Right now, we are all dealing with a lot. The world is topsy-turvy, and life just seems so…out of whack. But what do you do if you are dealing with all this, and you are stick at home or in quarantine with someone who drives you nuts at the best of times? In this week’s blog and podcast, I speak with bestselling author, speaker and clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud about setting boundaries during quarantine, dealing with difficult people during the COVID-19 crisis, how to help others without enabling them and how not to feel guilty for saying no.
In normal times, we all make use of the natural boundaries of space and time. We can say something like “sorry, I have to get home by this time…” or, “I have to go to work”. Now, with many of us stuck in the same place, we need to be more intentional about creating boundaries and the way we relate to our family, friends and loved ones.
Yet it is important to remember that your boundaries are only as strong as you are internally. You can say “no”, but if you don’t back that up with action and consequences, then your “no” has little or no meaning—literally! Your authority comes from who you are as a person. The more you can stand on what you say, the more you can enforce your boundaries and not give into manipulation. Don’t fall into the trap of justifying your boundaries with people who push the limits—this is a never-ending cycle, a vicious circle. Choose not to play their game. Remember, ‘no’ is a complete sentence. You don’t have to add or justify anything. Limits are part of reality. If the person does not like your limits, empathize with them, be kind, but stand your ground. Be firm. Let whatever they say be water off a duck’s back—don’t let them into your mind, and don’t feel guilty.
The most powerful force in the universe is love. But love does not mean that you can’t say no, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love the person you are saying no to. In fact, true love requires the freedom to say no. Each person takes responsibility of themselves and their feelings and reactions. If people aren’t free to say no to one another, then this is not real love—it is an involuntary relationship, where one person should take on the responsibility of both how they feel andhow the other person feels. Stand back, take ownership of your own emotions (including your fear!). You can’t control what other people do or say but you can take ownership of how you feel and act. You realize that you cannot control them, but you can control your own situation: you have options, which can potentially influence the way the other person responds to you.
When you set boundaries in a relationship, your genuine love for someone will push back their negative energy and emotions. However, if you start allowing yourself to feel guilty because they are manipulating you, you will get yourself into hot water. You will start doubting yourself and your intentions, which gives all that negative energy a way into your mind, brain and body. This, in turn, will affect your mental and physical wellbeing, which will only perpetuate the negative cycle, draining your mental energy over time, stressing you out and potentially leading to burnout. Love, on the other hand, immunizes you from negative energy. It builds up a protective barrier around your mind and body, helping you react wisely and in love. It protects you and your relationship.
For more information on the mental health and relationships listen to my podcast with Dr. Cloud (episode #164), and check out his website, podcast, Facebook and YouTube. You can also check out my previous podcast (episode #121) and blog on boundaries and mental health I did with Dr. Cloud.
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Podcast Time Stamps
2:50 Dr. Cloud’s work as a clinical psychologist
7:00 Time and space as natural boundaries, and how to enforce these during quarantine
11:30 Why ‘no’ is a complete sentence, and why you don’t need to justify your boundaries with people that push the limits
18:00 How love builds up a protective barrier around your mind
31:15 How to stand firm and take ownership of your own fear and actions when faced with a difficult person
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