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Over the last four lessons, I’ve given you a crash course in tricky behaviour and issues and I wouldn’t be surprised if something like, Erm, how the hell does anyone ever address these issues? There’s so many!, has passed your mind.

What you will notice if you look at the A-Z is that there are a number of recurring themes and crossover between issues. You don’t need to be armed to deal with every last issue on the planet; what you need is to be able to recognise where they’re coming from and apply healthy boundaries, because being boundaried works regardless of what you’re dealing with.

Looking at the types of issue that crop up, they fit into seven categories of tricky that are defined really by the core issue: unavailability in some form, not knowing their own position and looking for validation of some form, trying to oblige you in some way even if it’s with a smile and seeming good intentions, trying to rule you and others, resistance for the sake of resistance, treating people as a means to an end, and upholding the law in their head. While some of the behaviours and issues you encounter may be distinctly tricky under any circumstances, some flavours of tricky are more misappropriations of energy that become tricky when they encroach on us too much.

ABSENTEES have been or are emotionally as well as possibly physically and spiritually absent from the relationship. They do not show up in the relationship but may expect the fringe benefits of one where they do. They dodge certain things like vulnerability, responsibility and accountability. They might live their lives in such a way that they’re emotionally draining (and possibly draining in other ways) even though they might mean well – they are absent from themselves in ways that when they put expectations on you or behave in certain ways, it compromises your well-being. If they have issues around blame or are very one-sided so insensitivity, empathy issues etc, they fit in here too.

FOLLOWERS are very ride or die, relying heavily on following the herd for safety, security and worth. They allow themselves to be directed and don’t question very much for fear of confrontation, rejection or even abandonment. As a result, in their quest to fit in, they will disappoint you at times and have loyalty issues because their greatest motivation is to gain the validation that they’re seeking, likely from one particular person that has then almost set the tone for their interactions. They are unsure of themselves and that confusion within can misdirect them, sometimes setting off jealousy, envy or resentment driven issues. You may be aware of the issues that they grapple with and have even done your best to support him/her but the relationship feels too imbalanced and you may have reached a point where you cannot keep letting stuff pass at the expense of your well-being.

OBLIGERS use hinted at or direct references about other people’s so-called commitments and duties and/or use helping/rescuing/giving/fixing/healing/changing and other learned behaviours, to create guilt that enables them to get what they want, need and expect. Whether they’re aware or not of their communication style or intentions (our hidden agendas are often hidden very well from us), you will always know that you’re dealing with an Obliger when it feels as if there are rules you have to follow or an element of repayment or reward. They might go down the people pleasing route but often in tricky situations, there’s an element of one-sidedness because the obligations are not mutual. While some Obligers have ill intent, there are plenty who misuse their energies and act from a place of low self-worth where they try to control the uncontrollable.

POWER PLAYERS are all about hierarchy. It’s all about winners, losers, best, worst, superiority and inferiority, basically power and position. They will try to elevate or maintain their position by force and because they are concerned with power, the typically have issues related to passive aggression and aggression. They like to rule people as opposed to being in collaborative and copiloted relationships so they are going to be excessively concerned with control, and they can be very political and critical. While each tricky family situation represents boundary issues, Power Players are the ones who will bust them in very bad ways.

REBELS are resistant to anything that seems like the rule or the expected, so even if they want to do something or they know that it’s right, if they decide that the person is trying to be or is authoritative, or that they’re being controlled, or that it’s what everyone else is doing, they’ll do the opposite. They often resist just for the sake of resisting and even when you’re not doing anything remotely like trying to control them, will argue for the sake of it or argue a point that makes no sense. Rebels will show you up and give you a hard time because their inner child is still running rampant and throwing tantrums and doing the equivalent of taking their clothes off in the middle of a party. They might feel resentful towards you if they feel that you follow the rules or are ‘showing them up’.

UPHOLDERS are about how they see things and lots of rules so end up spending a lot of their time, energy and emotions thinking about and trying to uphold what they think is the sense of fairness. While this might stretch into trying to keep the peace (sometimes when that’s not the appropriate thing for the situation and may feel like meddling or sitting on the fence), when you examine the issues you encounter with them, a lot fall into keeping score and storing up or even hoarding resentments that they then spend their time trying to uphold what they felt should have gone down. They might feel that there is favouritism or monitor what is just and unjust, so you can inadvertently end up getting on the wrong side of them. They won’t necessarily limit their upholding to their own sense of fairness – they might also get involved in other people’s fairness and try to uphold on their behalf.

USERS want something from you and will engage you in a way that enables them to get what they want, soaping or even greasing you up with flattery or whatever it takes. Whatever the tricky issue is, it will be about gaining an advantage and getting whatever they want, need and expect at any expense. Ask 99% of users if they’re a user and they will deny it but using always feels like using. With a User, it’s about how useful you are to them and when you look at your relationship with them, you will see that you’ve been flavour of the month when they’re in need and benched when not. They see people as a means to an end, even family, and probably get away with a lot of their shenanigans because they’re doing it with family so they might not see it as ‘using’ plus their using ways also trigger guilt because we tend to feel bad about thinking that someone is using us, especially if they’re family.


Journal PromptJOURNALING: Did you feel uncomfortable with any of the categories that came up? If so, explore your feelings about why. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable with other people’s behaviour because it reflects something uncomfortable in us or that we ourselves are also guilty of. I have been an Obliger due to my people pleasing ways. Any time I run into boundary issues with my family, when I examine my end of things, there tends to be an element of pleasing and then when they wear down my last nerve, a part of me is like, It’s not fair! I’ve been so nice!. The Obliger category is the one that’s most likely to cause discomfort but, followed by (cough), the Follower and the Upholder categories. Remember that this is about compassionate inquiry so take this as an opportunity to empathise with you but to also gain some new awareness about the situation.

TaskTASK: Decide which category your TFM is in. You will need to know this for the remainder of the classes.


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