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Setting Boundaries Protects Our Energy.

24 Aug

I think healthy boundaries are about reciprocal respect. They include setting up and communicating reasonable, clear expectations of acceptable ways for other people to behave towards us that contribute to feeling safe, supported and valued.

Leanne French – Therapist & Relationship Expert

Imagine crouching under one of those slightly dented, aluminium colanders with a lot of holes. That’s kind of what my boundaries looked like when I was a kid. 

When I first learnt about boundaries as a young therapist, I replaced that colander with a magnificent castle on a lush flower-filled island, surrounded by a moat, filled with snapping piranhas. I installed a drawbridge that only I could lift or lower because after all, the most important boundary a person can set, is limiting their availability. I also created a shield with light, bullet proof, glittery glass bricks, because the goal of boundaries is to be protected and stay connected at the same time.

My boundaries might seem like a fortress to some, but they serve to keep me clear, focused, more tolerant, and compassionately away from resentment. 

Boundaries are a self-caring way to keep our balance. They mark the edge or limits of something, so they’re important ways to create safety and trust. They not only strengthen valued and welcomed connections, they keep the light snuffers out, lower stress and reduce depletion.

I’m really clear about who I am and what I want and don’t want. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. I can pinpoint what fuels me and what depletes me. After many years of practise, I know what makes me comfortable and uncomfortable, what energises and enriches me, and what causes distress and dread. I speak up and I can definitely walk away without guilt.

I’m super grateful for my small bunch of uplifting friends, scattered across the country and planet, who have good self esteem and terrific boundaries. 

Unless we’re encouraged to have and respect boundaries as kids, they’re not always easy to set or maintain. Some of us just bumble along, allowing others to define or direct us while we work too hard at people pleasing or trying to fit in places we shouldn’t. Or, we behave in toxic ways, and lie, undermine, gossip or ridicule, collecting low quality connections and conflict in our wake. Most of us will trip over some guilt and obligation along the way until we recognise how important respect and boundaries are to everyone’s emotional wellbeing.

Children, who experienced trauma or had a parent that struggled with addiction, may have learned to put others needs before their own. Or perhaps they too, put their addiction first.

Maybe you grew up with a ‘personality disordered‘ family member who found it difficult to emotionally regulate? (This often goes undiagnosed.) Your personal boundaries were most likely routinely broken. The message you may have learnt, was that your own needs and feelings didn’t count. You were probably required to accept how others treated you, without question. While it may have felt impossible to do at the time, imagine if you were taught to say, “When you rage at me, I feel threatened. I’m going to leave the room/house until you can communicate calmly.” (Providing of course you were old enough to speak, and an exit was even an option!) I want you to know that you do matter.

Whether we grew up in a functional or dysfunctional environment, we all need the courage to maintain our personal values despite what others think or how they behave. To clearly identify our wants and needs and respectfully communicate them, while at the same time recognising that others have the right to decide how they respond or react. Otherwise it’s too easy to mix up our yes’s and no’s and not take the time to see if potential friendships, relationships or even things like jobs are suitable or not.

We’re all such interesting creatures, with different values and beliefs and triggers, shaped by an assortment of life experiences and histories, which is why it’s so beneficial to be mindfully aware of what makes for good and less good interactions.

It’s up to each of us to be clear on where we want to draw the line between ourselves and others. And for every parent out there, never ever ever use guilt to get your kids to visit or do something. Once obligation is on the table, joy flies out the window! Let love lead the way!

Boundaries will naturally differ between our professional and private selves, in our relationships and with each individual family member.

Types of boundaries include physical, emotional, financial, intellectual, material and financial, time, sexual, and digital boundaries. 

It’s good to approach boundary breaches as early as you can. Mistakes can be a learning ground to curiously observe what happened. Which people or situations crossed the line? How much stress or discomfort did it cause? Is it a one off or reoccuring? Is it possible to breathe and let it go? What could be done to prevent it in the future? Keep paying attention to how people and circumstances impact your energy, productivity, and wellbeing. 

  • Work out the feel goods and the not so goods.
  • Be clear about the responsibilities, activities, and values that you treasure.
  • Get a good sense of your tolerance limits.
  • Work out what you need.
  • Pick a good time (or way) to communicate.
  • Keep the focus on your feelings and needs while being mindful of their needs.
  • Use I statements and don’t justify, defend, over explain or blame.
  • Be kind, calm, direct and specific and use a neutral tone. 

Set boundaries in ways that create discussion and possible negotiation so everyone confidently knows where they stand and what to expect. You’re only responsible for communicating your boundary with respect, not for the other person’s response to it. Boundaries are not an attempt to control the actions of another. If you recognise you have toxic light snuffers in your life, move on and shine on. 

We can’t change or control other people, but we can take charge of our own life. We can choose to wear our own mask. We can choose whether we reply to emails at night, or answer calls after hours. We can decline invitations without explaining. We can protect our time, space and personal resources. We can say no. We can be selective. We can limit our engagement. We can choose to not participate, not react, not engage. We can block it or report it. We can also leave.

If you need help with boundaries, email me at hello@leannefrench.com to book a telehealth session.

Surviving Love in Lockdown. 10 Top Relationship Tips.

8 May

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What if you’ve discovered you’re not one of those resilient couples, sheltering in place,  strengthening bonds, feeling loved up and loving it? What if your version has been six hideous weeks of groundhog day in inescapable confinement, filled with endless stress, brick wall arguments, unworkable arrangements and mind-numbing chores? If you’re desperate to burst your bubble and run for the hills, don’t add to the pessimistic divorce and break-up statistics, these are extraordinary circumstances.

Uncertainty spews forth a range of challenges, from financial pressures to burdens like working from home while also caring full time for children. Take away all the welcome distractions that used to exist in life before Covid, and you’ve got a source of tension even in the strongest of relationships.

For relationships cracking at the seams, although it may feel hopeless, it doesn’t have to be. Why not reframe it? Think of it as a fast track opportunity for growth because adversity

  • intensifies attitudes and inequalities
  • highlights patterns that exist and persist
  • shows us how we each contribute to conflict
  • and magnifies exactly what needs to change.

As a relationship expert with 30 years experience, I know that with help, most relationships just need a bit of tweaking and adjusting to change the dynamics. Two people don’t have to show up to therapy to fix it. Big differences can be achieved with just one willing guidance seeker. There’s definite hope. (Unless your partner is big into addiction and isn’t willing to change, or if they are psychological or physical abusers. If that’s the case, you need a safe exit strategy.)

Here are my 10 top relationship tips to help you, help yourselves.

  1. One thing you really want to avoid is criticism. Don’t highlight faults or overly focus on what isn’t working. Justifying, defending and point scoring is destructive. Be constructive.
  2. Always look for what is working, what’s good, what’s going right and genuinely praise, affirm and compliment.
  3. We each have a responsibility to manage our moods and express our needs, wants and vulnerabilities in respect-filled ways. Keep respect at the forefront. Respect feelings, and make sure you happily allow each other alone time. Solitude is vital.
  4. If what you’re saying or doing isn’t working, stop and do it differently. Before responding, count to five, breathe and consider future consequences by asking yourself “If I say this in this way, what is the likely response?”
  5. It’s way better to ask gently, than to tell, teach or preach.
  6. It’s always about what you say, how you say it, and the intention behind it. Make sure communication cultivates love and unity.
  7. Shrug off small annoyances. Unearth uncomfortable feelings that get activated in you, rather than focusing on what someone does to irritate or annoy you.
  8. Observe and become comfortable with each other’s styles, and find a way to work with, not against them.
  9. Curiosity and compassion helps you go easy on yourself and others.
  10. Be kind. Be grateful. Use humour and look for the goodness that lies within. Love simply because they deserve to be loved.

P.S These weird times will pass x

It doesn’t matter where you live, you don’t have to have a therapy session in person. Phone sessions aren’t new to me. I’ve been conducting them for a couple of decades with clients both in NZ and overseas. My point of difference is that I can also work weekends and I have telehealth. If you need me, email leanne@wolfies.co.nz to set up an appointment.

thanks to cottonbro for the image and for Wolfie making the graphics x

Don’t Blurt What Might Hurt.

23 Apr

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In these socially distant times, spending more time online is one way to help satisfy our basic human longing for social inclusion. After nearly a month, people are saying they’re beginning to feel emotionally drained, restless and disappointed in the way some people are treating others.  Others find themselves bombarded by overly strong opinions, forceful comments, put downs or really rude, sharp answers to reasonable questions, comments or status updates. When the comments stay public, they invite more negativity.

Unfortunately, because people bring to social media the ways they behave in Continue reading

Grow Through What You Go Through.

16 Apr

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Times like this can really make or break us. Never before as a nation, have we ever been in the situation we’re in. Essential and frontline workers are literally putting their lives on the line while some parents probably wish they could hang their children on the line.

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It’s all about flattening the curve. It’s not a competition. We get that. It’s not about being the fittest or most fabulous. Some will moan, others will motivate. It doesn’t have to include a bake off or a dance off, but if it does and people enjoy it, let’s remember to be kind.

Some people are really sick, others are afraid of becoming sick. Some are Continue reading

Dig Deep.

6 Apr

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Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. –Victor Frankl.

While I’m not asking you to carefully craft all of your conversations, if you’re finding it challenging being confined in closer circumstances for longer periods of time than you are used to, and conflict is causing concern, it could be beneficial to learn how to respond rather than react. Especially if you want to create a more emotionally comforting bubble to hang out in.

Choosing our response is about making sure it’s calm, considered, conscious and in line with our core values. It’s driven by wanting to get the best out of a situation for ourselves and others. Responding is more about actively taking our time to work out what Continue reading

Wherever You Go, There You Are.

27 Mar

 

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The government have asked for our support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. An important restriction has been put in place, stay home, save lives and no surprises, two days in and the usual suspects have gone a little wild, flaunting the rules and looking for loopholes.

We often hope that others will think, behave, react and respond the way we do, but it doesn’t always work that way. Some of the rules are bound to get a little tighter when people who don’t like to be told what to do, go about their business, their way. They are just being who they are, but when the consequences affect the collective, it Continue reading

Tis the Season. Will it Be Sensational or Stink?

7 Dec

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Many Christmas’s in my life and yours too I imagine, have been so amazing, filled with love and tinsel, a sparkly stream of fabulous family, amazing food, children’s squeals, handmade goodies, laden Christmas trees, thoughtful presents, shared stories, goofy games and loud laughter.

Some are sensational and some are far from it. Some are just stink.

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Brooches from SewEmSew

There are many reasons why some homes, some years, overflow with seasonal joy, and others not so much. Life can occasionally just fall apart at the seams. Illness, loss, geographical distance, natural disasters, conflicted family, depression, dementia, stress, divorce, addiction, lack of finances, not having a home, you name it, some Continue reading

50 Reflective End of Year Family Questions.

3 Dec

How about introducing a new self reflective ritual into your family? As the year winds down it’s the perfect time to choose an evening or afternoon to gather together and consider things like: How was the past year? What worked and what did not work so well? What do I want to create in the year to come? 

  1. What was the best day of your year?
  2. What was the worst or hardest day?
  3. What’s your fondest memory from the year?
  4. What filled you with wonder and delight?
  5. What if anything, may have consistently angered you this year?
  6. What do you wish had never happened?
  7. Name something that went really well.
  8. Name something that could’ve gone better.
  9. Who do you wish you could’ve spent more time with?
  10. Who do you wish you could’ve spent less time with?
  11. What is the best thing about being part of this family?
  12. What goals did you set at the beginning of the year that you achieved?
  13. Which goals didn’t you achieve that you still might like to?
  14. What was the nicest thing you remember anyone saying about you?
  15. Did you make any mistakes that in turn taught you something?
  16. Are there any areas where you feel stuck?
  17. What might you need help with?
  18. Which world culture is the most fascinating to you right now?
  19. What’s your best quality or super power?
  20. What has challenged you in the world of social media?
  21. How you feel about the boundaries you have set for yourself around screen time?
  22. What habits would you like to break?
  23. What might you need to do in order to take better care of yourself?
  24. What acts of kindness did you show towards others this year?
  25. Who was especially kind to you?
  26. What are you most proud of having done emotionally this year?
  27. What are you most proud of achieving physically this year?
  28. What have you longed for lately?
  29. What was your biggest achievement this year?
  30. What did you do creatively that you loved?
  31. What boundary did you set with yourself that you feel proud of?
  32. What boundary did you set with others that you’re proud of?
  33. What’s your biggest regret this year?
  34. What has caused you the most sadness?
  35. Is there anything you think you should/could let go of?
  36. Name someone you look up to.
  37. If you couldn’t fail, what might you attempt?
  38. What country would you most like to visit next?
  39. What skill or talent did you learn or master?
  40. What would you like to be better at?
  41. What might you need to do in order to be better at that?
  42. What would you like us to do to help you with that?
  43. What was the most delicious meal you ate all year?
  44. If you could pick something you would love to have made for you, what would you like?
  45. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be?
  46. Who would you especially like to thank this year?
  47. What is your favourite family tradition?
  48. What’s your best quality?
  49. What do you wish we understood better about you?
  50. If we could wave a magic wand and wish you the best year ever for yourself next year, what sorts of things might you wish for?

Why are Some Homes Predictably Unpredictable?

27 Nov

When a parent is addicted to a substance, home life is often tense and unpredictable, and family members may either try to deny the addicts behaviour, make excuses for it, or attempt to control or stop it. For the one choosing to drink or drug, it’s hard to maintain rewarding healthy connections and be emotionally available.

So much time and energy gets gobbled up trying to either recover, obtain, use, and/or try to keep it secret. Addiction messes with mood and sleep and has personal, social, financial, health, relationship and even legal consequences. 

If one or both parents are emotionally or physically unavailable long term, children can develop a fear of abandonment and learn that holding onto toxic relationships is better than being alone. Drinking and/or drugging is also so boring to grow up around. When the “substance” of choice is the priority, the child isn’t, and that reaffirms their sense of  not really being worthy enough to get to know, listen to, learn about or have an in-depth relationship with.

Growing up around addiction, kids have to guess at what normal is. They are more subjected to chaos and Continue reading

To Judge or Not To Judge, That is The Question.

20 Nov
Art Credit – https://nikkimiles.design/

Judge away. Everyone judges, it’s an automatic process. A part of our brain called the amygdala works out trustworthiness in a flash, giving us a a gut feeling which then mixes in with a jumble of thoughts and flashes of life experience, and just like that, the foundation for our unique, perceptual lens of reality, informs our decisions.

So if we think about our judgements as super-personalised opinions rather than facts or universal truths, a little discernment may be needed before they fully inform our decision making. It’s helpful to bring our unconscious into mindful conscious focus. We could invite the observer self in and be curious about what we say, how we say it and why we say it. For instance, if we’re in the habit of expressing overly strong opinions/judgements that leave little room for others to have or share their own experience, it could be time to learn to choose more neutral descriptions. Or we might need to express things in a way that puts more personal ownership onto our observations. It might require us to decide which judgements are worthy of acting on and which are better to trash or transform? Consider if sharing them is kind? Necessary? Or could we instead emotionally investigate Continue reading