We all understand what it means to feel guilty. 

When we do something to step out of our boundaries, or something selfish or hurtful to others, guilt arises in an attempt to get us to fess up and resolve the issue. If we don’t, our conscience will eat away at us. 

This built-in alarm is designed to keep us on track with what is right and wrong. 

In Complex Trauma, we can develop a poorly trained conscience that makes us feel a false guilt. 

False guilt is when we are made to feel guilty or responsible when we have done nothing wrong. 

There are five causes where false guilt occurs;

1. Parents blame us for their emotional state, addiction or we are used as a reason or excuse not to have our needs met. 

• “You are the reason mom/dad are unhappy.” “It’s your fault that I …” 

2. We take responsibility to fill the unmet needs of our parents or siblings.

• Unable to protect mom or siblings from abuse, addiction, etc. 

3. Unrealistic expectations of ourselves. 

• Not being perfect, not reading our parents’ minds, we must be bad to be neglected or abused. 

4. Guilt is our default setting.

• Find something wrong in everything we do, overanalyze or are often hard on ourselves. 

5. Unhealthy institutions such as some churches or support groups.

• Made to feel guilty for grey-area or debatable things such as tattoos, piercings, hair length or incorrect standard of spirituality. If we challenge or disagree with the authority or leaders, we are made to feel we are bad. 

What is behind false guilt? 

When parents or authority figures don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, they distort their reality and point the finger at others. They transfer this away from themselves and make us believe it is all our fault. 

While this blog is just the tip of the iceberg to a deeper topic, it is designed to raise awareness. 

The next time we are made to feel guilty for something we didn’t do, question the issue. Sort out the situation to find the truth. Whose responsibility is it? If we are not responsible, put it in perspective and lay the blame where it rightfully belongs. 

We are only responsible for ourselves and our actions. That is a tall-enough order without taking on other peoples’ emotions and shortcomings. To learn more, follow the links and join us in our LIFT Online Learning program

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. 

People will try to manipulate your boundaries, and it’s extremely useful to know how, before it happens. This way you can be prepared with a response. Often, manipulation occurs when they can’t trust us to meet their own needs out of our own free will. They have to learn that if they find healthy people, the healthy people may actually care about their needs.

Personally, I have moved boundaries for multiple reasons. One was simply a fear of losing what I thought I was getting out of the relationship and another was a fear of losing approval or respect. I also feared people’s anger, feeling at times like I was on the edge of being physically hurt. I had the sense that no one would protect me because my dad in his passivity did not protect me from my mom’s anger. Rather he would make excuses like “That’s the way she was raised.” I was also taught as a Christian to see the beauty in people but some of these messages led me to overlook negative behaviour as opposed to confronting it. I held onto their “potential” even if they weren’t taking the necessary steps to fulfill it.

I used to get sucked into pity as well. If I felt sorry for them, I was powerless to maintain boundaries. That is probably one of the biggest adjustments I have made and allows me to stay in a helping profession without losing myself. I have to be honest that I have gotten into the “silent treatment war” where it’s basically a contest to see who can use the silent treatment the longest. I actually had to laugh when I wrote that, because the immaturity is kind of ridiculous. I have also caved to ‘love bombs’ at some point and realized that I needed intense pursuit to soothe my insecurity.

If I had this information back then, things might have gone a lot differently! That’s why getting the knowledge and tools is so powerful. The thing I encourage you to do is to get a lot of support for yourself when you first start setting boundaries with difficult people. It can feel like a vulnerable time and it’s easy to give in without any help.

With Love, 

Kayla Nyugen

Tim has talked about examples of boundaries in dysfunctional homes and although I believe I can write a novel on this from my own family history and life experiences, I will keep it brief.

As children, boundaries were not an option, we were to do what we were told with no questions or pushback and never challenge authority, as it was viewed as disrespectful even when a child’s needs were not met.

As I got older, my self respect and knowledge of what I was allowed to say no to, got blurred. If someone challenged me or told me I was unworthy of a boundary. I accepted it and diminished my own being. Encompassing all this pain I eventually turned to vengeful acts and became manipulative and shameful towards others.

It was not until I reached recovery that I came to realize my boundaries were what could protect me, build me up, and give me back my value. That boundaries would and should be respected by those who care for you.

To this day, I constantly remind myself I am worth the boundaries I have set and I am allowed to protect my own peace.

With Love,

Kari Keam