Ahh… the lazy days of summer have arrived at last, from what has seemed like a brutal winter and an unusually cool spring. It’s holiday time!  Kids are out of school! It’s easy to let routines fall by the wayside in order to make the most of this short season. 

Do we approach boundaries differently during the summer months than we do the rest of the year? Is that a good idea? 

Summer is the perfect opportunity to test our boundary skills.

Boundaries get a bad rap as none of us are excited about following rules. Some of us live by the understanding that rules are meant to be broken or that all the fun happens outside the lines. 

The more we learn about healing from Complex Trauma, we understand that boundaries are designed to keep us on a healthy track. Living within our boundaries brings us routines, peace of mind and a greater sense of joy.  They help us achieve personal goals and objectives. 

We all have internal and external boundaries.  

Internal boundaries are personal disciplines of what we allow ourselves to do and what we don’t allow. They need to include a balanced approach to our physical, emotional and spiritual health. We create them to stay healthy and meet our own needs. 

Examples: eat a healthy balanced diet, exercise, be honest, don’t gossip, set a reasonable bedtime to get enough sleep, live by the golden rule: do unto others as we will have them do unto us. 

External boundaries are those we set with other people in order for us to stay safe.

Examples: avoid or set time limits with toxic people, avoid unhealthy places, have someone keep our bank card if impulse spending is an issue. 

There are so many temptations during the summer months! Especially this year as we have the opportunity to celebrate in a mostly normal post-pandemic environment.  Summer fairs and events! Graduations, weddings, camping trips, barbecues and get togethers around the campfire with friends. All of these occasions are met with decisions surrounding food and beverage choices. Do we stay up late to enjoy the moment or stay on track with our normal routines? 

This is a tough decision. Lots will depend on where we are in our recovery journey. We may need to set limits to these activities until we become healthier. 

Stepping outside of our boundaries requires a lot of self-awareness.  Know our limits, adhere to our values, listen to our emotions and show respect for ourselves and others. 

For most of us, we can occasionally step out and enjoy those moments. We need to be mindful of our behaviours. If we step out of line for too long, gently discipline ourselves back into routines. Life truly is happiest inside our boundaries. 

Imagine our boss comes up to us while we are on the job and says we have been doing great work lately. He suggests we meet next week or so to discuss some changes.

Do we become curious and embrace the idea or feel paralyzed because we are afraid of change?

The only thing guaranteed in life is that everything is subject to change. Our ability to handle change comes from our experiences as children. 

Growing up in adverse environments or in Complex Trauma, change may have been a constant worry in our lives. Every time things changed, we may have experienced more hurt, pain and abandonment. 

Broken promises from caregivers and parents may have offered disappointment, and left us feeling unworthy. 

Or, there was very little change in our lives. Routines and structure were such an integral part of our daily lives, there was no room for change. This may have provided a sense of safety and security, but may have instilled a fear of change. 

Change may have been moving from one foster home to another. From one school to another. Too much change causes insecurity. 

In a healthy home, children learn resilience. They embrace change and something good comes from it. 

For those with Complex Trauma, change is scary. In the past they may have been subjected to teasing or bullying, or set up for failure. They are convinced nothing good will happen and a lot of stress is created with anticipated change.

We have no power to stop time. Change is part of our evolution process.

We see it in nature with the four seasons. 

Businesses grow, reorganize and restructure to become more efficient.

Relationships grow and change with time as children move from pre-school, to school-aged then off to post-secondary education or the workforce.

Our lives evolve and change as we embark on our recovery journey. 

Our perception needs to change. Believing healthy change will bring positive results and improve our lives is an important part in recovery. Change can offer us a fresh start. A chance to create a happy life filled with peace, contentment and joy. 

We may have a default setting to fear change when most of our experience has left us with negative outcomes. It is scary to change our thinking to expect positive outcomes. 

Let us show you how. Visit timfletcher.ca to learn more. 

We are all guilty of it. 

We start a book, only to leave it a few chapters in to pursue  another book or some other distraction. We start a sewing or craft project, only to abandon it in pursuit of another that looks more interesting. Or we may have a few renovation or yard projects that only need an additional hour or so of attention before the job would be complete but we keep procrastinating. 

One of the 60 Characteristics identified in Complex Trauma is Great Starters, Poor Finishers. 

January comes and there are many who make resolutions to become more fit, lose weight or any number of goals are always set with the best of intentions. Two weeks later, we tend to fall off the wagon and by the time February 1 rolls around, we have lost all our motivation. 

Examples:

  • New job: we excel at what we do for about two weeks. Then we feel unappreciated      because the daily validation stops or we don’t get along with our coworkers. Then we quit. 
  • We buy a house and have a few renovation projects we undertake. We pursue them with enthusiasm for about two weeks. We become busy and distracted, put the tools down and walk away. 
  • Gym membership: we are excited and determined to become fit and go every day for about two weeks. The momentum wears off as we have worn our bodies out and have not seen any results. We stop going.
  • Going back to school: we are super students for about two weeks. Then the course may be too easy, too hard, boring or the instructors are not providing us enough support. We quit or change courses. 

It is a brain thing.

New pursuits give us an adrenaline rush. Our limbic brains love a new challenge and we always start out full of enthusiasm, with the best of intentions. After about two weeks, when the monotony of the routine begins to set in, we discover it may not be what we anticipated or we lose interest.

We begin to find fault with the plan and we find a way to use someone else as an excuse to quit or abandon the project.

Complex Trauma? 

Many with Complex Trauma have a hard time focusing on one project or goal at a time. Our perfectionism may be holding us back if we are unable to complete the tasks without fault. 

Or …

We become hypercritical of ourselves and others when it comes to a goal or task. The first two weeks of anything is a learning curve. It is when we need to be open to training and expect some criticism and instruction on how to succeed.  If we are hypersensitive to criticism or feel like we are failures for not getting it right the first time, these are Complex Trauma traits we need to address.

There is hope.

Creating awareness of our habits and patterns and understanding why we are unable to follow through is the first step to having those projects and goals realized. 

Some of us had parents who were also great starters and poor finishers and they are our role model. 

Overcoming this Characteristic has great rewards. If we are great starters and great finishers, we:

  • New job: work for awhile and are rewarded by being able to support ourselves and our families. We are able to support a charity, possibly a care child overseas and they write us a letter of gratitude. We are able to save a bit of money and purchase a car, home or take a trip. Gaining experience can lead to promotions, or a better job down the road. We can plan for retirement. 
  • We buy a house and have a few renovation projects we undertake. Focusing on one task at a time, completing the jobs, fills us with pride at our beautiful home. Entertaining friends and family is rewarding. 
  • Gym membership: we are excited and determined to become fit. We work with a personal trainer who sets a realistic fitness routine. After three months, we feel amazing and see results. 
  • Going back to school: we are super students and pursue our studies. This leads us to work in our chosen field or in a career we truly love. We are rewarded with an excellent workplace and ability to create a fulfilling life. 

Our limbic brain in the drivers seat keeps us hopping around from one pursuit to another. Using our cortex brain, this provides us the discipline required on our way to living a healthy, happy, joyful life. 

Imagine there is a glass of water sitting in front of us that is filled half way. Do we see it as half empty or half full? Our answer can tell us a lot about our mindset. 

People who see the glass half full depict a positive attitude, optimism and a general feeling of all is right with the world. 

For those of us who view the glass as half empty, we may be victims of a critical and negative mindset. Is this common, but dangerous headspace, is one that can be learned from our parents or other family members?

Or, do we develop this as a part of Complex Trauma? 

Many of us may be critical and not realize we are. It is possible we do if we have a tendency to:

  • Complain a lot and blame others for our woes
  • Expect the worst outcomes from people and situations
  • Always are in a hurry – rush for time and have road rage
  • Gossip about others, complain about the boss, fellow employees, wages, hours, etc.
  • Ask others “How was your day?” but don’t actually care

How do we develop this mindset? 

If exposed to people who are negative and critical as a child, our brain trains itself to look for the negative as a protective measure.  If one or both of our parents were negative we adopted the same approach. We may have learned this way of coping drives people away and makes it easy to avoid healthy relationships or connect with others. 

Other possible reasons may include:

  • Our inner critic believes it’s easier to judge and find fault – this is our shame
  • Feeds our sense of self-worth or value – find something negative in order to feel superior
  • Grew up with a double standard and had to live up to unrealistic expectations 
  • Use it as an excuse to blame our problems and lack of happiness on others 

What are we teaching our children? 

Children who grow up with parents who have a negative and critical attitude tend to shut down, hide and feel they can’t be themselves. They may develop anxiety, depression and feel hopeless as anything they do or try is never good enough. 

They become afraid to open up, share their hearts, ideas and dreams in fear of being judged, criticized or put down. A negative and critical environment does a lot of damage to a child.

If we find ourselves resonating with the above information, we may be a victim. When we grow up in a family who gravitates to a negative or critical mindset, is there a more positive way to live?

Yes.

Complex Trauma is the underlying cause that lurks in our background. Understanding how our parents actions negativity rewired our brains, in order to keep us safe, is the first step to creating awareness. 

Evolving research over the last 25 years has exposed this field of study, opening new doors into successful, trauma recovery. We are pioneers in this field and our programs effectively transform Complex Trauma at the deepest levels.

It is more than developing a positive attitude or changing out negative thoughts for positive ones. True transformation comes with self-awareness. When we uncover the root cause and learn how to control our thought patterns, we can stop the cycle of negativity in our lives and see positive results. 

Life can and does change.  Visit timfletcher.ca to learn how.