Have you ever felt that you were being taken advantage off? Have you ever had to give in to other’s need to the expanse of sacrificing your own needs? Have you tried to ignore your feelings of injustice when being asked to perform something for others? Are you someone who are so busy giving and doing for others and feel guilty when taking time out for yourself? Have you ever felt resentment or anger when being taken advantage of?

What are boundaries?

Boundaries can be defined as setting limits in the ways we interact with others, which conveys what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors during those interactions. There are three broad categories of boundaries:

  • Rigid boundaries: saying no to almost everything, keeping others at a distance, or avoiding close relationships, even with intimate partners
  • Loose/nonexistent boundaries: Giving in to all requests, getting too involved with others’ problems, oversharing personal information, or seeking to please others for fear of rejection
  • Healthy boundaries: valuing our own opinions, sharing personal information appropriately (not oversharing or sharing too little), understanding our expectations and making them clear by communicating, and respecting the decisions from others

Benefits of setting healthy boundaries

Even though some people might think that setting boundaries mean that we are building “brick wall” to keep people out or to stay at a distance from others, the truth is that setting healthy boundaries is known to have tremendous benefits. We are able to live a life that is consistent with our values and identity. We are able to promote our mental health and well-being. We are helping others to define what we will and will not hold ourselves responsible for. Additionally, keeping healthy boundaries at work can help us to experience more fulfillment and less stress in our professional life, which in turn leaves room for a better personal life. In contrast, a lack of boundaries can lead to an imbalance or unhealthy relationship because one partner may feel that his or her privacy was compromised or he or she has to sacrifice for the relationship. This imbalance relationship may eventually lead to resentment, anger, and burnout.

How to set healthy boundaries?

Setting healthy boundaries can depend on situations or environments. Our healthy boundaries at home can be very different from those at work. For instance, we might keep our personal lives separate from our professional lives by not sharing too much about our private lives with our coworkers. We might say no to a friend who wanted to meet up while we are busy with other commitment.  

Setting healthy boundaries require some practice. For instance, saying “no” firmly to something you do not want to do is one way of setting healthy boundaries. Sometimes, you might feel that you need to provide excessive reasons to support your convictions. However, setting healthy boundaries is respecting the fact that everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do.

Written By:
Dr. Ooi Ting Huay
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Creating Connection

“We must recognize that we are more than ‘homo sapiens’. We are ‘homo vinculum’ -the one who bonds with others. And these bonds are what will save us. They always have.” – Dr. Sue Johnson

Attachment science offers a way to understand our need to bond with others and how to repair relationships. It helps us understand the negative impact on social disconnection and loneliness.

Both of which are on the rise in many modern societies, especially now during the pandemic.

Despite modern technology, we have a hard time hearing each other.  We are sending messages to our significant others, yet they may not be able to understand what we are trying to say. Emotionally Focussed Therapy helps us tune in to significant others and ourselves. Guided by Attachment science it improves connections with ourselves, our partners, and our families.

In Couple Therapy, EFT has been the gold standard for years with lots of scientific data backing up the theory and clinical practice. EFT has been heralded by Time magazine and the New York Times as the couple therapy with the highest rate of success. It noted that couples who use EFT see a 75 percent success rate. 

The book for the general public on Couple therapy by Dr. Sue Johnson is Hold Me Tight and is described by Barry McCarthy, Ph.D., author of Getting It Right the First Time, as, “

A truly revolutionary, breakthrough book… the most important, valuable book for couples published in the 21st century.”

It takes the readers through a journey of 7 conversations through which safe connections can be restored and mutually fulfilling relationships can blossom. At first, couples must learn to see what is the behavioral pattern they are getting stuck in. Once that is clear they can decide to change “ the music” and behave differently. After that, it is important to connect securely and have trust that the partner is there for them. This will allow the relationship to become more solid and secure.

Not every couple is able to learn this from a book though. We all have blindspots and fixed behavioral patterns that make it hard to start the process of restoring one’s relationship. With the support of a trained therapist, they can successfully improve their relationship.

By improving connections with those we care about, we improve the quality of our lives. Emotions are key in organizing behaviors. “EFT is a way of seeing clients and their relationships through a systemic and experiential frame, a way of being with each client that promotes growth, as these variables are understood in terms of both these frames.” Dr. Sue Johnson, The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy.

Written By:
Allard Mueller
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
SACAC Counselling

Connecting Parents and Children: What is the Recipe?

One of the most popular bands of all time sang – “All you need is love.” But as a mother of two, I can say that even though love towards your children can be the most intense and beautiful feeling that a human can possibly experience, I strongly believe that in this case, love is not always enough. I hate disagreeing with The Beatles, but even to unconditional love, there is a lot more involved.

As a therapist, I frequently hear that parenting is not an easy task. When the child grows older and starts showing their own desires, it can be difficult for the parents to keep the children and certain situations under control. The tantrums can be frequent and the inability of dealing with it, increases the issues and decreases the positivity in the relationship. Having different perspectives and goals starts in childhood and are intensified as the children reach adolescence. This last is a very critical period in someone’s developmental, with a likely removal from parents’ relationship and some risk-taking behaviour, what can contribute to family conflict.  

Some parents believe that having an authoritarian style is the key to success, as some of them had this type of education and in a sense, they see how it “worked.” But studies indicate that it can lead to distance between the family members, creating a disruption in the relationship instead of a strong bond. So, using control, punishment and verbal aggression may not be the best approach in a parent-child or parent-adolescent relationship.

It is true that children and adolescent need rules, responsibilities and learn with the consequences of their actions. But it can surely be done in a gentle and assertive way. To value your child’s emotions, listen to their wishes and see their perspectives doesn’t mean to let them lead parenting. It means that you can validate their feelings and have the chance to explain yours too. And when dialogue is not possible, mutual agreements can take place. This will surely get you together and the fruits will be seen in the relationship: more harmonious with less misunderstandings and conflict.

Being an assertive parent is the good balance to teach your child responsibilities with love. If you, parent, dare to stop the autopilot and allow yourself to listen, learn and try things from a different angle, your child will react more collaboratively, with a widened repertoire and a better self-regulation and self-awareness skills. To conclude, as I can’t stand disagreeing with one of the most sensitive souls in the world, I can say that if you are battling with your offspring, “Life is very short (…) for fussing and fighting, my friend.” Dare to learn and do things in a different way. And if you fear to dare, or are struggling with the process, we are here to support you.

Written By:
Andrea Fernandes Thomaz
Counsellor & Psychotherapist

SACAC Counselling

Reparenting our Younger self!

The Inner child concept, is a trauma-informed approach that is also featured in the works of Carl Jung, Robert Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems, Somatic, and other psychodynamic therapies.  Reparenting our younger self is one technique, a small part of this much broader concept.

As we grow older, the way we meet our needs (for security, love and acceptance etc.) changes and evolve. The old patterns of coping that may have worked at that time, may no longer be relevant or effective now. 

Emotional neglect can be traumatic, leaves a deep impact on a person’s life, and dictates the way the person behaves as an adult. This can be indirect, unconscious, or implied and hence not always overtly noticeable. When our emotional needs are not met, we learn to people please, follow rules and avoid conflict. Or, we might learn to rebel or become attention seekers. We tend to repeat or recreate these patterns in some form or other later on in life 

For example, a client could present with a poor self-image and lack of self-confidence. The therapist might explore how her growing years were, her perceptions and their possible origins, her coping skills then and now, what worked and what didn’t. 

What meaning did she make out of the family dynamics and her role within the family, and in comparison, to her siblings/peers?
How did she know she was loved and valued?
How was appreciation or praise communicated? 
Is it possible that she is now more mature, has more resources by way of life experiences than when she was younger?
Does she have to hold on to the dysfunctional patterns of thinking and coping or can she let them go?
What message would she like to give to her younger self?

This awareness will most likely encourage the client to explore new possibilities and choose healthier patterns of coping that fit better for her now.

In a way, we are attempting to re-parent, be more compassionate and accepting of our younger self. We are indeed what our past is, but knowing something is not right and seeking help is the first step to building healthier relationships with ourselves and others.

Written By:
Shanti Achanta
SACAC Counselling