Tag Archive: personal growth



Last Friday I blogged about Stress Management by introducing some common symptoms that occur when one is under a lot of stress. Today I want to touch on what is happening in our physical bodies that brings about the symptoms we discussed last week.

The fight, flight or freeze response is how the body prepares itself to deal with stress and anxiety and even fear. Your cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) sends an alarm to the hypothalamus, which then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to make changes in the body to prepare itself for action -primarily, fight, flight or freeze.

The changes that occur are things like heart rate increase, muscle tension, blood pressure increases, metabolism. Blood is directed away from the digestive system and the extremities and re-directed toward major muscle groups that can help to fight or run.

In each stressful situation we face, our instinctual reptilian brain (which is the oldest part of the brain, responsible for instincts such as fight, flight or freeze) is activated and we instinctually respond with a course of action to deal with the situation, seemingly without thinking about it, as it seems to occur automatically, in a matter of seconds the fight, flight or freeze response is in action, directed by the hypothalamus to trigger the sympathetic nervous system to ready us for attack, alarm, or a perceived attack, readying us to fight the stressor, flee and avoid the stressor, or freeze up, unable to fight or flee.

We may not always freeze up, we may not always automatically fight, just as we may not always take flight from the stressful situation. It depends on each circumstance we face.

If you are afraid of public speaking for instance, once you get up to the podium, you might freeze up, unable to speak. Or perhaps you dance around the subject with your boss, trying to get out of having to do the speech (flight), or you face it head on and fight the butterflies in your stomach and do the speech.

Or if you need to confront a co-worker who is a bully at your work, perhaps you want to avoid the stressor and avoid taking shifts where you work with that person, or you simply feel anxiety the whole time you work with this person unable to confront the situation out of fear. Perhaps you decide enough is enough, I am going to report this bully and take action.

I am not saying ‘fighting’ is always the best choice in dealing with a stressful situation. For instance, if you do not have healthy confrontational skills and you end up verbally or even physically assaulting your irritating co-worker, perhaps fighting the situation via direct confrontation is not the best solution for you, and perhaps you should involve the management team instead.

In a situation where a burglar has entered your home with a gun and already shot someone in your home and he has not seen you, perhaps freezing is the best course of action to preserve your life. If he doesn’t see you and leaves, you can then contact the police and ‘fight’ the situation by taking action. But if the burger enters the area where you have chosen to freeze, it might be useful to look for options to get out and flee the area to avoid getting shot. This is a perfect example where all three responses may be needed at varying times in one situation, and your instinct will tell you what you ought to do. Perhaps you have the upper hand, and are able to come behind the burgled unaware and are able to knock him out and tie him up and take his gun away from him and call the police…. Another example of a fight response.

The point is, our bodies ready us for response and give us the extra boost of adrenaline and energy to face the stressful situation.

Long term stress can be very harmful to our bodies, over time, indicating that it is time for us to figure out how to manage anxiety and stress.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for ‘rest and digest’ and is the part of the nervous system that needs to be activated to bring our bodies back to a state of calm after a stressful episode. I will blog more about how the parasympathetic nervous system comes into play next week as we begin to look at simple ways to manage our stress level.

And don’t forget, 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

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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


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

 


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


Check out my life coaching website for more information!

Identifying Safe People


Wounded by Relationship

Many of us have at best, been wounded in a relationship at one time or another, whether it be by a friend, co-worker, peer, boss, significant other or a family member or friend of the family. At worst, we may have suffered abuse or severe betrayal by someone. Sadly, what often happens as a result of ‘being burned’, we learn not to trust again, or to harden ourselves against further injury elsewhere and are constantly on the lookout for it to happen again. We have endured trauma. We begin to develop coping mechanisms and hiding patterns and build secure walls of protection around our hearts to prevent re-injury, all the while, looking around every corner expecting it to happen again and projecting past injury onto new people in our lives who are unlikely to be exactly the same as the person who initially injured us.

Why Does This Keep Happening?

While it is true that we do psychologically develop patterns that tend to draw the same type of people to us, because of that feeling of familiarity, the good news is, this cycle can be broken, and changed by identifying characteristics of both safe and unsafe people.

Now, before I go any further and dig a hole for myself, I have to clarify that there are no truly perfect people out there, and we all have flaws and potential to harm each other, which literally means there are no perfectly safe people out there. Everyone will fail you at one time or another. No perfect people exist. If you are looking for perfect, I recommend God.

Now that I have prefaced that, there ARE however, characteristics you can look for to find people who treat you differently than those who have harmed you in the past! This is the good news. The bad news is, you might possess characteristics yourself of an unsafe person. Because we all do, or have the potential to at some point or another. Reality suggests ‘hurting people hurt people.’ Meaning, if you are or have been hurt recently, you have the potential to cause injury to those around you while you try to heal yourself. But hopefully by the end of this blog, you will be able to identify several ‘unsafe’ characteristics and have tools to change them if you find yourself identifying with those patterns, and know what to look for to find the ‘safe’ people, and tools to know how to become safe yourself, for others who need you to be a safe person in their life.

Characteristics of an ‘Unsafe’ Person

Here are a few qualities and characteristics of an ‘unsafe’ person:

-People who act like they have it all together
-Self-righteous
-Demand trust without it being earned
-Controlling
-Treat you like you are less or one-down from them
-Abusive (I will do a series on abuse soon to further unpack what this means)
-Manipulative
-Unreliable
-Competitive
-Defensive, not open to constructive criticism or feedback
-People who ‘may’ apologize but never change their behavior, or who simply never apologize
-People who avoid working on and dealing with their problems
-People who don’t take responsibility for what is ‘theirs to own’ (see previous blogs on boundaries to know what each of us is personally responsible for in life)
-People who lack compassion, empathy or concern for others
-People who do not forgive others ever (we all know forgiveness takes time, I am referring to people who never let go of grudges and offenses and hold it over someone else forever!)
-Blame others for their problems
-People who live a continual lifestyle of lying
-People who are not growing, keeping the same unhealthy patterns and don’t want to change.

Characteristics of Safe People

Compare the above list with the characteristics of a ‘safe’ person:

-People who react to you differently than those who have hurt you, over a period of time (even unsafe people can appear ‘safe’ initially until the ‘romance’ phase of any early relationship wears off.)
-People who are loving and who have a good reputation for being loving over time. Watch their actions. Not just what they say.
-People you can watch and observe from an emotional distance and who are gentle with you during the trust earning phase
-People who are willing to earn trust, rather than demand it.
-People who can accept imperfections in others
-People who have grace for imperfections
-People who have endured pain themselves, but are recovering or have recovered, who can be empathetic to your pain
-People who can speak the truth to you lovingly
-People who bear good fruit in your life… If you find you are becoming healthier and are encouraged to grow and your identity and independence and limits are respected, these are good qualities to look for.
-People who can be intimate, who know the difference between intimacy and enmeshment.
-People who can confront gently, with compassion
-Honest
-Not controlling
-Views relationships equally, rather than a one-up, one-down perspective.

Some of you reading may say to yourselves “where are these people?” And you may be right. They are fewer and farther between. But don’t give up looking. Perhaps you should look in different places than you usually do to find safe people. If you still have trouble finding them, look for a support group you can join in your area in the meantime, so that you can learn to become a safe person yourself. “like attracts like” they say. If you become healthier and ‘safer’ in the way you interact with others, you will begin to attract safe people, and will become less attracted to the ‘unsafe people’ as you begin to value the attributes of what a safe person possesses within them.

How to Become a Safe Person

1. Learn to ask for help, ask for what you need. Asking develops humility, it develops the skill of taking initiative and ownership and responsibility for yourself. It produces an attitude of gratitude when we have received what we asked for. Asking also increases the possibility that your need will be met.

2. Learn to need. Confess how difficult it is, or your inability to express need. This next step is hard… But necessary. Confess the need. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. People are not mind readers. Here are a couple examples to help you along:
I need to know I matter to you.
I need to know you love me.
I need to know you understand.
I need to know you won’t reject me when I express who I am.
I need to know you will accept that I have different opinions than you sometimes.

3. What evokes your hunger? What is that ache that is unfulfilled? Learn to identify your feelings so you can express your needs. Learn what you like and dislike, and ask for more of what you like.

4. Work through resistances. “Resistance is our tendency to avoid growth”. (Drs..Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of ‘Safe People’, where I have gleaned from for this material)
A) Identify your resistances to love. What are you doing when someone is expressing love to you? Are you diminishing it? Dismissing it? Disbelieving it? These are examples of resistances to love.
B) Bring these resistances into relationship.
C) Allow the needs beneath the resistance to get met.
D) do the opposite of what the resistance tells you to do.
Ie. the resistance says “handle it yourself. You don’t need help.” instead, ask for help. Delegate responsibilities, etc.
E) Be open to truth
F) learn to give and receive forgiveness. Both from others and yourself. Forgive yourself!

5. Give something back.
Understand what you have gained from the above exercises and learn how to identify your friends’ and family’s need signals. Ask to help others. Learn to ‘be there’ for others. Be a truth teller, and someone who loves truth.

Many thanks go out to Dr’s Henry Cloud and John Townsend for their extensive work on the subject of boundaries and healthy relationships. I have learned much from their resources over the years. I highly recommend their literature on these subjects.

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Need help with breaking the cycle and identifying safe people?

Check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program and bring control back into your life!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship 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


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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