Tag Archive: personal development



Have you ever paid too much attention to your breathing patterns when you are feeling stressed or anxious? Likely not in the moment at least, as your mind is preoccupied with the stress you are feeling, increasing the shallow breathing, and increased heart rate and muscle tension developing in your body. The reason all these physiological sensations are occurring in your body is simply because you have activated the sympathetic nervous system in your body which prepares you for fight or flight. It is busy readying the body to take whatever needed action is required urgently. It’s instinctual nature is preparing you for some sort of danger and knows you need to be ready to respond at a moments notice. And perhaps your adrenaline has kicked in too, as you are overloaded at work, have deadlines that you know you cannot possibly meet because all sorts of other issues came up at the office distracting your time and attention away from your current project, and now you feel the mounting stress in your neck and shoulders and the headache or the knots in your stomach as you imagine the worst case scenario, and fear is kicking in about what will happen if you miss this important deadline. Or maybe it’s a person you don’t get along with and there is mounting stress developing between you and this person. You hate working with them, and are afraid of confrontation, because they have a more strong-willed personality than you or they are that workplace bully that you know you will suffer their wrath if you confront the issues you are having with them and the stress builds slowly, like water in a pot on a hot stove, slowly coming to a boil and finally overflowing because of the mounting tension.

These and other situations can cause massive amounts of stress in life. And our sympathetic nervous system, bless it’s soul, readies us for action we need to take. However, our bodies were not meant to maintain constant stress, as all sorts of physical problems arise as a result. But what do you do with the pesky symptoms of stress in order to calm down? Have you ever noticed that most of these symptoms meant to help us take immediate action also have the tendency to backfire on us as well, say for instance by decreasing our concentration or productivity, or even our ability to perform at all? Perfect case in point… Needing to do a presentation in front of a group of people, and you have a fear of public speaking and more than the nervous butterflies in your stomach, you feel frozen in fear, unable to do your job? Sometimes we need to take action and require that boost of adrenaline or increase of oxygen to the heart to take flight or fight. But often the stressors we face inducing the fight, flight or freeze response tend to be counter productive.

What does breathing have anything to do with what I have been talking about this whole time? Some of you may already know, those of you who practice mindfulness exercises will already be familiar with what I am about to say, but for those of you who are curious about what is going on in the body and why what i am about to tell you actually works, will be well informed in just a moment! Deep breathing… Not shallow or even regular breathing, but breathing in deeply to at least a 5 count and then breathing out slowly and deeply as well, triggers what is known as the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the body responsible for the rest and digest functions in the body. Deep breathing activates the part of our brain that tells us to calm down, to rest, to relax, to unwind. You may not be able to take tons of time at work to sit back, put your feet up on your desk and take a nap to get that renewed vigor to carry on, but taking deep breaths for 5-10 minutes (or whatever time you have) can quite possibly be the very trick to enable you to complete that project on time! Once you are breathing deeply, you are deactivating the nervous stress energy in your body which is decreasing your functional ability by flooding your emotions with fear or panic. Once you are breathing more deeply, and less labored, you may find you suddenly have more concentration available to complete the task at hand. Now your energy is being devoted to the project, rather than spending so much effort on worrying about the project!

Stay tuned for more stress tips next Friday!

And don’t forget, if you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my monthly webinar on stress management!!  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!

Cheers!

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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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Today, I am simply going to discuss some common symptoms of stress & burnout and include a symptoms checklist at the end.

Cognitive symptoms may include:

  • Memory Trouble
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Seeing only the negative

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Inability to relax
  • Feelings of agitation

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Procrastinating
  • Isolating yourself from other’s
  • Neglecting or avoiding responsibility
  • Using alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms
  • Nervous physical habits such as pacing, inability to sit still, nail biting, etc.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Trembling, shakiness
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of sex drive

Now let’s take a quick look at burnout.

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Frequent headaches
  • Sense of failure or self doubt
  • Loss of motivation or interest in your work &/or your usual interests
  • Feeling extremely cynical or negative
  • Sense of dissatisfaction
  • Feeling helpless
  • Detached or numb
  • Feeling alone
  • Procrastinating or taking longer doing tasks or performing responsibilities
  • Getting easily frustrated at others
  • Skipping work or leaving early
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Feeling like you have little or no control
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Constantly exhausted
  • Neglecting your own needs
  • Feeling like you just don’t care anymore
  • Irritability toward people you are are responsible to care for
  • Feeling overwhelmed all the time

Symptoms Checklist:

Instructions: Rate your stress related symptoms below for the degree of discomfort that the following situations would cause you.

Scoring:
1-3 Slight discomfort
4-7 Moderate discomfort
8-10 Extreme discomfort

Symptom.                                                                             Degree of Discomfort.

Anxiety in specific Situations:

Tests
Deadlines
Competing priorities
Interviews
Public speaking

Anxiety in personal
Relationships:

Spouse
Parents
Children
Friends
Other

Worry
Depression
Anxiety
Anger
Irritability
Resentment
Phobias
Fears
Muscular Tension
High blood pressure
Neck pain
Backaches
Indigestion
Muscle spasms
Insomnia
Sleeping difficulties
Work stress

How do you rate yourself on each of the above categories. Record the number for each of the above. What is your stress level? Slight? Moderate? Severe? Do you know effective tools to reduce your stress?

If you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my montly webinar on stress management!! 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!

Cheers!

————- 

 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


Sometimes in life we go through events that are or at least seem catastrophic at the time, or we keep running across the same negative situation in life over and over again, and we begin to develop distortions in our thinking. We begin to believe things like “I must be cursed”, or “every decision I make ends in failure”, or “I’m not lovable because people keep abandoning me. What’s wrong with me anyway?” Sometimes we believe that we are a mistake, or that we are not beautiful enough, or strong enough, or good enough. Sometimes we believe it is our fault when someone else has wronged us. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves by speaking negative things about ourselves, such as “you are ugly” (talking to yourself) or “you don’t deserve any better, look at what you did… Believing we must punish ourselves for our mistakes, or even believing that God is punishing us for not having been perfect or making the right decisions.

Sometimes we involve ourselves in what psychologists refer to as ’emotional reasoning’, essentially meaning that we believe our feelings are actual fact. Sometimes we magnify a situation and believe based on our faulty understanding that the situation is bigger than it really might be. Sometimes we can’t see any positive possibilities because all we see are the negative situations. Sometimes we jump to conclusions before we have examined all the options, sometimes we catastrophize, expecting the worst case scenario to happen. Sometimes we take everything personal, or label ourselves based on our real or perceived mistakes. Sometimes we use polarization, or black and white thinking, clinging to extreme opposites, like all or nothing, great or awful, never or always. All of these patterns and more are what’s referred to as ‘distorted thinking patterns.’ Basically, the lies we believe.

Now I know on Wednesday’s I blog about my own experiences, my life, etc. Now part of that includes the things I’m thinking about. There have been two major things that have been occupying my attention over the past couple weeks or so, this subject of distorted thinking and cognitive reasoning, as well as researching…and now I’m really gonna reveal how nerdy I really am – the brain and new studies on how to retire and retrain our brains, remapping so to speak. Perhaps I will blog about that next week, as it does relate to this topic about how to change our belief systems.

I’ve been really trying to examine my own distortions and examining how certain repeat situations that occur in my life first build a faulty belief, and then solidify it over time as similar circumstances and life events seem to ‘prove’ my theories and beliefs are true. But as they say, “what you think is what you are.” Do we do it to ourselves by believing a certain way which ends up becoming a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy?’

But what good is it to believe myself unlovable for instance? Or that I will always be betrayed or abandoned? What good is it to self sabotage rather than to have self compassion, and nurture the areas that have felt wounded or betrayed? Does this not add more fuel to the fire?

How much does it benefit us to dwell on the negative beliefs and distortions we hold to so firmly as a belief system? Why do we allow experience to dictate the truth? Why are we often our own worst enemy?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the physical symptoms that can arise simply by worrying or choosing to believe and/or dwell on the negative circumstances in life. For instance we all know that worry, anxiety and depression can result from dwelling on the negative situations in life (albeit some depression is merely a result of lowered serotonin levels for sure), but how many of you are aware that harboring bitterness can cause certain types of cancer, or that self bitterness, self rejection or self hatred CAN be the cause of coronary artery disease or strokes? Fear, anxiety and stress can cause angina or high blood pressure, or heart arrythmias, or ulcers?

Anger, rage and resentment can cause all sorts of physical problems over time. Everything form hemorrhoids to tension headaches, to a lowered immune system, to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, overeating, depression and insomnia. Of course, not all of these symptoms are ALWAYS a result of anger or fear etc. sometimes people have constipation because it is a side effect to a medication they are taking for instance. The point is, we are a whole being, spirit, soul and body, interwoven together so delicately and simultaneously complex. Is it any wonder that some of the issues in our spirit and souls would affect our health, just the same as a lack of physical activity does?

Perhaps God was onto something when he said to “forgive” those who have offended us, as he knew the natural consequences bearing such a heavy weight on our shoulders could have on our mental, emotional and physical health? Maybe there is good reason why the bible says:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
Philippians 4:7-9

For more information on some root causes to physical symptoms, please check out Henry Wright’s book “A more excellent way to be in health”. I confess I started thinking about other possible causes to my back pain than something just ‘physical’ when the orthopedic surgeon looked at my X-rays and CT scans and MRI’s and could not see the reason why I would be in such severe pain with a mild degenerative disc disease. He did mention that it will get progressively worse over time and I may need surgery later on in life, but as he said he couldn’t see why I had such excessive pain, I think I had a little “aha” moment that maybe this was something spiritual, or a root of some kind of lie or belief system I hold onto. Like unbelief for instance. I have always wrestled to believe in miracles because my own experience had not experienced it personally. Perhaps I am stubborn, as I HAVE witnessed others become healed of diseases, but why does my own mind still reject this truth, this reality that it is possible? What is that faulty belief system I hold onto? These and other questions have had me on a quest to find out what other faulty belief systems I hold onto, what lies and distorted thinking patterns I believe, in an effort to reframe my mindset to believe the truth and not a lie.

I have been examining cognitive therapy to make connections between environmental changes/life situations interact with our physical reactions, thoughts, moods and behavior.

For example: environmental situation: death of a father. Physical reaction: cold sweats, pounding heart, breathing difficulty. Moods: anxiety, panic. Behavior: Avoiding places that remind you of him. Thoughts: ‘Something bad will happen to me.’ ‘He died young, and so did my grandfather, so maybe it runs in the family and I will die young too’.

The above example was fictitious… Not a personal experience of mine (although my father did die young, but I don’t hold onto that belief system).

The reality is, our thinking is very important. It is essential to pay attention to what we are thinking about. Our thoughts left to their own devices take on a life of their own, believing any wild connection they make with the circumstances and situations we encounter. Not only our thinking, but our emotions can rule us as well as mentioned earlier about believing that the way you feel reflects reality. Ie. “I feel frightened right now, so that must mean I am in real physical danger.”

Aiko Horman, a Japanese brain specialist, now in her 70’s, did extensive research on early childhood memories and trauma and how to re-route or rewire the brain to overcome painful traumatic childhood memories. There is now so much research on the neuroplasticity of our brain’s nervous system’s ability to develop new neuronal connections, to essentially work toward healing and retraining the brain. This is my intro for next week’s discussion on what I am learning about the brain’s ability to repair itself. But for now, let’s just leave it at this: negative thoughts can actually CAUSE our brain to be dysfunctional.

The good news is: our negative thoughts and negative emotions CAN be rewired, changed, healed. The brain is capable of regenerating itself for repair! Until next week when I get a little more in depth on how the brain works in conjunction with what we tell ourselves and choose to believe, I invite you to make a list of your own cognitive distortions, or the lies you believe about yourself, and hopefully over the next week or two I can unpack further what I’m learning and some tools to apply to rewire our brains! I’m super excited about this, because I have some of my own patterns of thinking that I desperately want to conform to truth.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Think of a situation you were in that caused you distress, anxiety, fear, etc. where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? Describe the mood you felt (usually a mood is describable in one word), and what were the automatic thoughts that crossed your mind?

For instance, you might have been on a first date, and you were feeling like it wasn’t going very well, so suddenly your mood is nervous, or gloomy, etc, as you begin to think about your automatic thoughts like “He looks bored”, “He’s going to think I’m so clumsy because I’ve done one or two things over dinner that were clumsy while feeling nervous” or “This is the same restaurant I came to when my last boyfriend broke up with me”, etc. Pay attention to each of these things, your automatic thoughts, your mood, and present or past situations that may be acting as triggers to your current mood. Ask yourself the following: what was going on before I started to feel this way? What am I afraid might happen? What is the worst thing that could happen? What does this mean about how the other person feels about me? What images and memories do I have? All of these things help a person to begin to think about what you are thinking about and out the pieces together as to why you are feeling the way you do, or thinking what you are and what caused it. Oftentimes when we begin to examine our automatic thoughts we see how negatively or self sabotaging or self critical we really are. These automatic thoughts, left unchecked, can form belief systems that are untrue or debilitating to our self esteem.

This is precisely what I’ve been up to in my spare time – trying to determine my thinking distortions, find the origins, retrain my brain in its errors of reasoning, and understand other related factors, such as the mental, emotional or spiritual roots to physical ailments. It bears repeating… I’m a nerd. But I love it! Next Wednesday I will come back to this and explore it further…. I believe it’s an important subject to live a life that is full and meaningful. No point in believing lies when the truth sets us free. Negativity only causes us all sorts of harm.

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!

Cheers!

————-

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


Domestic violence happens in intimate relationships or marriage when one person tries to dominate and control the other. Domestic violence includes sexual abuse, but we will take a closer look at that subject on it’s own next Friday. Today, we will take a closer look at the aspect of Physical Abuse. For those just joining in, I am in the middle of a series on the subject of a abuse, and if you wish, you can take a look back at the preceding blogs including Emotional Abuse or Verbal Abuse.  I will discuss Sexual Abuse, Workplace Bullying, and finally, how to break the abuse cycle in the coming weeks.

Domestic violence is used for one purpose: Control. Total control. It takes place in the form of using fear, guilt, intimidation, shaming, put downs, manipulation, threats, and physical harm to wear you down until you submit to the total control, because you have become too tired of fighting it over time.

As I mentioned in my last blog, physical violence in a relationship often isn’t the first sign of abuse. You will likely see the signs of emotional and verbal abuse first, until it escalates to physical violence. Interestingly enough, although the purpose of the one who is abusing is to control and dominate, the very thing that occurs when his anger is aroused to the point of physical violence is the exact opposite – a lack of self control. Each one of us is called to be able to control our own reactions and interactions with others, and restrain our anger from physical and even verbal violence. Although it does not seem so at the time, (because anger is a powerful emotion, accompanied with a powerful sense of control), when a person loses the ability to control one’s own harmful actions towards another, they are out of control. Often physical violence happens for this reason. At the point the one abusing begins to feel they have lost control of the person they are trying to control, that is when the release of violent behavior takes place in an attempt to regain total control.

There are many signs of an abusive relationship, and we have addressed some of those over the past couple of weeks, but to simplify, if you feel a sense of ‘walking on eggshells, or an al or constant state of fear, unsure what you might do next to ‘set him off’, constantly worrying about what you should or shouldn’t say to avoid his wrath, you are likely involved in an unhealthy relationship. If you are belittled, or feel controlled, helpless desperate, or even a sense of self hatred, be careful… You may very well be in a toxic relationship.

Signs that you are in an abusive relationship:

Inner thoughts and feelings

Do you:
Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
Feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner:
Humiliate or yell at you?
Criticize or put you down?
Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
Ignore you or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
Blame you for their own abusive behavior?
See you as property or a sex object rather than as a person?

Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats

Does your partner:
Have a bad and/or unpredictable temper?
Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
Force you to have sex?
Destroy your belongings?

Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:
Act excessively jealous and possessive?
Control where you go or what you do?
Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
Limit your access to money, the phone or the car?
Constantly check up on you?

It is still abuse if…

The incidents of physical abuse seem minor compared to those you have read about, seen on tv, or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ form of physical abuse.

The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he/she will continue to physically assault you.

The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!

There has not been any physical violence. Many people are emotionally and verbally abused. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try and understand.

(See http://www.helpguide.orgfor more information on domestic violence).

Despite what I mentioned earlier regarding the abuser’s ‘loss of control’ about his/her physical responses, giving in to that ‘loss of control’ by becoming verbally or physically violent is actually a deliberate attempt to control or regain control. There are different perspectives on whether it is due to a loss of control or not. I feel that anyone who no longer takes the ownership of their behavior and allows themselves to respond out of rage and violence, is indeed ‘out of control.’ But I also believe that when we feel a loss of control and feel rage, what we are doing is trying to regain control by becoming violent. I believe we do not have to give in to our feelings and let them control us. We have a ‘choice’ as to how we react and CAN control our behavior. When we choose not to take ownership of our ‘out of control feelings’ we give in to the illusion that we are not responsible for our actions, and we are consciously choosing to become abusive, and yield to the rage we feel for feeling ‘out of control’ because someone is not doing what we want them to do, so we incite force to make them comply with our wishes. It is a very complicated matter and a fine line between control and out of control, involving cognitive distortions about what behaviors we believe we have control over and what we believe we are powerless over. No matter what we believe, we are each responsible for our own choices. Abusive behavior often comes from not taking ownership of your own thoughts, feelings and actions, and projecting ownership onto others. Engaging in abusive behavior IS A DELIBERATE CHOICE made by the abuser to control. I do not have time to thoroughly unpack the psychology of the abuser’s make up in this blog, but what I have written is a short summary of a more in depth discussion.

Let’s take a quick peek at the cycles involved in domestic violence:

To recap: the tactics used to exert power in a relationship include, domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial and blame.

The Cycle Of Domestic Abuse:

Abuse – The abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The power play is designed to show you who is “boss”.

Guilt – after abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not about what he’s done. She’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing the consequences of her abusive behavior.

Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what he/she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior – everything to avoid taking responsibility for his/her own actions.

“Normal Behavior” – The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. The peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.

Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he’ll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.

Set up – Your abuser sets up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where she can justify abusing you.

The apologies and loving gestures in between abusive episodes make it difficult to leave. He may make you feel like you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, that he will truly change, and get counseling, and that he really does love you.

If you suspect somebody you know is being abused, look for these signs:

The person seems afraid of, or is anxious to please their partner.
They may go along with everything their partner says, not expressing any difference of opinion.
They seem to check in with their partner about everything they are doing.
They receive harassing phone calls from their partner.
They communicate to you about violent encounters, or talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy and possessiveness.

They may communicate re: excessive injuries that they have had an ‘accident’.
They may frequently miss school, work or social occasions without explanation.
Dress in clothing to disguise bruises or scars.

They may have very low self esteem, be restricted from seeing family and friends, rarely go out in public with their partner, be depressed, withdrawn, suicidal, anxious. They may have limited access to money, credit cards or the car.

Speak up if you suspect someone you know is being abused. Let that person know you care by expressing your concern. It may save their life!

If you are identifying with being abused, and feel your life is in immediate danger, seek help now! Call 911 if you are in danger of being physically assaulted imminently. Don’t wait! Seek help!

I will be discussing in a few weeks how to make the necessary steps to stop the abusive cycle and/or get out if necessary, but please don’t wait until then if you are in imminent danger! Call the police!

Stay tuned for next Friday’s blog on Sexual Abuse. Remember, no action is seen as agreement. If you know someone is being abused and you don’t speak up, you are silently agreeing that the abuser’s treatment of your friend is ok. You are unknowingly, but not deliberately participating in communicating that your friend does not deserve better treatment than the abuse they are putting up with. Say something. Remind them of how much they are worth. Their self esteem is low, you need to be the voice to rebuild their confidence and remind them what loving behavior looks like.

No one deserves to be abused! No one! We all have innate, God given worth. You ARE lovable! And worthy to be treated with love ad respect!

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!

————-

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


“A lot of what we do to not feel bad is likely to make us feel worse. It’s like that thought experiment: ‘try not to think about pink elephants – the kind that are very large and very pink!’. Once an idea is planted in our minds, it’s strengthened every time we try not to think about it.” -Christopher K. Germer, PhD

Were you picturing pink elephants there? I have to admit, I did… and I’m not especially gifted at visualization! One time in church, the pastor asked us to close our eyes and visualize something, and my husband, who KNOWS that I basically SUCK at visualization, laughed when I whispered in his ear, “I see black”. LOL But for those of you who ARE good at visualization, the above experiment about thinking about pink elephants might be quite easy, and difficult to NOT think about when someone mentions to not think about it.

Now you may ask, according to my title, what does all this have to do with mindfulness OR anxiety? Good question! I’m glad you asked! The above quote from the book “The mindful path to self compassion” by the above named author, goes on to say this: “Similarily, whatever we throw at our distress to make it go away- relaxation techniques, blocking our thoughts, positive affirmations- will ultimately disappoint, and we’ll have no choice to set off to find another option to feel better.”

Now before I go any further, since this particular blog is supposed to be about me, I need to mention that anxiety is something that seems to run in my family. I have had my bouts of anxiety over the years as well, everything from insomnia and allowing that to cause anxiety, from ordinary stressful life events to traumatic experiences, to allowing anxiety to hold me back from reaching my goals and dreams because the symptoms of anxiety can feel debilitating.

How have I learned to deal with anxiety? What tools have I come up with? What exercises have I tried? Everything from avoiding anything stressful that causes anxiety, to prescription medications to help deal with symptoms, to counseling, etc. And I have learned a lot from my research and have implemented a lot of great techniques since then. But first, let us take a look at what anxiety is, and some of it’s most common symptoms.

Are you constantly tense, worried or on edge? Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school or family responsibilities? Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake? Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way? Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety? Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks and heart-pounding panic? Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?

The above are signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. The most common symptoms of anxiety include emotional and physical symptoms which are easily identified:

Emotional symptoms of anxiety:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

Physical/Physiological symptoms of anxiety:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Surge of overwhelming panic
  • Feeling of losing control or going crazy
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Feeling like you are going to pass out
  • Trouble breathing or choking sensation
  • Hyperventilation
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or stomach cramps
  • Feeling detached or unreal

Knowing is half the battle, which is why I am including the above symptoms, as some people don’t recognize anxiety for what it is, or are unaware of most of those symptoms being related to anxiety. For further reading on the subject, I suggest visiting the following website: http://helpguide.org

When I first began investigating tools to help manage anxiety, I came across a lot of great ideas:

  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Adopt healthy eating habits
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep

I also thought these things were great tools:

1. Create a “worry period”. Choose a set time and place for worrying. Set a start and end time for your worry period. During your worry period, you’re allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.

2. Postpone your worry. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your mind, make a brief note of it and and postpone it until your worry period. Remind yourself you will have time to worry about it later, so you can continue on with your day.

3. Go through your worry list during the worry period. Jot down your worries and anxious thoughts throughout the day, and now is the time you get to worry about them. If the worries don’t seem important anymore, cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day.

They suggest that post-poning worry is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries in the present moment.

Another worry tip: Ask yourself if the problem is solvable. Is what you are worrying about real or imagined? a ‘what if’ type of worry. If the problem is an imaginary ‘what if’, ask yourself ‘how likely is it to happen? Is your concern realistic? Why? Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?

If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all possible solutions you can think of.

If the worry is unsolvable, remember that worrying helps you avoid unpleasant emotions.  Worrying keeps you in your head, thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing yourself to feel the underlying emotions. But you can’t worry your emotions away.  While you are worrying, your feelings are temporarily suppressed, but as soon as you stop, the tension and anxiety bounces back.  The only way out of this cycle is to embrace your feelings.

One of the mindfulness techniques I learned was the practice of nonresistance.  Accept anxiety and that you feel anxious.  Be compassionate to your anxiety and embrace the fact that worry and anxious thoughts are normal.  The more you worry about it, the bigger it gets.  If you are able to practice compassion on yourself, the anxiety itself can diminish, merely by accepting the fact that you feel anxious. But just because you ‘feel’ anxious, doesn’t mean you need to let it control you or hold you back.  You can still accomplish your goals, finish your profects, deal with traumatic situations, by simply accepting the underlying emotions and continuing on anyway, despite the fact that you ‘feel’ anxious.  One suggestion I was given was to look at your feelings as if you were watching the clouds in the sky and watching them pass by.  I am still working on this process, as it is still difficult not to feed the anxious thought with lots of attention.  But I am recognizing that feelings pass.  And to embrace what I am feeling in that moment, no matter how painful, stressful or anxious it is.  Resisting it merely postpones the problem, and often intensifies it.  Not dealing with it and avoiding it, makes it bigger than it really is.  It also causes all sorts of health problems.  The best way to deal with anxiety, is to feel it.  And don’t let it stop you from moving forward anyway.  What’s wrong with doing something you feel anxious about, while feeling anxious? Just do it feeling anxious.  Lots of people do.  If every person who ever felt nervous before going onstage to perform gave way to their anxiety and refused to go onstage and perform, they would be holding back their talent and preventing the audience to hear/watch/observe their show.  They also woudln’t get paid or famous.  Imagine Lady Gaga not going onstage?  She would fade off the popularity charts pretty quickly.

There are many tools for anxiety, some work better than others, some work better for certain types of people.  If you see something here that works for you, feel free to try it!

I have two more tools that I have personally tried that I have found helpful for myself.

First, a cognitive approach, as I am wired to think that way myself:

The above mentioned website resource I sited suggests:

Stop Worry by questioning the worried thought:

  • What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
  • Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
  • What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen?
  • If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
  • Is the thought helpful?
  • How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

Cognitive Distortions that add to Anxiety, Worry and Stress

  • All-or nothing thinking -looking at things in black and white categories, no middle ground
  • Overgeneralization- Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever
  • The mental filter- Focusing only on the negatives while filtering out positives. Dwelling on the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went well.
  • Diminishing the positive- Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count “I did well on the presentation, but it was just luck”
  • Jumping to conclusions- Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. Making assumptions
  • Catastrophizing- Expecting the worst-case secnario to happen
  • Emotional reasoning- Believing the way you feel reflects reality.
  • Shoulds and should-nots- Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules
  • Labeling- Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (I’m a failure, an idiot, a loser)
  • Personalization- Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control (It’s my fault my son got in a car accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain)

Mindfulness techniques to try:

  • Acknowledge and observe your anxious thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them, like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsider’s perspective.
  • Let your worries go. Notice that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. It’s only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.
  • Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If your find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.

One mindfulness exercise I try is to breathe deeply.  To allow myself to take 5-10 minutes out of my day to just bring all my focus on my breathing.  I count from 1-10 and then from 10-1 backwards.  All I am doing is paying attention to my breath and then gradually, I begin to pay attention to the sounds around me.  When a thought interrupts the process, I give it my attention for a few moments as it is likely trying to point out something I need to pay attention to.  But I gradually bring my focus back to my breath.  If I am interrupted by a random thought, I begin counting again from 1-10.  This helps me notice how frequently I am being distracted in the process.  And throughout the process, I practice self-compassion.  There is no way to do this exercise wrong.  Just have compassion towards the interruptions and keep breathing.

The purpose of the above exercise is that what is happening in our body as we become increasinly more and more anxious, we are triggering the sympathetic nervous system which generally is responsible for activating the fight or flight response in our body, allowing our reaction to perceived danger to intensify physiological symptoms preparing to deal with the situation (most of the symptoms listed at the beginning of this article). Whereas, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for things like rest and digest. Deep breathing brings heightenedphysiological symptoms of anxiety, back to a state of rest, by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, initiating a sense of calming the body down.

These are some of the things I have studied and applied to my own life when I combat anxiety. Remember, anxiety is normal. It is a part of life. Whenever we try to deny or fight a natural part of life, we upset the body’s normal way of healing itself. I hope some of these tools help you as they have helped me!

One closing scripture verse to leave you with: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” Matthew 6:33-34

And don’t forget, if you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my monthly webinar on stress management!! 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!

Cheers!

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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


If you haven’t been following my Friday blogs, you may want to circle back and read “Grace & Truth -building blocks“, posted on February 3rd, as well as My blog posted on February 10th, entitled “Learning to attach and bond“, as they are the two preceding blogs to the series I am currently writing about on the subject of boundary development – the necessary steps to developing a ‘self’, a personality, with a healthy knowledge of how to interact with others, while keeping your own boundaries and self intact.

What are boundaries? Well, let’s begin with the characteristics of a complete person first, to give you a sense of what boundary development helps to accomplish. If all goes according to plan, a ‘complete’ person should exhibit the following characteristics:

1. The ability to connect emotionally.
2. To be vulnerable and express emotions.
3. Have an appropriate sense of power.
4. The ability to say no to something unwanted.
5. Have initiative and drive
6. Have at least a minimal amount of organization.
7. Be real, but not perfect.
8. Accept imperfections in yourself and others, and have grace and forgiveness.
9. The ability to grieve
10. Learn and grow
11. The ability to take risks.
12. Grasp and use one’s talents.
13. Be responsible and follow through.
14. Be free and not controlled by external or internal factors.
15. Be sexual.
16. Be spiritual.
17. Have a moral sense.
18. Have an intellectual life.

Wow, that’s quite a list! If you have trouble in any one of those areas, you most certainly could use a more thorough understanding on the subject of boundaries.

If I were to simplify boundaries, I would suggest that boundaries are that which we are responsible for, as well as a knowledge of what we are not responsible for, or what we cannot control.

I’m sure you are all aware somewhat of the term, ‘the terrible two’s, the stage in a child’s growth and development when the only word your child seems to know how to use is the word, “NO!”
Although not a ‘piece of cake’ navigating this stage of development for any parent, it is actually a very necessary part of the child’s development. This is the stage where he learns “Mommy and me are not the same, as opposed to the previous stage of development, where he learns to attach and bond, believing “mommy and me are the same”. Both elements are vital to a child’s development, and the need for attachment and bonding must precede the stage of developing his own personality apart from his parents. This stage of developing a self, own’s own separate identity continues on through life. But there can be very many messages that interrupt this growth process, making transitions into adulthood quite difficult. I will not spend much time on this in this blog, but to give a couple quick examples of such interruptions, a couple things come to mind. If one is taught that their accomplishments are what makes their parent proud, one might learn that performance causes feelings of being loved. Or perhaps if a child’s assertions to separate from mommy are met with a lot of resistance, the child will develop believing that she cannot have a ‘self’ and must ‘merge’ with those she is in relationship with, allowing that process of development to remain stunted. I do not have time to mention such things as manipulation and abuse in this blog, but will circle back to some of these concepts at another time.

For now, let us simply look at the responsibilities for our own soul that we are to learn, and develop in order to grow into a ‘complete’ person. Let me just mention that this is ALL we have responsibility for. We cannot control what another person does or how they will respond to us. We only have control and responsibility for our own selves.

What are we responsible for?
1. Our physical appearance, and physical boundaries.
2. Our attitudes
3. Our feelings
4. Our behavior
5. Our thoughts
6. Our abilities & talents
7. Our desires
8. Our choices
9. Our limits
10. Our values
11. Our negative assertions
12. Love

“A mature and complete adult not only takes responsibility for himself, but also requires the same from the people he loves. To be codependent and not require responsibility from others is to not be responsible for oneself.” – Melody Beattie, author of “The New Codependency“.

These are some pretty tall orders when it comes to personal responsibility.
A great exercise to try if you wrestle with your identity or are not quite sure who you are and who you are not is the following:

Exercise: Imagine a circle and everything in it is you. Think about what fills up your circle. What do you care about? What do you hate? What do you love? Who are you? What is attractive to you? What do you value? What do you believe? What repels you? What do you think about? Feel about? What are you really like?

There is a great deal more to be said about boundary development. This is merely a small introduction to get you thinking.

I will leave you today with common symptoms that occur in us when we fail to develop and set boundaries.

1. Depression
2. Panic
3. Resentment
4. Passive-aggressive behavior
5. Codependency
6. Identity confusion
7. Difficulty being alone
8. Masochism
9. Victim mentality
10. Blaming
11. Over responsibility and guilt
12. Under responsibility
13. Feelings of obligation
14. Feelings of being let down.
15. Isolation
16. Extreme dependency
17. Disorganization & lack of direction.
18. Substance abuse, addiction, and/or eating disorders
19. Procrastination
20. Impulsivity
21. Generalized anxiety
22. Obsessive compulsive disorder

Now, while many of these symptoms can have multiple origins, or be as the result of a difficult temporary situational trauma, if you find you identify with many of these symptoms, you may have some unfinished business in the boundary development process.

I also realize I have not mentioned anything about what to do with the boundary crossers in your life, nor touched on the subject of abuse, or further explained what codependency and some of thes other terms mean. That is because they all require in and of themselves a blog or several, to unpack further.

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

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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