You’ve probably heard the expression, “the blind leading the blind.” When it comes to trauma, anxiety, depression, defiance, misuse of substances, failure to launch, and the resulting negative relationships, this is an extremely accurate metaphor. People in unhealthy relationships are blind to the reality of their harmful behavior and the patterns that define the relationship.
The renowned poet Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” To put it in another way, “Healthy boundaries make healthy relationships.” For a person struggling with mental health issues and / or substance abuse, or simply with finding meaning in life, learning to foster connections that support their own growth marks the pathway to living a full life. At Red Mountain Sedona (RMS), our students and staff practice daily accountability to themselves and one another, thus setting the tone for creating these life-enhancing boundaries.
Setting Boundaries is a Vital Life Skill
Why is setting boundaries so essential to living a good life?
At RMS, we have found that setting and living with boundaries requires hard work and personal investment. It is a life skill that many of our students lack prior to their arrival. The good news is that by the time our students graduate, they have come to know themselves, including their limits and their faults, and, more importantly, how to exercise healthy boundaries. RMS students participate in daily community group sessions, where they dive deeply into the topic of boundaries and their application for successful living.
Our goal at RMS is to build a supportive and positive peer culture where all members learn to develop and abide by strict rules that apply to the proper cultivation and nurturing of personal boundaries. This environment resembles that of a healthy family. Creating this powerful awareness helps our students to return home and function more effectively within their own family dynamic. With the addition of “family coaching” during their stay, the RMS student is also uniquely equipped to evolve a stronger sense of confidence that supports continued growth within the family system.
Eliminating Unhealthy Relationships to Promote and Preserve Healing
An unhealthy relationship is a relationship between two or more people wherein the participants continually and unknowingly rob one another of essential life-giving freedoms. The “lost freedom” is a direct result of the blind support created by “dependent” behavior. The people in the relationship have no idea that they are harming themselves or each other; they simply cannot see that they are contributing to this mutual loss of freedom.
Healing is therefore not just about building healthy relationships; it is also about eliminating the unhealthy relationships from a person’s past. Learning to acknowledge and use healthy boundaries provides the RMS student with the knowledge, wisdom, and strength to move away from those who have helped to facilitate or support their abuse of substances or other negative behaviors.
At RMS, our students feel safe because everyone is accountable for living within the same boundaries. This experience encourages students to replace past negative behaviors and build strong relationships with others who are also engaged in getting better. Therefore, our focus is to establish and promote the principles and values of “healthy boundaries” by supporting the elimination of harmful relationships.
Breaking Free From Codependency
Any unhealthy relationship is fraught with conflict, tension, and destructive outcomes. Young adults who develop friendships with people who enable their failure to launch surround themselves with people who support their self abuse. Simultaneously, they eliminate positive people who would oppose these poor choices.
As these young people begin to heal, the opposite becomes true. At RMS, we provide them with a solid and supportive environment where healthy relationships replace the destructive ones.
Unhealthy relationships endure as a way to preserve the continued patterns of non-working behavior. In an environment where there is safety, peace, and renewed joy, RMS students develop healthy connections that replace these codependent relationships and make it easier to live a stable life. This process personifies the magic of Red Mountain Sedona where healthy relationships are built to thrive.
The End of Abusive Relationships
Unhealthy relationships are dysfunctional by nature and are charged with abuse of all kinds—physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual—all of which exacerbate existing problems. This abuse sometimes unhealthy-relationship exists within the family, and is often found in relationships outside the family.
After experiencing the beauty of being in a good relationship, and enjoying all the benefits it provides, our students are more able to make wise choices about with whom to build a relationship. This will be essential in the future, after they complete the program and return home.
Those who have suffered through emotional difficulties will tell you that it is very hard to end unhealthy relationships. And those who have successfully navigated “recovery” from mental health and other issues will also tell you that unless you terminate toxic relationships, it is almost impossible to stay healthy.
Healing is all about Reclaiming Freedom
Getting better after being in an unhealthy situation involves reclaiming two “lost freedoms.”
The first of these is the loss of the ability to be or become our best within a relationship. Any attempt to move away from or eliminate destructive behaviors creates instant friction and can draw harsh opposition. The other member(s) of the relationship may selfishly “fear loss” so they exert emotional or physical force to maintain the status quo. The person wanting to change often feels guilty and responsible for the discomfort, and then ceases their attempts to make an improvement. They feel trapped but are quickly comforted by continued use and other behaviors that maintain the status quo. At RMS, this freedom to become our best is the first to be reclaimed.
The second lost freedom involves having the choice to leave the relationship. People find their identity in relationships, even dysfunctional or unhealthy ones. If you are miserable, it’s always easier to be in the company of those who seem to understand the misery. The members of the relationship have formed identities that are defined by what they contribute to the situation, even if it is a negative contribution. Their fear of change causes discomfort, and energy is exerted to prevent change.
Finally, in codependent relationships, the negative mechanisms of support for one another are often connected with the continued abuse of drugs and alcohol, and / or other unhealthy behaviors such as isolating, avoiding, and hiding from genuine feelings. At RMS, this is the second freedom our students reclaim—the strength to leave these dysfunctional relationships.
Exercising this choice is usually the only way that our students can improve their health over the long term. We provide the emotional support, as well as the brass-tacks relationship skills, to help our students do just that.