Boundaries

This is one of my favourite topics to talk about and teach on. As you might have seen a while back we posted on Facebook that I was re-reading the classic book on boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. It was such a good refresher that I thought it would be worth the time to summarize some of the concepts in the book but also cover some of what I know about boundaries in general.

First off, what are boundaries? Simply put they are the lines between you and the external world. They are your limits. They are the personal and maybe literal fences that distinguish you from other people and the environment around you. There are many types of boundaries which I’ll highlight two of below.

One boundary is a physical boundary. You know these boundaries are being violated when you feel discomfort- this can be anything from the close talker that you need to take a step back from to sexual assault.

There are emotional boundaries too. This is the difference between what you are feeling and what other people are feeling. In the practice of empathy, we might for a short time enter into what someone is feeling in order to understand their perspective. However, when we live in this place of making choices based solely on what another person feels, or we can’t determine anymore what our own feelings are separate from what others around us are feeling, this is an emotional boundary problem.

Boundaries can be thought of like fences with gates. We are in charge of setting our fences up and we get to choose who gets to come into our space (weather that be physical, emotional, financial or spiritual) using the gate. There can also be many layers of fences- not everyone is going to get the privilege of coming into your inner circle so to speak. Some people will be allowed into the first fence but that is where they will stay until they earn trust. You may also have let someone into a fence that is closer to the core of who you are and they break trust. Then you can send them out the gate to a further fenced away off area. Or maybe you discontinue contact with them all together.

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Boundary violations can have a lasting impact on our lives. Sometimes people bulldoze over your fences and that is not your fault. You are entitled to seek appropriate support and justice when there has been abuse.

The one thing that I could leave with you that might have the most impact is the encouragement to practice one simple but often difficult thing, which is saying no. In your world there might be someone who demands that their needs are more important than yours.

You might also have come from a background that taught that your needs or space or opinions were not important. This is simply not true. If you can practice saying no without taking on guilt you will discover that you have a lot more emotional and mental freedom in your life. This also gives you the grace to respect when others say no as well.

Practicing using boundaries more effectively is a process, it takes time and a community of supportive people to help you learn these skills. The time and effort into building effective boundaries is well worth it.

Written by Kelly McGregor

Reference:

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Balance

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Don’t shoot the messenger but fall is fast approaching. And generally, with fall comes an increase in our to-do lists. Maybe the kids are going back to school, maybe we take on new work projects or maybe we are the ones going back to school. In a society and culture that gives imaginary prizes for who can be the busiest, how do we find balance?

The first thing to realize is that you are in fact in control of your time and you have every right to say no to things. When was the last time that you said no to someone just to stay at home and read a book or get some errands done in an adequate timeframe instead of rushing around like a chicken with your head cut off? We hesitate to say no because often we want to be liked or we don’t want to offend. However, your true friends know what it feels like to be run down at times and also understand that saying no to an outing does not mean you are saying no to the relationship.

There are some things you can do to start to re-define balance in your life. First, write down hour by hour for 2 full weeks what you are doing with your time. This is called a time log. This allows you to see where you do have time and how much time you might we wasting on things that you don’t deem actually important, like scrolling the web for instance. It shows your patterns and helps you to be mindful of what you are doing.

Next, make a list of what you value. You can always check out lists of core values on the web and use that as a tool to get started. This will help you see what your priorities actually are and when you compare that to your time log you will be able to see what things that you can cut out based on your values.

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Lastly, identify the things that fill your energy bucket up. If you get your energy from being around people, intentionally plan some outings. If you get your energy from spending time alone, book some alone time in. Think about what you need to recharge your batteries and decide to do that thing consistently. Treat it as you would an appointment.

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Remember, you are the only one who can control your schedule. You are the one who needs to make the changes if you want balance in your life. The truth is that there is no badge of honor for busyness, so what are you going to live for instead?

Perspectives: Removing the Lenses

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As our workshop on eating disorders approaches, I have had an opportunity to reflect on my own recovery and the various challenges that I have faced in order to reach a point where I am comfortable understanding and discussing my own experiences. One point that really stands out to me is perspectives.

Living with an eating disorder is similar to wearing a pair of glasses. The lenses filter the way you see the world, but also provide the world with an image of you. With an eating disorder, those glasses become filtered with an eating disorder lens, distorting everything that I saw. The
longer I kept those glasses on, the more disoriented and helpless I felt when I removed them. I
became dependent on the eating disorder, because it was how I saw the world and how the
world saw me. An aimless attempt to find purpose was satisfied by the eating disorder, because
it became my identity. She’s anorexic.

This is dangerous. The eating disorder glasses paint a beautiful perspective of the world. They
provide goals and purpose. If you eat under x amount of calories, you will lose weight. If you
weigh x amount of pounds, you have regained control of your life and your body. If you follow
this fad diet you will be accepted. The promises are eloquent...it is a way to regain control, a
way to find an identity, a drive to accept purpose. But the perspectives and promises are
wrong.


The main focus of my recovery has been removing the glasses tainted by the eating disorder.
This is not as easy as it sounds. It means redeveloping my perspective on the world, reshaping
my identity, and regaining control on my own terms. I wore those glasses for so many years that
when they were finally removed, I didn’t have a clue who I was anymore. She’s anorexic shifted
into she had an eating disorder. This reminds me of my grandmother, who continued wearing
her glasses frames with the lenses popped out after having eye surgery because she feared
that nobody would recognize her without those glasses. For years I kept those eating disorder
glasses on, with the lenses popped out, because I needed to reestablish who I was and where I
belonged, and I feared who I may be without them. I clung to the last dregs of the eating
disorder because for many years of my life that’s all I was reduced to, and the way I recognized
myself.

Finally, after years of hard work, I have removed those glasses and am shaping my identity in
different ways. She loves to rock climb. She is passionate about helping people. She has
earned a university degree. She takes too many pictures and collects too many vintage artifacts
but wouldn’t change it for the world. She speaks out about her experiences. She believes there
is not much that can’t be addressed over a good cup of tea and healthy conversation. She loves
deeply and without reserve.

Last, but not least… She is more than her eating disorder.

Written by Elisha McGregor

Love is in the air!

Wedding season is upon us. For many, time and energy are devoted to planning the perfect day that will hold memories for years to come. But are couples also investing in preparing for their upcoming marriage?

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If you have an upcoming wedding, what are your expectations for your marriage? Why are you getting married? What skeletons in the proverbial closet have you talked about or not? Just as there is a checklist for planning a wedding, there is also be a checklist in preparing for marriage. 

So, why has this topic been on my mind lately? Well, I have been seeing clients for a number of years that take great time, energy and courage to work through trauma, grief, stress and other challenges that often stem from adverse childhood events. I absolutely love walking with people who are on their recovery journey but on the other hand I have wondered what the preventative piece to this is. Many of these wounds are incurred either directly or indirectly in the childhood home. So I figure, if we can prepare to have a healthy marriage or partnership- the soil of parenting- we can prevent some of the adverse childhood events that are becoming so common.  

If couples can work on a healthy and happy marriage or partnership not only does that prevent the painful process of divorce but it can also create a great environment for raising happy and healthy children. You don’t have to wait until there are serious problems in your marriage before you work on them. You can start now. 

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone’s challenges are because of “bad parenting” and I’m not saying that children cannot grow up healthy and happy if they are from a home that has experienced separation or divorce. But I am saying that it can’t hurt to be proactive about your marriage or partnership and that the benefits of this can pass down to your kids, if you choose to have them.

At Restore Counselling we would love to help you with pre-marriage counselling. So if you have recently been engaged or are in the process of planning your wedding we want to say congratulations, let the fun begin!  

The Power of Stories

I was reminded today of how narrative and telling your story has so much healing power. Author Brene Brown says When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending (2015).” From my experience with narrative psychology I have witnessed personally and professionally how telling your story can be beneficial for several reasons.

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One reason sharing your story is beneficial is that when you take the time to think about your experiences and how you felt about your experiences it can be cathartic. It helps your brain process what has happened. (Turnbull, 2011).

Secondly, looking at your life story can help you see your history in a balanced perspective. Some models of narrative interviewing including McAdam’s Life History Interview Protocol (revised 1995) asks for both the highlights and the low points in one’s life. This can help a person see the good through the bad but can also help you recognize and acknowledge the painful times if you haven’t done that yet. Having a balanced or dialectical lens to your situation or story is an approach based on both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Aaron T Beck) or Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (Marsha Linehan).

Often, when looking at a life narrative the inherent strength and resiliency of humans becomes apparent. This can provide sustained hope in the midst of painful experiences. It can help us see that I’ve been through tough stuff before and I’ve survived, so I can do it again. This overall perspective of seeing yourself and/or clients from a strengths based perspective comes from “The Strengths Model” Dennis Saleebey, Charles Rapp & Anne Weick (1997).

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Lastly, in the writing of our story it gives us the opportunity to tell our story with trusted others. This can bring immense healing because it makes us vulnerable to intimacy, connection and love. Being authentic in community is a huge factor of personal healing and growth (Brown, 2010).

Is there a time when you remember hearing someones story and being impacted by that? What would be the highlights and lowlights of your story? Who would you trust your story with?

We would love to hear your thoughts and would be interested in knowing if you would sign up for a narrative therapy class. 

 

References

2016 Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. www.beckinstitute.org

2017 Behavioral Tech. www.behaviouraltech.org

Brene Brown, 2015. https://brenebrown.com/blog/2015/06/18/own-our-history-change-the-story

Brene Brown, 2010. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

TraumaTrauma, BookFrom Lockerbie to 7/7 : How Trauma Affects Our Minds and How We Fight BackBy Turnbull, Gordon; 2011

The Strengths Model. Dennis Saleebey, Charles Rapp & Anne Weick. In 1997

McAdams, Dan. 1995. https://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/docs/Interviewrevised95.pdf