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. 

Does life feel like riding a roller coaster and the exit is nowhere in sight? Is it hard to find pleasure in simple things that you used to love? Do feelings of sadness or anger set in for no apparent reason? Feel lost and don’t know who you are?

Our brains and bodies are on overload.

Never before in the history of mankind have humans been under more pressure. Employment demands have increased, putting a strain on our relationships and recreation or down time is limited. Socially, our lives have been put on hold due to COVID-19. No wonder we feel out of sorts.

What underlying cause is lurking in the background?

We all know carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. We never saw a need for a detector until we became aware of the dangers. Undetected, multiple health issues arise and long term exposure can be deadly.

Complex Trauma is the carbon monoxide of the mental health and addiction world. Undetected, it has kept people stuck in unhealthy coping patterns, feeling lost, angry, sad, depressed, anxious or addicted. Over time, it has devastated the lives of millions of people for centuries.

Blame our brain.

If our world feels out of control and we notice our lives have become a patterned theme of good times and then bad or happiness following sadness, is it possible our brains have been wired this way?


Complex Trauma is the underlying cause that lurks in our background. Our brains are the master organism that is designed to keep us safe. Becoming aware of the patterns it has developed to enable us to live, cope and relate, is the first step in 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 our negative thoughts for positive ones. True transformation and healing comes from self-awareness, uncovering the root cause and learning how to rewire our brains to achieve successful outcomes.

Life can and does change. Visit our website to learn how.

In my childhood, when my parents fought, I was never talked to after about the situation and how I felt about it. Neither of my parents said, ‘We’re sorry that happened in front of you”, “It isn’t your fault’ or asked, “How did it make you feel that you had to witness that?”

I didn’t have the tools to process what had happened around me. Instead, I would do one of two things, hide in my room, which led to stuffing or when I was old enough, flight or run to a family member or friend’s house. My feelings or emotions never mattered, I didn’t know how to identify with them because I was never taught how to.

I learned that when things were “good” between my parents, life was okay. It became my life’s mission to make everyone and everything okay.

After my parents divorced when I was 20, my mother fell apart. She had been with my father since she was 18. She lost everything she thought she knew; I understood and recognized that being a wife and mother was her identity. This was the time it came for me to “fix” everyone else as she wasn’t able to. The goal was to make everyone better and happy.

My doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to start seeing a psychologist at this time. I reluctantly went. My first visit he asked me how I was doing. I replied “I’m good”. He said “Krista, how are you really doing?” No one had ever asked me that before. Since when did I matter? He then said,

“Krista, you know it’s okay if you’re not okay”.

Those words changed me and my life after that. He gave me permission to be angry and sad and to feel those emotions for the first time. To allow them to start coming out. How to deal with them and sort out my childhood and how it affected me was a different matter.

That process has led me to today. I had to fail miserably before I could get back. RE/ACT finally gave me those answers. In writing these words, I realize, all of my heartache and pain could have been saved if my parents had provided me with the tools to identify and deal with my emotions and have had them themselves.

With Love,

Krista Michie 

Some of the main questions I get asked by clients during emotions week is “How do I calm down my emotional triggers?”, “What is the answer?” and “Can you give us the exact formula?”

As I’ve gone through the experience of figuring out how to calm myself down over the years, and as I’ve counselled many clients including children, I’ve learned there is not, nor will there ever be a one size calculated answer for these questions, and that frustrates many clients! Especially the ones who are more prone to wanting fast answers and quick results. It depends how they process their emotions (verbal processors vs. thinkers; crying physically vs.  talking it out) it depends on their personality (quiet, talkative, serious, silly, introvert or extrovert). It depends on the trigger or situation(private or public) and it depends on their underlying unresolved issues like shame and mental health as that will determine to what extent they distort the information in their heads and emotions and it helps give an idea of how long that distortion trigger may last.

I have learned there are 3 categories of regulation (which is just a fancy word for calming down emotions and getting back to baseline).

  1. Limbic brain regulation – right brain to right brain claiming of the fight, flight or freeze system – calming of the emotional/ body part of the brain. Remember this is the part of the brain responsible for immediate relief, instant pleasure/ reward, emotions, senses, smell, sight, sound, taste and body.
    • This is where you connect with the emotion of the person who is upset by empathy and validation of pain (even if it may be distorted! They will come around in a bit once they’re calm)
    • Empathic facial expressions, validation of he emotion through empathetic sounds or short phrases such as “Hmmm”, “That sounds hard” “I’m sorry that happened to you”, “That is really overwhelming” or “I can’t imagine how you feel”
    • Naming the emotion. In child counselling this is called “name it to tame it” – science states that simply naming the feeling that someone might be feeling will release dopamine into the brain and calm down the limbic system. For example: “Does that hurt?”, “That is scary”, “Do you feel lonely?” or “You must be angry”. All of these phrases help organize the chaos of the limbic brain.
    • Just look at them and listen, put your hand on their shoulder and not say anything.
    • Art activities or expression of emotions
    • Calm the body down or get emotions out through the body (yelling, screaming, hitting pillows)
    • Connecting with the earth elements is grounding for the senses (earth – sand, grass, rocks, trees; fire, wind; water – hot baths, hot showers, swimming, beach, a long slow mindful handwash)
    • Massage, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxing, body scan, mindfulness visualizations (PTSD coach is a great app)
    • Yoga and deep breathing together or apart
  1. Logic – left brain to left brain connection – connecting with the thinking part of the brain. Remember this is the part of the brain that is responsible for long term, big picture multiple perspectives, logic, reason, details, order and language. Some ways to calm down with logic:
    • The person that is helping you try to regulate fills out your thinking with other pieces of the puzzle that you may be seeing due to your emotional reactions (essentially they speak for your cortex that is currently out of order). They may remind you of the big picture rather than the immediate moment with phrases such as “I don’t think that person meant they do not like you by making that comment. Look at all the ways they have been consistent with you and cared for you over the years(and they list examples).
    • The person may help you calm down your emotions by problem solving the issue – helping you make a pros and cons list, or thinking about it and analyzing it from many different angles.
    • The person may help you by thinking of the long term consequences of giving into your emotions and impulses – “You will feel really bad about yourself tomorrow if you binge eat tonight, and you will probably feel worse than you do right now with shame and feeling heavy in your body”, “Maybe journaling is better” and “Let’s talk it out”.
    • Again, the focus here is words, language and using the mind – challenging distorted thoughts exercise through Cognitive behaviour therapy would fall in this category.
  1. Space – sometimes people just need to put the problem, situation on the ‘back burner of the stove’ of their mind for a while and distract themselves for a bit (with the intention of coming back to it later to process it). This could include:
    • Going for a walk, drive
    • Going to your room and watching a funny show, reading a book, completing some work or another task
    • Just going on with day to day life until you are ready and have the time and energy to sit down and do the internal work of processing. This may be a few days or a week or even longer and that is okay, again, if you have the intention of coming back to it.

A person who prefers space needs to hear phrases like “I love you, and I am here for you when you are ready to work this out”, “I’m making you a snack while you take a break from this”, “I will be sitting right outside your door ready to talk when you are” and “I’ll be praying for you while you take some space”. These phrases help the person know you are still with them in the space and they are holding you in their thoughts and heart, even in the space. It helps them not feel abandoned, but rather very supported.

Activities that can use logic and emotion: poetry and music

Sometimes a person needs a mix of all three. Sometimes they need emotional before logic. Sometimes they need logic before emotional. Sometimes they never need the emotional and only the logic. And sometimes they just need space and then they can engage in one or both of the styles. Another point is some people need to and prefer to engage in these styles on their own, and others need other people often. If you noticed from the above descriptions there are two ways to regulate – by yourself and with another person (or with your higher power). The ones that involve another person form amazing brain circuits to help the person calm down. This is called co-regulation (a fancy word for describing that another person is present in your pain and mirroring you for how to calm down which actually calms you down better and faster). The design of co-regulation is that a child is supposed to get co-regulation from their parents consistently. It is not until that age of nine that a child has the capacity to take all the skills their parents taught them and try to calm down on their own.

The goal is that consistent co-regulation helps one self-regulate more consistently and confidently. They are then able to reach out for co-regulation only then they really need it or are really stuck rather than every single time they feel uncomfortable.

My style is a mix of all three; but I generally default to needing the limbic brain regulation first. Once my limbic brain is calm either through a hug, crying by myself, with Jesus, with my friend, or a hot shower, then my cortex comes back online and I’m able to sort things out much better.

What is your mix of regulation or preferred style(s)?

With Love,

Marie Thiessen

If you are like me, you will have realized that one of the results of social distancing has been that internal boundaries have been more difficult to maintain. On some days, I haven’t struggled with them at all; but on most days, they have been more difficult than normal. What that tells me is this: I don’t change my internal boundaries unless my limbic brain has been triggered and has trumped my cortex. So, this social distancing has had a big effect on my limbic brain; and often, I am initially unaware that it is happening. That means that a very important battle for me everyday is to keep my limbic brain under the control of my cortex. This involves three things:

  1. Regularly stop and take an inventory of what is going on inside of my brain. Be self-aware
  2. Coach myself – talk to myself about what is healthy
  3. Do what I can to resolve a negative headspace

That may involve connecting with my Higher Power, talking to a friend or doing activities that motivate me and lift my spirits. Recovery and boundaries are easy to talk about, but hard to consistently implement, but this is where the battle is often won or lost. I hope you feel that, after this week, you have more tools to help you in this battle.

With Love,

Tim Fletcher

When I first learned about narcissism, a couple things stuck out to me. First of all, I realized that gaslighting as a child set me up to fall for gaslighting as an adult. After someone would act abusively towards me as a child and I would finally break down, they would ask, “Why are you crying?” and be even angrier than before because I was showing emotions. The message I received from this was that there is nothing wrong with my behaviour but rather the problem is that I was too sensitive. As a result I got into a relationship with someone with a lot of anger. When someone was abusive or treated me disrespectfully I just thought I was too sensitive to take it. I needed to actually set boundaries around the unhealthy behaviour.

The second thing that stuck out to me about narcissism was grieving the image of the narcissist portrayed. I coped with childhood pain by becoming the invisible child at home and the hero outside the home, which made me an excellent conarcissist. Unfortunately I couldn’t see it, because I only saw the issues in the people who hurt me. After being in a relationship for a long time I wanted that charming, sensitive, person back and had to accept that they weren’t real. You never get the ‘good’ side of the narcissist back, only a void of intimacy and unmet expectations. As a hero I tried to work harder to get the love I wanted, I was doing everything and getting resentful. As the invisible child I hid or denied my real desires, because I didn’t think they mattered.

The other trap is to blame or hate the narcissist and complain about them to everyone. I had to come to a place where I could say “This issue is hurting me and I need you to address it, whether or not you see it as a problem. If you don’t, I will have to step back from this relationship regardless of how you feel about the issue.”

How do you heal? I had to start with my own baggage. What was I afraid to lose? Why don’t I value myself? How do I let go of my fantasy of someone? These are all things that we need to face! I find that if people don’t do any inner work they don’t stick to boundaries. Indeed a little bit of narcissism can rest in all of us. I have had times where I felt like I couldn’t apologize even though I knew I was wrong. Pride is the root of narcissism and it’s a trap we all need to be aware of! Otherwise we can easily become the thing that wounded us in the first place.

With Love,

Kayla Nyugen

It takes courage to get out of unhealthy relationships that are wounding you. There are so many fears surrounding ‘abandoning’ codependent relationships such as:

  1. Being alone and without them
  2. Hurting them if you leave
  3. Never meeting anyone who will love you again

There is also so much fear in general when it comes to changing and facing the unhealthy things inside of us.

I first met Tim 11 years ago when I decided to reach out for counselling. I had already been sober for 5 years through AA at this point, but I had just lost an old friend that I previously used with through suicide so I reached out for counselling with the goal of processing that loss. Although it seemed as if Tim wanted to help me with that loss, he also saw that even though I had worked through the AA steps, I had many underlying issues that I had not dealt with. He definitely had another agenda in our sessions. One of the issues he told me I should deal with was the fact that I was holding onto an old using friend out of “loyalty” because we grew up together. We had been writing each other emotional letters and our romantic feelings would come and go over the years. I did not want to lose him but Tim said something to me that hit me like a baseball bat in my gut. He said “If you don’t let go of this guy, your growth will be very limited.” What?! Let him go?! I was terrified! I thought to myself, “How could I let him go? He would hate me! We’ve been friends for 15 years! I would feel so alone and empty! I have no one else!” I painfully wrestled with this decision, but I wanted to grow more than I wanted my old life and old friends, so I wrote him a letter saying goodbye. It was then that I began to form friendships with people on the same path as me, who loved Jesus with their whole heart and wanted to live a life of love, service and growth.

Once I let go of my old life, as hard, painful, and scary as that was, God was able to fill my hands with better things – healthier friends! Making true close friends in recovery was, and is, never easy for me.

It brought up a lot more of those ‘underlying issues’ Tim was telling me I had to deal with such as my insecurity, jealousy, shame and abandonment fears. At times, I coped with this well, but at other times, I would let control, manipulation, and anger get the best of me. One of my friendships in particular started off really well. We both encouraged each other spiritually; we travelled, danced, had awesome deep talks and she helped me heal from a lot of my issues. I had never had a close friend like this before in recovery! We blessed each other with wonderful things for many years! It felt so good to get that love, attention, and validation that I so desperately craved my entire life. After a few years, she went through some deep suffering and she changed, and I felt more insecure because of this and our friendship was never the same.

This triggered me a lot and after a while I began to think (subconsciously) that this friendship was the solution to my abandonment, insecurity, and shame issues. I pursued her even more intensely. I looked to her to look out for myself so that my emotional needs that were not met from childhood would now be met. I was hoping SHE would solve the soul wounds. I took one of the 12 needs (relationships) and overindulged that to feel okay emotionally. Thus, addiction to a person began, codependency took root and I began displaying some narcissistic tendencies making the entire relationship about my needs (most of the time). Addictive behaviours came out – impulsivity, terrible boundaries, using each other, etc. At times, we struggled with communicating needs and resolving conflict and just like an addiction, it gradually got worse and worse. I had become blinded and was in total denial at how unhealthy I had become for both of us. I got to a point over the years that the unresolved issues felt like a boulder we were trying to push up a hill. Due to a variety of factors on both our parts, we both were not in a good place where we were healthy enough to deal with all this baggage. We were feeding each other’s shame, wounding each other and making ourselves sicker. So again, I found myself back in Tim’s counselling office having that hard discussion about how I need to let go or it would keep me stuck in these shame and codependency behaviours. Thus, it was time to say goodbye for now. Grieving this friendship has been one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done in my recovery. I was in the anger stage of grief for about six months before I was able to move onto the acceptance stage. The song below is a break-up song: the lyrics are incredible, and it has really helped me put words to the toxic part of the friendship and come to terms with its end. I hope it speaks to you about a relationship where maybe you need to “let it go”, as much as it may hurt.

You Say by Lauren Daigle

“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough. Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up. Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low? Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know, ooh oh.

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak and you say I am held when I am falling short and when I don’t belong, oh, you say I am yours and I believe (I), oh, I believe (I) What You say of me (I) I believe.

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me. In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, ooh oh.

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak and you say I am held when I am falling short. When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours and I believe (I), oh, I believe (I) What You say of me (I) Oh, I believe.

Taking all I have and now I’m layin’ it at Your feet. You’ll have every failure God, You’ll have every victory, ooh oh.

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak. You say I am held when I am falling short. When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours and I believe (I), oh, I believe (I) What You say of me (I) I believe. Oh, I believe (I), yes, I believe (I) What you say of me (I) I believe (oh)”.

I’m carrying you all in my heart.

With Love,

Marie Thiessen

We are going to talk about trust and respect. As children or in past relationships, so many of us have had our trust broken to the point where we think we may never trust again.

For me personally, there was one major event that broke my trust as a child and I believe that it was the beginning of my Complex Trauma. I was raised in a Catholic family and we had many ‘rules’ of how to and how not to act. When I found out that one of the major rules that had been preached to us had been violated, I had such a sense of betrayal and it was the event that put a stop to my spiritual growth. I felt like my parents were hypocrites and they nor God could be trusted. I also feel like if my parents had admitted the mistake, owned it, and apologized I could have gotten over it but because it was swept under the rug and we were not allowed to talk about it, I did not have a chance to process the situation and allow my trust to be repaired. This one major event has impacted me my whole life and I had a lot to deal with when I entered recovery.

Today, lying is a huge trigger for me and I will not tolerate it in my relationships. Throughout recovery I have learnt to form relationships with people I trust and respect. Having those relationships is an integral part of my recovery and I believe everyone needs to work on building friendships and relationships with people that they can trust.

Relationship red flags are something that I found to be very revealing in my own life. Having had few boundaries growing up, I tolerated a lot of unhealthy boundaries in my relationships with both family and friends. As I journeyed the road of healthy boundaries, I learned which red flags I was not willing to put up with. The boundaries were hard and often painful but the resulting freedom and peace that I received in the healthy friendships was well worth the work put into it. I learned and often continue to learn that the relationships that are healthy will be those who respect your ‘no’ and will encourage you to maintain healthy in your choices.

With Love,

Shannon Block

I find it very helpful to observe the patterns in my relationships so that I can work towards establishing healthier ones. Let’s discuss the type of people we meet in recovery and the kinds of supports we need to have a successful recovery.

A healthy relationship consists of two well-intentioned people with good character freely sharing mutual resources of time, money and energy. On the other hand, we often get caught up in one sided relationships where one person is doing most of the giving.

When I first got into counselling, I had the desire to help, but my motives weren’t pure. I was often in relationships with needy people, or nobody at all. By finding people with more obvious issues, I could ignore mine and pretend I had it all together. In a sense, codependent relationships gave me a sense of worth and protected me from myself. However, this is not satisfying! I would live, work and volunteer in the inner city all day and every day. Eventually, I became exhausted and realized I needed to let go. Sometimes setting boundaries is hard because people can see me as selfish or like I don’t know how to love myself without feeling ‘useful’. The rescuer can easily become the rescued by falling trap to the lie that someone else’s affection is the antidote to your pain and weariness. I now realize that whatever I’m struggling with needs to be dealt with directly and comfort is only a temporary solution.

I also kept myself around broken people because I feared the rejection of healthy people. On some level, I thought if they didn’t need me, they wouldn’t stay. When I was growing up, I was given the message that I was undesirable so I thought a healthy, loving relationship wasn’t in the cards for me. Emotional abuse felt normal, so it didn’t raise red flags.

So how did I change this? A few ways! I realized that I stunted my own growth by only focusing on other people and began to work on myself. Sometimes I still crawl back into the familiar cave of codependency, only to drag myself out again when I failed to change another person. I started sharing on a deeper level, so real intimacy became possible. I have developed friendships, and because I am no longer controlled by pity, I can help others. I no longer feel ashamed of getting support. I also realized what is unhealthy, which makes it easier not to fall for things like gas lighting. I also learned that no matter how fun or exciting people are, what matters most is character. When I decide to trust people now, this is what I base it on. Of course these are ongoing issues but I am in a much better place than I was.

And with time, you can all grow and overcome unhealthy relationship patterns in your life too.

With Love,

Kayla Nyugen