of critical and give yourself permission to receive.

It may feel right now, like that is too much of a risk for some of you. I tell you from experience, it is not always smooth sailing, and you may get burned here and there, but when you do finally experience what it is like to really receive love, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

My challenge to you today is this: Love, like you’ve never been hurt. Keep reading, because I will blog in a few weeks on how to identify the safe people to be able to attempt this growth challenge with. Stay tuned!!

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website www.freedomlifelove.com and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


When I was growing up, I was oblivious to such terms as ‘boundaries‘ or ’emotional object constancy’ or ‘individuation’, but clearly, every one of us grows up with some kinds of boundaries in our lives. We may not be aware of it as children, and even into adulthood, we often go along oblivious to the full implications of just what exactly boundaries DO in our lives and how it is they work.

We are familiar with being disciplined as children for certain ‘unacceptable’ behavior, or the ‘unwritten rules’ we become accustomed to in our family of origin, such as ‘what happens in the home STAYS in the home’, or “don’t talk to your father when such and such happens” or being required to gang up against certain family members in something that therapists often refer to as triangulation. And the list goes on. We may even have the understanding as adults that boundaries have everything to do with one word, and that is “NO”. But most of us, even as adults remain oblivious to how some of what I have mentioned has anything to do with boundaries. Or we have a misunderstanding of how boundaries work, and use them incorrectly, infringing our “boundaries” upon others as we lack the fuller understanding of what they truly are, and how in fact they work effectively.

I intend to spend a few weeks discussing the subject of boundaries, because as I have come across quite frequently… few people really understand them. It will be much too difficult to discuss everything there is to know about boundaries in just this one blog.

Now, the reality remains that most of our parents (or in your own parenting) didn’t get this ‘quite right’ in how you use boundaries in a family setting. And that is ok. I am not here to criticize your parenting, or my own parents for that matter. But I do recall, in my early twenties, that I felt like something was ‘missing’ in me, like the basic ‘rules of life’. I didn’t get a memo that I was supposed to get in order to move into my adulthood feeling ‘prepared’. I thought, “well, maybe everyone feels this way”, but still the lingering feeling like certain building blocks were not properly in place. So I began digging. Did I miss out on something that I was supposed to learn in childhood and what was it? What was it that caused me to be drawn to certain types of people, why did I wrestle with feelings of rejection, or a lack of self-worth? On and on the questions go. You may have your own set of questions. Like for instance, “why do I feel I am only loved if I perform well enough?” perhaps even, “who am I performing for, and why?” Why do you feel like you need to hide your feelings, or the parts of yourself you perceive is bad? Where did all of this come from?

I don’t want to get way ahead of myself here. I need to keep this as more of an introduction to get us thinking about the subject. I was delighted when I first heard the term ‘boundaries’ about 10 years ago and immediately went to the self-help section of a local bookstore (this was before I discovered I could order online through amazon.ca!!) and purchased a book on the subject simply entitled “Boundaries”, by Dr.’s Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The further I searched on the subject, the more aware I became. You have no idea how many different books on the subject I now have! But it was not until I discovered another book by the same authors I just mentioned that I began to get the answers to what I felt was my biggest question: “Were there lessons I was supposed to learn as a child that I just did not tune into the memo about? Their insights were profoundly insightful.

They narrowed down what we are supposed to learn in our upbringing into four main categories of need:
1. The need to attach and to bond.
2. The need to separate and individuate.
3. The need to know that our perceived bad parts and good parts are loved.
4. The need for adulthood.

This simple information has proven extremely insightful for me, as I tend to need to see ‘the whole picture’ in order for me to make sense of it.
I will get into those four needs in the next few blogs, but today I will simply mention what the authors start out with when they discuss the subject of boundaries. Grace and Truth.

The authors specically refer to the danger of one without the other. As you can imagine if you only ever receive grace and there is no discipline, you do not learn where you begin and others end, in order to respect the boundaries of others or even your own. You learn a sense of entitlement and irresponsibility for your own actions. You forever find yourself in the position of looking to others to ‘bail you out’ and you never know why you keep getting into the same situations over and over. This is because of a lack of structure. A lack of truth. A lack of discipline. A lack of someone parenting you with the tools to become responsible for your own actions in your adult life. Keep in mind that what I am sharing is not direct quotes from the authors I have mentioned, as it is the end result of years of studying the subject from many varying sources. But I love how the authors of the book Changes that heal (same authors as above) break it down so simply.

In just the same way that ‘grace only’ teaches irresponsibility, ‘truth only’ can be harmful as well. If all you get is limits and judgments based on your family’s ethical code of behavior, and no grace is applied, you reap what is sown. Guilt, anxiety, anger, judgment, criticism and other painful emotions. We could get into a bigger subject here as to who is it that defines truth. For each family or religious background, the answer may be different. I define truth according to the bible, so I will have my own particular brand of understanding the concept of truth. But for now, we will simply look at truth as moral values that your family goes by, not to diminish my own faith, but to suggest that truth is a universal subject, and whether you are of a particular faith or not, in a basic sense, the concept still works. If all you receive is judgment and criticism, you will either have an extremely low sense of worth, or become a judgmental and critical person yourself.

What works the best, is if we combine truth (limits and consequences) and grace (compassion, freedom and unmerited favor) together for a healthy developed sense of self. If we are delivered a healthy set of limits on behavior that is not ok, mixed with compassion and love, a child can grow into a person who is consistent, responsible, compassionate, able to set healthy boundaries, limit evil actions of others, able to confront in love, and basically grow into a very grounded individual over time. And time is key. If Grace and Truth are administered consistently over time, these wonderful attributes result. If there is inconsistency in what we are taught, we develop an inconsistent sense of self.

Sounds great huh? In an ideal world, maybe. But we live in the real world. Real people, real scars, imperfect beings doing the best we can. No family will make it through this process without some at least minor ill-effects. But we are to work that out into our adult years, over time, to fill in the missing gaps in our formative training. No parent will ever get it perfect, so don’t beat yourself over the head. But I will teach how each of us can take responsibility over the coming weeks for the only thing we can really take responsibility for – ourselves.

So there you have it. As summarized as I can be, the building blocks to building healthy boundaries MUST be accompanied by grace and truth working together over time to heal, correct and instruct the boundary injuries we have all incurred through uninformed parenting at best, or dysfunctional parenting due to many numerous contributing factors, which I will likely discuss in some of my future blogs on the subject.

Good luck on your journey towards discovering what a full life looks like, enjoying freedom and responsibility together, and learning to love and receive love as you were created to enjoy it. 

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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