Setting Boundaries Is an Act of Self-Respect

Setting Boundaries Is an Act of Self-Respect

Establishing healthy relationships means establishing healthy boundaries and clear and respectful guidelines for how we want to be treated by others.

If you’ve ever been to therapy or read self-help books, you are likely to have come across the term, “setting boundaries”. In the past, I would skim over those words or nod my head in agreement with my therapist without giving this idea much thought. It wasn’t until I found myself exhausted from pouring so much of myself into everyone else, and resentful when I felt mistreated, that I realized I needed to perk up and learn what I could do to set my own boundaries.

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Healing and the Inner Child

Healing and the Inner Child

Inner child work is something that is typically explored in therapy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Some of the most powerful “soul work” comes from looking at our inner child, or ourselves at various stages in childhood. It is particularly profound when we explore ourselves at a time when we may have experienced trauma of some kind. Trauma evokes such a strong, visceral and emotional reaction within, that it often stays with us for years afterwards and perhaps for an entire lifetime. Trauma doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific event. In fact, a chronic low-grade trauma in childhood such as a neglectful, dismissive or critical parent can yield a similar stress response.

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Moving Through Grief

Moving Through Grief

Even though we are all confronted with loss throughout our lives, the grieving process is not something that is commonly discussed or taught in our culture. There is an expectation that we are supposed to stay strong and return to normal within a few days to a few weeks. Many people believe that if they allow themselves to fully give in to their grief, they will never be able to move beyond it and will be stuck in their grief-stricken state forever.

According to one therapist, this is not the case. In fact, quite the opposite is true. “When we give ourselves permission to feel how we feel – sad, hopeless, lost, confused, worried, angry – we actually move through the grieving process, as opposed to simply avoiding it,” said Avery Neal, a practicing psychotherapist at The Women’s Therapy Clinic in The Woodlands, Texas. Grieving is a very healthy response to any type of loss; even life losses such as a divorce, a move, the end of a friendship, illness or any life transition. “We cannot expect ourselves not to have feelings around these types of events.”

According to Neal, there is no magic formula for moving through the grieving process, but there are some things that can help. She offers some points to keep in mind:

• The mind-body connection. “Loss reminds us that life is finite. The stillness that comes from being alone can feel uncomfortable. Rather than drowning out the stillness with noise, try embracing it. Quiet your mind for a few moments and allow yourself to observe the sensations in your own body. This simple practice can help to center you when it feels as if everything around you is falling apart.”

• Get out in nature. “Nature has a way of lending perspective. It nourishes us in a way that nothing else can, while gently reminding us of the cycle of life. In addition, getting exposure to natural light can help our overall mood. Even something as simple as taking a walk or going barefoot in the grass can soothe us during a difficult time.”

• Exercise. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. “The brain automatically releases more endorphins during grief to help us get through the initial phase of the loss. After about six weeks or more, the endorphin release wears off and we are left with more depressive symptoms. By exercising, we are tapping into the body’s natural healing system. Exercise can give us a clear focus as we become more in sync with our body. As we feel stronger, we begin to feel less helpless and more capable. A feeling of helplessness is a common experience after a loss.”

According to Neal, grieving is not something that can intellectualized. “In trying to do so, we only set ourselves up for prolonging the process rather than surrendering to it. Trusting the process gives us permission to surrender, which ultimately leads to acceptance.”

This article first appeared in Woodlands Online, The Woodlands/Conroe Bubblelife and The Paper Magazine

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Letting Go: When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Letting Go: When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Death is ultimately what many people fear, but we all experience other losses throughout our lives. Loss comes in many forms: our loved one dies and we are left with painful feelings in their absence, we go through a divorce and are left to navigate our lives without the partner we thought we would have, our children grow up and move away from us, or we identify ourselves with our job and one day it’s just gone.

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