What Are Emotional Boundaries?

Emotional boundaries are internal barriers that allow us to separate our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions from others. Setting healthy emotional boundaries is important because without them, we tend to allow the “stuff” that other people may be dealing with, cross over into our own lives.

For example, our imaginary friend, Julie, is a person with poor emotional boundaries. She allows the relationship struggles of a co-worker to completely control her thoughts and keep her up at night worrying. Although the relationship problems are not her own, Julie is fixated on and worried about her co-worker. She finds herself greatly impacted. She has trouble separating her emotions from those of her co-worker’s.

A person with strong emotional boundaries might be confused by how affected Julie is. After all, Julie can be empathetic and compassionate toward her co-worker without taking on her co-worker’s troubles.

For people without established emotional boundaries, there is a very blurred line between where their inner identity and emotions end and the identities and emotions of others begin.

What Causes Poor Emotional Boundaries?

Poor emotional boundaries often go back to childhood. If a person was raised in a household with parents who had a distorted sense of boundaries, they are likely to experience the same as adults.

Parents with poor emotional boundaries have difficulty separating their internal world from that of their child’s. They want their child to be just like them, with the same likes and dislikes, values, thoughts and feelings.

If a child in this situation thinks or behaves differently from how their parents believe they should, the child is likely to experience rejection from those they most seek approval.

Carrying this fear of rejection into adulthood is often what leads to poor emotional boundaries.

What Do Healthy Emotional Boundaries Look Like? 

Setting healthy emotional boundaries is crucial to having a healthy sense of self. People with unhealthy emotional boundaries often make decisions based upon what is in the best interest of others. Those with healthy emotional boundaries, while exploring how their decision will impact others, consider what’s in their own best interest. They don’t fear rejection for their decision. Some view this as selfish. Experts in psychology view this as healthy.

Let’s go back to the example of Julie with poor emotional boundaries worrying about her co-worker’s relationship problems. In this situation, Julie is allowing her co-worker’s struggles to invade her own internal mental and emotional space.

By setting a healthy emotional boundary, Julie can maintain her inner balance without sacrificing her sense of compassion for her co-worker. Julie, with healthy emotional boundaries, can say to herself “I can empathize with my co-worker’s problems for a moment. I’m here for her if she needs me. But, her struggles are not my responsibility.”

How Can You Develop Healthy Emotional Boundaries? 

The most important thing in developing healthy emotional boundaries is to get in touch with your inner thoughts and emotions. In order to set healthy boundaries, you must first know who you are and what you value. An easy way to figure this out is to journal about your thoughts, feelings, and stance about important aspects of your life. Ask yourself, “What are my top 10 values in life? What are my genuine likes and dislikes when it comes to ________________?”

Also, you may find it helpful to meet with a trained counselor or therapist to discuss setting healthy emotional boundaries. Either way, the goal is to understand who you are as an individual, without being heavily influenced by external forces.

Once you have a greater understanding of your own inner workings, you’ll be better able to tell when your own emotional boundaries are being crossed and take action to avert the intrusion.

Five Ways to Prioritize Self-Care During the Holidays

  1. Exercise!  Exercise is a natural mood-booster, helping to reduce stress, promote concentration, and kick depression to the curb. In only 10 minutes of exercise, your brain will begin to produce serotonin and dopamine—the same hormones targeted by antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. The holidays are busy, and it’s easy to skip your workout in order to make time for seasonal activities… but even if you can only carve out time for a 10-minute walk, it’s important to maintain the healthy habit of daily exercise.
  2. Get grateful. The simple act of asking yourself, “What am I grateful for?” promotes the development of serotonin and dopamine in your brain… even if you can’t come up with an answer! Get into the habit of thinking of something you’re grateful for at the end of every day—it will help keep you grounded in the spirit of the holiday season, while promoting a more stable and upbeat mood.
  3. Sleep well.  Staying up late to wrap presents or to enjoy the company of friends and family at a party is par for the course during the holiday season. But don’t let your late nights get out of hand. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, irritability, and heightened stress levels. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, eliminate caffeine after 2 p.m., exercise daily, and avoid eating for at least three hours before going to bed.
  4. Avoid emotional eating and drinking. The holidays aren’t joyful for everyone. Whether grieving the loss of a loved one, anticipating tense interactions with family, or experiencing financial hardship, the holidays often go hand-in-hand with higher stress levels and hard-to-handle emotions. And that’s okay… but allow yourself to feel these feelings, rather than use food or alcohol to avoid them. The more you sit with your emotions, the easier it will get to process them in a productive way.
  5. Stay present in the moment.  Each moment is a gift… that’s why they call it the present. Give yourself the gift of the present moment this holiday season. When you begin to get sucked into the stress of party planning and baking and shopping and wrapping… stop, and focus on something you feel good about right there in that moment.

Remember, most of the standards we hold ourselves to during the holiday season are self-imposed. Instead of creating stress, give yourself permission to sit back and relax a bit more. Ten, 20 or 30 years from now, you won’t remember that pecan pie you baked from scratch, or how you wrapped each gift with a perfectly spiraling ribbon; you’ll remember the good times you spent with your family and friends, laughing, and making memories.

Four Ways to Stay Hopeful about the Future

I’ve always believed that our thoughts are powerful—so powerful that they can influence what lies ahead. If we focus on our past difficulties and fears, we find ourselves struggling to nurture positive feelings about the next chapter. Here’s a plan for remaining optimistic.

1. Imagine the way you’d like your future to look.

Having a clear vision of what you desire evokes a sense of excitement, and issues an invitation to the future to pull you forward. Believing in your vision is the surest way to attract what you want in life; the key is to keep that vision energized with positive thoughts for tomorrow, regardless of what today looks like.

2. Move through your fear and let go of the past.

It’s natural for human beings to fear the unknown, and the future falls into that category; none of us can predict what’s to come. But what we can control is our mind-set. Don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid or because you’ve been hurt. Instead, acknowledge your fear, accept it, and walk through it with confidence. Letting go is like a mental, emotional, and spiritual delete button. It doesn’t change what happened, but it removes that event’s power to continue hurting you. Until you make peace with your difficult memories, that pain will continue to bleed into your current and future experiences.

3. Stop rehearsing your limitations.

Talking constantly about what you cannot do and do not have can become habitual, and talking about what you don’t want to happen—”I don’t want to be single forever!” “I don’t ever want to go through that again!” “I don’t want to be broke!” – can end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4. Live well today.

Often our lives are so overwhelming, over-committed, and exhausting that it feels like we will never accomplish everything we set out to. This leads us to believe that tomorrow will bring us more of today……..a day in which we’ll continue to be stressed. To pump some life and excitement into your future possibilities, you need to be joyful, peaceful, and grateful for what you have and what you’re doing right now. This means spending time resting, working, learning, nourishing, preparing, and loving. When we do things that keep us feeling alive and hopeful, we learn to look forward to a brighter and better future.

How to Spot a Child Molester

How do you know when a person is safe for your child to be around?  Answer:  You really can never be 100% sure because pedophiles and other brands of child molesters are master manipulators; but, there are some clues that can be indicators that someone is not safe for your child.

Ways to identify a child molester:

  • They are more interested in talking to your child than they are in talking to you.
  • They tend to be people who spend time alone with children; in particular, males who strategize alone time with children or one particular child.
  • Pedophiles often try to elicit sympathy from their victims by telling them sad stories about their own childhoods.
  • Child molesters are usually people you know and trust.
  • Child molesters do not respect boundaries – particularly those of children.
  • They treat children like peers rather than like children.
  • Most child molesters are male.
  • They place themselves geographically in locations where children are present – schools, parks, kids’ clubs…
  • They become involved in relationships with adults who have children, particularly single mothers.
  • They “groom” their victims with promises and gifts.
  • They manipulate their victims by sympathizing with them and tricking them into believing that they “really” understand the child’s situation.
  • They look children in the eye and appear to be genuinely interested and concerned for them.
  • They are incapable of having a healthy relationship with a mature woman.
  • Pedophiles tend to have “gaps” in their employment history.

At some point during the relationship an element of secrecy gets introduced.  The beginning secrets may be “innocent,” that is, not involving sexual content; but it is in the act of having a secret that the child becomes “hooked” in the relationship.  Once the molester realizes that he has gotten away with getting the child to keep a secret, then he quickly increases his level of physical boundary violation to the point of sexual contact.

A relationship between a child molester and a child feels very intimate.  Usually the child molester has violated all appropriate boundaries to the point that his relationship with the child involves elements akin to an intimate adult relationship.  In fact, many pedophiles actually believe they are having a real and beneficial relationship with the child.  The child enjoys the relationship to some degree and puts up with the sexual violation because the relationship feels deep and meaningful, meeting the child’s  needs to be seen and heard by an adult.  A pedophile is meeting the child’s needs for affection, acknowledgement, attention, and value.  The child is trapped in this elicit relationship, partly because it is meeting some of the child’s “felt” needs, albeit, inappropriately.  Unfortunately, this intimate relationship is extremely toxic, perverting the child’s desire for closeness, and confusing the child’s sense of how a relationship “should” feel.  Sexual abuse not only causes the victims to feel a deep sense of shame and rage, it confuses the victim’s perceptions of love, boundaries, and need for validation.

Another dynamic that occurs when a child is molested is that the child becomes deeply ashamed and she feels so humiliated by what is happening that she tries to push it out of her mind and pretend that everything is fine.  She is so horrified by the truth that she mentally runs away from it and will not tell anyone, let alone herself, what is really happening to her.

The best way to prevent the sexual molestation of your child is to pay attention to her.  Make sure that you meet her felt needs of acknowledgement, attention, and worth.  Look her in the eye and listen to her. Be interested in your child’s life. Let her know you are paying attention, you are attuned, and you care about her wellbeing.  Talk to your child about deep and meaningful things.  Make sure she is not being neglected or left to fend for herself.  A sexual predator feeds on children who are neglected.  Make sure your child is not neglected.

If You’re Feeling Suicidal…

If you’re feeling suicidal, call for help!


If you’re not ready to make that call, remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. When you’re feeling extremely depressed or suicidal, problems don’t seem temporary – they seem overwhelming and permanent. But with time, you will feel better, especially if you reach out for help.

Some things to consider:

Feeling suicidal does not make you a bad person.

Thoughts of ending your own life do not necessarily mean that you truly want to die—they mean, rather, that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. The pain of deep depression is intense. It is too much to bear for long periods of time.

What might be bearable to someone else may not be to you.

Many kinds of emotional pain may lead to thoughts of suicide. The reasons for this pain are unique to every person, and whether or not the pain is bearable differs from person to person. But even if you’re in a lot of pain, give yourself some distance between thoughts and action. Make a promise to yourself, “I will wait 24 hours and won’t do anything drastic during that time.” Or, wait a week.

Thoughts and actions are two different things—your suicidal thoughts do not have to become a reality. There is no deadline. There’s no time limit, no one pushing you to act on these thoughts right now. Wait. Wait and put some distance between your suicidal thoughts and suicidal action.

Reaching out for help

You can choose to live, but first it is important that you find some relief from your pain. To do that, you will need to find a way to increase your connections with people who will listen. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time. They won’t try to argue with you about how miserable you feel or to just “snap out of it”. They will not judge you. They will simply listen and be there for you.

Reach out to just one person. Do it now. Use your 24 hours or your week, to tell someone what’s going on with you. You can call a trusted friend, family member, minister, rabbi, doctor, or therapist. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as it’s someone you trust and who is likely to listen with compassion and acceptance.

If you don’t know who to turn to:

If you reside in Colorado, call Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners at 1-844-493-8255.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). These toll-free crisis hotlines offer 24-hour suicide prevention and support. Your call is free and confidential.

Even if your suicidal feelings have subsided, get help for yourself. Experiencing that sort of emotional pain is itself a traumatizing experience. Finding a support group or therapist can be very helpful in developing strong coping resources for the future.

Ways to cope with suicidal thoughts and feelings

Remember that, while it may feel as if the depression will never end, depression is never a permanent condition. You WILL feel better again. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to cope with your suicidal thoughts and feelings:

  • Talk with someone every day, preferably face to face. Though you feel like withdrawing, ask trusted friends and acquaintances to spend time with you.
  • Spend time with people who aren’t depressed. This can lift you up and make you feel better.
  • If you are thinking of taking an overdose, give your medicines to someone who can give them to you one day at a time.
  • Remove any dangerous objects or weapons from your home.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs. They will only make you feel worse.
  • Wait until you are feeling better before doing things you find difficult or unpleasant.
  • Make a written schedule for yourself every day and stick to it, no matter what.
  • Don’t skip meals, and get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Get out in the sun or into nature for at least 30-minutes a day.
  • Make time for things that bring you joy.

How to Choose a Therapist for You

(Picking the Right Therapist for You)

Finding the right therapist is critical in order to achieve your therapy goals and have a successful experience.  Just as you would make sure that your car mechanic, doctor or business consultant understands your needs and respects your personality, so too – and even more so – should your therapist.

You can get recommendations of therapists from friends, family members or your insurance provider, or by doing a quick Google search for therapists in your area.  However, no matter what the therapist is, whether it’s a new graduate from social work school or a seasoned professional with a boatload of clients, the most important thing to determine is if he or she is a good fit for you.

Different strokes for different folks ——–

Some people are looking for a therapist to primarily listen and offer them a supportive ear.  Others want a proactive therapist to give feedback and offer insight on their situation.  Perhaps you want a Freudian-type therapist to do deep psychoanalysis, or you like the more standard cognitive or behavioral therapies.  Take some time to figure out what exactly you are looking for in a therapist so you can better evaluate whether this is a good match.  If you aren’t familiar with different therapy styles or modes of therapy, that’s fine. You can ask your therapist about the different styles, and pros and cons of each.

You should also evaluate more general factors such as cultural background, language and personality.  Studies show that the more similar you are to your therapist with regard to speaking the same language and coming from the same cultural background, the better your chances of therapy being successful.

Trust is another huge factor —- you must absolutely feel that you trust your therapist to respect your boundaries and protect your confidentiality.

Interview your therapist ———-

It’s best to take some time to interview your therapist and ask them what sort of therapy they practice.  Tell him or her straight out: “this is my issue – how would you deal with it?”  If the response makes sense and sounds appealing to you, this is probably a good match.  If it raises concerns, talk about the concerns with your therapist and see if you can come to an agreement.   If not, you may need to look for someone else.  Make sure you’re clear about what you need help with and what your expectations are from therapy BEFORE (you get involved in a counseling schedule) your first session, so you can properly evaluate whether this is the right therapist for you.

It can take two to three sessions before making a decision about whether it’s a good match or not, and the clearer and more upfront you are about your goals and expectations, the quicker you’ll be able to evaluate the therapist and see if he or she is right for you.  If after three full sessions you still feel like your therapist doesn’t understand you, it’s time to find someone else.  And if you’re connecting and feel a real rapport, then go for it!

Human Trafficking

In 2013, the horrific act of human trafficking has become more prevalent than ever before.  It could very well be happening in your own neighborhood, even next door.  It is a heinous violation of human rights and of the human spirit, in addition to being a gross violation of a woman’s (and more often than not, a child’s) body.  It doesn’t occur just in other countries.  It is now widespread within our own United States of America.  The only way to eradicate or abolish this inhumane treatment of women and children is to report any incident you witness or are privy to, to the proper authorities.  Let’s take a stand for these helpless victims. Take action and do your part to stop human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Indicators

While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

Questions to Ask

Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?

Where to Get Help

If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement immediately at the numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim. You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim and you. If, however, you identify a victim who has escaped the trafficking situation, there are a number of organizations to whom the victim could be referred for help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance, and other critical services. In this case, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below.

911 Emergency
For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911. You may also want to alert the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below so that they can ensure response by law enforcement officials knowledgeable about human trafficking.

1-888-373-7888 National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. The Center is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States from a wide range of callers including, but not limited to: potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers.

1-888-428-7581 U.S. Department of Justice Worker Exploitation Complaint Line
Call the U.S. Department of Justice’s dedicated human trafficking toll-free complaint line at 1-888-428-7581 (weekdays 9 AM – 5 PM EST) to report suspected instances of human trafficking or worker exploitation or contact the FBI field office nearest you .This call is toll-free and offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the complaint line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin.