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It would have been very easy to write another post about the pandemic, still the most troubling aspect of our lives at present. While, with some luck, we might be rid of it sometime in 2021, that seems a long way off for many people. Our hope is the vaccine and we need to wait to see the results of this. So nothing about the pandemic but a look forward to my hopes for specific groups of people in 2021 based on what I see every day in my practice. However, first something personal.
This past year has been one that has brought opportunities as well as tragedy. As a family, we have also experienced loss but have luckily stayed free of the virus ourselves. We have worked hard in the business together to the extent that Inass, my wife, is now an integral part of what I do. We are a true partnership in every sense of the word and working together in or out of lockdown has been a joy. She has brought many improvements into the business, including new ventures, a new app and concepts like Group Therapy. I even finally have an Instagram account. It is now a case of business meetings over lunch and dinner and talking strategy while hiking! However, this post is not about me but others, so let’s start. Here are my wishes for certain groups for 2021.
Codependents and Narcissists: the majority of my work is done with codependents and dealing with the effects of relationships they have had with those with narcissist tendencies. It is the one concept which will survive the pandemic unscathed. In fact, codependents in lockdown with these people will have had it tough but we never have to forget that codependency is also about control and the push-pull aspect of these types of relationships would be alive and well. For narcissists, they are beyond help and I personally would never work with one but for codependents, I wish the following for 2021:
Should you ever stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect healthy boundaries and doesn’t allow them to be set? Definitely not. The healthy setting of boundaries is a major part of the 4 pillars of trust, honesty, respect and the mutual meeting of needs that go to making up a solid foundation for a healthy relationship. It deepens intimacy and brings security and stability to the relationship. Without boundaries and intimacy, we can only ever hope to have a superficial relationship with another person and narcissists will take full advantage of this in any way they can. People like me are always trying to make others see the value of setting healthy boundaries in the spirit of emotional honesty. That is expressing what you feel honestly and assertively when there is a feeling that a boundary needs to be set. In my opinion, if this is done consistently and without the fear of judgment, it can lead to a much deeper sense of intimacy in any relationship.
Boundaries define you as a person and how you want to be treated. We mostly all know how to set physical boundaries. We would never allow anyone to touch us inappropriately or to invade our physical comfort zone. The concept is exactly the same with our emotional boundaries. I always describe it as a house with a white picket fence. You have to decide who is allowed past that fence under what circumstances and who stays out outside. Those who break through need to be pushed outside. It is never too late to start this very healthy process.
So if you are in a relationship with someone and you know it is unhealthy, think of yourself in 2021 and give yourself the gift of boundaries and self-esteem. There is always something better waiting around the corner.
Parents: I tend to rant about parenting a lot in my posts. I am not a perfect parent myself but I have always looked for relevant resources to bridge that gap between my parent’s parenting style and something better. Anyone can bring a child into this world but not everyone can be a parent. The biological side of it is easy, what follows is not. There are some good parents out there but a vast majority are affecting the way their children will see themselves as adults badly. We all do it but we also all have the capacity to learn new ways of doing things. It is just not good enough to do what was done to us. The biggest issue is that parents do not learn how a child develops and consequently how their parenting style has to be adapted as the child grows. Especially devastating is the use of shame-based parenting to control a child‘s behaviour. This may work in the moment but carries the risk of parts of a child‘s personality being subdued forever. Much of my work with clients is based on working with shame acquired during childhood. We do our best to hide it but it seeps out eventually. I have often made the bold statement that parenting done badly, is the biggest form of brainwashing we can ever experience. Even more powerful than any cult, bad parenting can be very difficult to rectify. Given the resources, I would give every new parent a book on child development, covering the main developmental phases. Give yourself the gift of knowledge and apply it before it is too late.
Relationships: Or mainly the lack of them. I have many clients who want to be in a relationship and spend a lot of time on dating apps and going on dates to find the right one. This is fine but the online dating scene is fraught with danger and finding the right one is like a needle in the proverbial haystack. Filtering through the liars, cheats, married people and those looking just for physical gratification leaves a pool of potential partners that is quite small. Some would see it as an impossible task and so it would seem. It does make you wonder how we managed before technology took over. However, many people are looking for relationships to avoid looking at themselves and what they need to do to progress as an individual. It has been often said that adding a relationship to your life should be a luxury that adds to your individual independence, not a necessity. The best relationships are those who choose to keep their individual pursuits and “me time” and not enmesh themselves in another. For 2021, give yourself the gift of individuality.
On a general basis, I hope we all learn to place less emphasis on acquiring goods and materialism in 2021. As humans, especially in the West, we seem to have lost the sense of empathy and compassion for others and our community. We are firmly stuck in a “must-have” attitude which has prevailed, probably since the advent of mainstream technology. We must have the latest phone, computer, car, house and we live with the idea that items are disposable (often applied to people in our lives too). Hopefully, we will also eventually wake up to what we are doing to our planet and the other species who inhabit it with us.
Have a happy New Year and best wishes for 2021 to you and your family!!!
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.
For more information, please visit: www.drnjenner.com