Losing Yourself

alone cold fog forest
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The more time I spend working in the trauma-focused world of counseling, the more I realize codependency is far more widespread than previously thought. Especially traumas that are experienced in childhood, which makes sense as that is where everything is set for future behaviors, beliefs, and choices.

Codependency most often stems from a childhood that contains either physical/sexual abuse, witnessed domestic abuse, addiction in parents, lack of parents, neglect, parents with mental illness, emotional abuse or any combination of these. Codependency also occurs if the child has no parents especially mothers in their lives.

The child will develop beliefs about themselves and an absolute need to try and contain, control, or cover up the situations they find themselves in. All while desperately wanting to maintain the relationship so their parent will love them or at the very least acknowledge them in some way.

The child will spend every waking moment trying to make sure the parent is okay or in their minds “happy.” If people are happy they won’t take their unhappiness out on them. They also spend their lives being small adults caring for parents who cannot care for themselves. Cooking, cleaning, providing alcohol or drugs, doing what the parent wants no matter what it is to keep them happy, taking care of siblings.

Always, always, seeking love from the parent, approval, even just being noticed is enough to keep the child repeating the cycle.

Through this behavior, the child develops a very low self-image believing they are not worthy of love. They develop poor boundaries and in many cases no boundaries. There is a constant need to save others or make others happy. They never consider what they need or want. There is a constant need for perfection so that they might be lovable. And an absolute need for control over anything that they can control because life with their parent is always chaos.

All of these things become set inside the child between birth and age 7. After this, these beliefs, behaviors, and choices become solid in the psyche and they are then seen as “normal” and they are not questioned. They are just repeated and repeated throughout their lives in every single relationship they have.

They seek out relationships with those who need saving. They never consider what they want or need or how they feel. Every relationship is the one they had with their parent or the one they didn’t have with their parent because the parent wasn’t there. They control their children’s lives because they couldn’t control their parents. They never say no in relationships because they need the other person’s approval for their own self worth.

Codependency can be extremely hard to change because by the time someone seeks out help it has been their norm for years and years. They have no concept of self-love or self-care. Boundaries are a foreign concept. Being alone is an all consuming fear. Children will always want their parent to love them no matter what the parent has done even when they are no longer children – it is genetic.

Learning to say no is one of the most important things codependent people can do to begin to set boundaries with others. Understanding the difference between saving people and supporting them without enabling their behaviors. Self-care and self-love are absolutely necessary to breaking the chains of codependency. Knowing that they have worth in themselves and do not need others to provide it for them.

Counseling can help codependent people see things more objectively and offer ways to start to change. The biggest thing that keeps people from letting go of codependent behaviors is fear. Counseling can help process through this fear and open the road to moving forward. Reaching out for help can be the first step to change.

Until next time,
Deborah

Reduce Holiday Stress With Self-Care

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Self care is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself. It can also be one of the most difficult for many people.

The great majority of people it seems are consumed with taking care of others. Making sure that other people are happy. Allowing people to treat them in any way they want in order to make sure the other person is happy. They don’t want to rock the boat and make someone upset, so they go along to get along.

Peoplw who have suffered trauma of any kind are even more likely to do for others instead of themselves. These people many times do not feel they deserve or are worthy of care or that they should take care of themselves instead of others.

We all deserve to love ourselves and take care of us. The things we do to take care of ourselves do not have to be big things. Having time to ourselves. Enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. Getting a massage or a new hair cut. Writing or keeping a journal. Taking a nap. Taking a walk. The list is endless.

It is also okay to say no to other people. No to doing things you don’t want to or don’t feel up to. No to things that make you uncomfortable or feel under valued. No to things that damage your mental health. In truth, you can say no about anything. If you can get past the need to please or pacify others and accept that it is okay to do what you need, what you want, what helps you love yourself.

Everyone needs self care. Including counselors. It can be very hard for counselors to feel okay about taking time off and taking care of themselves. But it is important for them and for their clients.

The holidays can be stressful for many reasons, but not practicing your own self care doesn’t have to be one of them. Take time for yourself this holiday season to refresh and renew your own spirit, so you can feel up to giving the Christmas spirit to others.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Hold The Line

boundaries

Setting boundaries is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially people with trauma history. Many times, people do not feel that they can set boundaries as they want to do everything they can to make sure everyone else is okay and that everyone else is happy at the expense of their own feelings or needs or rights.

Also, the need to make other people okay or happy starts early, very early usually when people are still young children to win their parents love or attention. By the time most people realize that they are giving others everything and themselves nothing, the need to give up their needs and rights has become automatic. It is then very difficult to start setting those boundaries. It feels uncomfortable, even wrong. People react very badly to it. It is hard, very hard to do. But like anything else in life, it is repetition and reinforcement.

In order to start setting your boundaries you have to ask yourself what are your rights. What are your rights as a human being? The right to be respected as an individual, the right to make your own choices, the right to be find happiness for yourself, the right to manage your own life, the right to say no. Even these can be hard questions to answer for those who have not had boundaries most of their lives.

Start with one question that you answer, let’s say it is the right to make your own choices. Based on this, you then start making your own choices and then holding the line as you confront your own doubts that you can do it and the push back from others who are wondering why you are doing it now when you never have before. You will have to hold the line against opposition and against the negative thoughts in your own mind. And again, it is a daily, sometimes every minute repetition and reinforcement that this is your right and that it is okay for you to do it.

Most of the people who have known you a long time and have been able to treat you in certain ways all your life and have you respond to their needs and demands in certain ways all your life will not be happy that you are now setting these boundaries. They will in fact question why you are doing this. They will in fact look for reasons why so that they can blame this on someone or something else because you certainly cannot do this on your own. They will take it personally that you are not giving them what they want as you always have done and that it must because you don’t love them anymore. This will be your hardest task in holding the line.

Being healthy requires that you consider yourself, your needs, your rights, your emotions on the same level as you do for other people, maybe even more so. If you are not taking care of yourself helping others will drain you of your energy, your health, your emotions and there will be nothing left with which to support yourself. And as long as you are giving all to others they will continue to drain you dry and expect you to continue giving them what they need and want.

Define your rights. Be assertive. Learn to say no. Protect your space. Hold your line. By doing this you will find for yourself better self esteem, conserving your emotional energy, and be more independent. Hold your line.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Boundaries

Setting and maintaining boundaries is one of the most difficult things for many people to do. Most of the time, it is because they have been taught by others that having boundaries is wrong. Why would anyone want someone else to feel that setting boundaries is wrong? Because they benefit from the other person NOT setting boundaries as it gives them whatever they want from that person without resistance. That is also why those very same people are the most angry and upset when we decide to put boundaries in place where there have been none.

As we are taught to believe that we have to please others in order to gain their love and friendship, we are taught to believe that we have to always say yes to them. Always be doing things FOR them. Always be giving of our time, our money, our feelings, our effort to make them happy so that they will care about us. This is a false relationship. What they care about is what you are doing for them, giving them, allowing them to take from you….it is not you the individual that they care about.

We can have no boundaries for years of our lives. We can come to believe that this is how we have to live. We can come to believe that this is necessary for any relationship we have. All the while, we are pouring from our cup until there is nothing left in the cup for ourselves. We are drained, tired, angry, sad, and empty in our efforts to fill the cups of others.

To examine your own personal boundaries have a look at this set of questions BoundarySigns Take some time to really think about and answer these questions. Think about all of your relationships from early in your life forward. What do your boundaries look like and why do they look that way?

After you have spent some time examining your boundaries and why they are the way they are, sit down and really think about your life priorities. Some examples of priorities are Work, Family, Health, Relationships, Recreation, Self-Care, Personal Growth, or Sports. There may be others that are priorities for you. Once you have your priorities, write down how you can focus on those for yourself not others. Again, for yourself and not others.

Doing these two things will provide you with more clarity about the state of your boundaries and what is really important to you. Then, you have to implement the changes necessary to start maintaining the boundaries necessary for your priorities to be realities.

Until next time,
Deborah

Boundaries

Many of the problems humans suffer are as a result of unhealthy boundaries. These unhealthy boundaries start when we are very young by the way we allow others to treat us and make us feel. We are made to feel inadequate, or less than, by other people. We are in unhealthy situations where we are expected to be caretakers of others because our caretakers cannot function appropriately. We are made to feel as though we should be doormats for other people’s feelings, unresolved anger and trauma, or piled upon with heaping doses of guilt that are not ours to carry.

Regardless of how we come to allow people to treat us, we then start to believe this is how we should function in every relationship. We will always act as a doormat or a caretaker or that our needs mean nothing or our feelings are unimportant or we have to avoid making other people mad to avoid conflict or abuse. There can be many, many ways that we allow unhealthy boundaries and they can be very difficult to overcome.

How then do we move away from unhealthy boundaries? First, we must believe that we deserve to be treated better and that having boundaries is necessary. Second, we must love ourselves enough to implement boundaries regardless of how it makes others feel. Third, we must be willing to hold the line every time. Fourth, we must be prepared that the people we care about most will be the ones who push back the hardest when we enforce our boundaries.

If we have spent our entire lives allowing people to treat us in certain ways and expect that we will behave in certain ways when they do, we cannot expect that they will not be upset when we no longer comply. They will be very upset. They will take it personally. They will become angry with us. They will push back and want to reinforce that you have no boundaries. It will be very difficult to maintain the line. But if you are to be happy, to love yourself, to embrace what you deserve, you must hold the line.

We must start to draw our boundaries one event, one relationship at a time. We must find our voice to say no. We must express our feelings without anger yet filled with the truth. We must reinforce to ourselves daily, sometimes by the second, what we deserve, how we want to be treated, and that we love ourselves enough to have our relationships with others changed or abandoned.

Where do you need to start holding the line in your life?

Until next time,
Deborah

I am currently accepting new clients (girls and women) for counseling. If you would like to schedule a FREE initial consultation please call 406-413-9904 or email mindfulmontanawellness@gmail.com