#98 Disengage a Toxic Relationship

Healthy relationships are reciprocal. They are not self-focused. They employ communication – even imperfect – to resolve differences.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#98

Disengage a toxic relationship

Yesterday’s post recommended distancing yourself from negativity and sometimes, that can mean disengaging from a relationship – any relationship – that becomes detrimental to your overall health. Negativity is not the only way in which a relationship can be toxic however.

Toxic refers to any behavior that results in harm – either physical or emotional. We may think it goes without saying that physically abusive behavior is toxic and cannot be tolerated yet there are thousands of people in relationships – still – which, can be identified as physically abusive.  And so, I’ll say it too… if your relationship is – IN ANY WAY PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE – disengage, get out, leave… NOW. Your very life may be in jeopardy.

Emotional Abuse

Perhaps worse, because there are no apparent bruises, is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse also comes in a variety of forms and MUST NOT be tolerated. No one deserves to be the target of emotional abuse. Any form of communication (speech, text messages, email, letters) that is controlling, punishing, manipulative, degrading, or derogatory – is abuse. When people use the silent treatment to coerce, withhold love and support for specific outcomes, and use money to bribe or entice – that is abuse.

Subliminal Abuse

Other people use less apparent tactics to ‘abuse’. Gaslighting is one of the most common – providing false information so frequently and with so much conviction that you begin to doubt the truth; to distrust your own knowledge or instincts.

Isolating and ignoring someone can also be considered abusive – especially if it is a parent/child relationship. It doesn’t ‘look’ inappropriate yet when someone is dependent on our attention and care – to withhold it intentionally is and abuse of power.

Relationships

Relationships are toxic when we no longer can trust, feel safe with, or feel appreciative of – the person with whom we are relating. It can be a romantic relationship, a friendship, a sibling or other family member, a parent… When we continually feel powerless, humiliated, defensive, criticized, belittled, unloved, unappreciated, etc., and our efforts at communicating and resolving those feelings go cold – it is time to GET OUT.

Recognize Normal

Healthy relationships are reciprocal. They are not self-focused. They employ communication – even imperfect – to resolve differences. They are mostly light and easy (every relationship has some level of challenge). They are supportive and compassionate. There is a mutual respect and encouragement.

Disengaging

Disengaging means creating distance. The amount of distance may be determined by circumstances and/or the relationship. At the very least – learning how to set boundaries and demonstrate self-respect is imperative. No one – absolutely no one – deserves or causes abusive behavior. The ‘abuser’ has many, many options when it comes to choosing behavior – many of which are healthy. If they fail to make a healthy choice when they relate to you – make sure you demonstrate self-respect and make the healthy choice to…

Disengage from a toxic relationship.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#103 Learn to Trust

It’s about allowing each person that you cross path with to establish trustworthiness on their own – not based on other people.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#103

Learn to Trust

Our ability to trust others may be one of the most primary elements that makes life good. Counting on people, trusting them to be where they say, do what they say, and get things done when they say… that is definitely a component of a good life. It feels reliable, consistent, and dependable. It speaks to our need for some level of security.

Broken trust

And then we find out that not everyone is ‘trustworthy’. It’s disappointing for sure, and we become skeptical of trusting again. Sadly for some, trust isn’t easy to rekindle. It may depend on the situation or circumstances to some degree but even for simple or superficial infractions – trust can be difficult to reestablish.

Most People

I’ve found that most healthy people are indeed – trustworthy. Notice, I said healthy. People who betray us, people who lie, people who steal, people who trick and coerce us -generally, they are unhealthy. Healthy people – most people – don’t do those things. And so if you’ve crossed paths with an unhealthy person who has proved to be untrustworthy… put it into context and realize that they are not like ‘most people’.

Benefits

When we allow ourselves to feel trusting as a general rule with people there are plenty of emotional benefits. Perhaps first and most importantly, we are able to have more meaningful relationships. When we trust people and they demonstrate trustworthiness – our confidence increases. Our stress level is lower when we know that someone has our back and we have peace of mind.

This suggestion is “learn to trust” because it’s a necessary component regardless of how many times people in our environment have been untrustworthy. It’s about allowing each person that you cross path with to establish trustworthiness on their own – not based on other people. Essentially, no matter what has happened in the past…

Learn to trust.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#104 Ditch Gossip

By speaking about things that are considered private or deeply personal, we are likely to insult or hurt the targeted individual even if that wasn’t the intent.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#104

Ditch Gossip

If you’re human, you’ve probably – at least once in your lifetime – participated in a round of gossip. By definition, gossip is the “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others”. It is differentiated from asking a friend if they’ve ‘run into’ another… or asking about the welfare of a joint acquaintance. It’s speaking about someone’s life without explicit permission to do so.

Hurtful

By speaking about things that are considered private or deeply personal, we are likely to insult or hurt the targeted individual even if that wasn’t the intent. It may promote shame for that person and ignite feelings that lead to depression, helplessness, and sadly… even suicide. Gossip can injure esteem and confidence. It can lead to feelings of loneliness and cause people to isolate further. It often leads to embarrassment when someone’s private business becomes the focus of outsiders. The anxiety that results can paralyze.

Breach of Trust

When we gossip for the sake of having something to say, we breach the trust that others have in us for keeping their secrets. How many times have you questioned whether or not someone is talking about you the way they are talking about another? If they are willing to betray the interest of John Doe, what keeps them from doing the same to you? How do we build respect for someone that breaches trust? Without trust and respect, how is a relationship sustained?

Do Unto Others

Do you want your personal and private affairs to be the center of discussion between people not involved? If you think that may be bothersome, make the effort to change your energy into something more productive and compassionate. Make a conscious decision to …

Ditch Gossip.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#128 Be Vulnerable

While it can be scary and uncomfortable, the experience of being vulnerable is healthy for us in many ways.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#128

Be Vulnerable

As a mental health counselor, I spend a significant amount of time encouraging people to ‘be vulnerable’. By definition, being vulnerable means that you “expose yourself to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” It means that we must be willing to lose love, admiration, safety, respect, attention, etc… It is not possible to love without vulnerability.

Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown has spent much of her career researching and talking about being vulnerable. In fact, it is at the core of her famous TED Talk. She has several books documenting her stance on how life is best lived through the state of vulnerability. Indeed – one of the most popular quotes is “vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experience.”

The Value

While it can be scary and uncomfortable, the experience of being vulnerable is healthy for us in many ways. When we are vulnerable, we are our most authentic selves. In that state of mind, we are able to experience intimacy in our relationships more fully. Our sense of self worth increases and we become more accountable for our actions. We are apt to experience more compassion, be more motivated, and share our ideas more freely. Maybe most importantly, when we accept the feeling of vulnerability, we tend to let go of our need to be in control… opening doors in most areas of our life.

Letting Go

For most of us, the key to vulnerability is in learning to let go. Letting go means that we have to trust in the process most of the time, trust in the people we’ve surrounded ourselves with, and trust in our own abilities to manage life and relationships. We have to be willing to be a little afraid and accept a bit of discomfort as life unfolds in unknowing ways.

In general, life is better all the way around when we allow ourselves to …

Be vulnerable.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

A Letter to Myself Series – Age 30

This older version of you is laughing at how hard you tend to make things! EASE UP!! Chill out!!

Third in the series A Letter to Myself

I remember thinking that if I hadn’t ‘made it’ by the age of 30, my opportunities would be gone. For some reason, I had developed the notion that whatever impact I was going to have on the world, would have to have begun before the age of thirty. Consequently, that particular birthday was notably difficult as I hadn’t yet influenced the world in any significant way.

I greatly admire and applaud the energy that young people step out into the world with. I am in awe of the motivation and dedication new college graduates bring to their first job and far too often I see the light get sucked out of their spirit because life does not unfold the way that was anticipated. It’s another problem with expectations that we conjure along the way… our neglect of developing realistic aspirations or the ability to combat disappointment. If we are going to have one – we must have the other.

I’d like to think there is a way to encourage tenacity so that it overshadows disappointment; to promote endurance and patience in the pursuit of those amazing visions we have in our early years. It’s also important to allow for a change of direction because not everything is what we thought it would be and/or we encounter a split in the road that calls to us more strongly. Here is what I would want my thirty-year-old self to hear and heed…

Hey Lady,

Another decade in the dust and what a whoosie it was. I’m so sorry you had to endure those hardships but hey… look at you now! It’s like life is giving you another shot. See… in some ways it’s like adulthood is just beginning for you and truly… you have no way to imagine what is in front of you! In the scope of your life – you have just started.  All the stuff behind you – well, it sucks for sure but by now you know that good things can come from bad ones so keep that front and center in your life.

I am happy to see that you’ve realized that dreams get fulfilled even when they look differently than you had imagined – it’s only the beginning of that too! What I really want you to know right now is that there is so. much. more. Have I already said that to you? It’s really important to know that every moment is to be enjoyed so try and tuck away the fact that you have time to enjoy this!

Look at what a good mom you are. Through all those challenges, you stayed focused. Good for you – that had to have been hard. See… self-compassion isn’t that difficult! I want to encourage you to learn that now instead of later in life. You are going to have more children and I won’t spoil the surprise this time but they change you – they change everything about you – for the better. We’ll talk more about that when you turn forty but for now, know that there is much to look forward to.

Going forward, you will be served well to trust your heart more. It speaks to you frequently but you aren’t listening. Learn to pay attention! Yes, your life will be hectic and there will be less time for you to sit and be still – make it! Don’t let your ‘inner self’ take a back seat. You will always be a better mother, wife, and neighbor if you take care of yourself FIRST. It’s not selfish – it’s self-care and it would be better all-around if you don’t wait another twenty years to figure it out!

Oh – and let’s talk about your body. So… you’ve developed more body acceptance, that’s great. Now you have to take care of it!! You have some bad habits that need addressing – you know what they are. Again, make those changes now instead of years down the road and even though you ‘hate’ to exercise – please. Please. Please. Do it. If there is any single change that this older version of you wants you to change now – it’s this part. I know, I know…. Everywhere you turn people are telling you to ‘get healthy’ – it’s a buzz phrase for all of the 1990’s and it would be good if you could get on the bandwagon. If you don’t – you never will and your body… well, you are not going to like it!

I know people everywhere are giving you advice and like most everyone – you really haven’t listened. Are you aware of how stubborn you are? Why do you feel you must reinvent everything you do? Why not take advantage of the lessons people in front of you have learned? This older version of you is laughing at how hard you tend to make things! EASE UP!! Chill out!! You don’t have to do it all right. Let yourself make mistakes – try new things – experiment but don’t be hard on yourself. Let go.

You don’t physically change very much in the next decade but your whole perspective on life will change – it’s all good. As I said, motherhood changes you dramatically in really special ways and you will redesign your vision of yourself – that’s good too. Go with the flow – feel the vibe – the current – and relax on it. In part – it is your instinct… your intuition… and it’s authentic so it won’t let you down. Your only trouble happens when you are bucking the flow – did you hear me?? When you are not floating on your ‘authentic current’ – you will be unhappy. You eventually figure it out – but why wait??

That guy you just met… he’s part of your life lesson. No, he’s not going to die – you will be together for a long while but he is in your life so that you can learn. It will be up to you to find the lessons; the good and hard ones. It’s his children that bless you the most.

Keep going …

Me

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A Letter To Myself Series – Age 10

How many times must we fall before we learn to or decide to change direction? What are the right words to persuade us to change course?

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” ~ John Connolly

What would happen if you found a letter from your older self? Or your younger self? Like in the movie Back to the Future when Marty wrote to Doc that he was going to get shot so Doc wore a flack jacket (bullet proof vest) to the parking lot where the van of guys with machine guns came screeching through…

Would you listen? We don’t seem to take the advice of our older relatives or friends. Seemingly, each of us needs to learn firsthand – even when something is painful. I know it to be a source of frustration as a mom… watching my children head right into something I know has a high probability of turning out poorly. I only know that from years of experience – personally as well as my large collection of observations … they want to try it their own way. Presumably, due to the tweeks they may have made, it will turn out differently for them. (um..hm) Right.

My kids aren’t any different than any other person. I continue to see this fascinating phenomena in my clients too. It’s sometimes even more interesting when we are learning something that we already learned but think may be different THIS time. I do it too…. How often have I cut myself with a freshly sharpened knife? How many times do I have to shrink a favorite sweater before I learn to pay more attention when I am switching laundry?  How many times must we fall before we learn to or decide to change direction? What are the right words to persuade us to change course? Why are we so stubborn? Is there anyone void of this trait?

I’m beginning a series of letters to my younger self… for personal reflection but also for anyone there – in those years who might want to benefit from a little perspective or as inspiration for you to write your own!

A Letter to My 10-year-old Self

Hey there kiddo,

Wow. You have a great life right now – pretty much perfect don’t you think? Your baby brother is great and don’t sweat it… you’ll be friends forever. Your sister needs you. Be nice. Include her more. These two people will know you longer than anyone else and you will have amazing history together.

Those friends you have are the best! You are making memories that you will have for the rest of your life and that playing you are doing…. It’s so important! It’s great that you are outside so much and using your imagination – kids in the future don’t do that as much. So many of the things that you are doing are things that help you later on. You may want to back off on those marathon Monopoly games though… it eventually spoils your tolerance for the game.

Hey… don’t worry about being poor – it won’t matter when you grow up and the things you don’t have now aren’t all that important. You may want to hold on to that transistor radio; technology changes so fast that it becomes an antique relic more quickly than you can imagine. The fact that you are running around and inventing fun is training you for your future. You are going to use those attributes!

You know that song you learned at girl scout camp? The one about the three bears? You will teach it to your own children and it will become an important part of their childhood… Pay attention to as many of those things as you can. You don’t even know how much you are learning right now; how many of these things you will look back on.

Everyone tells you to be a kid… listen to them! You have so. much. life. in front of you – you have time – go ahead… go play and don’t worry about adults or problems. Try not to compare your body to other girls, your weight doesn’t matter…  people will love you and like you just because you are you, I promise.

Your mom and dad are having a hard time and life may get pretty tough for you in a little while but know this: they are doing the best they can. They are still growing up too and need to learn a lot of lessons. Remember that they both love you and want the best for you but may not know how to show it all the time.

Use your diary more. It’s great that you write down a few things but you will want to remember so much more. Those milestones you’ve already recorded… you’ll read them over and over – committing them to memory. That first kiss story – you’ll tell it over and over again – and laugh. Even though you think NJ is the best boy in the world… there are a lot more. 

The one thing that I want you to know more than anything else is that everything is going to be OK.  Learn to trust…

Love you girl!

What would you say to YOUR 10-year-old self?

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Owning Your Control Issues

Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

Continued from The Birth of Control Issues

“Surrender to what is. let go of what was. have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti

Yesterday’s post laid out how control issues are born and manifest. When people accused me of being a ‘controlling’ person I would get defensive because I knew in my own mind that my intent wasn’t to manipulate other people. I just wanted to control for the ‘uglies’… I wanted to manage the bad feelings – the sadness – the fear. When we speak about controlling behavior we use derogatory words such as ‘control freak’. Comments like that foster shame and embarrassment. Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

When I notice that someone has the propensity to seek control of their circumstances and/or environment, the first thing I help them do is to understand why the need to control exists for them. And then we talk about managing it with a few simple thoughts.

OWN IT

Just OWN it! Acknowledging and understanding your ‘control issues’ is the first step in coping with them well. Accept them, love them, honor them. They are there because at one time you had a reason to believe that your emotional safety was in danger. We need to love the imperfect parts of ourselves just as much as those things that make us loveable. If one of the ways to soften your hard corners is through compassion… offer it to yourself! Seeking reassurance and comfort from the outside world is fine but if it isn’t available or frequent enough – you need to know how to give it to yourself.

REASSESS

Take a careful look around at the things that ARE within your realm of control. Many things are… you always have a choice unless you are being held captive or are in some way incapacitated… you have choices; even when you feel you don’t’. I remember many times feeling like I didn’t have a choice but that only left me with a sensation of helplessness.

Sure, sometimes we don’t ‘want’ any of the choices that are available but then we must be honest with ourselves and recognize – in that – we are still making a choice.

Can I control whether or not someone drinks? NO. I can only control whether I continue to share space with that person. If I chose to stay with someone who isn’t sharing the load with me, who doesn’t have the same vision as I do… then I have made a choice to accept the load myself and I have to redesign my vision. Understand that many choices are ‘package deals’ – they are bundled with a series of ‘consequences’… make sure you are consciously accepting the entire bundle because unbundling it – is OUTSIDE of your control.

LET GO

More often than not I find that we need to let go of fixed or rigid thoughts – the way we think things ‘should’ be or how things ‘should’ be done. Expand your thinking by eliminating words such as right/wrong or good/bad and replace them with ‘different’. There truly is more than one way to do most things.

Understand that in YOUR emotionally safe world things look a specific way. Responsibility, for example, may be represented to you in the form of a fixed blueprint that is achieved by doing x, y, & z precisely. But… we know – logically – that there is more than one effective building design. People demonstrate responsibility by using a, b, & c too. Letting go of an XYZ design and being open to trust that ABC will work is important.

Keep in mind that letting go is NOT a one and done thing. Thoughts don’t automatically disappear just because we want them to. We may need to let go of something over again every day until our mind remembers that we are simply not accepting that thought anymore. Be patient.

DISASSOCIATE

The things that happened in our past which, contributed to our current control issues are over. Just because the first man I loved died, doesn’t mean that the next man I love will, even though that is the fear. If your parents were horrible at parenting – if they were abusive – it doesn’t mean that other parents are abusive or that you will be as a parent. If someone you love died in a car accident, that doesn’t mean others will as well.

Certainly, bad things happen. But… the things that are creating your control needs are in the past and they need to stay there. Disconnect what HAS happened to what MIGHT happen going forward. Remind yourself… that was then, this is now. Stay present. Focus on THIS moment.

TRUST

“Let go and let God” is about trust. Letting go in general is about trust. We have to trust that if we let go – we will still experience emotional peace / security.

Sometimes I just repeat the word over and over in my mind as a reminder that I must surrender to trust. Generally speaking… things have always worked out in the end and I am reminding myself of that fact.

I find that most of us with control issues have simply learned to DIS-trust that people are working with us in the pursuit of emotional safety. I often remind myself that my children want to arrive where they are going and so they will make every effort within THEIR control to do so. I must trust that.

Trust is easier when we are constantly checking in to make sure that we are on the same page with those that are invested with us. Be sure that you are each moving toward the same vision and trust that you can get there via different avenues.

PLAN B

When all else fails, it helps to have a Plan B. People with control issues often have anxiety – the fear of not being able to control manifests physiologically. If we create an escape route – in case owning it, reassessing, letting go, disassociating and trust don’t completely satisfy our fears… having an alternative plan helps. It many never happen that you use Plan B but just initiating a design for another option allows your mind to experience a sense of relief.  Draw it out, make lists, save money, know where the exit is.

Having an active Plan B allows you to feel in control of something even when you have none.

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