How to Set Boundaries With Family Over the Holidays

Three Ways to Set Your Boundaries Over the Holidays I’ve had several male patients in my office who let the people in their life walk all over them. And they all do it in the name of keeping their reputation as a “Nice Guy.” My first questions are always the same. I say, Where is it written that Nice Guys can’t say no? Is there a law that to be a Nice Guy, you have to put up with abusive comments and invasive questions? Does the dictionary define Nice Guy as, “A man who allows others to take advantage of him”? The answers? No. No. And No.  The critical factor here is they need to learn how to set boundaries with family. I’ve had so many Nice Guys in my office and heard so many stories about the pain they’re feeling. My message for Nice Guys everywhere: It is possible to set and maintain your boundaries with friends and family without turning into a jerk. Three tactics on How to Set Boundaries with Family and Friends this Holiday Seasons While it’s impossible to control what people say to or expect of us during the holidays, there is a lot we can do to manage our behavior while we’re with them. I tell my patients to practice three boundary setting tactics: Stop inappropriate behavior in its tracks Preemptively set boundaries Change the subject when faced with inappropriate comments One: Stop inappropriate behavior in its tracks Finally, one of the most anxiety-producing holiday situations my patients experience is the feeling of being “stuck” with people whose behavior makes them uncomfortable. This can be physical, such as relatives who don’t share the same boundaries around hugging or kissing, etc., or it can also be environmental, such as the relative who loves to bring up touchy subjects like politics. No matter what form the inappropriate behavior takes, you don’t have to spend the holidays “stuck” in its net. For example, one of my patients doesn’t enjoy copious amounts of physical contact with anyone except his wife. His wife’s family, however, is very physical, and he used to dread spending time with them because they had no inhibitions about snuggling up to him on the couch or touching his arms or legs while in conversation. Now, instead of feeling uncomfortable and “stuck,” he promptly moves his hand or foot, etc. out of physical contact and …

How to Recognize Good Emotional Boundaries

How to Recognize a Good Boundary When You See It Maintaining good personal emotional boundaries is a very important element of positive mental health. Emotional boundaries protect us from manipulation and from being taken advantage of. They help minimize hurt and frustration. They build our self-confidence and even help improve our relationships. But what are they, and why are they so tricky? In my experience, most patients believe they have better personal boundaries than they do. They say, “I’d never tolerate [x]” or “I’ll never put up with [y] again.” But when it comes time to exercise those boundaries, they don’t. They loan them money or swallow the insults or ignore the behavior they swore they’d never overlook again. And the cycle continues to repeats itself. Since this is such a common cycle, I’d like to examine the basic elements of healthy emotional boundaries. To illustrate, let me tell you about the story of my patient, Gary. Gary couldn’t say no. Gary was a successful real estate broker who couldn’t say no to his adult daughter. Every time she needed money — whether two hundred dollars or two thousand dollars — he gave it to her. Then when she spent it on expensive clothes or indulgent nights out, he’d despair that she’d essentially thrown his money away. He made comments about her being irresponsible. He told her he wasn’t going to give her any money unless he knew precisely how she was going to spend it. Then they’d argue, and she’d cry, and he’d feel terrible and he’d end up writing his daughter a check. I asked him why he couldn’t say no to his daughter’s requests. He explained that he and his wife divorced when his daughter was young. “It was so hard on her,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt her any more than I already have.” Then he added, “Plus, I have the money. I’ve done well for myself. Why wouldn’t I share it with my daughter?” The answer to that question is where Gary and I began our work together. Emotional Boundaries are rarely black and white Gary had a partial understanding of personal boundaries. He saw them as absolutes, as lines in the sand. “I would never give her money for drugs,” for example. Boundaries, however, are rarely so black and white. Instead, they’re more effectively viewed as limits, as the threshold between when …

4 Signs You’re Giving Too Much

Helping Until it Hurts-4 Signs You’re Giving Too Much “Angel” had always been praised for her generosity. Little did she know she was giving too much. She was active in her church and a dedicated volunteer. Funerals, craft sales, committees—Angel was a Good Samaritan. One fall, a young woman at work revealed that she was about to lose the lease on her apartment. The two women worked closely together and Angel knew that her colleague was in trouble; she had survived a traumatic childhood and no longer had ties to her family. It broke Angel’s heart. She offered the woman her spare bedroom until she was back on her feet. Today, Angel says, she can’t look back on the experience without feeling embarrassed and angry. What she believed to be a well-intentioned gesture ended up straining her marriage, her relationship with her own kids, and even her health; she was giving too much. Helping becomes pathological when it hurts more than it helps. As extreme as it may sound, Angel’s story isn’t uncommon. In fact, it is symptomatic of Pathological Altruism. Unlike healthy altruism, pathological altruism is giving too much and is performed with little or no consideration of the harm it may cause to the giver or the recipient. In other words, helping becomes pathological when it hurts more than it helps. Here’s what Pathological Altruism often looks like, as demonstrated by Angel. The tendency to deny one’s own needs for the needs of others. Angel spent so much time helping her friend with her everyday needs that she ate poorly, gained weight, woke exhausted, and felt increasingly depressed. It’s a predictable cycle that flight attendants have advised us about for decades: you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Supreme confidence in one’s skills or ability to help. Let’s face it: Angel was not a trained therapist. She raised successful children, but it was unreasonable and dangerous for her to expect that she could soothe her friend’s serious emotional wounds. Like a novice mechanic working on a finely tuned engine, when our desire to help exceeds our skills, we are likely to do more damage than good. Inability to see the harmful consequences of your helping behaviors. As in physics, we cannot exert one force without expecting an equal or greater force in response. So it is with our relationships. By the time Angel had …

How Not to Raise a Child Sociopath or Narcissist

 How Not to Raise a Child Sociopath or Narcissist This is a question I get all of the time. How not to raise a child sociopath or narcissist. Because teenagers can look like they’re sociopaths or narcissists, but they’re healthy teens. So what’s the difference? To start, we need to understand what a sociopath and narcissist are. If we don’t fully understand this, we’re not going to be able to avoid it or avoid raising a child sociopath or narcissist. These terms have been in the news a lot, and we in psychology have them under the umbrella of personality disorder. It’s a terrible phrase, I know, but that’s the phrase we use. Personality disorders have many different forms, 2 of them which are sociopaths and narcissist. So what’s at the heart of that? People with personality disorders can’t do relationships. Some people actually can’t tolerate relationships, but they want them terribly. It’s an awful dilemma for them, and most of this is unconscious. What you’ll see is they can’t tolerate closeness, and they can’t tolerate distance. And those two things are kind of at the poles of all healthy relationships. What do I mean by that? If you’re healthy and in a healthy relationship, what that means is you’re getting close, and you’re getting distant, you’re getting close, and you’re getting distant. Let’s say you have a girlfriend, you see her, and you have a great time, and then you don’t see her, and you do other things, all healthy relationships are like that.  They Can’t Tolerate Closeness or Distance for Very Long What happens with a narcissist or sociopath, is they can’t tolerate closeness for very long because it feels like being taken over. So to them, closeness starts feeling like being invaded, being taken over, being eliminated; it becomes a terrible feeling for them. Just like distancing becomes an awful feeling for them because it feels like abandonment, a terrible loss.  Both of these feel like extremes to the personality disorder patients, so they avoid them. And how they avoid them is by wiggling around in the middle; instead of doing close and distancing they’re getting close and then doing something to break the closeness such as arguing, cheating, lying, attacking- whatever it is, they got to get away, and they do, but they can’t stay away. After they’re apart, it starts to feel like a …

How to Overcome Intimacy Issues

  Let’s talk about the Intimacy Now Online Course And how to overcome intimacy issues The Intimacy Now online course is my course that offers a way to help people in areas and places and situations that I have never been able to reach before. It teaches the participants how to overcome intimacy issues and solve destructive relationship patterns. Any barriers preventing you from seeing me, such as time, distance, space, money, whatever it is… Is taken away with this course, which I love. The more people I reach, the more relationships I can change, and that’s what I love to do. The Intimacy Now online course was started last spring, and we had a great turnout. We also received great feedback which was very uplifting to me, and very rewarding for me. But more importantly, the people who joined got great satisfaction out of the program. Naming things like, “It was the first time I had practical psychiatric help as opposed to psychobabble.” They were able to apply it to their situation and benefit from it. Some people said that they were happy for the first time in their relationship, ever, which is pretty big. And other people talked about the different ideas and advice that I gave and how it helped them turn something specific around, such as their ability to talk about negative emotions with their spouse or significant other. What to do about those tense moments after a fight, how to give your spouse what they need without being a yes-man- you know to lose your backbone, how to get what you need, how to handle being on a separate page and on and on. Lots of great feedback. This course was me compiling every aha moment in the therapy session. Killer advice from killer therapy sessions where someone said, “Oh my gosh, I never thought about it that way,” or “Oh my gosh, that worked so well.” I took all those moments, and it boiled down to six pieces of advice to fix the most destructive relationship patterns. And teach couples how to overcome intimacy issues. Questions and Answers Q. How can you answer my question on a general course because it’s so specific? A. Well, after doing this for 20 years- helping professionals of all kinds to fix their relationship problems, really, everybody’s details are different- that is true. But it all comes down …