Feeling Bad? Maybe Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Boundaries are imperative for leading a well-balanced life. If you’re feeling the squeeze of boundary pushers and crossers, it might help to try what I call the 167909146_bdb8682d54_zFirewall Strategy.

Build your own firewall — a strong mental boundary. 

A firewall separates your stuff from someone else’s malevolent intentions. Computers use a firewall to protect against virus attacks. It works much the same way in encounters with out-of-control people. Let’s say someone starts honking at you and screaming because you didn’t turn right on a red light fast enough. You hear the driver yell, “Hey idiot! What’s your problem?” Clearly, you don’t have the problem, but having a strong mental boundary protects you when someone’s issue, bad day or judgment threatens your positive emotional state, as in the above example. A simple visualization or behavior can help you mentally define and see where someone else’s boundary ends and your firewall begins. Meet Give Away Girl Martha

She finds that whenever her husband comes home, he is in a seriously bad mood. He grunts, pouts, sighs, criticizes and complains. She tries to be empathic, listen to how he’s doing, ask him about his day, cook him a nice dinner, massage his shoulders. But after being home all day taking care of three kids, the agitation starts to rub off on Martha. “Bad mood?! What are YOU talking about? I’m fine!” Martha becomes agitated and they fight. Bad moods are contagious. Martha sees the problem regularly, despite expressing how she feels and making requests for him to stop this behavior. It’s not getting better. So she decides to build a firewall, a strong mental boundary between his stuff and her space.

Solutions at Work

With her firewall in place now, Martha has new strategies for protecting herself from her husband’s bad moods. She leaves the room and takes the kids onto the porch, or she puts peanut butter sandwiches in a bag, and she and the kids go for a walk. You got it, Martha puts a literal wall in place so her husband can stew by himself. His behavior is neither useful nor good for her or the kids. His frustration becomes their frustration. And since he won’t talk things out, Martha decides it’s better to just leave the room and focus on good things. I have another client who uses the Wonder Woman stance: She crosses her arms just like she saw beautiful Lynda Carter do on the 1970′s TV series. She says no one knows what she is doing, but it makes her feel strong, that she can deflect bad feelings effectively that way. (She says it’s really useful in her car — but not while she’s driving of course!) And a third client, Annie, told me she pictures herself in a phone booth, protected by glass. It helps calm her down and allows her time to decide how to respond.

Boundaries As Tools For The Give Away Girl

I’ve spent some time on boundary tools because I think that these represent the easiest-to-grasp, effective strategies Give Away Girls can use to win back their depleted selves. I owe a debt of gratitude to “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” a book by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Zondervan, 1992). This helpful guide contains excellent examples of how people can be deeply affected by a lack of boundaries and is written from Christian perspective with Biblical support. However, even if you aren’t this religion or any religion, it is still extremely useful. I recommend reading this text for guidance and support.

How do you protect yourself from the frustrations, hostility and bad moods of others? How do you stop those feelings in  yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

Follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.

Take care, Cherilynn Pic from Flickr

Are You In The Middle Of A Divorce Or Other Life Challenge? Here’s An Inspiring Story

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Lean Into The Learning Around You

Are you going through something really big like a divorce or an important life challenge? I am a big believer in looking for your learning. Inherent in that learning are opportunities for gratefulness. It is a lifeskill that if you don’t already have, divorce could be a time to start. After all, divorce is such a tumultuous and difficult a time. Instead of just watching the hard stuff come at you, look for the opportunities

Picture of my grandmother Wanda and her best friend, and twin sister. They supported each other through all of life's big challenges.

Picture of my grandmother Wanda and her best friend, and twin sister. They supported each other through all of life’s big challenges.

for growth and inspiration.

A Nasty Divorce

My friend Beth just finished with a nasty divorce. It dragged on for years. Her husband had tricked her into signing stuff she didn’t know she was agreeing to before the divorce, they had fights over custody… You know the drill. Yucky shenanigans all the way around.

Beth is a lovely woman-giving and smart. She is a good friend and mother. In addition, she was a good wife too. So, her husband planning for the divorce and springing it on her one day without even a warning was traumatic and dreadful. On top of that surprise, she had built a company on her own without any help with the kids or with the running of their household. Because of the divorce,  she had to sign a big piece of that company over to him. (That is an incredibly painful task for anyone!)

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Are You Too Codependent In Your Relationship?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Thanks Rita, for your feedback. This blog article is in response to your request.

As I lean in the codependent direction myself, it would be helpful to have a third example in this article — one of a healthy, balanced individual. Something to aim for, you know?-Rita

Givers and Takers

I just posted a blog about givers and takers. For women, a whole lot of them end up heavily in the codependent/self-sacrifice/giver healthybalancecategory. (Not always!) However, women do tend to lean more onto the extreme end with their self-sacrificing. This is partially due to our cultural expectations of women.

Ask any female if she struggles with self-sacrifice, being a people pleaser, or “the need” to be too nice! Expect an eye roll when she answers.

In my book, Stop Giving It Away, coming out in April 2015, I talk about my concept of detrimental caretaking (DC). Give Away Girls are detrimental caretakers. They are self-sacrificers who find it impossible or very, very hard to speak their voices, set boundaries and say no, fearing what others might think of them (“she’s mean” or “she’s a bitch”) or what others might do to them if they don’t go along.

Continue reading… »

Are You A Narcissist? Or Are You The Opposite? Where Are You On The Lifeline

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Are You A Narcissist? Or A Detrimental Caretaker?

I recently published several columns about narcissism and relationships. These blog posts received a flurry of reader responses: Some people felt they were dealing with a narcissist, and some deemed themselves narcissists. If you’re just now tuning in, take a look at the visual below. From selfless to selfish, see what’s on the far left. See what’s on the far right. See what’s in the middle.

The more we trend away from a balanced life, toward the extreme far-left detrimental caretaking (DC), the more discomfort we feel in daily life. What we give of ourselves feels increasingly out of balance. Putting first the needs, wants and whims of others becomes detrimental to our own well-being.


Neither extreme is good. Both extremes are emotionally destructive and make for destructive, unhealthy relationships.

Meet Cora: Extreme, selfless giver. As a dedicated nurse, Cora works hard every day taking care of other people. She tries really hard to get so much accomplished with her patients. She doesn’t turn down requests from her colleagues when they are feeling overwhelmed. She wants to be known as helpful, not mean. Cora volunteers at her kids’ school, even if she knows she is too busy that month. Cora has gained 20 pounds over the last 5 years, and she is secretly very unhappy. Some of the time, she even realizes she is unhappy. Her husband constantly criticizes her. When she heated up a latenight plate of nachos, he said “God, Cora! Are you really gonna eat all that? I thought you just said you needed to drop a few pounds. What is wrong with you?!”

Cora knows her husband doesn’t mean to sound mean, he has just had a really rough week at work. Besides, who could blame him, she thinks. It has been a long time since she has felt good about herself. The busy schedule, the not being able to say “no” for fear of making people mad: This has all taken a toll on Cora. The nachos she’s scarfing down after 9 at night is about the only time she feels good. Cora is a detrimental caretaker.

Meet John: Extreme, selfish taker. Cora’s husband, John, is totally the opposite. When he goes to work, he is thinking about how he can make himself look as good as he knows he is. He is the first to manipulate others into doing his job, while he manages to take all the credit. John isn’t that interested in his children. He believes it is his wife’s job to handle those menial childrearing tasks. Of course he can’t tell her that is what he thinks, or she might stop doing everything….

As long as his kids are getting good grades and letting the world know what a successful guy he is by their achievements, John has no complaints about them. His wife, however, he has much to complain about. Her weight gain embarrasses him. He is a guy who needs to make a certain impression! How are people going to know how special he is if they think she is connected with him? Her physical appearance annoys him. In addition, he is disgusted with how she gets all flustered and insecure around their mutual acquaintances. He deserves more!

Opposites Attract
Interestingly, the selfless and the selfish often are attracted to each other. For the women out there who fall into the extreme end of caretaking/codependency, it is important that you start moving toward the center—healthy life, balance and self-care. One of the best ways to begin is  by establishing boundaries. Usually, a competent therapist can help with either of these extremes. I have a colleague who talks about this dynamic much more in depthly in his work. Check out his book, The Human Magnet Syndrome, for added insight.

In addition, one of my commenters asked that I include a “healthy version” of a person in the middle. What a great idea! I will do that on my next posting.

Where are you on the lifeline? How is it working for you? We would love to hear about it.

Lastly, could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus. 


Take care,


Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com



Are You With A Controlling Partner? 11 Signs To Look Out For

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Are you in a relationship with a controlling partner? If so, this could be dangerous to your self-esteem and well- being. In fact, these could be signs or symptoms of behaviors that could escalate into violence. Here are 11 signs to be aware of:15023885737_178a7a574d

1. He/She doesn’t feel comfortable around your friends. They act anxious, around them and  interact in a restricted and tense way.

2. He/She puts down your friends or points our negative things about them. “I am not saying they are bad, I am just concerned for you,” they may report.

3. He/She doesn’t like your relatives. Usually, they start out liking them and then start saying subtle and then more overt things about why your family members  aren’t as loving, good for you, or great as you thought.

4. He/She wants to be in charge of things. This could mean finances, decisions about your life, decisions about the kids, decisions about how you dress or act. They say this is because it is in your best interest. Hmm…

Continue reading… »

Are You Worried Your Husband or Wife Is A Narcissist? 10 Characteristics

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

I just did an article on dealing with a narcissist and I got a HUGE onslaught of readers who were wondering if they were married to or in a relationship with a4111298019_1dfa1cf804 narcissist. It would make sense then for you to be feeling confused, overwhelmed, and lonely.  So, I thought I would hook you guys up with a checklist and a good resource.

To see if your spouse/partner may suffer from this, here are 10 characteristics that you may find in someone with this issue: 

1. They are usually very controlling.

2. They think that their way is definitely the right way to do something.

3. They are extremely prideful and love to be the center of attention.

4. They are hostile and accusatory when anyone challenges them.

Continue reading… »

Are You Divorcing/Dealing With A Narcissist? Know Why You Are Being Triggered

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Are you divorcing a narcissist? Oh, No!  No fun, hon. Or maybe your boss or someone else you know has this problem. I can help. First, let’s look at what it

What's your baggage telling you?

What’s your baggage telling you?

means to be a narcissist.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissists are extremely difficult to deal with. They are usually cunning and manipulative. They lack empathy, they don’t have insight into themselves, and they blame anything negative on others. Narcissists are gifted at creating conflict. Check out the Mayo clinic’s definition of the narcissistic personality disorder if you are unsure this is someone you know.

One of the key strategies in dealing effectively with a narcissist is knowing what they are triggering in you. Once you are aware of this, you can be much more effective in detaching and responding versus just reacting.

What’s Your Coping Style?

We all have coping mechanisms that we have developed from childhood. Some are good, but some are what’s called maladaptive and they’re not real useful. Jeffrey Young, PhD, describes these as schemas, more precisely as the 18 different ways people react (and they’re detrimentally self-defeating).

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How People Act Out When Feeling Threatened: Defensive Body Language

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

This is EXACTLY what Mr. Crazy Mad Beach Guy looked like!

I had an aggressive interaction at the beach with a guy who wanted to shove a sand toy into my mouth — “Do you wanna’ eat this?!!” he screamed, with bulging blood vessels pulsing in his forehead. 

Major mistake on my part: I borrowed a sand toy without asking. I didn’t want to wake the guy to ask if I could borrow it. Oops, I apologized. But first …

He screamed at me. I felt defensive and threatened. I rose to my feet, standing tall and stiff. It made me feel bigger I guess. He looked like a body builder. I stood still as he shoved the sand pail to within an inch of my teeth. I faced him straight on. “I apologize,” I said.

The incident got me thinking about defensiveness and about how we respond when we feel threatened. 

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Ever Felt Backlash For Being An Assertive Woman?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Jessica Chastain as CIA agent May,a in Zero Dark Thirty.

Just saw the Zero Dark Thirty movie again on cable. It is a movie about the decade long hunt and killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Exciting movie! I loved the main character of Maya, the CIA agent who was supposedly behind this capture. Her role was of a very  strong female. This is rare for Hollywood.  Although the movie is supposed to be fictional, some of the storyline matched the true narrative  in the Navy Seals memoir, “No Easy Day” by Mark Owen. Therefore, I give parts of this characterization  some credibility. In addition,  an internet search about the real CIA agent  behind this story revealed several credentialed journalists espousing that this female CIA agent really exists.

There is much about Maya’s characterization to admire. In the movie, Maya is a smart woman who did not let her co-workers eschew her successes. As an example, there was a tense conference room scene where the head of the CIA comes in to talk about Osama’s secret hideout. Maya is at first ignored and relegated to a back seat, not even allowed to sit with the other men at the conference table. At one point, the CIA Director looks around and asks who the girl is. Without hesitation she quips:

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How to Untwist Twisted Thinking Patterns

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Channel stress in healthy ways.

People think that all stress is external.

You or someone you know may be walking in these shoes: a single parent with two out-of-control teenagers; facing upheaval at work or job loss; raising children with autism or a disability; or caring for an elderly parent or spouse while raising children and juggling work, home and other commitments.

Clearly these situations create stress. Stress from others’ challenges spills into your life. Stress from your challenges spills into others’ lives. Now add twisted thinking patterns or what are also called cognitive distortions.

What a lot of people don’t realize, is that how you think and what you think about a situation help determine the level of stress you feel. David Burns, a noted psychiatrist, came up with a list of cognitive distortions. Burns found that when people interpreted events in certain ways, they tended to get more upset.

Continue reading… »


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