Sunday, December 28, 2008

Expecting a special dispensation

What are "bad boundaries"?

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A More useful description would be "less than functional boundaries".  Healthy boundaries aren't a 'cut n dry' proposition. And they aren't all or nothing deals either.

A person can have functional boundaries in many areas of their lives, maybe even MOST areas of their lives... but when it comes to a certain area...they let people walk all over them.
OR, they are balanced individuals most of the time, but when a particular situation comes up, they become tyrants or cry babies or vindictive.. all three behaviors are direct results of boundary issues being out of balance.

A healthy boundary isn't a wall.

If you had a "less than functional" boundary where you kept letting people hurt you, you continually fell for members of the opposite sex that you knew were going to cheat on you .
(and don't give me that "I didn't know" crap... on a subconscious level you knew... that's why you picked em... but that is a blog post unto itself)

Or you were 'inept' socially, where you kept getting yourself into a situation where people would humiliate you, you feared opening your mouth in public because you just couldn't keep yourself from saying something inappropriate.

and you decided that it hurt
and the only thing you could do to protect yourself is withdraw (to a safe distance)

that's a wall.. it's NOT a boundary

Victim behavior is the natural progression of less than functional boundaries.

If you can't protect yourself, if you keep stepping in a hole because you don't see it.. and you do this all the time.. and from your perspective it looks like LIFE is DOING THIS TO YOU.

(it's not, you're actually doing to yourself, but you can't see that from the seat you've taken in lifes arena)

What are you going to do?

Expect a special dispensation

You expect 'extra consideration' because life took a sh** on you.

You poor baby...  the fates have conspired against you.

You're the best worst that ever lived

You've been dealt a crappy hand, and therefore you should be allowed a 'extra' turn, standard penalties don't apply to you... ever one else gets 5 points on thier licence and they loose it.

but because you've been dealt a crappy hand (your an orphan, or a sex abuse survivor or what ever... you child died (I know this one, my son died at age 5 months so don't even go there with me on this one!)

and you somehow feel you're entitled.. entitled to an extra "Pass Go and collect $200"

It's late and I've got to get up in a few hours.. I do feel better now that I posted to this blog though

Merry Christmas (I forgot to post on Christmas day, sorry my bad)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Upsetting the status quo

Upsetting the status quo, your family of origin's reaction
to your new boundaries.

Or no good deed goes unpunished

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an Article by David Bruce Jr

Now that you have your new found functional boundaries,
what is some bad news you now have to deal with?

You will have to decide, with determination, that you've
done this for YOUR benefit.

You have to make this effort with the underlying goal of
valuing yourself!

Virtually no one in your current circle of friends,
acquaintances, or especially your family of origin is going
to support you
in this noble endeavor!


Because you have changed the rules!

In your family of origin, and more than likely, your
current family (if you have one), everyone has operated on
the status quo, they've learned that 'getting their needs
met' depends on everyone staying in the dysfunctional

In family systems theory, the clinical term for this
situation is homeostasis.

What is going on is that, in spite of the fact that,
rationally, operating with functional boundaries is better
for all concerned- everyone has, dysfunctionally, adapted to
everyone else agreeing to being where they currently are in
the pecking order.

Your explaining, in rational terms, is likely to have
little effect on anyone involved.

I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but this is the way it is.

Regardless of how you feel about this Christian metaphor,
you're going to be in the same boat as Job from the old

You're going to have to learn to love God (and yourself)
for no reason!

Not for selfish personal gain, which is exactly what is
going on if you're attempting to do this to save a
relationship, you're going to have to set your boundaries
because you value yourself!

How can I test my new boundaries with my children?

Go get a fantastic set of books called S.T.E.P.

Systematic Training for Effective Parenting

If you find that you cannot do what is suggested, you still need work.

You will also find that children do not really know why,
intellectually, they do some of the things they do. It
can be counter productive for you to teach with
intellectual explanations,

What you're going to have to do is to teach by example.

This is tough, double tough, but is rewarding beyond your
wildest dreams, if you remain true to your self.


Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning.

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Most families have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, a parent's serious illness, etc.). Healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after the crisis passes.

In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children's lives.

How Do Healthy Families Work?

Healthy families are not perfect; they may have yelling, bickering, misunderstanding, tension, hurt, and anger - but not all the time.

In healthy families emotional expression is allowed and accepted.

Family members can freely ask for and give attention.

Rules tend to be made explicit and remain consistent, but with some flexibility to adapt to individual needs and particular situations.

Healthy families allow for individuality; each member is encouraged to pursue his or her own interests, and boundaries between individuals are honored.

  • Children are consistently treated with respect, and do not fear emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.

  • Parents can be counted on to provide care for their children. Children are given responsibilities appropriate to their age and are not expected to take on parental responsibilities.

  • Finally, in healthy families everyone makes mistakes; mistakes are allowed. Perfection is unattainable, unrealistic, and potentially dull and sterile.

  • There are many types of dysfunction in families. Some parents under-function, leaving their children to fend for themselves. Other parents over-function, never allowing their children to grow up and be on their own. Others are inconsistent or violate basic boundaries of appropriate behavior. Below is a brief description of some types of parental dysfunction along with some common problems associated with each.


    Deficient Parents

    Deficient parents hurt their children more by omission than by commission. Frequently, chronic mental illness or a disabling physical illness contributes to parental inadequacy. Children tend to take on adult responsibilities from a young age in these families. Parental emotional needs tend to take precedence, and children are often asked to be their parents' caretakers. Children are robbed of their own childhood, and they learn to ignore their own needs and feelings. Because these children are simply unable to play an adult role and take care of their parents, they often feel inadequate and guilty. These feelings continue into adulthood.

    Controlling Parents

    Unlike the deficient parents described above, controlling parents fail to allow their children to assume responsibilities appropriate for their age. These parents continue dominating and making decisions for their children well beyond the age at which this is necessary. Controlling parents are often driven by a fear of becoming unnecessary to their children. This fear leaves them feeling betrayed and abandoned when their children become independent (Forward, 1989). On the other hand, these children frequently feel resentful, inadequate, and powerless. Transitions into adult roles are quite difficult, as these adults frequently have difficulties making decisions independent from their parents. When they act independently these adults feel very guilty, as if growing up were a serious act of disloyalty.

    Alcoholic Parents

    Alcoholic families tend to be chaotic and unpredictable. Rules that apply one day don't apply the next. Promises are neither kept nor remembered. Expectations vary from one day to the next. Parents may be strict at times and indifferent at others. In addition, emotional expression is frequently forbidden and discussion about the alcohol use or related family problems is usually nonexistent. Family members are usually expected to keep problems a secret, thus preventing anyone from seeking help. All of these factors leave children feeling insecure, frustrated, and angry.

    Children often feel there must be something wrong with them which makes their parents behave this way. Mistrust of others, difficulty with emotional expression, and difficulties with intimate relationships carry over into adulthood. Children of alcoholics are at much higher risk for developing alcoholism than are children of non-alcoholics.


    This help yourself originally written and developed in 1993 by Sheryl A. Benton, Ph.D., University Counseling Services; updated/modified for the internet in 1997 by Dorinda J. Lambert,

    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    Family Systems Theory

    Whatis Family Systems Theory?

    The family systems theory is a theory introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen that suggests that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of their family, as the family is an emotional unit. Families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the system.

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    The family system

    According to Bowen, a family is a system in which each member had a role to play and rules to respect. Members of the system are expected to respond to each other in a certain way according to their role, which is determined by relationship agreements.

    Within the boundaries of the system, patterns develop as certain family member's behavior is caused by and causes other family member's behaviors in predictable ways.

    Maintaining the same pattern of behaviors within a system may lead to balance in the family system, but also to dysfunction. For example, if a husband is depressive and cannot pull himself together, the wife may need to take up more responsibilities to pick up the slack. The change in roles may maintain the stability in the relationship, but it may also push the family towards a different equilibrium. This new equilibrium may lead to dysfunction as the wife may not be able to maintain this overachieving role over a long period of time.


    Healing Shame the Shame That Binds You, on DVD

    John Bradshaw offers his perspective on ways multi-generational shame is transmitted in family systems and is the root cause of addictive and compulsive behaviors. John describes how family-of-origin rules and attitudes become encoded in each family member and how shame in engendered through abandonment and rejection. This type of dysfunctional family system can lead to generations of dysfunctional families, abusers and addicts
    contaminating each new family in its wake.

    Without this intervention, shame will continue to fuel the fire of addictions. John offers therapy and treatment methods to heal and stop the insanity of the past, and concrete ways to re-script, enhance and enrich lives.

    Fix this damn post later... running out of time...

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Characteristics of Codependency

    Following is a commonly used list of characteristics of codependency.

    ...My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you

    ...My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you

    ...Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain

    ...My mental attention is focused on you

    ...My mental attention is focused on protecting you

    ...My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way

    ...My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems

    ...My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain

    ...My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests

    ...Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me

    ...Your behavior is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me

    ...I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.

    ...I am not aware of what I want - I ask what you want. I am not aware - I assume

    ...The dreams I have for my future are linked to you

    ...My fear of rejection determines what I say or do

    ...My fear of your anger determines what I say or do

    ...I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship

    ...My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you

    ...I put my values aside in order to connect with you

    ...I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own

    ...The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of your

    There is a newsgroup frequented by those interested in the subject of codependency: alt.recovery.codependency

    Reprinted with permission from Recovery & Sobriety Resources

    By Terry M., Webservant

    I do not believe the call is to "Do What Jesus Did

    Excerpts from John Bradshaw's "Right Brain Healing - The Jesus Nature"

    "I do not believe the call is to "Do What Jesus Did, the call is to Do What YOU Do. To be fully self actualized, like he (Jesus) was."

    "This shocks pious minds"

    "I started teaching this (when I got back to Houston from the seminary) and lo and behold I almost got run out of town"

    ".. No. I do believe in providence, it's just that too often I see people going to providence without realizing that we are created in the image of God. And to be creative is how we are most like Jesus"

    Bradshaw repeats a quote about codependent self deprecation:

    "For worms to harbor such thoughts, not for beings made in the image of God!"

    Bradshaw on the topic of N.L.P and prayer:

    "What I tell people in counseling is that if they have religious background, I tell them to use this... Frequently I ask people to 'go to a resource that they have within themselves', and they say they don't have one (that they trust), I tell em to get God the Father and include that in a reframing, include that in a collapse anchor. This is a resource that they can go to. And this is very powerful stuff."

    Jesus said:

    "Greater things that I did you'll do"

    From Right Brain Healing- the Jesus Nature, an audio presentation by John Bradshaw

    More on what N.L.P or Neuro Linguistic Programming is:

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    What's wrong with Reason & Rationality?

    Reason and Rationality are severely limited.

    Your ego percieves receives and broadcasts on a level or plane that is analogous to AM radio.

    Your intuitive mind perceives, receives and broadcasts on FM radio.

    Your ego is good at what it does… but it digitizes everything it perceives.

    It also is terrified of NOW, it is genetically incapable of understanding the present moment as it really is… it can not ‘feel’ the differences between the ‘fullness’ and ‘richness’ of FM, after all AM plays identical tunes- Your ego protests:

    all the notes, all the melodies, all the lyrics are there… what static? (Am radio)

    Your ego has no FM; it does not perceive reality on that level, only an antiseptic digitized reality.

    In this post I will lay out the basic premises of this site:

    We have an ego, but for most of us, our ego has us.

    Our ego is, for all practical purposes (an N.L.P. premise btw), the voice we hear in the back of our head.

    We are, in reality (a term which is VERY relative), much more than an ego… or ego is virtually incapable of understanding this fact, and will have much resistance to this concept.

    Our ego can be said to be a function of our left brain, our intuitive brain can be said to be a function of our right brain (this is a gross over simplification but our ego is very limited in it’s ability to grasp abstract concepts)

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Ego is great, it's great to have one...

    the denigration of the ego… and why at least the temporary subjugation of the ego would be a good idea.

    hmm, it seems in my vigor to explain our ego construct’s (and it is a construct, of our own creation) limitations…

    I forgot to express that busting our ego from Sargent back to private was supposed to be temporary.

    my bad…

    Our ego IS useful, without it, I feel we’d be like the character Dustin Hoffman played in Rain Man. OK, so Raymond was an autistic savant, sue me… you get the picture.

    John Bradshaw, who shaped most of my theology/psychology says that “in order to give up the ego, we’ve gotta have a healthy one, first!”

    Our ego (construct) is not broken

    It got us here didn’t it?
    It kept a roof over our head, kept us from losing our jobs, we still have (most of us) have all our fingers and toes???

    Our Ego is without a doubt, probably the most useful tool at our disposal.

    If you ask it, however, it wants to think it’s the ONLY tool at our disposal… as a matter of fact, our ego also thinks it IS us (and right now it’s wondering who the hell you think you are implying that some other part of you might be present, let alone in charge???)

    It’s simply not the best tool to have at the wheel full time, if the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, all of your problems tend to look like nails.

    Our ego is HALF of our management.
    It just doesn’t know it.

    Does your car have a stick shift?

    A car’s clutch pedal is not deficient because it fails to be a gas pedal.

    A gas pedal is not deficient because it fails to be a clutch pedal.

    With the tool of Neuro Linguistic Programming ( NLP) we can take our minds out of gear, long enough to fiddle with the clutch and learn to work our logical, analytical left brain in harmony with our non linear, intuitive right brain… without slipping the clutch!

    Psychological Reversal, boring title, important concept

    Simply put: Psychological Reversal is where you want X, and your insides want Y.

    of course this is an oversimplification but that’s it in a nut shell.

    Now here’s the kicker: the part of you that wants Y, he’s a LOT bigger than you are.

    Now this is gonna sound like the movie, “Cybil”, like we have multiple personalities… but it’s
    generally accepted that we have a subconscious, and that we have both analytical, logical left brains and intuitive, non rational right brains.

    This is like a piece of machinery’s governor, some trucks have governors that prevent them from accelerating past 63 mph.

    Most of us are totally unaware of this internal Governor, Tony Robbins called it an internal thermostat.

    In his model, when we get in need of something, when we want something, when a situation comes up that’s unacceptable to us, the thermostat kicks in… we have energy available to heat things up…
    what’s not obvious is that it also works in reverse!

    Once you exceed your internal self image’s limit…

    The thermostat kicks in again… and cools things down.
    we F*** up, screw up, are late for an important appointment, all of a sudden anything and everything that could cause us to lose focus, is mysteriously more important…
    fancy that

    In my blog I spoke of boundaries, that once you fix your boundaries you fix everything…
    that’s true

    sort of

    What happened with me, is that once I achieved a critical mass of healthier choices, once my boundaries were so functional that I no longer had to devote massive quantities of energy to combat dysfunctional urges…
    once it became effortless and automatic…

    I f***ed up.

    Unconsciously, on purpose

    and embarrassingly so.

    ACOA characteristics

    Adult Children of Alcoholics and Victim Behavior
    Thanks go out to Cheryl Major for permission to use this info

    The following is a list of common characteristics of Adult Children. These characteristics were developed by Dr Janet G. Woititz. You may not feel that each one applies to you, but I found that most of them fit my personality or lifestyle in some way, especially the first one.

    Adult Children (to themselves) seem like they're *More Crazy*... the drunk can blame it on the bottle, an ACOA is doing alchoholic stuff (addictive behavior/ self destructive behavior) and they don't even drink?

    it's confusing...


    Adult Children

    ...guess at what normal is

    ...have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end

    ...lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth

    ...have difficulty having fun

    ...have difficulty with intimate relationships

    ...overreact to changes over which they have no control

    ...constantly seek approval and affirmation

    ...feel that they are different from other people

    ...are either super responsible or super irresponsible

    ...judge themselves without mercy

    ...take themselves very seriously

    ...tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious thought to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.

    Of course this is not the final and inclusive list of characteristics, but it gives you a good idea where some of your so called 'personality flaws' or problems in relationships may be coming from.

    Dr Janet G. Woititz

    Some estimates say that 90% of the people who practice victim behavior will NEVER accept that the 'circumstances they find themselves in' have anything to do with their life's choices ...this site is dedicated to the remaining 10% who have the COURAGE to change paradigms.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Setting Boundaries Worksheet

    Setting Boundaries Worksheet

    If you don't have a good system of boundaries it can be really hard to envision what a boundary is- below is one set of explanations:

    If you have good boundaries you CANNOT be a victim!
    Fool me once shame on you...
    Fool me twice shame on ME!

    From Setting Boundaries Worksheet from

    Relationships are based on underlying assumptions about what is okay to do and what is not okay in a given relationship, and also who is allowed to determine this.

    When relationships are based on equality, there is less chance of exploitation. But there are many persons with these assumptions are rarely discussed openly in everyday conversation whom we have contact, who we have been taught to believe have more power in the relationship. This may include those people who are in professional areas, or in authority (eg. employers).

    Before one discusses setting boundaries, it is important to make several acknowledgements

  • All relationships have assumptions behind them, based on societal values.

  • These assumptions are rarely discussed openly in everyday conversation.

  • Individuals may have different assumptions about certain relationships and their boundaries.

  • Boundaries may be either physical and /or psychological boundaries {these authors left out emotional and spiritual boundaries- insert mine}

  • Boundaries are related to trust.

  • There can be both negative or positive consequences when persons try to change boundaries.

  • There will often be resistance to changing boundaries from persons who have previously established the boundaries

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Are You Someone's Puppet? Four Ways People Manipulate Others

    Are You Someone's Puppet? Four Ways People Manipulate Others

    By: Mary Treffert, LCSW, ACSW, DCSW, LPC

    With the current interest in mental health topics, a mental
    health language has emerged with words such as
    manipulation, boundaries, limits, rescuing, dependence, and
    codependence. Many people are unclear what these words mean
    when applied to relationships. I would like to bring some
    clarity to one of these terms ' MANIPULATION ' and how it
    relates to the other terms mentioned above.
    Webster's New World Dictionary defines manipulation as:

    'managing or controlling artfully or by shrewd use of
    influence, often in an unfair or fraudulent way; to alter
    or falsify for one's own purpose.'

    In relationships, manipulation can be defined as:

    any attempt to control, through coercion (overt or covert),
    another person's thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

    From this definition, manipulation would seem to have no
    advantages. However, if you are codependent and defined by
    others, there can be many advantages. When you allow others
    to control your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and make
    decisions for you,

    -- you do not have to think for yourself;
    -- you can avoid taking risks and making difficult decision;
    -- you can avoid taking a stand on controversial issues;
    -- you can avoid feeling responsible for negative outcomes;
    -- you get to blame others when things go wrong;
    -- you can believe, when others tell you how to behave, what
    to think, how to feel and what to decide, that you are
    'being loved' because they 'want what is best for you';
    -- you can avoid feeling separate and alone by avoiding conflict;
    -- you can avoid the hard work of emotional growth and development.

    Appreciating the advantages of not being manipulated is to
    accept the hard work of living and interacting with others.
    It is about being willing to grow and develop emotionally.
    These advantages can be that,

    -- you learn to know who you are, what you like, what you
    think, and how you feel;

    -- you learn to make difficult decisions;

    -- you get to take credit for your decisions;

    -- you learn to handle risks and uncertainty;

    -- you learn to handle differences and conflicts;

    -- you get to be in control of your life and know the
    freedom of personal self-reliance;

    -- you get to have an increased sense of self worth by
    feeling competent and capable of taking responsibility for
    your life and personal happiness.

    Manipulation is usually attempted using power, unsolicited
    helping, rescuing, guilt, weakness, and/or dependence, in
    order to achieve a desired outcome. For example,

    1) Power ' physical, verbal, intellectual intimidation or
    threats, put-downs, belittling, withholding of things
    needed or wanted. The goal is to be in a 'one up, I am
    right and you are wrong' position;

    2) Unsolicited helping/rescuing ' doing things for others
    when they do not request it, want it, or need it; helping
    others so they become indebted, obligated, and owe you. The
    goal is to be in the 'after all I have done for you, and
    now you owe me' position;

    3) Guilt shaming, scolding, blaming others, attempting to
    make others responsible, trying to collect for past favors.
    The goal is to be in the 'it is all your fault,' or 'after
    all I have done for you and now you treat me like this'

    4) Weakness/dependence being (or threatening to become)
    helpless, needy, fearful, sick, depressed, incompetent,
    suicidal. The goal is to confuse want with need, with the
    message "if you do not take care of me, something bad is
    going to happen and it will be all your fault" position.

    With manipulation, there is a physical and emotional
    response, such as a heightened level of anxiety or
    irritation, although it may not be perceived as such.

    Manipulation feels like a struggle or contest, not free
    communication. The reason is the manipulator is always
    invested in the outcome of a situation.

    This is where boundaries differ from manipulation.

    Boundaries (or limits) are statements about our values and
    where we stand on issues. True boundaries are not threats
    or about getting the other person to do what we want. True
    boundaries are not compromised by another's response.

    For example, you discover that your spouse has lied to you
    and has run up a large gambling debt. You discover the
    problem by chance, get financial and professional help and
    are back on track. However, there are new signs of trouble.
    It is time for some hard decisions.

    - What is your bottom line?

    - What will you tolerate?

    - What manipulative tactics do you use to change your
    spouse's behavior? check up on them constantly, bird-dog
    them, never let them be alone, hide the credit cards, lie
    to your creditors, parents, and children' - How much
    rescuing, guilt, power plays, threats, and protection do
    you run on the gambler?

    - At what point do you stop trying to change their behavior
    and let them know your bottom line?

    You cannot make them do or not do anything. You can only
    let them know what your position is and what you are
    willing to do to protect yourself and those you are
    responsible for.

    The problem with loud, threatening bottom lines, is that
    they keep getting louder, more threatening, and redrawn
    lower and lower.

    We tend to determine what our position and action is by
    what the other person does, instead of voicing our true
    position and then responding accordingly. This is the time
    for tough decisions and actions.

    In another example, a friend asks you for a ride to work
    because she is having car trouble. This is the time to
    establish ground rules, such as, how long will she need
    your help, pick up times, expense sharing, days off, etc. A
    boundary or limit is set when you clearly let your friend
    know what you are willing to do and not do.

    Problems arise she is frequently not on time morning and
    evening. Do you wait and be late, or do you leave her? Her
    car has been in the shop six weeks because she cannot
    afford to get it out. She has not offered to help with the
    expense, nor does she seem concerned about the

    Your friend is using weakness to manipulate and be
    dependent on you. She has transferred her problem to you
    and you have accepted it by rescuing and not setting
    boundaries or limits on your participation in her problem.
    If you refuse to wait when she is late and she has problems
    as a result, she will blame you and try to make you feel
    guilty. What we really want are for others to be
    responsible and play fair; however, when they do not, we
    either have to set boundaries, or feel manipulated and
    victimized with the accompanying advantages and

    Lastly, often we confuse UNDERSTANDING with AGREEMENT.

    This is when people confuse their decisions with wanting
    the recipient of a decision to like or agree with it. When
    we make decisions that oppose the desires of others, there
    is a cost. We usually attempt to minimize that cost by
    explaining, in exhaustive detail, our rationale for that
    decision, somehow thinking if they could just understand
    our position, they would agree.

    Applying that scenario to parent and child if a parent
    makes a decision based on the best interest of the child,
    it needs to be made separate from whether the child is
    going to like it. When a child knows it is important to the
    parent that they be happy with a decision, then it will
    never be in the child's personal interest to be happy with
    an unwanted decision. If a child knows that their happiness
    with a parental decision is of equal importance to the
    decision itself, then all a child has to do is be unhappy
    in order to make their parent uncomfortable and doubt their
    decision -- after all, it is always worth a try. This same
    dynamic can apply to interactions among adults also.

    How do we manage manipulation? By becoming more aware of
    our interaction with others.

    -Is the interaction an attempt to communicate or does it
    feel like a contest?

    -Are you beginning to feel anxious or irritated?

    -Do you want to get out of the conversation?

    -Does the interaction fit into a manipulative style?

    -Is there an attempt to use power, service, guilt, or
    weakness to get your cooperation?

    -Are you a willing participant in your own manipulation?

    -Is it easier not taking responsibility?

    -Are you attempting to manipulate others instead of setting
    clear boundaries?

    -Are you making a distinction between a value and a

    Preferences can be negotiated, but values should not.

    Our society does not deal well with differences in values
    and preference. We tend to take it as a personal affront
    and insult when others disagree with us. We will avoid
    conflicts at all costs, because it feels like rejection.
    What we need is to communicate to others, clearly and
    calmly, our values, preferences, and boundaries. We need to
    be respectful and dedicated to listening, hearing and
    appreciating, if not understanding, how we all are

    Mary Treffert, LCSW, ACSW, is a Licensed, Clinical Social
    Worker, who is an individual, couple, and family therapist
    in Baton Rouge, LA.

    Copyrighted 1994

    Sunday, August 3, 2008

    SETTING BOUNDARIES-When to say Yes

    SETTING BOUNDARIES, When to say Yes

    By Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend


    The most common resistance one gets from the outside is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

    When they hear no, they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: "Bad Mommy!" They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is "bad" and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done "to them" at all. Someone will not do something "for them." Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others' freedom (Prov. 19:19).

    The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that's making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they "lose it." They get angry.

    The first thing that you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.

    Second, you must view anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot "get inside" you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another's anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. He will have to feel his anger to get better. If you either rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

    Third, do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.

    Fourth, make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your reaction. You may even want to role-play the situation with your group. Then, make sure your support group will be available to you right after the confrontation. Perhaps some members of your support group can go with you. But certainly you will need them afterward to keep you from crumbling under the pressure.

    Fifth, do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while "speaking the truth in love." When we get caught up in the "eye for eye" mentality of the law, or the "returning evil for evil" mentality of the world, we will be in bondage. If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

    Sixth, be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman's life was changed when she realized that she could say, "I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you."

    These serious steps do not need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. "I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?" Just remember that when you empathize, changing your no will not help. Offer other options.

    If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of "other control," which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

    Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you. This is a true risk. God takes this risk every day. He says that he will only do things the right way and that he will not participate in evil. And when people choose their own ways, he lets them go. Sometimes we have to do the same.

    Living Within Your Boundaries



    When you are mowing your back lawn, where do you stop? At the boundary line. You don?t usually mow your neighbors back lawn as well. People need to learn boundaries in their own lives too. When not to take on other people?s anger, their problems and responsibilities.

    In their book, "Boundaries" (When to say yes, when to say no, to take control of your life) - Dr.s Henry Cloud and John Townsend explain how lack of boundaries can affect your life, sometimes pushing you to the point of burnout or breakdown. They state that having clear boundaries is essential to living a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

    A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things which are ours and which are not. Everything inside our skin is within our own boundary. Boundaries need to be in effect in the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental areas of our life.

    Learning this can bring such freedom to your life. To realize that you are only responsible for everything inside your own skin first, then any young children in your care. And it is okay to have your own treasures in the form of your own feelings, attitudes and behaviors (FAB?s). Nobody should take those away from you, they are yours.

    Children from an early age need to be taught boundaries. They need to be able to say no to inappropriate behavior, and to make decisions where they reap the consequences of their choices, both good and bad. Don?t always rescue them from the consequences of their choices. You will be robbing them of a valuable opportunity to learn. And as a parent, you will need to find the fine line between being a good mother and being a slave to your children. Even a baby chick needs to be able to peck its own way out of its shell, or it will not survive.

    Looking way down the track, you may find your child has grown up without firm boundaries in place in their life. They may be 20 years of age and still coming to you every week after pay day to ask for money. You find that they are spending their wages on CD?s and alcohol, before the essentials like food and rent. Then they cry poor and come to you for help. If you are constantly dishing out extra money to ?rescue' your son or daughter from their situation, you are keeping them in a state of infancy.

    They are not learning to be responsible, and you are now burdened down by their problems as well as your own. Do yourself a favor and let your child reap what they sow. It shouldn?t be long before they learn from reaping the consequences of their bad decisions, and learn to stand on their own two feet, for the benefit of everyone, especially themselves. The earlier you teach reaping and sowing consequences to your children, the more independent and emotionally mature adults they will become. A small amount of emotional pain to a child can actually be a gift to them in the long run.

    How do you know you might have a boundary problem as an adult? Well according to Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend, there are symptoms and problems associated with taking on others burdens that are not your own. It may be depression, resentment, anger problems, obsessive or compulsive behavior, low energy levels and extreme disorganization - taking on too much, many unfinished projects and finding not enough hours in the day, especially when it comes to spending time with your children.

    It may be that you just don't know how to say no to people, or if you do, you immediately feel bad and guilty afterwards. No isn't a bad word when used politely and correctly. It can mean the difference between your health and happiness, and that of your children, and in an extreme case, a nervous breakdown, or just living in a constant state of upheaval, stress, and depression.

    If you are a pretty compliant type of person, you may have trouble saying no because you feel that you may hurt someone's feelings, or that they will withdraw their love from you. You may fear punishment or be afraid of abandonment or separateness. You may not want to be seen as selfish. But sometimes you will find that your no can be just what a relationship needs to grow and survive. And if it doesn?t survive the other person hearing and receiving your 'no' you can ask yourself what kind of relationship did you have with that person in the first place.

    Was it about you constantly running around after them, doing everything they asked of you?. Or running yourself ragged on endless committees and organizing meetings for every social group that demands your time?

    That's not true friendship or a healthy relationship, and you will probably find yourself better off without such people and more in control of yourself and family life.

    A good example of this is a true story about a elderly lady in a rest home. She refused to make any friends, and wouldn?t participate in any of the organised outings or group activities. Her constant focus of each day was waiting for her niece to visit. The niece was a very compliant type of person and couldn?t possibly say no to her auntie. Every day she visited, but slowly resentment began to build up in her.

    She felt pressured and guilty, if she even thought about saying that she wouldn?t be visiting the next day. Her auntie was keeping her in bondage. After hearing of the whole boundaries concept, the niece began to see how she was being manipulated by fear and guilt. She took a brave stand, and announced to her aunt that she wouldn?t be visiting so often anymore. This wasn?t initially received well, but slowly the aunt came to realize she was serious, and began to look further afield for her entertainment. She joined in with the organized outings and activities, and even began helping the other residents in the home. Not only was the niece released from her bondage, but the aunt was also better off, and so were those around her. After that when the niece did visit, she did so because she wanted to.

    If you take a look at your life, think back a bit, and you may be surprised to find many situations where others were controlling you with their anger or guilt, or that you were reaping the problems of other people?s actions, even your children?s behavior. There is nothing like feeling empowered when you realize, that you are only truly responsible for yourself first. If somebody else is angry, you don?t need to take that anger on, and become angry yourself - you are two separate people.

    To begin setting boundaries, you will need to start off small with little 'no's, then move onto the larger ones when appropriate.

    Learn to be pro-active, setting boundaries and guidelines first, not being re-active, exploding in anger when things don't go your way later. Find out what you need and require from your partner and children, and don't be wishy washy in your yes and nos. It may be that you require more help with the housework or more shared child care.

    Dr Cloud and Townsend believe that a good formula to work on, is to begin with identifying any problems that you may have in your life that could be related to poor boundary setting. Is it your problem to begin with, or is it really someones elses problem that you have taken on board physically or emotionally?.

    Learn to take hold of your own treasures, your Feelings, Attitudes and Behaviors. They are very important, and no one has the right to violate you by pushing your feelings aside or trying to manipulate your behavior to their benefit.

    As with most things, boundary setting is a two way street. As well as learning how to take control of your life by saying 'no' when it's appropriate without feeling guilty, you also need to hear other's people's 'no's and respect their personal boundaries.

    Saying yes, when you really mean, "No, I can't possibly fit that into my schedule this week, I'm reaching exhaustion point, can't you find somebody else to help you", brings resentment. Maybe you were asked to look after 3 extra children for a friend for the whole day. You really want to say that you aren't up to it, but instead you say yes and then resentment sets in against the friend and the children as well. It's best to be honest and up front to start with.

    The boundaries issues you may need to address in your own personal life, could be to do with lending people money who keep taking advantage of you, working way beyond your call of duty for an unappreciative boss, saying 'no' to somebody who constantly demands your time, or being a slave to your children when they are perfectly capable of the task ahead.

    Interview with Gloria Skelton

    Gloria is a mother of 4 children, two teenagers aged 18 and 15, and daughters aged 6 and 3. "I found the whole boundaries concept very interesting because I wanted to change from being a doormat to being a door where I could pick and choose."

    What Gloria learned from the boundaries concept was in one word - freedom. It gave her freedom to take responsibility for herself and her younger children first, and not to take on her teenagers problems as her own. She realized she was keeping them in a state of infancy by not letting them reap the consequences of their own actions like, when it came to money and how to spend it correctly. "They weren't learning what happens when they made incorrect choices". Gloria was constantly bailing them out of their strife as any loving mother would, but found it was not actually helping them in the long run.

    "I found it useful to learn how to set boundaries first, then what would happen if those boundaries were violated, i.e. the breaking of a curfew, swearing, or refusing to clean up their own mess, instead of waiting until I was mad later on when the rules had been broken. And giving reasons for the boundaries too, instead of just nagging. It helps you be more in control and calmer. This is being pro-active first and not re-active later".

    "I learned how not to reap the consequences of other people?s bad decisions, and feel much happier with myself."

    Interview with Kelly Stone

    Kelly is a mother of two daughters, aged 7 and 4. She says, "I was raised very much as a compliant child who thought it my job to keep everybody else happy, and I hardly ever said no to anybody. It can lead to a double life, if you are always trying to be everything to everybody, to keep everyone happy at the same time, when really you are thinking, feeling and acting quite differently in private".

    Kelly says it's important to recognize the sign of lack of boundaries in a child. They will begin to tell lies, because they are afraid to say no, or what they are really thinking. They are worried about losing your love and being separated from you. I?ve been teaching my girls to be really honest with me, and tell me how they are feeling, and teach them about personal boundaries as situations come up".

    When it came to friends, Kelly found herself sometimes growing apart from friends, because she realized they were manipulating her, and guilting her into being friends with them. "I now choose friends more wisely", she says. "It all comes down to honesty. I don't have to be rude if I say no to someone, just honest, and that will ultimately benefit the relationship if its real and worthwhile. I also learnt to take other people saying no to me and not be offended by that".

    "If you live without personal boundaries, you?ll just be miserable and find yourself wanting to withdraw from all relationships. When I look around now, I can see so much of people?s troubles are caused by lack of boundaries. It?s actually really sad?

    Copyright Victoria Purdie 2000
    Victoria Purdie is a mother of 3 children aged 5, 7 and 9 and is a Free Lance Writer and columnist.
    to see more of her work go to:

    Boundaries what they are An article by Tony Schirtzinger

    An article by Tony Schirtzinger

    For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves!


    The concept of "boundaries" relates to our sense of self.

    At birth and for a long while after, a baby has no real sense of who they are.
    When we see a baby in their mother's arms, we see two people - the child and the mother. But the baby notices no difference, no division, no boundary between themselves and their mother.

    A newborn is "one" with their mother. As life goes on, the child notices where their skin ends and their mother's skin begins.

    This is our first "boundary," and the beginning of our "sense of self."

    When our boundaries are crossed we are naturally furious at the invasion
    because we know we could lose our sense of who we are.


    Obviously, if a mother doesn't hold her child enough and is unable to bond with them,
    boundary problems and problems related to sense of self will abound.

    But things can go wrong in later childhood and in adult life too.

    When they do, it is usually either because someone treats us
    like they OWN us or, paradoxically, like they DISOWN us.


    The worst example of being owned is physical or sexual abuse.
    People who treat us in these ways are insisting that they own our very bodies.

    We can also lose our sense of self in less severe but more constant ways.
    Some people never hear anything from their parents or partners except orders and complaints.
    "Do this!"
    "Do that!"
    "You didn't do that well enough!"

    Constant exposure to such treatment can shatter boundaries and the sense of self.


    Paradoxically, being treated like we are not there can also cause boundary and self problems.

    Beware of anyone who is so preoccupied with their own ego and their own life
    that you sometimes wonder if they even know you are there.
    This can kill your sense of self too.


    The saddest thing about boundary problems is that the people who have them can feel
    "too close" (afraid they'll lose themselves), and "too far" (very lonely),
    but they can seldom feel safely in between or "connected" with others.


    People whose boundaries are weak also tend to violate the boundaries of others.

    If you don't know that you have boundaries that must be respected,
    then you also don't know that other people have boundaries you must respect.


    First of all, people with these problems should get therapy.
    This is too difficult for you to do completely on your own.


    Learn to identify even the most subtle ways you violate the boundaries of others. Become excellent at noticing when people "back away," emotionally and physically. When they do, you can be pretty sure you have just crossed their boundaries.

    Once you become accustomed to noticing the boundaries of others, begin to notice that you have many of the same boundaries yourself!

    Learn how to object whenever any of your boundaries are crossed, even in the smallest ways and even by people with the kindest intentions.

    Test various ways to of telling people when they cross your boundaries. Allow yourself to make mistakes while you learn (by sounding either too angry or too nice). Experiment. Notice what works and what doesn't. With close friends who might understand, you might even tell them that you are learning about protecting yourself (so they can understand why you are acting differently toward them).

    Keep reminding yourself: "People need my permission before they cross my boundaries!"

    Remind yourself also: "Nobody should ever help me unless I ask them to!"

    If people have constantly crossed your boundaries, it may seem unfair to say that
    you have to stop crossing their boundaries first.
    It IS unfair!

    But if you've been taking such treatment for many years
    the sad truth is you may not even know what boundaries you are entitled to have!
    And the best way to learn this is to focus on the boundaries of the people around you.

    As you catch yourself violating the boundaries of others, don't pick on yourself.
    Remember, you are just now beginning to learn about all of this.

    "Tony Schirtzinger is a therapist in Milwaukee. His web site contains tons of useful information on abuse as well as most other personal and relationship topics."
    Tony Schirtzinger, LCSW, ACSW

    Setting Personal Boundaries

    Setting Personal Boundaries
    An article by Robert Burney author of Codependence- Dance of the Wounded Souls

    Setting Personal Boundaries- Protecting the self

    "The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves. That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us."

    "It is important to state our feelings out loud, and to precede the feeling with "I feel." (When we say "I am angry, I'm hurt, etc." we are stating that the feeling is who we are. Emotions do not define us, they are a form of internal communication that help us to understand ourselves. They are a vital part of our being - as a component of the whole.) This is owning the feeling. It is important to do for ourselves. By stating the feeling out loud we are affirming that we have a right to feelings. We are affirming it to ourselves - and taking responsibility for owning ourselves and our reality. Rather the other person can hear us and understand is not as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to our feelings. It is vitally important to own our own voice. To own our right to speak up for ourselves."

    "Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation - although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is:

    when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome."

    "It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves - to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be Loving to ourselves without owning our self - and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives."

    On this page codependency therapist/Spiritual teacher writes about the importance of, and process of, setting personal boundaries.

    This article is part of a series of articles that began with Emotional Abuse, which was followed by Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility Part 1.

    This page includes quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls and quotes from other articles, columns, or web pages (indented) written by Robert Burney. The internal links within this article open in a separate browser window

    Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 3:
    Setting Personal Boundaries - protecting self

    Earlier in this series I mentioned that I would be focusing on three primary areas in relationship to learning to have a healthier relationship with self and others: boundaries, emotional honesty, and emotional responsibility. The three areas are intimately interrelated, and because I do not feel I can talk about one area without also discussing the others, I may have gotten the cart before the horse in a sense in this series. I started the series in the first two articles focusing more on emotional honesty and responsibility - and learning to have internal boundaries with ourselves in terms of seeing the process of life more realistically (what we need to accept, and what we can change) - and starting to take responsibility for our behaviors and emotions.

    The reason I started there, is because changing our relationship with ourselves and life is vital in order to make any long term changes in our relationships with others. It is vital to learn to respect and honor our selves, so that we can awaken to the need to have boundaries that let other people know that we deserve and demand respect.

    What is so powerful and effective about the inner child healing process, as I have learned to apply it, is that it changes our core relationship with ourselves. Once we start having a more Loving relationship with ourselves, everything changes. We start to naturally and normally: set boundaries with others; speak our Truth; own our right to be alive and be treated with respect and dignity.

    To start by learning how to set boundaries and assert ourselves, without changing the core relationship with ourselves, will ultimately not work in the relationships we care most about. It is relatively easy to start setting boundaries in relationships that don't mean much to us - it is in the relationships that mean the most to us that it is so difficult. That is because, it is those relationships - family, romantic, etc. - that our inner child wounds are the most powerful. The little child within us does not feel worthy, feels defective and shameful, and is terrified of setting boundaries for fear everyone will leave. The other extreme of this phenomena is those of us who throw up huge walls to try to keep people from getting too close - and sabotage any relationship that starts getting too intimate - to try to protect the wounded child within from being hurt.

    With boundaries, as in every area of the healing process, change starts with awareness. I had to hear about boundaries, and start learning the concept before I could even realize that I didn't have any. I had to start getting some glimmer of an idea of what boundaries are, and how to set them, in order to understand how hard they were for me - and how absolutely vital to learning to Love myself.

    So, in this third article of this series on emotional honesty and emotional responsibility I am going to be focusing on setting personal boundaries with other people. I am going to attempt to keep the focus on a very basic level for those readers who are new to the concept of boundaries.

    Personal Boundaries

    "Boundaries define limits, mark off dividing lines. The purpose of a boundary is to make clear separations between different turf, different territory. . . .

    In relationship to recovery and the growth process, I am going to be talking about two primary types of boundaries. Natural boundaries that are part of the way life works - that are aligned with the reality of the rules that govern human dynamics - and personal boundaries." - Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility Part 2

    The process of Recovery teaches us how to take down the walls and protect ourselves in healthy ways - by learning what healthy boundaries are, how to set them, and how to defend them. It teaches us to be discerning in our choices, to ask for what we need, and to be assertive and Loving in meeting our own needs. (Of course many of us have to first get used to the revolutionary idea that it is all right for us to have needs.) (Text in this color are quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

    The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves. That we have not only the right, but the duty, to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us.

    We need to start becoming aware of what healthy behavior and acceptable interaction dynamics look like before we can start practicing them ourselves - and demanding the proper treatment from others. We need to start learning how to be emotionally honest with ourselves, how to start owing our feelings, and how to communicate in a direct and honest manner. Setting personal boundaries is vital part of healthy relationships - which are not possible without communication.

    The first thing that we need to learn to do is communicate without blaming. That means, stop saying things like: you make me so angry; you hurt me; you make me crazy; how could you do that to me after all I have done for you; etc. These are the very types of messages we got in childhood that has so warped our perspective on our own emotional process.

    I grew up believing that I had the power to make my father angry and to break my mother's heart. I thought that I was supposed to be perfect, and that if I was not, I was causing the people I loved great pain. I grew up believing that something was wrong with me because I was human. I grew up believing that I had power over other peoples feelings - and they had power over mine.

    In my codependence I learned to be enmeshed with other people - to not have healthy boundaries that told me who "I" was, and that I was a separate person from them. I had to become hyper-vigilant in childhood. I learned to focus on trying to interpret what my parents and other authority figures were feeling in order to try to protect myself. As an adult, I unconsciously tried to manipulate people - by trying to be what they wanted me to be if I wanted them to like me, or trying to be either intimidating or invisible if that seemed the safest course. I had no real concept of being responsible for my own feelings because I had learned that other people were responsible for my feelings - and vice versa. I had to learn to start defining myself emotionally as separate from other people in order to start learning who I was.

    I was not able to start seeing myself as separate in a healthy way (I had always felt that I was separate in an unhealthy way - shameful and unworthy) until I started to see that I had been powerless over the behavior patterns I learned in childhood. Since my behavior patterns, my behavioral and emotional defense systems, had developed in reaction to the feeling that there was something wrong with me, I had to learn to start taking power away from the toxic shame that is at the core of this disease. Toxic shame involves thinking that there is something wrong with who we are. Guilt - in my definition - involves behavior, while shame is about our being. Guilt is: I did something wrong; I made a mistake. Shame is: I am a mistake; something is wrong with me.

    On an emotional level the dance of Recovery is owning and honoring the emotional wounds so that we can release the grief energy - the pain, rage, terror, and shame that is driving us.

    That shame is toxic and is not ours - it never was! We did nothing to be ashamed of - we were just little kids. Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc. This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.

    There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, only wounded souls and broken hearts and scrambled minds.

    In order to stop giving the toxic shame so much power, I had to learn to detach from my own reactive process enough to start being able to see a boundary between being and behavior. I had to stop judging myself and other people based on behavior. I started to learn how to observe behavior without making judgments about myself and others. There is a huge difference between judgment in my definition and observation. It is vital for me to observe other people's behavior in order to protect myself. That does not mean I need to make a value judgment about their being based upon their behavior.

    Judgment is saying, "that person is a jerk." Observation is saying, "that person seems to be really full of anger and it would be better for me to not be involved with them."

    [When I use the term "judge," I am talking about making judgments about our own or other people's being based on behavior. In other words, I did something bad therefore I am a bad person; I made a mistake therefore I am a mistake. That is what toxic shame is all about: feeling that something is wrong with our being, that we are somehow defective because we have human drives, human weaknesses, human imperfections.

    There may be behavior in which we have engaged that we feel ashamed of but that does not make us shameful beings We may need to make judgments about whether our behavior is healthy and appropriate but that does not mean that we have to judge our essential self, our being, because of the behavior. Our behavior has been dictated by our disease, by our childhood wounds; it does not mean that we are bad or defective as beings. It means that we are human, it means that we are wounded.

    It is important to start setting a boundary between being and behavior. All humans have equal Divine value as beings - no matter what our behavior. Our behavior is learned (and/or reactive to physical or physiological conditions). Behavior, and the attitudes that dictate behavior, are adopted defenses designed to allow us to survive in the Spiritually hostile, emotionally repressive, dysfunctional environments into which we were born.]

    Formula for emotionally honest communication

    So, it is very important for us to learn to communicate about how another person's behavior is affecting us - without making blaming "you" type of statements. There is a simple formula to help us do this. It is:

    When you . . . . .

    I feel . . . . .

    I want . . . .

    Since I am powerless over you, I will take this action to protect myself if you behave in this way.

    The fourth part of this formula is setting the boundary. I will get to that in a moment. The first three parts of the formula are a very important part of taking responsibility for our self - an important step in learning to define ourselves as separate in a healthy way.

    When you . . . . .

    The "When you . . ." statement is a description of behavior. It is very important actually describe the behavior. To say to another person: when you get angry; when you shame me; or such statements - is too general, not specific enough. These types of general statements do not really describe the behavior - they are our interpretations of the behavior. A major facet of codependence is assuming, interpreting, mind reading, and fortune telling - due to our childhood conditioning. We think we know the intentions and motives of others. We assume that they are conscious of their behavior and will know what we are talking about.

    It is vital to realize that we do not know how to communicate in a direct and honest manner. We need to stop interpreting and start communicating. It is important to describe the behavior rather than our interpretation and assumptions about what the behavior means.

    "When your face gets red and your voice gets louder and your hands clench into fists" - is specific and descriptive. It does not assume - rather it describes the behavior that appears to us to indicate anger.

    "When you look at me with a frown on your face and your eye brows slightly raised and give a loud sigh" - is a description of behavior that causes us to react with guilt and shame. Usually the other people have no idea of what their behavior looks like. Our parents tried to control our behavior with fear, guilt, and shame because that is how their parents tried to control their behavior in childhood. We react in the ways we do because of the emotional buttons, the triggers, that our parents behavior toward us installed in our programming.

    Usually, when we first confront such behavior in a healthy way, the other people will profess innocence and ignorance of what we are talking about. But, by describing the behavior, we will be planting seeds of consciousness in them that may eventually cause them to get more conscious of the sound of their own voice, or their sighs. Describing behavior is an important step towards making it possible for the other people to get past their toxic shame so that they can start seeing a boundary between being and behavior.

    We of course, are powerless over them - over whether they get it, understand what we are doing. But in learning to communicate in a healthy way, without blame and shame, we are maximizing the possibility of communication.

    I feel . . . . .

    This is the part of the formula where we start learning to express our emotions in a healthy and honest way. This is a vital part of the process of owning our emotions. Anyone who is fairly new to this process, and isn't sure what I mean by owning the feelings, would probably benefit from reading two short articles about emotions and emotional defenses. Those articles: The Journey to the Emotional Frontier Within and Further Journeys to the Emotional Frontier Within can be accessed right now by clicking on the link for the first one and then following the link to the second one. (The article will appear in a new browser window, so that after reading the articles you can collapse the new window and return to this article.)

    It is best to use primary feeling words (described in the articles above) when expressing the "I feel . . . ." part of this formula - but it is also OK to use words that describe the messages we feel are inherent in their behaviors.

    When your voice gets louder and your face gets red and you clench your fists,

    I feel scared, intimidated, unsafe. I feel like you are going to hit me.

    When I try to talk to you while you are watching television and I have to say your name 3 or 4 times before you respond,

    I feel angry, hurt, discounted, unimportant, insignificant, invisible, like I am being punished. It feels like you do not want to communicate with me.

    It is important to state our feelings out loud, and to precede the feeling with "I feel." (When we say "I am angry, I'm hurt, etc." we are stating that the feeling is who we are. Emotions do not define us, they are a form of internal communication that help us to understand ourselves. They are a vital part of our being - as a component of the whole.) This is owning the feeling. It is important to do for ourselves. By stating the feeling out loud we are affirming that we have a right to feelings. We are affirming it to ourselves - and taking responsibility for owning ourselves and our reality. Rather the other person can hear us and understand is not as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to our feelings. It is vitally important to own our own voice. To own our right to speak up for ourselves.

    As we get farther along in the process, and start to get more aware of our inner child wounds, we can start being more discerning in our communications techniques. For instance, if one was hit as a child, then a raised voice is a trigger to the child's fear of being hit. For the little child it was life threatening when a giant adult raged. In your adult relationship, you may feel very confident that your significant other (or boss or whatever) would not hit you - but when we are triggered, we react out of the emotional wounds of the child, out of the child's emotional reality.

    So then you might say something like:

    When your voice gets louder and your face gets red and you clench your fists . . .

    I feel scared and hurt. I react out of the 5 year old in me who got hit when my father raged. I react to a loud voice by feeling like I am going to be hit.

    (Often someone that comes from a loud expressive family will get involved with someone that comes from an very emotionally repressive family. Then the first person will not think anything of being loud - while the second will be very upset by loudness. The only way to work through the programming from our childhood is to be able to communicate with each other so that we can start becoming conscious of our behaviors and how they affect others.)

    I want . . . .

    I want is pretty self explanatory. But again it is important not to be too general. Saying something like: "I want to know I am important to you. I want to know you love me." is not specific enough. Describe the kind of behaviors that would give you the message that you want from the other person.

    "I want you to answer me when I talk to you. I want you to tell me you love me - and show me with funny little gifts and cards and making plans on your own for a special date for just the two of us. I want you to ask me how my day went and really listen to my answer." etc.

    Setting Boundaries

    The purpose of setting boundaries is to take care of our self. Being forced to learn how to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to own our self, of learning to respect ourselves, of learning to love ourselves. If we never have to set a boundary, then we will never get in touch with who we really are - will never escape the enmeshment of codependence and learn to define ourselves as separate in a healthy way.

    When I first encountered the concept of boundaries, I thought of them as lines that I would draw in the sand - and if you stepped across them I would shoot you (figuratively speaking.) (I had this image of some place like the Alamo - from a movie I guess - where a sword was used to draw a line in the sand, and then those that were going to stay and fight to the death stepped across it.) I thought that boundaries had to be rigid and final and somehow kind of fatal.

    Some boundaries are rigid - and need to be. Boundaries such as: "It is not OK to hit me, ever." "It is not acceptable to call me certain names." "It is not acceptable to cheat on me."

    No one deserves to be treated abusively. No one deserves to be lied to and betrayed.

    We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. If we do not respect ourselves, if we do not start awakening to our right to be treated with respect and dignity (and our responsibility in creating that in our lives) - then we will be more comfortable being involved with people who abuse us then with people who treat us in loving ways. Often if we do not respect ourselves, we will end up exhibiting abusive behavior towards people who do not abuse us. On some level in our codependence, we are more comfortable with being abused (because it is what we have always known) than being treated in a loving way.

    Learning to set boundaries is vital to learning to love our self, and to communicating to other's that we have worth.

    There are basically three parts to a boundary. The first two are setting the boundary - the third is what we will do to defend that boundary.

    If you - a description of the behavior we find unacceptable (again being as descriptive as possible.)

    I will - a description of what action you will take to protect and take care of your self in the event the other person violates the boundary.

    If you continue this behavior - a description of what steps you will take to protect the boundary that you have set.

    One very drastic example (in the case of someone who is just learning about boundaries and has been physically abused in the past) would be:

    If you ever hit me, I will call the police and press charges - and I will leave this relationship. If you continue to threaten me, I will get a restraining order and prepare to defend myself in whatever manner is necessary.

    It is not always necessary or appropriate to share the third part of this formula with the other person when setting a boundary - the first two steps are the actual setting of the boundary. The third part is something we need to know for ourselves, so that we know what action we can take if the other person violates the boundary. If we set a boundary and expect the other person to abide by it automatically - then we are setting ourselves up to be a victim of our expectation.

    It is not enough to set boundaries - it is necessary to be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce them. We need to be willing to go to any length, do whatever it takes to protect ourselves. This is something that really upset me when I first started learning how to set boundaries. It took great courage for me to build myself up to a point where I was willing to set a boundary. I thought that the huge thing I had done to set a boundary should be enough. Then to see that some people just ignored the boundaries I had set, seemed terribly unfair to me.


    It is very important to set consequences that we are willing to enforce. If you are setting boundaries in a relationship, and you are not yet at a point where you are ready to leave the relationship - then don't say that you will leave. You can say that you will start considering all of your options including leaving - but do not state that you will do something that you are not ready yet to do. To set boundaries and not enforce them just gives the other person an excuse to continue in the same old behavior.

    If you verbally abuse me by calling me names like stupid or jerk, I will confront you about your behavior and share my feelings.

    If you continue that behavior I will leave the room/house/ask you to leave.

    If you keep repeating this behavior I will start considering all of my options, including leaving this relationship. ~If you break your plans with me by not showing up or by calling me at the last minute to tell me that you had something else come up, I will confront your behavior and share my feelings.

    If you repeat that behavior, I will consider it to mean that you do not value or deserve my friendship - and I will have no contact with you for a month.

    Since behavior patterns are quite ingrained in all of us, it is important to allow the other person some wiggle room to make a change in behavior - unless the behavior is really intolerable. To go from one extreme to the other is a reaction to a reaction - and is codependent. There are choices in between which are sometimes hard for us to see if we are reacting. To go from tolerating verbally abusive behavior to leaving a relationship in one step is swinging between extremes. It is helpful to set boundaries that allow for some gradual change.

    When I ask you what is wrong and you say "Never mind," and then slam cabinet doors and rattle pots and pans and generally seem to be silently raging about something,

    I feel angry, frustrated, irritated, hopeless, as if you are unwilling to communicate with me, as if I am supposed to read your mind.

    I want you to communicate with me and help me to understand if I have done something that upsets you.

    If something is bothering you and you will not tell me what it is, I will confront you about your behavior and share my feelings.

    If you continue that behavior, I will confront your behavior, share my feelings, and insist that we go to counseling together.

    If you keep repeating this behavior I will start considering all of my options, including leaving this relationship.

    The consequences we set down for behavior we find unacceptable should be realistic - in that, the change that we are asking for is something that is within the others power (rather they are willing to take that responsibility is another thing altogether) - and enforceable, something that we are willing to do.

    It is also important to set consequences that impact the other person more than us. Often when people are first learning how to set boundaries, they do not think it through far enough. They set boundaries that impact themselves as much or more than the other person. For example, a single parent with a teenager who needs to get consequences for coming home late, or bad grades, or whatever, may be tempted to say something like "If you miss your curfew again, you will be grounded for a month." The reality of grounding a teenager for a month is that it often means the parent is also grounded for a month. If taking away driving privileges means then you will have to drive them to school - maybe you want to choose some other consequence.


    Setting a boundary is not making a threat - it is communicating clearly what the consequences will be if the other person continues to treat us in an unacceptable manner. It is a consequence of the other persons behavior.

    Setting a boundary is not an attempt to control the other person (although some of the people who you set boundaries with will certainly accuse you of that - just as some will interpret it as a threat) - it is a part of the process of defining ourselves and what is acceptable to us. It is a major step in taking what control we can of how we allow others to treat us. It is a vital step in taking responsibility for our self and our life.

    Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation - although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is: when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome.

    We want the other person to change their behavior. We hope they will. But we need to own all of our choices in order to empower ourselves to take responsibility for our lives and stop setting ourselves up to be a victim. One of our choices is to remove ourselves from relationship with the person. We can leave a marriage. We can end a friendship. We can leave a job. We do not have to have any contact with our family of origin. It is vitally important to own all of our choices.

    If we do not own that we have a choice to leave an abusive relationship - then we are not making a choice to stay in the relationship. Any time we do not own our choices, we are empowering victimization. We will then blame the other person, and/or blame ourselves. It is a vital part of the process of learning to love ourselves, and taking responsibility for being a co-creator in our life, to own all of our choices.

    It is essential to own that we have choices in order to escape the codependent suffering victim martyr role - or the other extreme, which is being abusive in order to try to make others do it "right" (that is, do what we want them to.) Both, the people who appear to be victims and the people that appear to be abusers, are coming from a victim place in terms of blaming others for their behavior. "I wouldn't have to hit you if you didn't talk to me that way" is a victim statement. Both victim and perpetrator are coming from a victim perspective, blaming their behaviors on others - or on themselves, "I can't help it, that is just how I am."

    When we look outside for self-definition and self-worth, we are giving power away and setting ourselves up to be victims. We are trained to be victims. We are taught to give our power away.

    As just one small example of how pervasively we are trained to be victims, consider how often you have said, or heard someone say, "I have to go to work tomorrow." When we say "I have to" we are making a victim statement. To say, "I have to get up, and I have to go to work," is a lie. No one forces an adult to get up and go to work. The Truth is "I choose to get up and I choose to go to work today, because I choose to not have the consequences of not working." To say, "I choose," is not only the Truth, it is empowering and acknowledges an act of self-Love. When we "have to" do something we feel like a victim. And because we feel victimized, we will then be angry, and want to punish, whomever we see as forcing us to do something we do not want to do such as our family, or our boss, or society.

    "And we always have a choice. If someone sticks a gun in my face and says, "Your money or your life!" I have a choice. I may not like my choice but I have one. In life we often don't like our choices because we don't know what the outcome is going to be and we are terrified of doing it 'wrong.'

    Even with life events that occur in a way that we seemingly don't have a choice over (being laid off work, the car breaking down, a flood, etc.) we still have a choice over how we respond to those events. We can choose to see things that feel like, and seem to be, tragic as opportunities for growth. We can choose to focus on the half of the glass that is full and be grateful for it or to focus on the half that is empty and be the victim of it. We have a choice about where we focus our minds.

    In order to become empowered, to become the co-creator in our lives, and to stop giving power to the belief that we are the victim, it is absolutely necessary to own that we have choices. As in the quotation above: if we believe that we "have" to do something then we are buying into the belief that we are the victim and don't have the power to make choices. To say "I have to go to work" is a lie. "I have to go to work if I want to eat" may be the truth but then you are making a choice to eat. The more conscious we get about our choices, the more empowered we become.

    We need to take the "have to"s out of our vocabulary. As long as we reacting to life unconsciously we do not have choices. In consciousness we always have a choice. We do not "have to" do anything.

    Until we own that we have a choice, we haven't made one. In other words, if you do not believe that you have a choice to leave your job, or relationship, then you have not made a choice to stay in it. You can only Truly commit yourself to something if you are consciously choosing to do it. This includes the area that is probably the single hardest job in our society today, the area that it is almost impossible not to feel trapped in some of the time - being a single parent. A single parent has the choice of giving their children up for adoption, or abandoning them. That is a choice! If a single parent believes that he/she has no choice, then they will feel trapped and resentful and will end up taking it out on their children!" - Empowerment and Victimization - the power of choice

    We always have a choice. The choices may seem to be awful - but in reality, allowing ourselves to buy into the illusion that we are trapped will have worse consequences in the long run. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that a parent can abandon or give a child up for adoption - but owning our choices no matter how outrageous is a step in owning responsibility for being co-creators in our life. If we are blaming and being the victim we will never be happy.

    (And this is a good example of when sharing the 3rd part of this formula is not appropriate. It would be abusive to threaten a child with being put up for adoption. This is a choice that we need to own to escape feeling trapped in our relationship with ourselves - it is strictly an internal thing. With children it is vital to not project our own internal struggle onto the child - it doesn't have anything to do with the child, it is all about our relationship with self.)


    We set a boundary to define our territory, to protect our space - physical, emotional, mental, sexual, spiritual, financial, etc. We set the boundary because it is what we need to do for our self, to protect and take care of our self. We set it knowing that the other person may not be able or willing to change their behavior - and that we are prepared to take whatever action we need to take if that proves to be the case. That action may include cutting that person out of our life completely.

    I was scared of setting boundaries because the little boy in me was afraid of: hurting other people; having other people be angry at me; being abandoned; losing the relationship. Ultimately, it came down to: people will go away if I say no or set a boundary with them.

    I had to become willing to take that risk. I had to decide that I had enough worth to stand up for myself even if people did go away. And some people did go away. Some people do still when I set a boundary. But I was also amazed to see that some of the people that I set a boundary with started to treat me with more respect. They were able to hear me and valued me enough to change their behavior.

    By becoming willing to take the risk of setting boundaries, I got the wonderful gift of getting what I wanted - some of the time. I had to let go of the outcome and learn to accept the situation however it unfolded. I had to let go of a lot of people that I had considered friends. I came to the realization that the people I had been calling friends, were not really friends at all - because as long as I did not know how to be a friend to myself, I could not truly recognize friendship in others. As long as I was unconsciously reacting out of my old programming, the people I was attracted to were people who would abuse me, shame me, abandon and betray me.

    I came to the realization that anyone who is a friend is someone I can communicate with - and be able to negotiate boundaries with. The vast majority of boundaries are in fact a negotiation rather than a rigid line in the sand. Adults need to negotiate boundaries between themselves. This is very true in romantic relationships - and is the standard for all relationships.

    What we are striving for is healthy interdependent relationships. We want friends who are allies. With alliances it is necessary to negotiate boundaries. Here is what I am willing to do, and here is what I need from you. We want a romantic relationship with a partner who will share our journey with us. In order to make that possible it is necessary to communicate, share feelings, and negotiate agreements about behavior. By setting boundaries, we are communicating with another person. We are telling them who we are and what we need. It is much more effective to do that directly and honestly than to expect them to read our minds - and then punish them when they cannot.

    Often it is little things that seem inconsequential that it is most important to set boundaries about. Irritating little habits or mannerism of another person. The irritating little things will grow into huge monsters unless we learn to communicate and negotiate. When we stuff our feelings we build up resentments. Resentments are victim feelings - the feeling that somebody is doing something to us. If we don't speak up and take the risk of sharing how we feel, we will end up blowing up and/or being passive aggressive - and damaging the relationship.

    Learning to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to communicate in a direct and honest manner. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves - to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be Loving to ourselves without owning our self - and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives.

    Robert Burney is the author of Codependence- Dance of the Wounded Souls