counseling, familysystems, psychology, relationshipadvice, self-help

Enforcing Boundaries, No Contact, and Dysfunctional Relationships: Actions Speak Louder than Words

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Boundaries are a very important part of good mental health and maintaining a strong self-esteem.

Often in counseling sessions, I find clients gripe that other people in their lives DO NOT take them seriously. Clients share how they feel disrespected or mistreated. That what they say AND feel does not seem to matter to the folks in their lives.

I often explore with clients if they voice how they feel to the important people in their lives. Often people hold expectations for their relationships and other people without ever voicing their thoughts and feelings. I gently remind clients that other people in our lives are not mind readers. We discuss how other people may in fact have NO IDEA what our thoughts, feelings, and expectations are if we do not have an explicable discussion with them. These clients have a certain set of challenges to face, which requries them to start speaking up in their lives, if they want to catalyze change in their relationships.

Then on the other side of the spectrum, some people will share that YES that have in fact shared MANY times with their spouse, family member, friend, etc. how they FEEL to no avail. These folks have a whole different set of challenges to face and work through in our counseling sessions.

My next question for these clients, who share they have voiced their feelings many times to no avail, in their respective relationships: Did you follow your words up with actions?

Many times, the answer is an astounding, NO. Yet as we all know, actions speak louder than words.

This is where as a counselor, I bring up the topic of personal accountability. The truth is if someone is all talk and no action, is it really the OTHER person’s fault if they do not take said person seriously? We all know people who are all bark and no bite as opposed to people who say how the feel and follow it through with actions that match their words.

This is where the topic of boundaries comes into play. Boundaries are important and in counseling I get to see firsthand how comfortable one is with enforcing theirs.

Boundaries are basically your limits and act as your “invisible fence” alerting you to the fact that you’re uncomfortable or even in danger whether that danger is emotional or physical in nature. They also communicate to others not only how they can treat you and what to expect from you, but also what they’re likely to get away with or not get away with.

Boundaries are not complicated—the tough part is ENFORCING one’s boundaries, something I see many clients struggle with. If someone does not respect your boundaries, they do not respect you. If someone loves you, it will MATTER to them how you feel. Anyone who truly cares about you will express regard when you bring up concerns about your relationship with them–whether that relationship is familial, romantic, or a friendship. Yet this is not the case in dysfunctional, unhealthy relationships.

It often comes down to empathy. If you have any sort of relationship with someone who LACKS EMPATHY, it will be very damaging to you and your well-being.

This is where the idea of no contact comes up. If someone has tried time and time again to fix relationship problems with no success, they are left with two choices: accept the bad behavior as is or leave the relationship. If you ask someone in your life to stop a behavior that is harming you and they don’t, there will not be any other choice to make but to limit or eliminate contact. Unless you are willing to continue to be mistreated. The choice is yours. Following up one’s words with actions is how boundaries are enforced.

Going no contact with someone in your life is a last resort when a person is not respecting you, your boundaries, or your relationship. Many therapists are hesitant with discussing cut offs because of how it impacts the individual–it is certainly NOT ideal especially with family relationships.

One caveat to note is the difference between no contact and the silent treatment. The difference is the silent treatment is used to punish, invoke, fear, guilt, remorse. The silent treatment is about power and control.  This is NOT what no contact is. The silent treatment is abusive in nature. On the other hand, no contact is done to protect yourself. No contact is about moving on from a relationship that is not healthy. The silent treatment is temporary and done with the hope of a certain outcome. No contact is a way of exercising your own autonomy and enforcing your boundaries. You have no hope of ANY outcome other than removing yourself from being mistreated and disrespected. You recognize that you have the right to cease communication with someone who mistreats you and lacks empathy for you.

People make their choices and it gets them to a certain point in their life and in their relationships. YOU are NOT responsible for the actions and choices of other people. But you are responsible for protecting your own well-being from people who mistreat you. This is why following your words up with actions is a must.

I believe everyone’s feelings are important. We all deserve to be treated with basic human decency.  A person with good self-worth does not continue on in relationships where respect is not being served. For instance, when someone is disrespectful to me for no reason, I like to ask myself some questions. Who is this person? Are they even important in the scheme of my life? Will calmly telling this person that I’m hurt or offended be met with further aggression? And how much energy do I have in this moment to engage with this person? Is the juice worth the squeeze????

This is why enforcing boundaries is the cornerstone to maintaing healthy relationships in one’s life. If you find you have tried time and time again to get your needs met in a relationship and are wondering when no contact is appropriate, I feel there are three overarching factors to consider it:

1)Does this person show remorse when you tell them they hurt you? If someone has no remorse, if someone doesn’t care, then I think that is a real problem. I do think a basic standard for one’s life is to keep people in your life who have some regard for you at a very basic human level. If someone tells you with their words and actions, they do not care about you, why would you stay in contact with them if you have any sense of self-respect?

2)Has this person in your life outright told you they do not respect you?They shame you, criticize you, minimize you, make you feel degraded. Are you okay with this type of treatment?

3)Does this person refuse to let you live life on your terms and respect your boundaries? In life, we don not have to agree with how other people in our lives choose to live. But if we want to be in their lives, we must learn to be respectful and tolerant of our differences.

These are just a few broad factors to pay mind to when considering going no contact. Remember, no contact and the topic of boundaries are very complex and nuanced. As a counselor, I beieve if things are so bad that you need to go no contact, you have probably been feeling hurt and mistreated for a long time. This is not something that happens over night. Getting into counseling during a time like this is pivotal.

No contact is a protective measure but not a decision to be made lightly. Personally, I also believe you should keep an open mind to having people come back into your life. I believe people CAN change.  However, it depends on if authentic change has occurred. But if you see someone has grown, become wiser, is humble, is remorseful, and is mature, then you might want to stick your toe in the water and see how it might go with restoring the relationship. But if you are not seeing that type of evidence, I would be very cautious about letting someone back into your life who has mistreated you. Maybe you then want to put your energy into the people in your life who respect you and treat you well.

If you are struggling with an important relationship in you life and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, goals, psychology, self-help

A Different Version of You Exists in the Minds of EVERYONE You’ve Ever Known

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I have always found it fascinating the way people describe themselves. People’s self-views naturally tend to unfold in conversation. As a counselor, I get a unique opportunity to hear people be very forthright with their self-views, insecurities, and perspectives on self and others.

Personally, I find human psychology and people’s vastly different perspectives FASCINATING. Anyone who knows me knows I ask a fair amount of questions. I ALWAYS want to know more. I love hearing other people’s thoughts and perspectives, as I am curious to how other people think and view the world (explains why I went into counseling!)

Oftentimes, I find it interesting how differently two people can view the same person. It makes sense though because people meet us at different points along our life journeys. We all also bring our own unique lenses to our perspectives and opinions.
As humans, we exist on a continuum. We are certainly not the same person we were today as we were ten years ago, or for many of us, even a week ago, depending on what stage of life you are in.

It is not possible for us to grow in our relationships, careers, our mental and and emotional health, without evolving, whether we want to or not. We are ALWAYS changing–whether that change is progress or regression is a different story.

The fact is people may have one experience with us many years ago, and in their mind, we are the same person we were then, when that is not the reality for us or people that know us today.

The gist of this blog post is that the person you think of as “yourself” ONLY exists FOR YOU.  The fact is every person in your life, every person you ever meet has a different version of “you” in their heads.

We are not the same person to our parents, our siblings, our friends as we are to our coworkers, our neighbors, etc.

Thus, is everybody knowing a different version of you, does anybody really know you at all?

Often, I remind clients I work with that at the end of the day we only have so much control about how we are perceived. We all view life and other people from our unique vantage point. While I think it is important to acknowledge how differently we are perceived by others based on how rare or frequent their interactions with us, it is also important to remember people see us as it convenient for them for whatever narrative is running in their mind. We are often far off in our perceptions of self and others because of our own biases and NEED to view life in a certain way. 

I truly believe that the version of ourselves that exists in our minds is most important. We must live with ourselves day in and day out. We lack any control over how other people choose to view us, so it is a complete waste of time to concern ourselves with other people’s biased perceptions. That being said I find it helpful to also be mindful that our view of another may not be entirely accurate but tainted by our own biases.

The point is there is going to be choices and decisions we make that we will deem the right choice and acceptable, whereas others will deem unacceptable and inexcusable. I often help clients accept this truth especially teens and young adults who are struggling with their parents’ disapproval.

Part of human nature is trying to simplify complex, nuanced aspects of life, no matter how complicated the issue. Yet life is complicated and messy.

So, think about who you want to be. To yourself but also to others. What impact do you want to have? Our actions have ripple effect on everyone around us. Even the type of day we are having can have an impact on how someone else views us because that just happens to be the mood, we are in.

In counseling, many people want psychological advice. Many times, complaints are focused on relationship partners, family members, and coworkers, but hidden underneath it all is the question, “WHY DO I PUT UP WITH THIS?” But the deeper question is, “What kind of person am I to be in this situation?”

I always tell clients the key to be any meaningful change is answering the salient question of what kind of person do you want to be. There is ALWAYS a choice. The answer you give entirely depends on you.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

 

 

 

counseling, psychology, self-help

It’s NOT Me, It’s YOU: The M.O. of People Who Project

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Have you ever found yourself in a conflict with someone who puts their negative qualities on you? A person who describes you in the way that they themselves ARE? Have you ever asked someone to stop projecting their feelings onto you?

Or maybe you heard someone talk about someone they dislike; listing all the traits and qualities this person has that they cannot STAND. And you found yourself thinking hmmmm sounds a lot like you are describing YOURSELF. It is funny to me how often people cannot stand qualities in another person that they in fact possess.

Psychological projection is a common defense mechanism where people distort reality for their OWN benefit. Like a lot of aspects of human behavior, projection comes down to self-defense.

The truth is the problem is sometimes you, it is not ALWAYS someone else. For some of us this is just a given. We are all human, we are all flawed, we all make mistakes. I know sometimes I can be the issue or cause of a conflict I have with another. Yet some people can NEVER see themselves as the problem because this would be to threatening to their sense of self. A person who never developed a strong sense of self struggles with vulnerability which includes being able to admit to faults and mistakes.

I have found our coping strategies reflect our emotional maturity. Projection is an immature defense because it distorts or ignores reality in order for us to function and preserve our ego. It’s reactive, without forethought, and is defense children use.

Yet most of us would be hard pressed to think of people we know who don’t blame and project. Most “venting” includes a fair amount of blaming and projecting. We seem to be a society of complainers. There is nothing more American than complaining and blaming! Many people appear to do this habitually. Everyone does it from time to time. Rather than admit to a flaw, we find a way to address it in a situation where it is free from personal connotations.

Projection is part of our daily interactions. A common example is a person who gossips who accuses other people of gossiping. Or says things like well EVERYONE gossips. Instead of acknowledging their own character flaw, they transfer, or project, this behavior onto other people. The truth is everyone does not gossip.

The fact remains people tend to feel more comfortable seeing negative qualities in others rather than in themselves. Projection is a common defense mechanism used by people with personality disorders, addicts, and abusers. But all of us are guilty of it from time to time. Many of us get defensive when we are criticized. We all want to be self-aware, but some of us struggle to remain self-composed when we feel vulnerable. Projection is one way we may inadvertently react when we feel threatened by criticism.  Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotion.

For instance, you might tell yourself, “She doesn’t like me,” when actually you don’t like her. We might accuse someone of being angry and judgmental, being completely unaware that in fact we are. I have often found that in conflict, as in life generally, people so easily project their own shortfalls onto the other side. You effectively trick yourself into believing that these undesirable qualities actually belong elsewhere – anywhere but as a part of you.

Similar to projection is the defense mechanism of externalization, in which we blame others for our problems rather than taking responsibility for our part in causing them. It makes a person feel like they are a victim instead of looking at their role in creating the problem.

Take a moment and ask yourself: how does your world look to you? Is it hostile and anxiety producing? Filled with people who complicate your life and make it harder? Does it leave you with a sense that something’s missing? Or is it friendly and welcoming? Do you see the world as filled with opportunities for happiness and joy?

Your answers have nothing to do with the world.

Our worlds are a projection of our inner state. That’s right. As Wayne Dyer famously said, “The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.” There is no objective reality which is why our perspectives and personalities are so vastly different. Take two people with two different histories and two different perspectives. They’ll see the exact same situation in two completely different ways.

If you find you are struggling with the state of your life or find yourself struggle with projection, counseling can be a great avenue to pursue. Understanding human conflict requires us to understand human psychology. And it is only when we understand the psychology that drives conflict that we can take intelligent steps to address it.

If you are unsure if this is an issue for you a good place to start is to examine the negative relationships in your life. Who don’t you get along with at work or in your family? Do you feel as though someone is out to get you? Try to determine where the animosity began. The truth is it is okay not to like everyone we meet. That isn’t realistic. It also isn’t realistic to expect to live a life free of conflict. Becoming more self-aware of how and when you are projecting can help you have less conflict in your life and better relationships. In some cases, you may find that speaking with a therapist will help you examine these relationships more honestly and openly than you are able to do by yourself.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, goals, happiness, psychology, Uncategorized

Why Fall is a Great Time for Self-Reflection

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“If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection.
It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone.
Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.”
– Mitchell Burgess –

Autumn in the Northeast is a special time of year. Fall is an opportune time for introspection and reflection about life. As the leaves begin to change color, the days get shorter, leaves fall away, and colder nights start to appear – these all are the signs of a new change in the circle of nature. Fall is a bittersweet season–the leaves are beautiful but they are in fact dying. This time of the year with its picturesque beauty always inspires me to reflect. Similarly, to nature that follows its seasonal patterns, we also face constant changes in our lives.

While fall may seem a season of decline as we head towards winter, it is actually a good time to sum up the results of the year, set new goals and begin something new. To find yourself is a lifelong process–do you ever find yourself wondering how you ended up where you are? Often we avoid asking ourself the hard questions because they can bring about uncomfortable feelings. If you are not careful, not mindfully aware of where you are going, you could end up somewhere far from where you want to be.

Fall is the end of many things but it can also signify new beginnings. Autumn can be a time to see the colors, notice the details, explore nature, and find beauty in the moment. All of these changes going on around us can signal a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

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Self-reflection is defined as “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.”

Too often we don’t stop to pause and take a deep breath. We keep moving. We live on auto pilot. We push through. We don’t stop to reflect. We stay in jobs that are (literally) killing us, relationships that zap our energy, circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated and tired.

We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we don’t have time to waste. So we keep moving in order to keep up. But too often, we just crash and burn. That’s because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is to STOP. To hop off the treadmill. To reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

Self-reflection is a four step process:

  • STOP: Take a step back from life or a particular situation.
  • LOOK: Identify and get perspective on what you notice and see.
  • LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that bubbles up when you give it time and space to emerge.
  • ACT: Identify the steps you need to take moving forward to adjust, change or improve.

It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs. Some questions to help facilitate the process:

1)Am I using my time wisely?

2)Am I waking up ready to take on the day?

3)Are my relationships healthy? Are the people I am allowing into my life the right people?

4)Am I where I want to be? If I am not, how do I get from where I am to where I want to be?

5)Am I taking care of myself physically?

6)Am I taking care of myself mentally?

7)Am I letting matters that are out of my control stress me out?

8)Am I achieving the goals I set out for myself?

9)Are there any beliefs that are limiting me?

10)Am I living my life according to my values?

If you find you are not happy with the answers to these questions of self-refletion, counseling can be a great avenue for helping you change the course of your life. If you are interested in scheduling a session with me and are a reader living in New Jersey:

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

counseling, emotionalimmaturity, psychology, self-help

How to Become Less Reactive: A Family Systems View

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The best way to not BE alone is to stand alone.

What do I mean? So many clients come to me and have experienced dysfunction in their childhood and felt lonely all their life. They haven’t had a chance or an opportunity to learn much about self-differentiation. In fact, they learned enmeshment, worried states, anxiety, trauma. Thus, being able to stand alone, which is so important for self-differentiation and relationships, is a must. It becomes a treatment goal.

Many people come into a counseling session and say, “I don’t want to focus on my past I just want to move forward.” 

From my perspective as a clinician, it is VERY difficult to move forward with one or two hands tied behind your back. I think a lot of folks who try to put their past out of their thinking or state it is of no value or no importance to be bothered with are actually trying to grow and chance it with one handed tied behind their back (or for some people with BOTH hands tied behind their back).

Clients may respond, “But isn’t that just in the past? How is that affecting me now?”  Maybe you don’t live with your family of origin now or may only see them but once or twice a year. Perhaps you have own children and are focused on the family you have created. Or maybe your parents are dead so in your mind, no need to bring up things from one’s childhood. Maybe you don’t believe in blaming your parents for what your current troubles are so you don’t even want to talk about them.  Or perhaps you believe you came from a wonderful family, so why bother looking at the past. The reasons go on and on for why clients do not feel the need to discuss the past.

So why is the past important? Because it IS the present. It is STILL in US. In a way we have a lifelong dialogue with our family of origin in us. If you don’t believe that, you don’t have to. Yet most people I know are prisoners to their past or rebelling AGAINST their past.

They have not found a way to neutalize or detach from their past. Neither being a prisoner to one’s past or rebelling from it is FREEDOM. 

I believe learning from and healing from our past is a way to navigate knowing yourself and how to interact with others.  Working through your past is how you become free from the emotional traps that are playing out in your present life. I have seen it happen time and time again. I believe dealing with the past is the way to REAL change. It leads to self-differentiation, something most of us don’t have enough of, which causes most of our problems in life.

The past IS present and IN you. Most people try to move away from their past, yet the best way is to move THROUGH the past and BEYOND it.

Many people grow up and develop an addiction to love and approval. Whenever we have an addiction to something, we never can achieve it or have it. We are always just searching for it.

Remember, loneliness is a result or symptom of unresolved issues from childhood. I try to show clients that the solution is often NOT near the problem. So, when people try to solve the problem of loneliness, they often get stuck onto other relationships that end up falling apart leading them to feel abandon, left, and with the scars of broken relationships. Thus what they seek after doesn’t happen.

Many of us fear being lonely and abandoned. Often those of us fear being alone, already experience it. Our fear pushes us into unhealthy relationships where what we fear comes upon us.

It is often our own insecurity that causes our relationships to fail. We are enmeshed, we are reactive.  We must resolve and deal with our fears to be healthier and have healthier relationships. This is a pivotal part of self-differentiation.

Standing alone with one’s self and giving up on one’s neediness for approval will result in true intimacy, true connectedness, and lifelong relationships. Self-differentiation is the key to connectedness.

The paradox of love and approval is if you need it you will not get it.  If you let it go, it will come to you. If you really want it then don’t need it. It needs to become internalized to us.

Remember, standing alone is NOT the same thing as BEING ALONE.  I believe the best way to be alone is to not stand alone. Self-abandonment is the root of all adult abandonment issues.  We were abandoned when we were young and then we continue that abandonment and we continue that abandonment of ourselves–we then look for someone to fix that abandonment when that fix is inside us.

When we learn connectedness with ourselves, we can then in turn connect with others.

You must be a self to have healthy relationships. You must be able to stand alone to be with others.  You need to be okay with yourself.

The goal in developing healthy relationships is to learn how to stop being so reactive. Our reactivity is what causes us to enmesh with those unhealthy people. Learn how to use your reactivity to learn new things about yourself and the relationship. Your reactivity can tell you a lot about how to proceed, what to do, and what to do with yourself. When I’m being reactive, I know it is not healthy and I am being immature. There is something deficient in me that causes this reactivity and I want to learn something about that.

How does one become less reactive and more self-differentiated?

To clarify, reactivity, as it relates to family systems theory, is when the emotional field of the relationship system “pings” one another and we become reactive as a result of it.

It is our deep emotional system that we often inherit from family of origin. It is often deep inside us.

Often it is subconscious and can be traced back to the pinging that went on within our family of origin. Now we can then in turn have conscious feelings that come as a result of being “pinged” but often how we act in relationships is automatic, subconscious, and reactive ways.

Therefore, it is important to explore this and work on becoming less reactive. Rather than dealing with feelings, which are important, we must focus on the primitive part of our emotional field that formed during our early years. It is here that our reactivity should be dealt with and resolved. If we want to have healthy relationships, we must do the work of working on our self and self-differentiation. We need to look at the underlying emotional field.

This emotional field is always working within us and is tricky. When it is triggered, we feel feelings and often “react” as opposed to “responding.” Often in counseling, a therapist will address a client’s “presenting” feelings but not address the client’s deeper “lizard brain” part of them–which is part of this emotional field. The lizard brain is the most primitive part of our self where we process feelings and emotions. If you change that lizard brain, you change that emotional field and you will change your sense of self.  Basically, Bowen Family System theory is this view that the deep emotional part of us, the limbic part of us i.e. the lower brain, needs to get changed and it in turn we can feel more mature and less reactive.

Changing the emotional system is the way to make meaningful change as adults—emotionally, behaviorally, and in relationships. Yet oftentimes in our family of origin we have a “fixed role.”

This fixed role is the way we are expected to function and perform in our family. If we don’t comply, we are often made to feel guilt, shame, fear. If you don’t do way your family system wants, you may find your mother, father, etc. are disappointed in you and in turn they withhold their “conditional” love.  With this conditional love being withheld,  you will in subsequently feel abandon. Thus, oftentimes, we take the path of LEAST RESISTANCE—we continue to stay in these fixed roles despite it not making us happy.

Our choices often are a fight or flight response. We can come and be mad at our family. Or we can withdraw in reactivity and not come around anymore because we don’t want to confront everybody.  One is too aggressive; one is too passive. We all find ourselves falling between those two sides when we can’t deal with the emotional minefield within us or playing out in our family of origin.

What do we do to become less reactive?

1)Observe. Work on observing not absorbing. We often absorb other people and relationship systems and then our functioning remains immature and the same.  Observe the pinging rather than think “I’m JUST my feelings and you are JUST your feelings.”

2)Listen more. Listen to you, listen to others. Resist absorbing the other person and their feelings, take a think more and feel less focus, identify and break the family of origin beliefs/values/rules AND roles. We challenge those innately when we become self-differentiated. Our authentic self may go along with our family of origin’s values, rules, roles, etc. If it doesn’t, we begin to resist it, slowly, calmly, and maturely. Over time that changes our lower brain and our functioning, and we begin to become less reactive.

3)Focus on deep change and the hard work of changing your INSTINCTIVE brain to raise your level of self-differentiation. Change your emotional functioning position in your family of origin. Bowen always talked about our family of origin imprinting on us the most–that deep level, that family brain. When we begin to change how we function there it will begin to change how we function in every other relationship. Increase your awareness when you are pinged and function more independently. Meaning if I am pinged, I need to resist doing what the other wants me to do and be my authentic self.

4)Act to be more of a separate self. Embrace your emotionally reactivity and embrace your patterns of distancing, over focus on others.  Remember it takes work to increase your emotional backbone and go without love and approval.

5)Deal with and resolve with your resistance to becoming a self. Oftentimes we have so many anxieties, fears about becoming our real self and we need to work on those. We need to work on those downsides of what we believe when we become a true self. If you can learn to resist the pull and push for you to remain in your allotted role in your family of origin and the powerful forces that want you to function as you always have, the system will eventually recalibrate to a higher level of functioning. This is best for everyone and will result in more authentic, healthier relationships.

If you are able to function at a higher level and be the more authentic you, many will not like that at first, including members of your family of origin. People find comfort in the familiar and may fight to keep you in the box they put you in. The key here is to allow the resistance phase and your family wanting you to change back. Eventually this will recalibrate your family and the relationship system. You will be more accepted–the newer you, the higher functioning, more authentic you.

6)Become more aware of your programing and emotional circuitry as you are connected to others—you ping them, they ping you. This holds true in all family systems. Begin to learn that system. You can then begin to make changes in it.

7)Define yourself—WHAT DO YOU WANT? WHAT DO YOU NEED? WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DO YOU PREFER? WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE? WHAT IS YOUR TRUE, AUTHENTIC SELF? That is who we want to be–it will calm our system down the more we choose to be that true, genuine self.

To become your true self requires strength of conviction, an understanding of the way family systems are organized, a sense of humor, and an ability to become more objective and strategic. 

Start small in defining yourself with others and your family of origin. Become more authentic in small ways that don’t challenge the system so much while staying confident you. You want to choose you while also not rejecting them. Watch and observe resistance in the relationship system. You will get pushback. Either ignore or say WE ARE JUST DIFFERENT or that is what I choose.

7)Become more of your true self with each person in your life. Do more self-care. Become more authentic in relationships. Work on discovering the difference in your life between fact and feeling. Many of us feel/think. We just have those feelings and it causes us to think in a certain way. We want to be able to separate what is feeling as opposed to what is thinking.  If we can separate our feeling and thinking processes, we will feel much more self-differentiated, calm, less reactive, etc.

8)Grieve the loss of love and approval. If we are addicted to love and approval, we need to grieve that because when we are being reactive, we are trying to get our “fix” of said love and approval.  Visualize being supported by you. Give to yourself what your family of origin was not able to give to you. If I am behind me, then others don’t cause all these reactions in me as much. I can stand there and be me with other people.

Self-differentiation is achieving the balance of staying connected while being yourself.

9)Think about this is–if everyone left you and you were left alone, what would you choose to do? If I didn’t need the love and acceptance of others, what would I choose to do?

10)Work at being or standing alone when interacting with others. Is it okay to be an island? Some people say nobody is an island, but I say everyone is an island! The healthy ones have bridges, walkways, and ferries that bring people in and out of your life. Every healthy man or woman is. I don’t mean a cut off island but an interconnected island.

If you find you are struggling with being reactive, consider seeking out counseling to help you better yourself and form better relationships in your life.

If you find you are struggling with reactivity in YOUR LIFE and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com