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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

Tend and Cherish.

27 Apr

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As the sorrow of sickness and silence spread, the stop sign rose and asked us to sit, together but apart, to be guests of nature and lend our ears to the birdsong, chirping crickets and intuition, instead of the usual roar of engines and economic hum.

We were asked to sit until remorse replaced restlessness so we could thrust aside mountainous obsessions of waste, and refuse to be swallowed up by inexhaustible convenience, coveted commodities and take aways that take away deeper nourishment, and to wait for the rise of bread, instead.

Sit they said, with blinders off as industry cools and hearts and homes are warmed. Wait until expectation is traded for appreciation so it becomes easier to undertake a scaled back, survival stock take, where love and local livelihood is supported and we embrace the significant and sustainable.

Sit and replace swelling fears of toils and troubles with soap and bubbles. Then with lion heart courage, forge forward, with fragility, onto the path of goodwill, into a morally determined destiny and consciously cultivate kindness for all of us endangered ones, here upon our enchanted earth. 

Poem Tend & Cherish by Leanne French as I contemplate the last day of Level 4 Lockdown in New Zealand and somewhat lament the loss of the quietest earth day experienced in my lifetime.

Thanks so much to my beloved husband Wolfie for the fabulous daily graphics he’s made for me.

Let’s All Be Better Humans.

26 Apr

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Beyond thinking about how to stop microbe movement and economic downfalls, will we also think more about respect and empathy? Can we create a new vision of a better world, for ourselves, our community, our environment and for our beautiful earth? My hope is that we will mindfully pay more attention to the wee glimpses we have of a future where we know what we want and need, and then work towards making many tiny incremental changes so all creatures can flourish. Let’s make our future ancestors proud.

 

 

 

 

Reaching Out for Help is Brave.

24 Apr

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Our job on earth isn’t to criticize, reject, or judge. Our purpose is to offer a helping hand, compassion, and mercy. We are to do unto others as we hope they would do unto us. -Dana Arcuri

With help, comes hope.

No one should wait until they’re in a dire state before seeking help. We need to bravely reach out, before things turn to custard. There are people, communities and agencies who are available to help all of us in many ways. Sometimes it’s about being directed to the right person or place, so you get the safe and compassionate response and assistance you deserve. And, with technology it doesn’t have to be public, it can remain private. Whether you are unsure about something, or not managing, it’s not impolite, a burden, or a sign of weakness. Helping another person actually makes others feel good.

Is there something you need help with from my field of expertise?

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

Same Storm. Different Boat.

22 Apr

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While Mahatma Gandhi once said Dignity of human nature requires that we must face the storms of life, this present storm, the way we face it and the impact it will have on each and every one of us, will be incredibly diverse. 

In the midst of disruption, there are commonalities. Heightened reactions, moments of confusion and clarity, and concern for safety and security. Human nature dictates we do what we can to save ourselves and then look around to offer a (socially distanced) helping hand. 

We react in a thousand different ways because how we think, feel, act, need, want, hate, love and believe, stem from a huge variety of factors from our past experience, our resilience, the extent of support we have available, the size of our bank account, to where we’re positioned physically, socially, economically and emotionally.

While some may have anchored calmly, and others adjusted their sails towards rainbows and pots of gold, we cannot underestimate the emotional gale and financial swirl that this storm has brought upon many. 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

Kindness is Cool.

14 Apr

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Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelms the world. -Desmond Tutu.

In these uncertain times, acts of kindness, gentle words, praise, encouragement, warm smiles, considerate behaviours, helpfulness and thoughtfulness are more important than ever.

Co-operating with lockdown rules is an act of united kindness. We’re all in this together,  doing our bit, for the greater good.

Kindness not only magically lifts the spirits of those giving and receiving, but even onlookers to kindness have increased levels of the happiness hormone in their brain.

We can be of service to humanity in many different sized ways. It doesn’t have to Continue reading

Shine On.

8 Apr

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If the light within you is greater than the darkness around you, you are a star. Matshona Dhliwayo.

The full, ‘pink’ super moon which just so happens to be the brightest and boldest of the year, is not the only thing with the power to illuminate. We can all be light filled agents of change who spread love, generosity and kindness into the world. 

Let’s brighten our day by peeking into the positives.

  • There are extraordinary experts who are keeping us informed and shedding light on what matters.
  • Inventors and makers are busting their butts, accomplishing amazing things that contrast the black backdrop of virus doom.
  • Investors are donating dollars to incentives.
  • Growers are keeping food and jobs alive.
  • Food producers and suppliers are finding delivery options making sure we stay nourished. 
  • Entertainers are shining a light on various new ways to connect us with their art.
  • Front line and essential workers are beyond heroic right now.
  • Bored children are inviting parents to be brighter versions of themselves by joining in with their fun activities.
  • There’s a glow of gorgeousness that radiates from tiny toddlers trying their hand at all kinds of stuff. 
  • Reporters and newspeople are out and about shining their light into what we all miss the most, which accentuates the things we value and highlights what we need to feel secure.
  • Positive, online community pages light us up with laughter, shared culinary delights, and helpful blogs.

Continue reading