This article is the prework for the 12-step program Start Your Healing Journey. Start Your Healing Journey is a free introductory program designed to help people improve personal wellbeing. This program will also help participants improve in their relationships. It provides participants with 12 basic tools for healing. This self-help program can be done alone or under the guidance of a counselor and/or healing group.

In Start Your Healing Journey, I will provide you with 12 basic tools for self-empowerment. These are the 12 foundational tools from the Identity-Values-Reflection (IVR) toolkit for mental wellbeing. They are designed to help a person who is stuck in a pattern of being mentally or emotionally unwell. They move us from a helplessness mindset to an empowerment mindset.

In this prework, we will begin to separate out what is controllable in our lives from what is outside our control. Only by clearly understanding what is in our control can we then move towards empowerment. We must accept what we cannot change. Just like we cannot change the weather, so too can we not change certain things in our lives. But there is a lot we can change with the right tools.

We must also recognize that we have far more influence on our lives than we might be aware of. With the right tools, we can change how we feel. We can change how others feel and act towards us. This type of change happens slowly over time. There are no shortcuts. It requires loving discipline and continuous self-care.

In this prework article, we will learn our first healing tool: how to create safe spaces. Creating safe spaces is a foundational tool for healing and wellbeing. To achieve personal wellbeing, we need to create for ourselves a healthy living environment. We need a safe place for growth and exploration. This safe space must be free of judgement, blame and shame. We must be able to observe ourselves with clarity. Without this safe space, healing and wellbeing are impossible.

If you’re ready, let’s begin!

This Article Contains:

Introduction: Stuck in a hurricane
Experiencing the hurricane
Feeling the hurricane
Navigating the hurricane
Seeing a path forward
Creating safe spaces
Common mistakes when trying to set up safe boundaries
Seeking refuge in a storm
Homework: a ten-step process to establishing a safe home environment

Introduction: Stuck in a hurricane

As a family doctor, I have encountered so many patients who come to me stuck. Sometimes they come alone. Other times they come together with loved ones. Let me tell you the story of John. John is a fictional character based upon several patients of mine. John is not real, but the things he says in this story are words that I hear often.

John is a 16-year-old who is brought in by his parents after he’s been found skipping school to smoke cigarettes and weed. His parents want him drug tested as they fear he’s also “doing other things.” From the moment I walk in the door, something is off here. Everyone is quiet and on edge. I feel it, also. Just walking to my seat, I feel like I’m tiptoeing over invisible landmines.

As I sit down, I try my usual icebreakers of asking how everyone is doing. John and his parents remain stiff. John’s head is buried in his phone, and he never once looks up to make eye contact. His mother forces a smile and spits out short answers to my questions. His father is so tense, the man looks like someone on trial for murder. He can barely contain the boiling fury that’s bubbling just below the surface.

After several failed attempts to get John’s attention, I do manage to get him to answer some easy yes-no questions about what grade he’s in and if he has siblings. His single-word answers are barely audible, almost like animal grunts. He delivers them without pausing his texting. Feeling a little frustrated myself, I come out with the big question, “So, John, why are you here?” After a long, awkward silence, I make it clear to John that the question was directed to him, not his parents. Irritated by my persistence, he fires back with a “Dunno. They made me come!” It’s the first sign of life since I walked in the room, the first time he’s stopped texting, the first time he’s strung a few words together. Progress!

After making sure it’s ok with John, I ask the parents to leave the room. On their way out, his mom whispers to me that John has been skipping school several days a week. They don’t know where he’s gone but suspect he’s doing drugs with friends. He comes home at his usual time in the afternoon, and they only found out about his missed days after the school contact them. He is no longer interested in sports and is now failing most of his classes.

Alone with John, he still doesn’t want to talk with me. It’s clear he doesn’t want to be here. He still doesn’t make eye contact, but he does put down his phone and just stare into his lap. I try getting him to open up with some more easy questions, but his replies are still one-word answers. I’m pulling teeth here. However, when I ask him about his parents or about school, there is a clear change. His breathing heightens and his cheeks go red. He’s holding back a lot, just like his father was. He tries again with the one word answers. It doesn’t take much prodding to let that steam to finally come out. “I hate school.” “I don’t like my parents. And they don’t like me.”

We pause there. I reassure him that it’s ok to be honest with me and that I can keep his answers confidential. I tell him this is a safe space where he can be himself. I try and validate his anger. I ask him if he finds it difficult to talk to his parents. He says there are a lot of arguments. There is yelling, intimidation, interrogations, threats, and punishments. His parents will chase him into his room when he tries to get away.

It takes some time, but John owns up to leaving school in the middle of the day and going to the woods. He hangs out alone. He admits to smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and drugs, although mostly marijuana. He also begins to open up about his frequent unwanted thoughts and feelings. He has intrusive thoughts, his own inner critic, that tells him he’s not good enough. He’s not worthy of this life. His parents don’t want him. School doesn’t want him. No one likes him. He should just get it over with. He’s contemplated doing this many times. I ask him if he likes himself. He admits that he does not.

Experiencing the hurricane

At some point in our lives, most of us will find ourselves stuck in a situation like what John has found himself in. We feel trapped and alone. We are helpless to escape. Our feelings are overwhelming. We may have dark, intrusive thoughts.

The particulars will be different for each of us. We may be like John, young and dependent upon caregivers who are simultaneously contributing to our entrapment. We may be older, struggling in school or a job that doesn’t suit us. There is the mysterious fatigue that is so common in new parents with multiple small children. There is the doom of being in a loveless marriage. There is the helplessness of caring for someone with chronic illness who is unable to overcome their hurdles. There is the alienation of being caught by a chronic medical illness that befuddles our doctors who are supposed to have all the answers. There is the snarl of alcoholism or drug addiction that eats away at one’s spirit. There is the despair of being an older adult whose independence is slowly, insidiously slipping away. There is the powerlessness of watching a parent fade into dementia.

Each of these situations is different. The specific feelings may be different. There may be anger and fury. There may be paralysis. There may be despair gathering ominously like storm clouds overhead. There may be the sense of victimization as the world pits itself against us. There is the helplessness as we realize, shockingly, that we lack the ability to confront our current situation. We find ourselves abandoned to our fate. There may be the betrayal that comes when outer forces abuse us. There is inner betrayal also as we discover parts of our inner selves have turned against our Whole. These inner rebels are aggressive and unrelenting. Their sting is more acute and vicious than anything on the outside. The cuts are deep and internal. They rip us apart.

Even as each situation is different, there are incredible similarities also. In each story, the world’s color changes to something else. Perhaps a gray or purple or red. Our environment lacks the vibrancy it once had. There is cloudiness and confusion. Our perspective shrinks and warps.

The nature of the storm is different for each person. For some people, the sky is an unrelenting gray–an endless winter spanning the horizons. Or there may be a dense fog of stale routines that keep us trapped. For others, the storm is a gathering of dark clouds, groaning and churning, a looming convalescence, menacing overhead. The clouds may take the shape of an oppressive black wall that steadily marches towards us, gobbling up all light. Or they may already be overhead, a looming convalescence, circling and choking. Still for others, the hurricane is in full force. The elements assault us with pelting sheets and bitter cold. The winds knock us around, and the sky spits out daggers of light. We battle to keep from being swept away. We search, in vain, for shelter, a place to regain our footing.

There are outside forces at work. These are easy to point to. Outside judgments assault us from every direction. We keep our heads low and brace ourselves against the forces arrayed against us.

If that was all we faced, we might have the courage to keep on. But deep inside, there is more. We know there’s more. For nothing matches the inner cycle of helplessness and secrecy and shame. The daily reminders. The indictment. The voice that calls us weak. A strong person wouldn’t feel this way.

Our own body is under assault from within. It is an invisible cancer that grows and spreads. It tightens and squeezes. It strikes in those dark places. Dark feelings and thoughts flood our minds. They attack with knifelike cruelty, like a scorned lover intent on destroying us. No one can help us because no one can see our assailant. But we hear it, and we feel it. It craves and it attacks. It calls us imposter. It whispers, “You are not worthy. You shouldn’t be here.”

Feeling the hurricane

This is a different type of hurricane. It is a hurricane of our mind, our spirit, and our body. Like the weather, this hurricane is out of our control. We cannot wish it away. We can yell and scream. We can try to command it. If we do manage to quiet it down, we know that it is only a temporary reprieve. The storm will return with a vengeance. If we run and hide, we know it still stalks our steps. It haunts us. It still calls out. Soon enough, it will find us.

We cannot command the hurricane. Neither can we hide from it. So, what do we do?

To escape the hurricane, we must understand it. The hurricane is power. It is energy. It is purpose.

To understand it, must feel the hurricane. We must feel its rhythms and its intent. It wants to help us. We need only realize that its energy is there for our use.

To calm the storm, we must help it realize its purpose.

The hurricane is not there to harm us. That’s not why it’s come. The storm inside us, whether looming or raging, is there for our benefit. It wants to help us. It doesn’t quite know how. We are disconnected from it. That’s why it attacks. It’s angry. It’s lost. And it wants to find us again.

We have to reconnect. Connection is healing. Connection is cure. But we’re not ready yet.

Connection is the end goal. Connection is the clarity at the mountaintop. We’re at the very beginning, the very bottom. We have a long way to go.

We can start our journey by recognizing that all feelings, even the difficult ones, have purpose. All feelings are important pieces of us. All thoughts are ideas to be cherished. Those inner parts that whisper them are the inner characters of our being. Each part carries a burden and pushes forward with an important task. Even if they are harming us, these inner parts deserve to be honored for their efforts.

To understand the hurricane, we must feel it. We must listen to its call. We must experience its power. We must soak up its cold wetness. Hear the words in the raging wind. Understand what it’s trying to say.

This is no easy task when we’re holding on for dear life. It may be downright terrifying.

And yet, this is the way forward. The storm is part of us, and we are part of it. We cannot fight it, and we cannot run. Instead, we must face it with confidence and courage.

We must be like Bruce Wayne who returns to the cave for the first time as a young man and feels the swirl of a thousand bats around him. He stands there, calm and sober. There is fear, but there is curiosity also. He outstretches his arms to the flow and rhythm of the creatures spiraling around him.

We must be the intrepid beekeeper who picks up his hive. Without protection, the bees swarm around him. They land on his cheeks and crawl on his nostrils. But they do not sting. If he has fear, he doesn’t show it. He is supposed to be there. He is part of them. They are part of him.

The hurricane is all those elements outside our direct control. It is outside forces, big and small. It is those friends and loved ones who assail us with blame and judgment. It is the communities and groups we belong to that are no longer meeting our needs. It is the undercurrents of brutal, painful history. It is the social forces battling to secure the future. It is the relationships and habits that no longer serve us. It is also the many inner parts we do not control. It is our autopilot, the machinelike being that drives us from one moment to the next. It is our inner children, marooned on islands, and the impossible burdens they carry. It is our inner critics that remind us we’re not good enough. It is the stagnant pools of our own cruel past, the lessons painfully learnt, the memories stuffed deep down, yet to be integrated into the Whole.

All of that together constitutes a mighty ocean of uncontrollables. So many aspects of our lives that we can’t dictate.

Then there is the small sailboat of our conscious being. The sailboat is our awareness. It is our power of choice. With its small sails and oars, we are given agency to navigate the undulating waters. That little boat is what we have to work with. It must carry us.

We would all love a beautiful blue sky, a calm ocean, and a steady breeze in the right direction. How often does that happen?

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves trapped in something far different. We are navigating a dense fog, an endless gray sky, a menacing stormfront, or a raging storm. It is daunting. The world becomes a scary place.

And yet, with the right tools, we can still get to where we would like to go. We can navigate forward.

There is a formula for change: Event + Reaction = Outcome. We cannot control the events around us. And so, our reaction will determine the outcome. If our reaction correctly complements the events, we can still go where we would like. This realization, that we are not powerless, is the critical first step.

If we attune ourselves to the weather, we can utilize its energy for our advantage. We can make the difficult weather work for us. It doesn’t matter if we’re dealing with a quiet, steady breeze or a raging storm. The principles are the same. Positive change occurs in a few basic steps:

  • Become aware of the storm
  • Accept that we cannot change the storm. We can only navigate through it.
  • Harness the power of choice. We can choose our purpose–our end goal. We can choose our path of how to get there. We can choose to reflect after each step. We reflect to check on our progress to see if we are still on the right track.
  • Practice loving discipline to keep going and build healthy habits
  • Give ourselves grace when we need to change direction because things aren’t working.

The bottom line is that we are our own best healers. We cannot rely on others. They are not in our boat with us. They cannot change the sails or man the oars for us. Only we can do that. Other people may be able to sail alongside us. They can model what to do. But only we can do the work.

Seeing a path forward

Let’s return to the story of John. John is stuck in a hurricane of negative feelings. There are the internal negative feelings: the self-doubt, poor self-esteem, self-loathing, lack of confidence in personal abilities, helplessness, and disconnection. There is also the bombardment of external pressures: verbal aggression, intimidation, interrogations, threats, punishments, lectures, shaming, judgments, and entrapment at home.

Once we see the full picture of what’s happening here, John’s response to his situation becomes entirely logical and predictable. He is leaving school and going to a private place in the woods to do drugs. Home and school have become unsafe places for him. He is going to the woods, a place where he feels safe. Once there, he is numbing his intense negative feeling with marijuana.

What can we do if we’re trying to travel towards a destination, but the hurricane winds are blowing fiercely in the opposite direction?

Most people make the mistake of trying to fight the winds. They paddle as hard as they can toward their destination. Eventually, the winds exhaust them, and they give up.

So, what is the answer? Most people in this situation see two options: continue fighting the winds or give up. It takes patience and imagination to see past the binary choice. We have far more options available. Any good sailor will tell you that you can’t sail directly into a headwind. But you can still use a headwind to power your boat. You must zigzag through the wind. Choose a proper angle of attack, and with the right technique the wind will propel you in a net forward direction. You will need to switch directions periodically to reach your destination.

At this point, it should be obvious what John needs. We needn’t ask him. His behavior does the talking for us. John wants to be happy. That is the destination he is trying to reach. Except all the forces in his life are pushing him away from that destination. These forces are outside his control. And so, he is searching for a place where he can feel safe. He is also experimenting with numbing activities that provide relief from his negative feelings.

We cannot wave a magic wand and make John happy. However, we can support him in meeting his needs. He needs to feel safe and also have relief from the storm. We can help John feel safe by learning how to create safe spaces. We can also provide him healthy relief from his negative feelings through active listening and/or empathy.

Creating safe spaces

Creating safe spaces is a foundational tool for human wellbeing. It is the first step for all healing. Healing, understanding, and happiness do not occur without it. To heal, we must first feel like we are in a safe place.

If we did not grow up in a safe environment, then it may not be natural for us to create one for ourselves or our loved ones. We may think that we’re providing a safe environment when in fact that is not the case. It is not enough to provide a home free from physical abuse. There is a lot more that goes into a safe, nurturing environment. A safe home environment is one in which all members feel free to be themselves and express themselves in a respectful manner. A safe environment promotes the mutual growth of individuals and of the relationships they are involved in. This type of personal growth should span multiple domains including emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical growth.

How do we tell if we’re providing a safe environment for ourselves and our loved ones? The easiest way is to observe our collective behavior. If people are acting aggressively or disrespectfully, then this is not a safe environment. If people are sneaking away, hiding in their rooms, or otherwise acting dishonestly, then this is not a safe environment.

A safe environment has the following characteristics:

  1. Open, honest communication
  2. Private spaces where people can be by themselves and have their privacy respected (typically bedrooms and bathrooms)
  3. Common spaces where dialogue and fair negotiation on group expectations can occur (i.e. dinner table, family room, etc.)
  4. Presence of safe, age-appropriate boundaries segregating these different spaces
  5. Freedom to come and go within a set of safe, age-appropriate boundaries
  6. Absence of drug abuse, nicotine use, or intoxication within the premises
  7. Absence of aggressive behaviors, including physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse or harassment
  8. Absence of judgment, shaming, blaming, comparing, interrogating, punishing, defensiveness, self-loathing, or accusing behaviors
  9. Absence of manipulative behaviors, including accusations, ultimatums, chasing, pleasing, lecturing, and passive-aggressive behaviors
  10. Radical acceptance of people as they are without the expectation that they will change into somebody else

If our home lacks one of these characteristics, chances are we are not living in a safe environment. I arranged all of these ideas in order. Start at the top and work your way down. How many of these unhealthy behaviors exist in your home? Which ones do you exhibit?

Common mistakes when trying to set up safe boundaries

This is a difficult list to commit to. It requires a daily commitment. I’ve outlined a few of the most common mistakes that I see people make. As a parent, I’ve violated the majority of these rules at some point. We need to give ourselves grace to be imperfect, but also hold ourselves accountable to keep working on these things.

  • Lack of respect for private spaces. Commonly, I’ll see parents invade the bedrooms of children during an argument. If a child goes to their bedroom voluntarily, do not chase or follow them. This is actually a healthy natural way for children to seek safety and emotionally regulate. Let them come out of their bedrooms when they feel comfortable. Children are given ownership of their bedrooms and can invite or disinvite other family members at will.
  • Using bedrooms as punishments. A bedroom is a safe space for family members and should never be treated as a jail, punishment, or banishment. Children should only be asked to go to their bedroom if they are acting aggressively towards other family members. Aggressive children can be given the option of going to their bedrooms or another place in the house, so long as they are able to remain safe in the place of their choosing. Make it clear that they are being asked to separate from the group for the purpose of mutual safety. Once they are able to emotionally regulate, they are welcome to return to the common rooms. And so, they retain freedom of movement throughout the house.
  • Drug abuse, nicotine use, or intoxication within the home. Other family members should not have to suffer the consequences of adult drug or alcohol abuse. While moderate drinking may be ok, adults who wish to become intoxicated should do so outside the home. Other substances should be kept outside.
  • Aggressive behaviors are tolerated in common spaces. This is especially the case for verbal abuse. Verbal abuse, like name-calling and accusations, should not be tolerated. Abusive individuals should be asked to go to a safe space until they are able to emotionally regulate and stop their abusive behaviors. Practice safe communication without aggression.
  • Not tolerating certain beliefs. There should be space for people to hold differing, contradictory beliefs. All respectful beliefs should be tolerated within the home. This is especially true for differing religious and/or political beliefs.
  • Not tolerating certain identities and/or identity exploration. A home that doesn’t allow individuals to be who they are is not a safe home. If children are fearful of disclosing aspects of their identity, then they are not living in a safe environment. It is the job of adults, not children, to create a safe living environment.
  • Presence of manipulative and/or dishonest behaviors such as judgment, shaming, blaming, comparing, interrogating, punishing, ultimatums, pleasing, lecturing, defensiveness and passive-aggressive behaviors. These common, immature behaviors require a lot of work to eliminate from our use.

The last point on manipulative and dishonest behaviors is the one that trips people up the most. That’s especially true for me personally. I’m a judger. I’m also a manipulator, a lecturer, a pleaser at times, a verbal abuser, and I like to get defensive. These are all things that I’ve had to work on. As I’ve seen improvement in these behaviors, I’ve seen my children respond dramatically in a positive manner. My children, ages 7 and 9, used to exhibit a lot of aggressive behavior after the divorce. As I’ve seen my own parenting mature, I’ve watched them model my behavior. They will now voluntarily go to their rooms, without being asked, when they become emotionally dysregulated. They then return back to the family room once they feel better, usually after 5-15 minutes. They also feel comfortable talking about things that bother them, including things that might upset me. I’m very proud of the environment of open dialogue that we’ve built in our home.

Seeking refuge in a storm

Let’s return to John’s story to figure out our next step. John wants to be happy, but all the emotional winds are blowing him in the direction of further unhappiness. We cannot just plow through the storm. Instead, we have to navigate it efficiently. In fact, we should use those winds to a positive end.

John is going into the woods where he feels safe and is doing illicit drugs to numb his overwhelming emotions. This behavior provides him with temporary refuge from the storm, but it does so at a long-term cost. He never figures out how to maturely navigate his difficult situation. Furthermore, he will establish a co-dependency relationship with illicit drugs that will arrest social growth.

The easiest thing to do in this situation is to create for John a safe home environment for him to return to. Within this environment, John will have his own bedroom where parents will not enter without invitation. Then there will be common spaces for everyone to coexist together. These common spaces need to be free from pressuring/manipulative types of behavior. They should be free from lectures, judgments, shaming, interrogations, punishments, and accusations. John must feel free to come and go througout the home.

Now this doesn’t mean that John gets to do whatever he wants within the home. The family can work collaboratively to come up with a basic set of fair rules, of which John should have a say in crafting. Respecting everyone’s boundaries is an important part of those rules. John cannot get intoxicated or use drugs within the home. But this doesn’t mean that his belongings will be searched or that he’ll get dragged to the doctor’s office for a drug test. However, if John acts inappropriately, he will need to bear some natural consequences for his behavior. He may be asked to leave the common spaces if he is emotionally dysregulated. He may be later asked to repair any damage that he’s caused by his behavior.

John should be free to decide his future. This includes deciding if he will stay in school or not. However, if he decides to drop out of school, he should be expected to enter into the workforce. After all, everyone must contribute fairly to household chores and expenses.

While taking these steps will not solve all of the family’s problems, setting up a safe home environment is the critical first step to navigating John’s storm. John should not expect the hurricane to disappear with this first step. However, he should notice that he is getting a little closer to his destination. The intensity of his negative emotions should soften. The next step is to use empathy and active listening. When presented with a safe environment, active listening/empathy should allow John to open up and begin talking honestly with his parents about what is going on in his life.

What if, from John’s perspective, his parents refuse to create a safe home environment? Maybe they refuse to stop their manipulative behaviors or possibly they refuse to stop their intake of harmful substances. This creates a very sticky situation. From John’s perspective, he is forced now to “grow up” quicker than he should have to. He must act as both the child and the adult in this situation. This is hard for anyone to do, but especially hard for children and adolescents. There will be long-term cost for an adolescent being forced to grow up too fast, but at this stage it may be our only option.

John must create his own safe space. He is already trying to do that by going into the woods. Unfortunately, this will provide temporary safety at a long term expense to his wellbeing.

John can create his own safe spaces in a few ways. It’s best if he does this with others involved, at least at first. He should identify five individuals in his life as positive role models. These role models can be teachers, peers, siblings, extended family, or medical professionals like a counselor. He should make a plan to meet with these individuals and ask if they have the energy and bandwidth to be part of his support network. A support network is a group of individuals who coalesce around someone to aid in healing. A fully functioning support network can replace a dysfunctional home in extreme circumstances.

In a support network, there should be a mix of individuals with diverse backgrounds and ages, including at least one professional and one family member. John should not pick five peers from the same friend group. At most, one or two friends out of the same group is enough. He needs to involve other individuals outside his close friends.

If they are willing, he should then plan to meet with each person minimally once every two weeks, although more frequent meetings are ideal. These meetings should occur in a safe setting. They should not involve illicit drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy behaviors. They can involve other healthy social activities, such as sports or playing games. However, there should be time set aside for 1:1 check-in’s. It’s during this time that John should be free to explore how he is feeling.

Notice here that these safe spaces may no longer be a physical space, like a home. It can be an emotional space for two people to connect freely with open dialogue. It can be a church, a park, a coffee shop. It can be talking on the phone. Talking online through texting or chat groups doesn’t count. A safe space for healing is not an online chat room any more than it is a friend group. Friend groups and chat rooms may be helpful for healing, but they do not constitute a person’s support network. They cannot substitute for a dysfunctional home the way that a fully functioning support network can.

Homework: a ten-step process to establishing a safe home environment

Here is where we begin the work with some homework. We cannot just read an article. We have to practice these ideas. We have to work at it on a daily basis until they become habit. But we also cannot overwhelm ourselves by biting off more than we can chew.

I will utilize Dr. Nicole LePera’s concept of the small daily promise. In this exercise, a person commits each day to doing one healthy act each day. Follow these instructions:

  1. Pick one unhealthy behavior related to creating safe spaces from the list above. Common unhealthy behaviors include comparing, judging, blaming, self-loathing, accusations, ultimatums, chasing, pleasing, lecturing, intoxication, yelling, punishing, and/or passive-aggressive behavior. Pick only one of these.
  2. Each morning, make a promise to yourself that you will put in effort to stop yourself from committing this one single behavior today. Notice that you are not promising to not do the behavior. You are only going to put in effort to find an alternative behavior to do instead.
  3. When a familiar tense situation arises, take note.
  4. When you start to feel a craving to do this behavior, take note of the craving. Where did it come from? How did it arise? Feel the urge. Don’t try to suppress it. Just examine it.
  5. If you can, pause whatever you are doing. Excuse yourself and go to a different place where you can reflect. Put some more thought into what you were about to do. Give yourself five minutes before rejoining your previous situation.
  6. If it’s too late and you’ve already done the thing that you were trying to avoid doing, that is ok. As soon as you recognize this, pause to reflect. Go into that separate private space and replay what happened. Ask yourself what else you could have done or said in that situation.
  7. At some point, you should apologize for the behavior, “I’m sorry for being so critical,” “I’m sorry for yelling,” “I’m sorry for chasing you into your room. That is your private space.”
  8. If you were able to stop yourself before doing the behavior, feel free to talk about what happened with the other people involved. Tell them, “I’m sorry for being so… in the past. I’m really working on not being that way going forward. I would appreciate it if you would help by being patient with me.”
  9. Give yourself credit for doing this hard work, whether you were able to stop yourself or not. None of this is easy.
  10. Keep up with the same behavior, day after day, until you do find away to replace that unhealthy behavior with something else that works better.


How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self