What if it's something else that's keeping you down?
As a specialist in recovery from toxic relationships, sometimes it isn't always that the person needs 'fixing' or is 'broken' or 'flawed', it is their environment - or more specifically, the people in their environment - that is the biggest contribution to a person's mental wellbeing.
This can be especially true if you find it difficult to set clear boundaries, or maybe don't have any clear boundaries, for that makes it easier for others to walk all over them.
It can also be true if you are a care-giver or your sense of purpose is to make others happy and in doing so, the gates to your heart are open for two-way traffic with no filter for what comes in.
Other people can only put you down if you allow them to. Other people can only become controlling, if you allow them to. Other people can only take over your life, if you allow them to.
But, and this is a big but, that permission that allows others to become controlling over you is not necessarily given consciously. That permission can be given by means of our own behaviour and decision making processes, or rather lack of them.
If someone you know is derogatory, unkind or critical about you or to you on a regular basis and you don't communicate to them that it is and that it is unacceptable, then by default, you give them permission to continue to treat you that way.
By consistently allowing others to do things for you that you are capable of doing for yourself, that makes you feel helpless, then you are cultivating an environment whereby they feel that they are obliged to keep doing things for you.
Being passive and indecisive in a relationship promotes the other(s) in those relationships to feel the need to take over. This then increases your passiveness and/or indecisiveness which then results in you forgoing your sense of control in that situation.
By not having clear and consistent boundaries, you invite others to walk all over them.
We can all lose our way in life, it's somewhat inevitable that during our lifetime we will experience situations that we don't know how to deal with. We often need a little extra help, and that is healthy. But when our environment is not conducive to facilitating independence, then we can become stuck.
We can become stuck through not verbalising our needs and not communicating what is important to us.
We can become stuck through not having the confidence to change a relationship that has become unbalanced to one that is more healthy, independent and mutually uplifting.
Here are some of my top tips to bounce back up:
1. If another person's behaviour is unacceptable, have the courage to use a simple formula to communicate this without emotions getting in the way:
I feel Y (insert how it makes you feel) when you do X (insert behaviour), and I would rather you do Z (insert desired behaviour).
For example: I feel 'like I am an idiot' when you 'shout at me for getting it wrong' and I would rather 'you explain to me calmly how I can do it better next time'
It is important to start with an 'I' statement in these situations because if you start with a 'When you' or a 'You never' or any other version, it has the opportunity to be considered accusatory which can lead to your communication being met with a brick wall 'Well that's not what I think!'.
2. If another person makes decisions for you or limits your options, then this is unhealthy. Being able to communicate your needs is essential to maintaining your own self-worth. How can another person possibly know what is good for you unless they have walked in your shoes? (handy hint here, they haven't and they can't for we all base our version of reality on our own experiences, understandings and values that are unique to us).
Start by being really clear about what your boundaries are in decision making. State what you want and keep it simple, don't try to over-explain or justify your reasons. Then state the consequences if this is not met.
I listened to an acquaintance tell the story of a car-buying experience she had recently. She had made the decision to purchase a car without her partner even though they had a good relationship, she felt that he was over-enthused about what he would want from a car and often didn't listen to her. She struggled to meet this enthusiasm in a way that he did listen and had often ended up buying other things that met his needs more than her own.
So she went off and purchased a new car without him, fully knowing that he would see this as a rejection. She prepared herself for this with very clear communication about why she felt the need to 'go it alone' and after the initial few moments he agreed that sometimes he would overstep the boundary and be a little too persuasive which resulted in her needing to exclude this persuasiveness from her experience in order to be able to buy the car that she wanted and needed for herself.
3. If your environment is keeping you down, then look to change the things that you can in order for you to feel better. For example, if your desk faces away from the window and you really appreciate being able to see outside, then see if you can move it around. If you face away from the door, but not knowing who is coming and going makes you feel on edge, then see if you can switch it about.
If your teenage children are intrusive later into the evening and you need 'me time' then set boundaries about what time they go up to their rooms so that you can have that space. If you have a demanding job and you need 'downtime' for half an hour when you first get in, then be clear about this need and let everyone know that you will be there for them when you've had the necessary 'downtime.'
If you find yourself in a situation where there are many adults under one roof, it is more important than ever for all involved to have healthy, clear and concise boundaries that are openly agreed upon. A situation that seems to be more commonplace with the difficulties getting on the property ladder or our freedoms being limited due to a global pandemic.
To finalise, being clear on what kind of boundaries are important to be set so that you aren't unintentionally creating an environment that is keeping you down, here is a list of the types of boundaries for your to consider and start changing if you think they are contributing to you feeling down:
- Physical boundaries: your body, privacy, and personal space.
- Emotional boundaries: requires you to know where you end and your partner/family begins.
- Sexual boundaries: your expectations around physical intimacy.
- Intellectual boundaries: this encompasses ideas and beliefs and showing respect for different views and ideas.
- Financial boundaries: around money, spending, saving and goals.
In summary, sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves a very important questions:
Who and what is playing a part in keeping this negative situation going and what can be done to change it?
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