You did me wrong song: Boundaries after forgiveness

As I walk beside people in the counseling setting, I have found that forgiveness “in the moment” is difficult for most of us. It is hard to look the other way when someone has made us hurt, or move on from a toxic situation where we keep getting burned. There is a struggle between wanting to get over a situation and wanting to give it every available inch of your mind space, 24 hours a day until you feel good and ready to release it. Sometimes that inner dialogue is hard to turn off when you are feeling pooped on.

It is important to understand that forgiveness can walk right alongside the execution of good boundaries, allowing people to forgive almost immediately. It is possible to feel confident to move on from blows that are bound to come, if you live in this world where miscommunication, unfortunate life circumstances and dishonesty in relationships can bring painful interactions. I have found that it is possible to forgive, even forget (although not at the risk of losing the wisdom that comes from remembering what you have learned). No bill-paying, full-fledged adult has to put themself in a position to be clobbered by the same person or situation if they choose not to! Forgiving and walking away is an option!

In life, there are situations that occur when people you think have your back, just don’t. Depending on how much you invested in the relationship, the pain of betrayal can feel like a big ol’ kick in the stomach. I feel like I have had this experience in life plenty…enough to know that the pain is real. But I also know that it does not have to be debilitating. To be clear, I can look back and remember times where I was so debilitated by people wronging me that I experienced situational depression…bad enough to sit and stare at a wall for days on end. But not today…not today. Forgiving and walking away is an option…did I already say that?

Forgiveness is not saying that what happened is okay. Forgiveness is the acknowledgement that we all screw up at times and grace is an important gesture if we are all to live, work and grow side by side in the journey of life. But any person with good boundaries has a responsibility to self protect after the extension of grace and in some situations that means it is best not to interact for a time or for forever.

When forgiveness and boundaries work hand in hand, a person who is trying to spend less time lamenting and more time living life, can forgive whole heartedly, but also realize that there are times when people and situations are not meant to be. Sometimes we can forgive from across the room, or across the city or across an imaginary world from the person who betrayed us. Sometimes the best way to keep the situation from taking over our mind space is to literally move on with life by acknowledging that hurting people hurt others, and you can choose to not be the human punching bag for the family member, friend or co-worker who makes you their target. Removing yourself prevents the toxicity from taking over your life….it gives you freedom to be the positive-you that you want to be.

When I counsel people, I liken this to standing on a train track when there is an oncoming train. The first time it hits you, you might blame the train. Maybe the conductor didn’t see you on the track or tried to put on the brakes but not in time.  But if you stand in the same spot and get hit again, the responsibility might lie on you to get off the tracks and get out of the train’s way. People who get hit over and over by the same oncoming train might need to get away from the train. Yelling and screaming at the train, thinking they will for sure stop THIS time is not healthy for anyone. Remember:  Forgiving and walking away is an option. (The teacher in me knows that if you read this 3 times, you might remember it for the test. The bold print should help with that too!)

Being able to forgive and move on is freeing. It enables even the most wounded of people to remain positive and life-giving in a world that can be exhausting. Forgiving others allows you to get your sleep back and enables you to focus on the people and situations in your life that motivate and encourage you. If you have a situation in your life that is taking up your mind space and keeping you from being all you were made to be, ask yourself if it might be time to get off the train tracks…

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,


Eliminating Chaos: Think Marie Kondo for your emotional state

Living simply, minimizing your carbon footprint, downsizing…it is for good reason, all the rage. I have personally been hoping to move for a few years now, so every time Goodwill or ARC calls and asks for a donation, I use it as an opportunity to get some of my castaways to the curb. I have never, in my married life, lived in a house so long. For awhile there, we were moving every couple years which is great for cleaning stuff out. I moved into this house when my kids were 5 and now they can legally buy beer. I don’t want to think about what it is going to look like when we finally journey on!

I am fascinated by the cult following of Marie Kondo. She is an organizing mastermind and is taking over the world with books and speaking engagements. Her method, known as KonMari consists of taking a look at each possession and determining if it brings you joy or not. Out with the bad… the joy-inducing possessions get to stay.

One could argue that it isn’t that easy in real life to get rid of stuff. When my kids were little I would have to throw out the broken toys in the middle of the night, to avoid a meltdown. I would like to get rid of my daughter’s comforter-used-more-by-the-dog-than-her, on her bed, but she may divorce me if I do. She told me it reminds her too much of her childhood. Still, there is merit to this method and I can see that it could be of value in our emotional lives as well.

It is a proven fact that visual clutter can contribute to stress, depression, anxiety, lethargy…many life-halting conditions. Cleaning up our surroundings helps us feel energized, focused and ready to get things done. I remember when I was in grad school, Mike loved it when I had a paper due or a test to study for, because he would come home to super tidy surroundings. I wasn’t able to concentrate when I felt my surroundings were a big hot mess.

We can also experience negative symptoms when our emotional lives are in disarray. For example, it can be hard to concentrate at a job you hate, when your child is struggling with addiction or failing out of the 7th grade. Our relationships with frustrating friends can get strained when we are dealing with a struggling marriage, fighting an illness or dealing with a personal loss. When we find ourselves feeling out of control in our emotional space, it can be a good idea to channel our inner Marie Kondo and do some tossing out.

If you are in a particularly stress-filled season of life, you might feel out of control and overwhelmed. Think about it. When you are feeling awesome and in control, there might be people or situations that are not joy-inducing that you can tolerate because in-balance, life is feeling breezy. But when life gets super hard and you are being tossed in the waves a bit, those same relationships can feel toxic. Self preservation might include taking some of those people or situations out of the mix until you have the bandwidth for them. You might need to, for a time at least, focus only on the joy-inducing situations and relationships. I don’t want to go so far to say that you are going to “throw out” relationships but my guess is, once you take a break, you may want to continue to focus on the joy, don’t you think?

This doesn’t mean that you only hold on to what is perfect. I have a cracked teacup that I will never throw away because I can still see my mom holding it in both hands. It brings me joy. I recently spent a few days with some of my besties from college. Each of us are in a tough life season and are less than our awesome selves right now… but in our weakness, we shared, loved and laughed and brought one another great joy. I will keep those girls forever. They bring me the kind of joy that I can barely put into words.

Is it time to focus on joy?

Romans 12:12 says: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Do you have people in your life that will do this with you? If you do not, it might be time for some KonMari…

As always, let me know if I can help.



Value Your Time: Are you worth more than a tank of gas?

A few years ago, my husband and I began using a phrase when we felt people were taking advantage of our Empathic-ness. It came out of an experience he had with a local realtor who kept canceling meetings and when they finally settled on a time to share a lunch, the guy was over 30 minutes late. Mike left the restaurant and when the realtor called to explain his tardiness, his excuse was that he had stopped for gas and he hoped to reschedule. Now, let’s be clear…there are lots of good reasons to cancel a commitment and lots of reasonable excuses for tardiness but….really?

So now, when we encounter situations in our life where it is clear that our time, our love, our commitment, is not being appreciated how we hoped it would be, we declare (or mumble…or emphasize with an eye roll…) that we are INDEED worth more than a tank of gas!

It took us years to get here.

Are you an Empath that finds yourself in situations where the other person in the relationship does not seem to put the same value on you, your time, your commitment, that you put on theirs?

Is it hard for you to claim self-worth because it feels selfish? Let’s try to reframe this so that you can start living in an empowered, more “true to yourself” way! Give and take in a relationship is part of every healthy friendship, marriage or business relationship. However, an imbalance can occur, leaving one side or the other feeling really taken advantage of and hurt. Without fail, the more Empathic you are, the more you tolerate as you seek to preserve the relationship.

Chasing after a relationship that is doomed to fail, is common for Empaths. They are prone to think that there is something they can say or do that will make the other person respond more favorably. Unfortunately, in this process, respect can be lost leading to more situations where the Empath does not feel heard, understood or valued.

If you are the Empath, there is wisdom in taking care to reserve that “extra effort” for relationships that have a hopeful outcome, or for members of your family that you are bound to for life. But putting on some protective armor for other relationships is important if you want to find meaningful relationships in this life. The longer you stay connected to someone who does not value you, the longer you risk being away from the relationship that will value you.

Because YOU are worth more than a tank of gas!

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,


Empaths: Boundaries are always going to be an issue for you

I will never forget my first reading of Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s book Boundaries. I was in my early thirties and had never understood the part I played in my boundary-less life.  The unrealistic expectation that my people-pleasing ways would bring relationship and that if I was just “nice enough”, people would respond positively, had lead to some pretty difficult disappointments. So being given permission, from a faith-based perspective, to advocate for myself was freedom I had never experienced!

I wish I could say that all it took was that one read-through to cure me of my rejection based wounds. But as anyone who has done extensive counseling for “woundedness” that stems from a fear of rejection, it is not that easy. Being a natural Empath, I struggle with over-identifying with other people and therefore lose sight of what my needs are until I am feeling really taken advantage of!….Can you identify with this?

As our greatest struggles often become our passion, I find myself counseling people who are also high on empathy and low on advocating for self. My clients need encouragement to stand strong with spouses, bosses, children, and friends. A problem that can become a hurdle is that the energy that it takes for an empath to stand up for his or herself, even once, can leave them exhausted and then they fall right back into that line of thinking where they assume others will see them, hear them and then respond with the same level of commitment. 

I realized recently that boundary work is always a work in progress for the hardcore Empath. Here are three guidelines to use when navigating relationships:

  1. In relationships meant to be reciprocal, if you do not have expectations on the table, you will feel misunderstood and eventually will get burned. Setting expectations is important no matter how secure you understand the relationship to be. Assuming that you will be valued and respected is what gets empaths in trouble! Learning phrases like, “I have been more than happy to help but going forward, I have some expectations as well” and “I enjoy working toward our shared goals but not at the cost of my own”, will alert the person not as high on the empath scale that they are close to crossing a line with you.
  2. Mirror the level of commitment you are getting in return and there is less chance of feeling used in a relationship. High-level Empaths tend to work harder when they sense the other person pulling away, leading to an even greater investment and more to be disappointed about. 
  3. All information is good information. When you learn that the other party has less of an investment in the relationship than you do, don’t let that feed your rejection-minded tendencies. It is important to embrace being your own greatest advocate!  You can choose to protect yourself rather than get punched in the gut and no one will think less of you!

As a general rule, Empaths tend to want to help and encourage. They share easily and have a Mi Casa Es Su Casa mindset. What they do not often want to admit is that they expect reciprocal actions. This is where that Su Casa mindset stuff is really important because those who are not so Empathy-leaning are surprised when they are asked for a reciprocal response that was not spelled out for them. 

Living emotionally healthy lives is a lot of hard work. Keep swimming!


Trash day was a little teary: New life sometimes means getting rid of the old.

Yesterday, trash collectors hoisted my sofa into the back of their amazing truck and within just minutes, it was shredded into a memory. When did trash trucks become so high tech?

When we moved to Colorado 16 years ago, one of the first things I purchased was a big leather couch for our family room. I bought quality so it would last, and even though it was on sale, it put us back a bit. To say that it has been “used” is an understatement. That couch was sat on, napped on, spilled on, snuggled on, everyday for those 16 years. In a weird way, it was a holder of some deep memories: Movie nights, game nights…and the place where the sick member of the house would lay to re-coop.  I remember sitting there to hear good news from my daughters’ days at school and also to hold crying members of my family when their day had not gone well. I was held on that couch in some very dark moments of my life. (It was also the place I was sitting when I saw the snake in my house and thought I would have to move, but that is a story for another day….)

In the last years, I went from loving the worn look of the leather to hating that my couch had holes. The worn leather was beautiful but the holes made me feel un-put-together and like I was not adulting well.  I even tried to repair it a number of times, using YouTube videos to assist, patching it up with a number of DIY remedies that worked for a while and then split like the old leather. Super glue and leather filler, it turns out, were no match for the aging cushions. So, even though it served us well, it was time for it to go.

Are there things in your life that have served you well but it is time for them to go? Are there some fresh starts that need to happen? As humans, we resist change sometimes, even when a change in our job, our activities, or our relationships could offer us a much fuller life. We are afraid of losing the positive memories from the old comfortable place and resist the work it will take to start again.

I attended a number of graduation parties this past weekend, where recent graduates expressed a lament for their time in high school coming to an end, mixed with an excitement to start something new. If they are like me, they will look back fondly on this time of their life but will also realize in a VERY short time that college is SO much better than high school! I was reminded that it is good that life forces some changes to occur, whether we are ready for them or not!

What changes do you need to make to help yourself feel “unstuck”, or even empowered, in a life of your choosing? Do you need a new couch, a new job, or a new adventure to help you to be more you? Are there activities or situations that should be life giving but they are sucking the life out of you? It might be time to graduate into the next season of life, whether you feel ready or not!

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,


Triangulation: Not talking about high school geometry

Have you ever been in a situation where you are given information that feels confrontational, by one person on behalf of another person? You might have wondered why the person being represented had not brought the issue to your attention, but you still felt an obligation to respond…more than not because you cared deeply about the relationship. It may sound like this:

“You really hurt her feelings when you….”
“He is going through a hard time and needs your understanding.”
“I feel uncomfortable about what I am hearing regarding ….”

While it is important to acknowledge that the person coming to you might have positive motivation, if you are left feeling misunderstood and manipulated, it is because you are. The approach, by definition, puts you on the defensive to not only the person being represented, but the new party who has taken it upon themselves to intervene. You might not even realize you feel uncomfortable with the situation until later, when the situation being analyzed gets worse before it gets better.

As a mental health therapist, I hear about situations resembling this from clients and like everyone, I experience them in my own life. It is called triangulation. It is a manipulation tactic that people use both intentionally and unintentionally when trying to get control of a situation that is bothering them. The people involved may be wonderful, well-intentioned, caring people but the result of triangulation is rarely positive; friendships are broken, marriages put at odds and work environments poisoned.

Emotionally mature people should speak for themselves


Even if well-intentioned, let’s be absolutely clear that Triangulation is a manipulation tactic. One person is choosing to not communicate directly with another person, and instead uses a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle. Both the non-communicator and the communicator are part of the manipulation as one is avoiding a job that belongs to them and the other is taking on responsibility that diminishes the intelligence of the person they think they are representing. Simply put, emotionally mature individuals speak for themselves.

Part of the reason Triangulation is dangerous is that triangulation causes splitting. That is where one person manipulates a relationship between two parties by controlling communication between them. Some of the less than enjoyable results of this might be an artificial rivalry or a result called ‘divide and conquer’ where two people are played against one another.

In the context of narcissism, an ever increasing diagnosis, triangulation is when the narcissist attempts to control the flow, interpretation, and nuances of communication between two separate people or groups of people. Ensuring communications flow through, and constantly relate back to the narcissist providing them a feeling of importance. Common scenarios include a parent attempting to control communication between two children, or an emotionally abusive partner attempting to control communication between the other partner and the other partner’s friends and family. A narcissistic person wants to ensure the other actors communicate through them but remain otherwise isolated. In some cases narcissists will use control of communication to drive a wedge between the other parties. This can be done by falsely making one of the people into a scapegoat for problems that the narcissist is actually responsible for or that are otherwise unrelated. In addition the narcissist may falsely credit the other person with saying or thinking something hurtful, or may put too much emphasis on an aspect of something that was said to them that ignores the wider context. (Morrigan, Danu, You’re Not Crazy – It’s Your Mother: Understanding and Healing for Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers)

Breaking the triangulation cycle is not easy


If you find yourself being manipulated in this way, I encourage you to get out of the way. I tell my clients to sit on your hands and put a lock on your mouth until you can talk directly to the person that is at the heart of it. If you engage, the situation can only get worse. But let me tell you, this is beyond tough to do because as was pointed out, if it triggers you, the relationship is most likely an important one and you might have to fight back the desire to “get the truth out there”. But the truth should only be discussed between the two parties directly involved, especially when both parties want to be emotionally mature adults.

Boundaries are hard to set and often the process hurts like a mama. The hope that one must cling to is that positive, healthy relationships await at the end.

With love,