Introducing Therapeutic Life Coaching – A Renewed Approach To Transformation

First of all, I wish to welcome all of our new subscribers – I am truly thrilled that a few of the articles I have written since starting the ChainFree Living blog this year have been shared around the world and even translated into other languages. For those of you who are not that familiar with me or my background, I’m a Therapeutic Life Coach™, Organizational Consultant, Licensed Psychotherapist, Educator, and Author who is genuinely passionate about helping people become who and what they most truly are so that they may live in an uninhibited, creative, expansive, and ‘chain-free’ manner.

I haven’t been able to write for the past few weeks as I’ve been dealing with a health issue – now nearly resolved, with the help of a fantastic, caring doctor I found. This experience reminded me how important it is to advocate for our own health when navigating through mainstream medical systems; I’ll be writing about this in detail in a future post. During my absence from this blog I put the finishing touches on a new model of life coaching I recently developed, and I am excited to share a bit about it with my readers here. I plan on designing and offering a certification program for licensed mental health professionals and certified life coaches that will be based on my unique transformational life coaching approach, which I call ‘Therapeutic Life Coaching’.

Therapeutic Life Coaching: A Comprehensive Approach To Transformation

It would be a wonderful thing if each of us were embraced, respected, and accepted as our true, authentic selves, as well as supported in growing to our highest potential, from the moment we entered the world. However, for some people this simply was not the case. Although traditional ‘success’ and future-oriented life coaching models can provide support, guidance, encouragement, and acceptance for those who are most in need of it so that they may change and progress, it often fails to address the past and ways of being and behaving that no longer serve them and keep them stuck in unhealthy, dysfunctional patterns. I therefore developed the Therapeutic Life Coaching™ model in order to better assist my coaching clients in their efforts to transform and evolve beyond old identities and limiting relational and social roles so that they may create the dynamic, fulfilling life they envision.

ChainFree Living Services

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”  –Martha Graham

Unlike traditional future-oriented life coaching methods, the therapeutic life coaching processes I invite my clients to participate in go beyond motivational concepts and the achievement of personal / professional goals by exploring ways in which their life force, i.e., their true-self nature, has become ‘stuck’ or ‘blocked’ in reaction to people, places, things, and events encountered in their past. In addition, my Therapeutic Life Coaching model allows for the deepest possible transformation by inviting clients to expand beyond limiting ideas they may hold about themselves  based on prior experiences and other people’s perceptions of them. For clients in my coaching practice, ‘success’ is redefined as a complete shedding of all that feels false and/or no longer serves them as they experience, embrace, and embody their innate wholeness, a wholeness rooted in their true identity via a direct knowledge of Self.

Lastly: I’m Finally Writing ‘That Book’!

I’m also excited to share that I have began writing ‘that book’ that I have been dreaming of writing about for years. I’ll be blogging more about this soon, but in the meantime, feel free to visit http://chainfreeliving.com/chainfree-living-book-1/ to learn more about my book and to sign up to receive an email notification once it is available for purchase.

About My Services

Logo Final CFLThe unique, individualized Therapeutic Life Coaching™ and Consulting services I provide are specifically designed to support people in achieving their goals, realizing their dreams, and confidently standing in their truth, fueled by wisdom, emotional acceptance, and relational awareness. I especially enjoy working with creative, emotionally aware, highly sensitive people who may be waking up to the fact that they have been living a life based on other people’s needs, wants, and expectations and are ready to dig deep within themselves so as to connect with their fundamental essence. Also, people who feel ready to release anything and everything about themselves that feels false and no longer serves them at the highest level so that they might begin an inner journey to learn more about themselves and their purpose in life. Also, people who are feeling ‘stuck’ in life, or that their true self is ‘blocked’ or ‘hidden’ and they’d like some help in moving through these perceived obstacles. I invite you to Contact Me for a free introductory ‘strategy session’ so that we can determine how my therapeutic life coaching services might best serve you. Visit http://chainfreeliving.com/life-coaching-services/ to learn more.

Working Mindfully With Anxiety: Anxiety Symptoms As Health-Seeking Signals -Part Two

(Note: if you are reading this via email notification, do NOT reply to the email if you want to comment. Click on the title of the blog post, which will take you directly to the featured article. Scroll down to bottom of post to comment. I appreciate your feedback and replies!)

Viewing Our Anxiety Symptoms as  Health-Seeking Signals Inviting Us To Heal

In last week’s post, Working With Anxiety – Part One, I presented a case study to illustrate how anxious feelings and symptoms may at times be acting as a ‘health-seeking signal’, i.e., a ‘wise guide’ inviting us to heal ourselves at a core, root level. In Part Two, I expand on ideas presented in Part One, taking a closer look at how loss of connection with self and others may fuel anxious feelings and addictive processes; the risks associated with anti-anxiety medications; and how those suffering from a generalized / chronic anxiety disorders might benefit from engaging in alternative forms of treatment, including Mindfulness and Meditation practices. I also include links to additional resources pertaining to issues covered in this article.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Self-Medicating To Feel Different / Better

Loss of Connection With Self and Others: Anxiety And Self-Medication

For those individuals like ‘Jeremy’ (refer to Part One, linked above) who experienced turbulent childhoods as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional and/or traumatized family system, the experience of anxiety can begin very early in life, although it is often not noticed by primary caregivers, teachers, the family physician, or others who might be able to appropriately intervene. Children, teens and young adults with undiagnosed anxiety may begin to ‘self-medicate’ with substances such as food, drugs, or alcohol and activities such as excessive TV watching and video gaming in an unconscious attempt to quiet their distressful symptoms without even realizing that they are seeking some kind of temporary or permanent relief.

Adults who did not experience anxiety when younger may develop an anxiety disorder without being consciously aware of it, and they, too, may begin self-medicating with substances. Having worked in several drug and alcohol treatment centers, I can say with certainty that unrecognized, undiagnosed, and untreated anxiety was often fueling the process of addiction, meaning, the addict began using substances initially to escape a sense of internal discomfort that was not recognized as anxiety at the time. In short, a fundamental experience of disconnection from self and others along with unrecognized anxiety symptoms were identified by nearly every drug and alcohol addicted client I have worked with as being at the root of his or her addictive patterns and behaviors. To learn more about loss of connection with self and others, read my article, below:

The Pros And Cons Of Anti-Anxiety Medication

 

As discussed in Part One of this article, medication can relieve some of the symptoms of anxiety, but it doesn’t cure the underlying problem and it’s usually not a long-term solution. Anti-anxiety medications also come with side effects and may lead to a dependence on the medication. With the popularization of psychotropic medications to treat a variety of mental and behavioral health disturbances, most any type of uncomfortable feeling or symptom is viewed by both patients and their doctors as something to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. It is increasingly common for family doctors to write out a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication after only a brief discussion with their patient regarding the distressing symptoms being experienced, without recommending that the patient also confer with a Mental Health professional, such as a therapist or counselor.

Mindfulness Meditation And The Reduction Of Anxiety Symptoms

 

While taking anti-anxiety medication to minimize distressing feelings and symptoms is a personal choice, and in some cases is medically advisable, there are other effective interventions that a person suffering from anxiety can pursue, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; keeping an Awareness Journal as part of ongoing Psychotherapeutic-based Intrapsychic / Family Systems work (as discussed in the above Case Study); engaging in deep breathing exercises; yoga; daily physical exercise; and homeopathic remedies as prescribed by a Naturopathic doctor.

Recent research also confirms that Mindfulness Meditation can be highly effective in addressing anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is a practice that involves being fully engaged in whatever is going on around you. “It is simply the act of paying attention to whatever you are experiencing, as you experience it”, explains Kate Hanley, author of A Year of Daily Calm: A Guided Journal for Creating Tranquility Every Day. “By choosing to turn your attention away from the everyday chatter of the mind and on to what your body is doing, you give the mind just enough to focus on that it can quiet down.” In 2013 researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center published a study that confirmed that Mindfulness Meditation reduces anxiety at a neural level. You can learn more about this important study and other similar studies via the below two links:

5 Minute Quick Anxiety Reduction – Guided Mindfulness Meditation

Working Mindfully With Anxiety

As the above discussion illustrates, there may be far more to anxiety than meets the eye. While it is understandable why anyone experiencing anxiety would want relief from these extremely uncomfortable symptoms, it may be that the symptoms themselves are pointing to possible solutions to those who are willing to explore their anxiety via mindfully cultivating an attitude of acceptance, curiosity, and patience. Journaling, painting, and other forms of creative expression, as well as psychotherapy and/or sharing in a support group, may offer a means of discovering the wisdom that anxiety has to offer.

For additional resources pertaining to Mindfulness Meditation as an alternative, non-medication based treatment for anxiety, you may explore the ‘Headspace’ link below. And please feel free to share your experiences of anxiety in the comment section – I’d love to hear from you.

© 2016 Rebecca C Mandeville MA

Working Mindfully With Anxiety: Anxiety Symptoms As Health-Seeking Signals – Part One

What Those Anxious Feelings May Be Trying To Tell You – And Why It’s Important To Listen (Part One of a Two Part Series)

What if anxiety is more than a clinical disorder to be treated, but serves as a barometer of our overall mental and emotional well being? This article focuses on anxiety as a ‘health-seeking signal’ inviting us to reconnect with the truest parts of ourselves that have been neglected or repressed. Included is a recent example from my work as a licensed Psychotherapist illustrating how anxiety at times acts as an important messenger inviting us to heal psycho-emotional wounds sustained in childhood and adolescence, if only we are able and willing to tune in and listen.

-Article by Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, MFT

What Is Anxiety?

Clinical signs of anxiety
Clinical signs of anxiety

Anxiety is commonly believed to be an automatic, ‘built-in’ response to perceived threats, and is often referred to as our ‘fight-or-flight arousal’, or ‘fight or flight response’ as a species. Therefore, it stands to reason that children who grew up in chaotic, possibly traumatic home environments where their fight or flight (arousal) response was frequently activated are susceptible to developing various kinds of anxiety disorders even prior to the onset of adulthood. Hence, it is a concern that physicians and psychiatrists whose patients report feeling anxious typically prescribe anti-anxiety medication but do not always recommend that their patient also see a qualified Mental Health professional to explore the possible root cause(s) of the anxiety as well as to identify possible additional or alternative (i.e., non-prescription) treatments.

Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety

Although anxiety can take on many forms, the below are signs and symptoms commonly associated with this behavioral health disorder:

  • Excessive Worry and Rumination
  • Irritability / Anger
  • Sleep Disturbance / Insomnia
  • Poor Concentration / Forgetfulness
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle Tension / Mysterious Aches and Pains
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Blood Pressure Spikes
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Heart Palpitations / Chest Pain / ‘Panic Attacks’

Psychotherapy As A Means Of Successfully Treating Anxiety Disorders

What if anxiety was not always something to be avoided and/or medicated away, but was instead something it would benefit us to be curious about? One way that I invite my clients to explore this possibility is to ask them to tune into their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations the next time they notice they are feeling anxious. What is happening right then in the moment? Was there a possible ‘trigger’ initiating the anxious sensations? As the following Case Study illustrates, this simple exercise can provide surprising insights regarding what a person’s anxiety ‘signals’ might be trying to convey.

The Wisdom Of Anxiety: A Case Study

Journaling when anxious can be helpful
Journalling when anxious can be helpful

I once had a client (whom I will call ‘Jeremy – not his actual name) share with me in session that he had recently felt extremely anxious when he entered a hotel lobby on a business trip. He attributed this to what he thought was the ‘Generalized Anxiety Disorder’ (GAD) he had been diagnosed with by his family doctor years before, prior to beginning his psychotherapeutic work with me. I suggested early on in therapy that he begin keeping an ‘Awareness Journal’ and to write in this journal whenever he was feeling particularly anxious. During one such onset of extreme symptoms that occurred during a business trip, Jeremy realized while writing in his journal that he had started to feel anxious when he saw a certain type of old-fashioned couch in the hotel lobby he had just walked into. Upon further reflection in his Awareness Journal, Jeremy suddenly realized that the retro-style couch looked nearly identical in style and in color to a couch that was in the living room of the home he had lived in as a child. Needless to say, this gave us much to explore in this and future sessions as he began to remember and share traumatic events from childhood that up until then he had unknowingly repressed.

Over time, the chronic, ‘generalized’ anxiety Jeremy had been suffering from for years receded as he continued to work diligently in psychotherapy to reconnect with the wounded, ‘lost’ parts of himself he had unknowingly disconnected from during childhood while growing up in a chaotic, unpredictable, alcoholic family system. He eventually chose to stop taking his anti-anxiety medication under the supervision of a physician and is able to self-manage any anxious sensations that arise via deep breathing exercises and Mindfulness Meditation practices I introduced him to in therapy, along with Somatic-Psychology techniques (for more information on the use and efficacy of Somatic-Psychology in the treatment and healing of trauma refer to Bessel van der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma). Jeremy also continues to self-reflect in his Awareness Journal, which has become a critical aspect of his ongoing psycho-emotional healing and growth. (Note: Details of specific client cases have been changed to protect privacy).

Anxiety and Psychotropic Medication

lossy-page1-303px-Prescription_medication_being_dispensed.tiffWhile taking psychotropic medication to minimize symptoms is a personal choice, and in some cases is medically advisable, there are other effective interventions that a person can pursue, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Family Systems work (as discussed in the above case study); deep breathing exercises; yoga; daily physical exercise; holistic / body-oriented therapies (such as Hakomi Therapy and The Feldenkrais Method); Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction; accupuncture; massage; medical cannabis (now supported by research); and homeopathic remedies as prescribed by a Naturopathic doctor,

Recent research also confirms that Mindfulness Meditation can be highly effective in addressing anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is a practice that involves being fully engaged in whatever is going on around you. “It is simply the act of paying attention to whatever you are experiencing, as you experience it”, explains Kate Hanley, author of A Year of Daily Calm: A Guided Journal for Creating Tranquility Every Day. “By choosing to turn your attention away from the everyday chatter of the mind and on to what your body is doing, you give the mind just enough to focus on that it can quiet down.” In 2013 researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center published a study that confirmed that Mindfulness Meditation reduces anxiety at a neural level.

Working Mindfully With Anxiety

As the above brief discussion illustrates, there may be far more to anxiety than meets the eye. While it is understandable why anyone experiencing anxiety would want relief from these extremely uncomfortable symptoms, it may be that the symptoms themselves are pointing to possible solutions to those who are willing to explore their anxiety via mindfully cultivating an attitude of acceptance, curiosity, and patience. Journalling, painting, and other forms of creative expression, as well as psychotherapy and/or sharing in a support group, may offer a means of discovering the wisdom that anxiety has to offer.

A Special Note of Caution: It is recommended that a person experiencing frequent anxiety symptoms get a complete physical to rule out disorders like Graves (Thyroid) Disease, hormonal imbalances, and other medical conditions that can cause extreme and/or chronic anxiety.

Read Part Two to learn more about Anxiety, Addiction, Self-Medication, and Mindfulness Meditation and also access free resources:

http://chainfreeliving.com/2016/06/08/working-mindfully-anxiety-part-two/

Take my free brief quiz, ‘Are You Living As Your True Self?’ (hiding our real selves behind a mask can also cause us to feel anxious).

Workplace Bullying Emergency Kit: Seven Strategies To End Emotionally Aggressive Behavior

By Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Seven Strategies For Effectively Dealing With Workplace Bullying

In this article I discuss some of the unique traits that emotionally manipulative adult bullies exhibit; the various kinds of damage such bullies can cause to others who are exposed to them for any length of time (the emotionally sensitive, conflict-avoidant person, especially); and my strategies for dealing effectively with the adult bully at work.
Definition of Bully: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people. -freedictionary.com

Workplace Bullying Harms

Bullying doesn’t just happen to children. It can happen to adults as well. I created the term Emotionally Manipulative Adult Bullying to describe a very specific kind of bullying behavior that can occur both in and outside of the office, yet often goes unrecognized and unaddressed. This form of bullying, whether it occurs between bosses and employees, colleagues, spouses, or in any adult relationship, can cause traumatic stress that is toxic to one’s emotional well being and overall health in cases where the energetically aggressive bullying behavior is repeated and chronic.

 As hard as it is to imagine, these types of emotionally manipulative, aggressive adults are usually oblivious to how their actions upset and negatively impact the people around them – especially those they may specifically and intentionally be targeting. Often the ‘target’ is an emotionally sensitive person who has trouble setting clear boundaries and will do anything to avoid or reduce conflict, which allows the emotionally manipulative bully to act out aggressively or passive-aggressively in an unimpeded manner. In fact,these types of bullies usually see themselves as the ‘victim’ if someone sets a boundary and refuses to tolerate (and/or call them out on) their egregious behavior.

Examples of bullying behavior

 

The ‘Accidental Bully’

Unlike the types of workplace bullies described by self-help websites such as workplacebullying.org, the typical emotionally manipulative adult bully is often completely unaware of the distress and confusion they cause those around them. Based on my years of working as a licensed psychotherapist, and now as a Therapeutic Life Coach, it is my experience that an emotionally manipulative adult who chronically exhibits disrespectful, overbearing, intimidating behavior is likely suffering from one or more personality disorders (e.g., borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder) and as such, can be very difficult for even a trained mental health professional to effectively relate to and work with, for the following reasons:

Emotionally Manipulative Adults Tend To:

  • Abuse positions of authority and power
  • Frequently dish out undeserved criticism
  • Use sarcasm and jokes to disguise their emotional abuse of others
  • Hold others to unrealistic standards based on their needs and wants
  • Use overt insults and covert threats to control others
  • Are completely oblivious to the fact that they abuse the rights and dignity of others while demanding that they themselves be treated fairly at all times
  • Play by their own set of ‘rules’ and use guilt, martyrdom, threats, and other forms of covert or overt intimidation (e.g., passive-aggressive behavior) when others fail to comply and play the game their way

The Negative Impact Of Being Bullied By An Emotional Manipulator

Intimidating behavior causes workplace stress
Intimidating behavior causes workplace stress

As stated above, It has been my experience in my work as a psychotherapist and coach that the people who seem most negatively impacted by the emotionally manipulative, bullying behaviors are those who describe themselves as being ‘trusting’, ‘highly sensitive’, ’emotionally aware’, ‘intuitive’, ‘caring’, and ’empathic’. This is likely due to the fact that these more sensitive personality types have difficulty recognizing, then standing up to, the extremely manipulative and emotionally and energetically aggressive behaviors being displayed toward them by the bullying adult. Such caring, empathic types may even feel bad or sorry for the person bullying them, and will often engage in codependent behaviors in their misguided attempts to calm the bully and keep the peace for the sake of everyone on the team and/or in the office. Unfortunately, such intense one-on-one exposure to the aggressor not only can make them a target of the bully’s focus in the workplace, but has additional repercussions for the person trying to help.

Chronic Adult Bullying and Emotional Manipulation Can Cause:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loss of trust and confidence in self / Poor self-esteem
  • Compulsive worrying and ruminating over just what is happening and why it is happening, and who to tell and what to tell in an effort to get help (especially true when the bully is one’s boss)
  • A pervasive sense of fear and hyper-alertness
  • Various losses from missed work (financial losses due to lack of attendance; loss of credibility; disappointed team members; loss of one’s job)
  • Sleep disturbance and/or full-blown insomnia
  • Paranoia / Fears of “going crazy” or being seen as “crazy”
  • Mysterious aches and pains with no known cause
  • Stomach upset / Digestive disturbances, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Seven Strategies For Effectively Addressing Bullying Behavior In The Workplace

Ignoring the emotionally manipulative adult bully in the workplace won’t help, and will simply result in the egregious behavior continuing. While direct confrontation of the person bullying you is not always possible, effective, or even recommended, if the situation is not addressed in some manner the bully will simply continue to act out in an emotionally aggressive manner, to the detriment of all concerned. If you are an especially sensitive person, you may even become physically ill and/or rush to quit your job to get away from the harmful behavior. Instead, try these seven strategies I designed that have helped many of my therapy and coaching clients successfully put and end to bullying behavior experienced at work:

  1. Awareness is the first step. Acknowledge that you may be the victim of workplace bullying and that you may need help and support from others to arrange for an intervention of some kind to end these negative exchanges.
  2. Realize that emotionally manipulative bullying is sometimes not obvious to others if you are the one being specifically targeted. This is why it is especially critical that you document the bullying behavior as well as you can in case you need to go to higher levels of authority for help, such as human resources or an appropriate authority figure. Once you have reported the bullying, it is their job to assist you in finding solutions to what could be a complex situation (e.g., the bully is your boss); if the authority figure you approach says that they cannot help you, ask them who can. Do not accept ‘I don’t know’ for an answer. You shouldn’t have to handle this on your own.
  3. Are there people around you at work who witness the emotionally manipulative bully engaging in inappropriate behavior, such as harassing you or putting you down? Consider asking them to act as your witness. Ask if they are willing to document what they observe in case you do decide to seek help from those in a position to intervene.
  4. Release the idea that you did something to deserve this poor treatment. Emotionally manipulative bullies often target sensitive, kind, empathic, and helpful people. Remind yourself that you did nothing to cause the bullying, and you can’t control the bully’s behavior. Nor is it likely that you will be able to put a stop to the aggressive behavior on your own, or that the bully will just stop one day without intervention. Get help as soon as possible.
  5. Recognize and accept that you can not ‘help’ the bully to become a reasonable, nice, sensitive, and caring person. Remember, even specially trained and licensed healing professionals are challenged to help these types of emotionally manipulative and aggressive individuals.
  6. Decide if you are up to confronting the person bullying you – but never confront without a witness. If you decide that you would like to directly address the situation and confront the person you are having difficulty with, it is imperative that you do so with the support of an appropriate third party authority figure at work – Especially if the bully is your boss, or a team member you must work with regularly. Do not ever attempt to confront the bully on your own!
  7. If you’re not getting the support you need from an appropriate authority figure at work, consider seeing a therapist, life coach, or employment consultant who specializes in bullying in the workplace for further suggestions and ideas. You should not ever have to quit your job in order to escape being bullied in the workplace. If you decide to work with a therapist, counselor, or coach, make sure they have a good understanding of organizational systems and have experience in helping people address workplace bullying and dysfuncational organizational dynamics.

Bullying happens when authority figures are weakIMPORTANT NOTE: In extreme cases, you may feel you have no choice but to quit your job if appropriate help from an authority figures is not available. Although no state has as of yet passed an anti-bullying law, that doesn’t mean bullying is legal in every situation. Therefore, prior to quitting your job due to somebody else’s inappropriate, manipulative, and possibly even abusive behavior, you might consider contacting The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and/or a local Labor and Employment Attorney to find out if the kind of bullying you are experiencing is illegal due to violating federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment.

Some Final Thoughts

Documenting is critical!
Documenting is critical!

Whether you are the one behaving inappropriately with others in the workplace or the one being emotionally and mentally harmed by someone else’s bullying behavior, it is important to recognize what is actually happening and take steps to stop it. If not, the distressful dynamics will continue to fester and grow, affecting the emotional and perhaps even the physical well being of anyone who must have sustained and repeated contact with an emotionally aggressive bullying personality, as well as negatively impacting the overall productivity of the office.

Remember, the authority you seek out for assistance in ending the bullying will depend on your particular situation. Check to see if there is an Employee Handbook. It is the Human Resources department job to identify the best person at your workplace to help you put an end to the emotionally manipulative bully’s destructive and toxic behaviors, and to intervene on your (and others) behalf, if warranted.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, is a licensed Psychotherapist, Transformational Life Coach, Author, and former High-Tech Executive Employment Consultant. You can learn more about her ‘Whole Person’, ‘Whole Life’ Coaching practice by visiting her at ChainFree Living.

 

Was It ‘Sub-Par Parenting’ Or Were You A Victim Of Emotional Abuse As A Child?

An Abuse Of Power

Author’s Note: If you are waking up to the fact that you may have been the victim of emotional abuse as a child, please know that healing is possible. In addition to the below article, I encourage you to read my article on reclaiming the true self ‘lost’ in childhood (link here: http://chainfreeliving.com/2016/04/16/reclaim-true-self/), where I share my ten strategies for stepping into your innate wholeness and living and speaking your truth without fear. You may also join our closed Facebook group where you will find free resources and online facilitated peer support at https://www.facebook.com/groups/endemotionalbullying/. You might also like to visit the website ‘The Invisible Scar‘ to discover more helpful articles focused on understanding, and healing from, parental emotional / mental abuse. Feel free to write me directly as well. 

– Rebecca

Ever wonder if you were were the victim of actual psychological / emotional abuse versus ‘sub-par parenting’ as a child? Many people have no idea that they grew up in abusive, ‘toxic’, and/or dysfunctional environments, even after months or even years of psychotherapy. Some therapists miss the signs as well….  (Article By Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, ChainFree Living, http://chainfreeliving.com)

According to Andrew Vachss, an attorney and author who has devoted his life to protecting children, the mental/emotional abuse of a child is “both the most pervasive and the least understood form of child maltreatment. Its victims are often dismissed simply because their wounds are not visible… The pain and torment of those who experienced “only” emotional abuse is often trivialized. We understand and accept that victims of physical or sexual abuse need both time and specialized treatment to heal, but when it comes to emotional abuse, we are more likely to believe the victims will “just get over it” when they become adults. This assumption is dangerously wrong. Emotional abuse scars the heart and damages the soul. Like cancer, it does its most deadly work internally. And, like cancer, it can metastasize if untreated” (You Carry The Cure In Your Own Heart, A. Vachss).

The Hidden Wounds of Psychological / Emotional Abuse.

Many adults grew up in environments that did not support their authentic true self nature. They may have been victims of abuse, existing in a near-constant state of terror as they struggled on a daily basis just to survive and be who they thought they needed to be in order to have their basic needs met. They may have grown up in an alcoholic family system, where fear and uncertainty was experienced on a daily basis, making it difficult to trust the very people who were supposed to care for them and keep them safe. Others may have had a parent with one or more undiagnosed or diagnosed mental illness disorder(s), (such as Schizophrenia or a Bipolar Disorder with or without psychotic features), or a disorder that caused extreme emotional instability, (such as Narcissistic, Histrionic, or Borderline Personality Disorder), causing them to be parented by adults who were still emotionally children themselves.

In such chaotic, non-nurturing environments that failed to lovingly and positively mirror the developing self, such children may have gradually disconnected from their true self, i.e., the most pure, innate, natural, free, and intensely alive aspect of their being so as to conform to the expectations of others around them – especially their primary caregivers and/or the ‘power-holders’ in their original family system. This disconnection from their primal, core ‘true self’ was a means of ‘getting by’ and emotionally surviving their original family system. As adult survivors, they may have no idea that they have lost connection with an innate, precious aspect of themselves, but may experience anxiety, addiction, depression, and other symptoms that are ultimately rooted in unmet needs and trauma unknowingly repressed during childhood. However, it is never too late for such an adult to recover, embrace, and embody their authentic, true self nature so as to reclaim and more fully realize who and what they most truly are at the most basic, fundamental level so as to live in a more emotionally honest, authentic, expansive, energized, and awakened manner.

Were You A Victim Of Abuse In Your Family-Of-Origin?

Psychological/Emotional abuse experienced in childhood can be insidious: It is insidious because the adult survivor is often unaware that they were in fact victims of abuse, and therefore may not ever seek help or treatment for the invisible psychological and emotional wounds sustained. When healthy mental and emotional functioning is impaired, such an adult is at high risk of developing a variety of mood disorders, addictive behaviors, and other maladaptive ways of being in the world in his or her subconscious attempts to navigate around the pain of an injured psyche.

This type of abuse, when repetitive and/or chronic, results in the child unconsciously believing that he or she is faulty, damaged, and unworthy of love, empathy, attention, and respect. The abused child develops distorted perceptions of self and others, often believing at an unconscious level that there is something wrong with them and that they must deserve the abuse. Such children typically strive life-long to be accepted and approved of by others as a means of proving to themselves that they are ‘okay’ and worthy of love. Having little self-worth, adult survivors of child abuse often find themselves in neglectful, even abusive relationships despite their best intentions to find happiness and love. They may go on to abuse their own children without being conscious of the fact that they are engaging in the very same hurtful behaviors that were inflicted upon them as children.

In the event that an adult survivor does for some reason seek the help of a Mental Heath professional, such as a licensed psychotherapist, they still may not receive the psycho-education and targeted support that they so desperately need to recover from abuse experienced while they were young. This is especially likely if the childhood wounds remain entirely unrecognized and go unreported by the client and/or the therapist unconsciously colludes with their client to prevent the painful material from arising in session (this is especially likely if the therapist has repressed childhood wounding of their own). Successful treatment and recovery from this particular form of child abuse is especially challenging in that the adult survivor in therapy may still be experiencing mental / emotional abuse as a consequence of wanting to remain connected to those who continue to abuse them (most commonly the parents).

Abuse Versus ‘Sub-Par Parenting’ 

While experts still do not agree on what behaviors constitute psychological/emotional abuse of a child, it is generally recognized by researchers that this form of abuse impairs the psychological and emotional growth and development of the child. Anyone that holds power, authority and/or privilege in the child’s life is potentially capable of mistreating the child, including parents, siblings, relatives, peers, teachers, ministers, scout leaders, coaches, judicial figures, social service employees, etc. The words ‘repetitive’, ‘chronic’, ‘persistent’, and ‘systematic’ are critical when it comes to defining the psycho-emotional abuse of a child. The behavior is abusive when it acts as a continuously destructive force in the child’s life, as the repetitive maltreatment shapes the child’s unconscious narrative describing ‘the truth’ of who they are at the most basic, fundamental level, resulting in the child believing they are ‘bad’, unworthy, faulty, damaged, unwanted, and unlovable.

Examples of this type of abuse by a parent toward a child include the child being blamed, shamed, dismissed, and/or belittled in public and at home; describing the child negatively to others, including in the child’s presence; always making the child at fault; holding the child to unrealistic expectations; verbalizing to the child and/or others an overt dislike and/or hatred of the child; being emotionally closed and unsupportive; and threatening the child. Below is a list that highlights additional acts exhibited toward a child that can result in impaired psycho-emotional functioning, which can include words, actions, complete indifference, and/or neglect:

  • Abandonment of the child (physical and/or emotional)
  • Verbal abuse (including calling the child “stupid”, “dumb”, “idiot”, “worthless”)
  • Intentionally terrorizing / frightening the child
  • Sarcasm, criticism, ‘teasing’; Ridiculing or insulting the child, then telling the child “it’s a joke”, or “you’re too sensitive / “you have no sense of humor”
  • ‘Gaslighting’, lying, distorting reality
  • Excessive performance demands (e.g., “You need to make straight A’s, all the time, or else”)
  • Shaming / Punishing a child for exhibiting natural behaviors (e.g., spontaneous and emotionally honest expressions, playing, laughing, age-appropriate body exploration, including masturbation)
  • Discouraging attachment / Withholding basic physical nurturing and touch
  • Overtly or covertly punishing the child for displaying positive self-esteem (e.g., “Don’t be so full of yourself, nobody likes a braggart”; “The world will knock you down a peg or two soon enough”)
  • Overtly or covertly punishing the child for developing healthy attachments (e.g., “You love your friends more than me”)
  • Dressing the child in a manner that provokes ridicule from peers and/or in a manner that the child experiences as shaming and humiliating
  • Exposing the child to traumatic / violent family scenes
  • Exposing the child to a chronically stressful, traumatizing environment (e.g., alcoholism; drug addiction; domestic abuse)
  • Unwillingness or inability to provide genuine nurturing and affection on a daily basis
  • Meeting basic physical needs only; unwilling to nurture and comfort the child (e.g., ignoring emotional needs; shaming the child for having emotional needs)
  • Failing to provide a growth-evoking environment for the child, including neglecting to nurture and support the child’s growing sense of self
  • Making the child an emotional ‘spouse’/partner (common after a divorce)
  • ‘Parentifying’ the child: Forcing the child to take on inappropriate parenting tasks versus allowing him or her to be a child
  • Expecting / Demanding the child meet the primary caregiver’s emotional needs (when it is supposed to be the other way around)
  • Social isolation: Isolating the child, including from peers
  • Bullying (psychological domination of the child)

The Impact On Adult Survivors

Abuse experienced during childhood can negatively impact the adult survivor throughout the duration of their lives, if the silent damage to heart, soul, and mind remains unrecognized, untreated, and unhealed. If the adult survivor of an abusive parent does at some point attempt to address the abuse, it is typical for the parent to deny that maltreatment of the child ever happened. It is common for the parent to blame the child for any negative behaviors displayed by the child toward the parent in an attempt to discredit the child’s or adult survivor’s truthful accounts of the abuse that actually occurred. The parent will often go to great lengths to tell anyone who will listen (other family members, especially) that their adult child has always been “a problem”, is “angry” and “unforgiving”, and other negative descriptions designed to discredit the adult survivor and protect the public image of the parent. Such intentionally aggressive tactics on the part of the parent is simply another unrecognized form of psycho-emotional abuse and further adds to the untold suffering and distress of the adult survivor, who may already be struggling with mental and emotional symptoms, such as the ones listed below:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Active or passive suicidal ideation
  • Misuse of alcohol and drugs, often resulting in addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Compulsive disorders
  • Agoraphobia
  • Difficulty forming meaningful, rewarding, trusting intimate relationships
  • Self-sabotaging, self-destructive behaviors (may include Borderline Personality Disorder-type symptoms)
  • Abusive acts toward self and/or others, including one’s own children

“I Think I Am An Adult Survivor Of Abuse: What Now?”

As illustrated here, the consequences experienced by the victims of psychological/emotional child abuse are potentially incalculable; however, research in this specific area has until recently been relatively sparse. The research that has been done to date suggests that children may experience lifelong patterns of disconnection, depression, anxiety, dysfunctional/’toxic’ relationships, low self-esteem, and an inability to experience empathy. Development processes may be impaired or even disrupted due to poor mental and emotional adjustment. By the time the child enters adolescence, they often find it difficult to trust and may find themselves unable to experience fulfillment and happiness in their interpersonal relationships, while not having any idea that the roots of their unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and distress as an adult may be found in their painful, wounding childhood. Sadly, if they become parents, adult survivors may have great difficulty identifying and responding empathetically and appropriately to the needs of their own children, thereby perpetuating the cycle of multi-generational abuse existing within their family system.

Alice Miller, renowned psychologist and author of the groundbreaking book, The Drama Of The Gifted Child: The Search For The True Self, had this to say about healing from childhood abuse: “Pain is the way to the truth. By denying that you were unloved as a child, you spare yourself some pain, but you are not with your own truth. And throughout your whole life you’ll try to earn love” (A. Miller, The Roots Of Violence ). Ultimately, healing the invisible wounds of any form of child abuse requires the adult survivor to bravely acknowledge even the most painful and incomprehensible truths; hence, the decision to take responsibility for one’s own well-being and healing is a most courageous act indeed. Perhaps it is also time that we ask ourselves as a society how we may be contributing to the continued abuse of children through our indifference, and what we are willing to do collectively to change this so that no child need ever believe that they are unworthy and undeserving of being loved.

If you think that you may be an adult survivor of use, I encourage you to visit Adult Survivors of Child Abuse to learn more about pathways to healing, and receive peer-support and resources. I also highly recommend you read Alice Miller’s book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, as well as The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.  You might wish to also consider engaging in psychotherapy with a therapist who specifically specializes in helping adult survivors recover from child abuse (they should consider themselves an ‘expert’ in this area for best results).

Ten Strategies For Discovering and Being Your True Self


Article By Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, MFT

If you find yourself continuing to act out old patterns and roles that no longer serve you, this is more than likely interfering with your ability to create mutually rewarding, respectful, and reciprocal relationships. Below are my ten strategies for getting in touch with your true self so as to create an integrity-based and emotionally rewarding life.

The True Self Lost In Childhood

Although living as one’s true self in an emotionally honest manner might seem like a natural and easy thing to do, those of us who grew up in a family system that did not support our uninhibited and natural expressions may have gradually disconnected from the truth of who we were, i.e., our core essence, so as to be accepted by those we were dependent upon to meet our most basic and fundamental needs. As described by various experts specializing in dysfunctional family systems, it is often the case that children who grew up in these types of chaotic, unstable environments find some semblance of identity and emotional security by taking on one or more family roles, such as ‘the hero’, ‘the scapegoat’, ‘the rebel’, ‘the caretaker’, or ‘the clown’. But in unconsciously disconnecting from our true self in order to emotionally survive, we may later find ourselves as adults people-pleasing others and hiding behind a facade, with no idea how to express and live our truth.

The Truth Doesn’t Care If You Like It Or Not

“The Truth doesn’t care about consequences. It’s concerned with the Truth. It doesn’t care if you’re liked or not liked. You won’t always be liked for it, and sometimes you will be disliked for it. As long as you’re acting in the world based on what you like or don’t like, or what others like or don’t like, you’re not in the realm of Truth. Truth insists that we not only be truthful, but that we act truthfully. It’s not enough just to know the Truth. You have to be it – to act it, and to do it.”~ Adyashanti

(From ‘The Impact of Awakening’)

Are You Hiding Behind A Mask?If I were to ask you right now, “In what situations, or around which people, do you feel most yourself, and most creative, free, and alive”, what would be your answer? Alternatively, if I were to ask you, “In what situations, or around which people, do you not feel like your real, authentic self and/or less than who and what you sense or believe yourself to be?,” how might you respond? Contemplating these questions can be provocative, to say the least, and there may be no obvious or easy answers at first. In addition to considering these questions, you might also like to to answer a few questions included in a brief quiz I created that will help you determine if you are hiding behind a mask and/or struggle to live as your true self.

How To Live and Speak Your Truth

If you feel ready to shed anything about yourself that feels false and fearlessly live from a place of emotional honesty, personal integrity (inspired by your principles and values), and a direct knowledge of Self, the ten strategies I designed to assist my psychotherapy and coaching clients will aid you in this courageous quest. If you are not already seeing a competent therapist, counselor, or coach who can support you in your efforts, you might consider engaging such services before implementing the strategies listed below.

My Ten Strategies For Discovering and Being Your True Self 

  1. Recognize You Have A True Self Nature: Each of us enters the world possessing an innate, core, true self. Each one of us is an ‘original model’, and as such we all have unique gifts to offer to the world.
  2. Remember And Reflect On When You Felt Happiest As A Child: Think back to when you were young. When did you feel most free, happy, and alive? Take a few minutes after reflecting on what caused you to feel joyful in your youth, going back to your earliest conscious memory. Then write about the people, places, things, and activities that brought you the greatest joy while you were growing up. This simple ‘remembering and reflection’ exercise can put us deeply in touch with the innocent purity of our original true self nature.
  3. Make A Commitment To Recover And Reconnect With The Joyful, Innately Pure, Authentic Essence Within: In a certain sense, recognizing and consciously reclaiming our own unique, true self nature is a paradoxical process of finding and embracing what we never really lost. It is an excavation project, of sorts, i.e., it is a process of uncovering, discovering, recovering, and consciously reclaiming who (and what) we in fact have always been, and will always be – That which is most true, honest, expansive, and alive within ourselves, yet constant and unchanging.
  4. Make A Decision To Release All That Feels False And No Longer Serves You: Becoming authentic and emotionally honest requires that we be willing to release the parts of ourselves that we were conditioned to become by the various social systems we have been immersed in like a fish swimming in the sea, from our family-of-origin to the cultural and social systems we currently identify with, and everything in between. Ask yourself if you feel ready to begin doing that. If not, I encourage you to explore what might be inhibiting you from living an emotionally honest and authentic life. Change is never easy. It’s never too late to “get real”!
  5. The Process Of Letting Go: I often ask my clients who are engaged in a process of true self recovery and reclamation, “Is this (person, place, thing, behavior, situation) serving you at the highest level today?” Whatever is not serving us at the highest level is more than likely not serving others in our life at the highest level either, regardless of how it may seem. It ultimately serves no one when we allow ourselves to remain small, diminish our internal light, and hide our truth from others (and perhaps even from ourselves.)
  6. The Only Way Out Is Through: It is often during this process of letting go of all that now feels false that long-buried emotions unconsciously repressed in childhood may surface, resulting in our possibly becoming sad, anxious, angry, and even genuinely depressed. At times such as this it is imperative that a person feel he or she is not alone in the valiant task of facing any painful feelings and memories that may arise head on, versus avoiding the challenging, difficult work of genuine transformational growth; therefore, this is a time when the help of a trusted therapist, counselor, transformational life coach, and/or a psychoeducational peer-support group can prove to be invaluable to a person engaged in the task of reclaiming and authentically embodying his or her true self.
  7. It’s Okay To Experience And Release Old, Pent-Up Feelings From Childhood: It is also not uncommon for a person whose true self nature was shamed and dismissed in childhood to find they are experiencing feelings of intense anger, even rage, during this critical transformational time of inner self-exploration and excavation. This can especially surprise those who strived to be ‘nice’ their entire lives to avoid upsetting others and risking conflict. I like to remind my clients during such times that the word ‘courage’ includes the word ‘rage’, and successful passage through the dark night of the soul is ultimately brought about by processing these more difficult feelings and emotions that society labels as ‘negative’. Those who were victims of neglect and/or other forms of abuse in childhood are especially prone to finding themselves overwhelmed with these darker, extremely intense feelings; thus, working with a licensed psychotherapeutic professional and/or abuse recovery network such as Adult Survivors of Child Abuse can be especially critical during this phase of recovery, healing, and growth.
  8. Pay Attention To Your Dreams: I have also learned from both personal and professional experience that this is a time to pay attention to one’s active imagination, dreams, and fantasies, as suggested by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, for these signs and symbols emanating from deep within our unconscious invariably reveal important keys to a given individual’s growth, including acting as an inner wise guide, when one understands how to begin to interpret the personal and universal symbols contained therein. A book that I often recommend to clients for such creative dream work is Jeremy Taylor’s Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams.
  9. Release The Limiting Views Of Others: This is also a time when a person might report to their therapist, transformational life coach, or support network that they are feeling increasingly uncomfortable around family members, colleagues, and friends if those relationships were dependent on their being a certain way -A way that now no longer feels authentic, embodied, or emotionally true. This is especially the case when one has knowingly or unknowingly been playing out a particular role within a given relationship and/or system (e.g., hero, rescuer, ‘black sheep’, enabler) and/or been an unwitting recipient of another’s psychological projections (a process whereby humans defend themselves against their own unpleasant impulses by denying their existence while attributing them to others). At some point you may have no choice other than to make it clear that you are no longer willing to distort or hide your true self in order to protect the feelings of others, and that you simply will not accept being manipulated into living out old, familiar role(s) in the dysfunctional system’s ‘script’ (typically one’s family-of-origin) so that the status quo can be maintained.
  10. You’re Not Obligated To Play By Other People’s Rules: If it wasn’t clear before, once you commit to live your life authentically it will quickly become evident that every system has it’s ‘rules’, be it a family system, a work system, a political system, etc. This is a good time to remember that whatever the system can’t change, control, and/or accept, it will attempt to diminish, label, reject, and even (in extreme cases) ‘eject’. And this is why I see each and every person who is engaged in a sincere process of true self recovery and reclamation as being heroic, for it is no easy task to realize the truth of who and what one is while attempting to maintain relationships with others who may be demanding we “change back” (whether overtly or covertly) so that they might feel more comfortable, in control, and secure.

Living As Your True Self

As illustrated in the above ten strategies, remaining committed to an ongoing transformational process designed to further our personal and professional growth, enhance our relationships, and increase our overall sense of confidence and well being is not always a simple or enjoyable task, especially in the beginning. And yet, those who decide to do what it takes to live from a place of emotional integrity and fearless honesty invariably discover that it is worth the effort required, for it is by courageously committing to recovering the ‘lost child’ within that we are able to become the true self we were always destined to be. And what could be better than that?

A Book About Wholeness…

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ChainFree Living Book

What if we were to embrace all of our emotions as welcomed guests, recognizing them for what they are: Wise guides that seek to lead us toward the experience of genuine transformation,’true self’ liberation, and a felt-sense awareness of our innate wholeness?

In her book, You Are Already Whole: On Discovering and Being Your True Self, Rebecca C. Mandeville, a licensed psychotherapist and transformational life coach, shares the unique 11-step pathway she created to assist her clients in their efforts to heal and transform at a deep, core (root) level. To embark upon this pathway, we are challenged to expand beyond the commonly held view that emotions are either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, instead re-envisioning even our most painful feelings and sensations as being health-seeking signals emanating from an infinite intelligence that innately lives within us all; signals that, if paid attention to and mindfully followed, will eventually lead us toward the experience of emotional freedom and sustained well being that is grounded in a direct knowledge of the true self.

 This Book May Be Especially Helpful For People Who:
  • Feel ‘imprisoned’ in an old family role (e.g., ‘scapegoat’; ‘hero’; ‘clown’; ‘caretaker’; ‘rebel’)
  • Grew up in a distressed family environment
  • Feel they must hide their real self behind a mask at times
  • Struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, and/or codependency 
  • Repeatedly find themselves in unhealthy, ‘toxic’ love relationships
  • Have difficulty asserting themselves and setting appropriate boundaries
  • Consider themselves to be a ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP)  
  • Are on a spiritual path and/or participate in a 12-Step program

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I appreciate your interest in remaining informed.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Visit Rebecca at her ChainFree Living website to learn more about how you can live in an authentic, emotionally honest, energized, and enlivened manner beginning today, as well as access free resources, including an online support forum and community bookstore.

Are You Hiding Your True Self?  TAKE THIS BRIEF QUIZ

 

Ten Tips To Help You Stop Being A People-Pleaser and Start Taking Care Of Yourself

If you’re a people-pleaser, you likely avoid conflict as much as possible in your interactions with others, and will deny your own truth in an attempt to make those you feel dependent upon and/or care about comfortable. But in reality chronic people-pleasing serves no one in the end… Article by Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Are You A People-Pleaser?

People-pleasers (also referred to at times as ‘codependents’) seek validation from others that they are acceptable and worthy of being liked or loved, and can be so ‘other’ focused that they often have no idea what they really feel, think, want, or need. People-pleasers are typically individuals who learned early on in life that their true self expressions were not acceptable, and that their self-worth must be extracted from those around them in a never-ending quest to feel okay, accepted, liked, and loved.

If you’re a people-pleaser, you likely avoid conflict as much as possible in your interactions with others, and will deny your own truth in an attempt to make those you feel dependent upon and/or care about comfortable. You’ll do anything you can to ‘keep the peace’, even if that means abandoning yourself by repressing your own preferences, thoughts, and needs, which in turn deprives you of the ability to negotiate on matters important to you, whether personal or professional. In fact, you may be so focused on tending to the wants and needs of those around you that you have lost touch with who you really are at the most basic, fundamental level, to the point where you might be feeling depleted, angry, and exhausted much of the time without ever realizing it is because of your chronic people-pleasing ways.

Why People-Pleasing Serves No One In The End

Get ready for a good hard dose of reality: Subservient, ingratiating behavior that results in your feeling like a doormat isn’t really helpful to anyone, ever, no matter how much you may like to believe it is. By surrendering control to others and abandoning yourself, you are allowing yourself to live a lie – And lies serve no one in the end. And remember, you also may be attempting to control others via your people-pleasing ways by making them dependent on you. A healthy adult relationship requires that the two people involved create a relational environment that is reciprocal, truthful, respectful, and interdependent. Hiding our true selves and pretending we are something other than what and who we actually are is ultimately dishonest and far more damaging to a relationship than voicing a truth that might result in heated discussion or out-and-out conflict.

My Ten Tips To Help You Start Taking Care Of Yourself And Stop People-Pleasing Others

Although it takes courage to practice new behaviors, people who live authentically find that the freedom they experience in being themselves makes risking conflict worth it. Below are some tried and true methods to help you stop people-pleasing others so that you can live a happier, more emotionally honest and fulfilled life:

  1. Recognize that you may have learned early in life that your self-worth depends on what others think of you (adults who grew up in abusive environments are especially likely to believe this).
  2. Acknowledge that your self-worth does not belong in the hands of others – Nobody should have that much power over what you think and how you feel about yourself.
  3. Decide that you will no longer play the ‘People-Pleasing Game’; it will take time, dedication, and commitment, but it is possible to change.
  4. Check in with yourself during interactions with others, especially when communicating with those that you tend to people-please the most. Focus on what feels true and right for you during these conversations, even if you are not yet ready to risk conflict by expressing a differing view, feeling, or need. Write your thoughts and feelings down in a journal after such difficult or uncomfortable interactions. Get to know yourself and become curious about what you really feel and think.
  5. Determining your values, identifying your priorities, and defining your beliefs are three of the most effective ways to build a strong foundation from which to speak your truth when communicating with others. Take time to be with yourself and even write down your priorities in life and what is most important to you. This will help you to develop your ability to agree or disagree and say “no” or “yes” (and mean it), no matter what the situation is.
  6. “My decision is final”. Once you determine your values and better understand what is best and most right for you, plan on saying “My decision is final” if you anticipate that rejecting or denying a request will not be well received. Role-play with your significant other or a trusted friend, if needed, so you can get used to saying this one simple phrase. These four words will go a long way to ensure that any doors that might allow you to be manipulated by others, especially people who were able to take advantage of you in the past, are firmly closed and will save you much grief down the road.
  7. Use empathic reflection when asserting yourself with others, including recognized ‘authority figures’. Here’s an example from my own life: I recently saw a doctor for a minor physical complaint. His recommended intervention was unacceptable to me for various reasons. My response was to say, “I understand why you might be recommending that, and if I were in your shoes I imagine I would too. But that route is not one I wish to go down. My decision is final.” After saying this and dialoguing a bit more, we went on to find a remedy that we both felt comfortable with, and the treatment was ultimately successful.
  8. Choose your battles: If you sense or suspect that your honest expressions are going to result in a conflict that you just don’t feel ready or equipped to deal with, it’s okay to acknowledge the truth to yourself and choose not to express it. Some things matter more than others. Talk to a trusted friend, journal your thoughts and feelings, or consider seeing a licensed Psychotherapist, Counselor, or Transformational Life Coach to help you sort out what really matters most to you and what doesn’t. Remember, some people will not be able to hear or compassionately receive, much less respect, your truth if they find it personally or professionally inconvenient or threatening. Remember, not everyone is looking for honest, reciprocal relationships or interactions; such people may even attempt to judge, shame, or blame you for speaking your truth – Or even try to convince you that your truth is a lie.
  9. Don’t explain yourself in an attempt to justify your position. This is a real trap that people-pleasing types fall into repeatedly. You’re entitled to have your own thoughts, feelings, experiences, needs, and preferences, just like everybody else. The fact that some people in your life don’t agree with you or respect your truth doesn’t make them right. Trust yourself and your perceptions.Sometimes our “gut feelings’ can tell us far more about a person or a situation than anything that is being overtly presented to us.
  10. Remember the power of choice: Adults who learned to people-please in childhood are often genuinely unaware that they have the ability to choose how they will conduct themselves in a relationship. If you are tired of feeling like a door-mat, then maybe it is time to get up off of the floor.

It’s Never Too Late To Cultivate Authentic Relationships And Start Caring For Yourself

Living in a truthful, emotionally honest manner requires courage, patience, practice, and commitment. There are many books written on people-pleasing and codependency designed to help break the people-pleasing habit; Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others And Start Caring For Yourself is the one I most often recommend to clients, along with. Susan Newman’s The Book of No: 250 Ways To Say It – And Mean It And Stop People-Pleasing Forever. Working with a therapist or life coach who understands codependency and/or attending a free support group such as Codependents Anonymous that focuses on developing healthy relationships and communication can be very helpful as well.

Take Small Steps Every Day

Once you feel ready to begin risking conflict in your personal or professional interactions, consider choosing one person in your life that you can practice being completely honest with; ideally, someone you trust and feel safe with but are not always completely authentic with. Then say exactly what’s on your mind and see what happens. Think of your values, take deep breaths, and stand your ground. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that any fear encountered in being authentic in your relationships is temporary, and that the rewards of living in an emotionally honest, integral, and values-based manner make it more than worth any temporary discomfort.

A word of caution: If you believe that you are genuinely not safe in a relationship and that speaking your truth could result in a threat to your personal safety, I urge you to contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline to receive support, information, and guidance.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, MACP, MFT, is the founder of ‘ChainFree Living Transformational Life Coaching & Guidance Services’. You are invited to take her free brief quizAre You Living As Your True Self? to see how you might be hiding your own thoughts, preferences, and needs in an attempt to avoid conflict and please others.