Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

What Boundaries Sound Like

We often speak about boundaries and how important they are in establishing. Sometimes we need to set expectations in our relationships, or at work. Sometimes we need to set boundaries when it comes to saying no, or when we realize that we are not being treated in a way that is respectful.

Clients will often talk about knowing that they need to set boundaries, but struggle with how to say it. This post is all about the how; following are examples of what boundaries can sound like:

“I am not sure that I can commit to that right now. Let me look at my schedule and I will follow up.”

“Let me think about it and get back to you.” – Do you have the time, support and energy to help out? If you do, great. If you don’t follow up with a decline.

“I’m afraid I can’t say yes this time. Keep me in mind for the next time around.”

“I won’t be able to make it this time.” – We don’t always need an explanation as to why, however including one is fine too.

“If you can’t speak to me without (yelling, calling me names), then I am going to end this conversation.” – Then end it.

“I can understand that you’re angry, but I won’t be yelled at.” – Then walk away, or end the phone conversation.

“If you text me, I will text back at a time that works best for me.” – If someone in your life continues to incessantly text, or get angry with you if you don’t answer their text immediately, your boundary may have to be more direct:

“If you continue to disrespect what I have asked, I will block your number.” – Then follow through.

“I would appreciate you not bringing this up anymore.”

“I am going to take some space from this issue. There is no more to discuss.” – If the person continues to try and argue the point, no need to respond.

These are just some examples of what boundaries sound like. A key point to remember is that we need to “reward the effort, not the outcome” as we can set the boundary but not be met with compliance. That is why follow through is so important. Setting boundaries is a wonderful way that we can work from the position of “I am important and so are you,” as we are recognizing our own needs while delivering our expectation in a calm way. Practice, practice, practice. You will be happy you did 🙂

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Ego States; Post 2

In yesterday’s post we learned what ego states are and why they are important to our understanding of the choices that we sometimes automatically make.  We learned about child ego states where we end up feeling small, and parent ego states, where we seek to feel powerful. Essentially, neither one of these ego states is where we want to stay – we may land there in default, but it is important for us to recognize how we are feeling and pull out of it.

A good gauge to assess where you tend to go involves immediate reaction – if you feel responsible for someone else’s mood or response and feel powerless to it, you know you are in child ego state. If your immediate reaction tends to be anger, and you move to seeking powerr , you know you are in parent ego state.

Where we aim to be is in an Adult Ego State – it is here that we feel most grounded and settled. It is here that we are able to use both our emotion brain and logical brain to make decisions, and we tend to be less reactive. We can move to not owning someone else’s mood or behaviour; we can move to a less automatic defensive position.

Recognizing is always the first step. Knowing where the potential triggers came from is the second. Deciding to change the way we react is the third. Remember, whatever is learned can be unlearned. 🙂

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What are Ego States and Why are they Important?

I like to say that within us there are many different parts. And when we are feeling good, confident, and strong, those parts work together like a well-oiled machine. When we are feeling vulnerable; however, some of those parts begin to work independently of each other, or can come into conflict within ourselves.

The psychological definition we use for describing these parts are ego states. Everybody has them and we all experience them. We tend to shift into an ego state when triggered by something that typically comes from our past. Some examples include:

  • an automatic reaction to someone else’s anger; including the 0 to 60 response, immediately apologizing, feeling responsible regardless of the situation.
  • automatic care taking behaviours.
  • reacting out of fear of ‘getting into trouble.’
  • overly passive or overly aggressive reactions.
  • moving to fix.
  • automatically taking ownership.

One of the ways we can become aware of being in an ego state includes asking ourselves this question: “Am I feeling small right now?” When we can recognize that we feel small, we are most likely in a Child Ego state and will move to feel and sometimes react as we did when we were children. If, however, we are feeling ‘big’ in the moment, we know that we have moved to a Parent Ego State; where we are seeking power over other with ‘rules’ or reactions that tend to feel rigid and inflexible.

Being able to recognize when we have been triggered into an ego state is the first step in creating a healthier reaction to situations that mimic childhood experiences. Tomorrow’s post will expand on our overall goal with ego states to live in Adult Ego State.

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The Importance of Giving Ourselves Permission

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to ‘give ourselves permission.’ Very often, we are held back in our growth as our patterns or associations have cemented habits, beliefs or attitudes that are no longer serving us. We are in a much better position to ask ourselves “Does it have to be this way?” From there, we can begin the gentle process of giving ourselves permission to:

  • Look at something in a different perspective.
  • To heal.
  • To ask for help when I need it.
  • To say no.
  • To take care of myself.
  • To rest, relax. Feed my comfort system.
  • To make time for play.
  • For laughter, joy, feeling content.
  • To make mistakes.
  • To forgive myself.
  • For connection, meaning and growth.
  • To give to others.
  • To seek a sense of being grounded.

Giving ourselves permission; an easy first step to growth 🙂

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Before You Speak

There are times when we have to slow down our thought process enough to avoid saying something we end up regretting. Very often, an emotion gets in the way of acting rationally and we end up following the action urge instead of our logical brain (which shows up after the emotion has passed.) Sometimes our concerns for others can come out it ways that appear critical or harsh.

I came across this acronym which can help us to think about what we wish to say in any given situation.

Before you speak, think:

T – Is it true?

H – Is it helpful?

I – Is it inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

Just trying to access this acronym when we are upset or troubled by something will help us to slow down enough to begin processing our emotion, and moving into a mature way of communicating.

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The True Meaning of Love

I saw this passage by a.r. lucas and it reinforces what love truly is:

“We’ve been infected with this idea that love is an emotion only felt between two people.

But love is universal. An energy. A contagious force. A gift.

To offer money to a homeless man is to love. 

To save a worm from the sun is to love.

To smile to a stranger is to love.

To be grateful, to be hopeful, to be brave, to be forgiving, to be proud, is to love.”

– a.r. lucas

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The Word ‘Unpack’ and The Use of Imagery

In therapy, we often hear the phrase, “let’s unpack that.” Those words provide an image that we can work with to further explore.

Think about the last time you were on vacation and brought your suitcase. When I get to my destination, I like to hang my good clothes in a closet that has all the hangers ready for me; I put my casual clothes in the dresser, and my cosmetics in the bathroom.  Doing so allows me to feel organized and hopeful as I feel ready and excited for my week ahead. I also put our valuables in the safe; that allows me to feel secure.

We can achieve the same feelings in therapy when we unpack something that has been occupying space in our baggage. By exploring things in an environment that feels safe, we can begin the process of putting those memories or experiences in places in which we don’t have to carry them anymore. When we share the secrets we have guarded for so long, we can tuck them safely away. By unpacking the event, the experience, the trauma – we eliminate the weight that they inherently carry. Imagine if we had to lug our suitcases around with us the whole time we were on vacation? We would feel irritated, tired, anxious and depressed. The same things happen when we carry the weight of unprocessed events.

Let’s lean into the process of unpacking. That might be with a therapist, but it can also occur with a trusted friend, partner or family member. We can journal, mediate, pray. In any form we choose, when we focus on what needs to be explored, we set ourselves up to feel lighter, more joyful, grounded and confident.

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Growing Around Grief

Lois Tonkin created this quote about grief:

“People think that grief slowly gets smaller with time. In reality, grief stays the same size,

but slowly life begins to grow bigger around it.”

When we experience a profound loss, grief becomes a part of our make-up. It remains in our cells, in our memories, in our stories. The presence of our loved ones who have passed away come to us every day in the smallest and biggest of ways. We can find grief in our laughter, in our tears, in our narrative. To image and concieve of grief as life growing bigger around it can be a comfort to us when we struggle with the weight of it. Know that is is okay to ‘grow around grief.’

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A Lovely Poem to Remind Us of Our Growth

I came across the loveliest of poems:

The Forest

One day when you wake up,

you will find that you’ve become a forest.

You’ve grown roots and found strength in them

that no one thought you had.

You have become stronger and more beautiful,

full of life giving qualities.

You have learned to take all the negativity around you

and turn it into oxygen for easy breathing.

A host of wild creatures live inside you

and you call them stories.

A variety of beautiful birds nest inside your mind

and you call them memories.

You have become an incredible

self sustaining thing of epic proportions.

And you should be so proud of yourself,

of how far you have come from the seeds of who you used to be.

– Nikita Gill

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The Natural State of Change

It is in our nature to resist change; we wish for permanence and yet change is inevitable. In this poem by Khalil Gibran, he reminds us to challenge the fears that surround change:

Before entering the sea, a river trembles with fear. She looks back at the path she has traveled,

And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter, there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.

But there is no other way. The river can not go back, nobody can go back. 

The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear,

because that’s where the river will know, it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,

but of becoming the ocean.

– Khalil Gibran

Let us surrender to the things we cannot change; for the natural state of change is to evolve. It is through our act of surrendering that we grow strength, faith, and courage.

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