Communication, Conflict and Coming To Terms


Communication for those of us who come from dysfunctional or abusive families tends to be about “you” type statements and typically stems from a conflict position where there has to be a “winner” and a “loser”.

“You did this and I did this and you said that and I said this”….

And we often find ourselves wanting to escape, feeling afraid of conflict or – in constant conflict as we defend ourselves.

What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be this way?

That we could learn to resolve our own issues and resolve conflict without it being “a fight” where someone is the “bad guy” in order for us to feel our own (sometimes abusive) behavior is justified.

A few things we can to do start changing this in our lives is:

1. Stop demanding that the other persons involved “get it” or “understand”

2. Let go of expectations of things you think they “should” or “should not” do or “could” or “could have” done or said.

3. Take ownership of our own stuff and learn to feel our feelings without needing to put them all over everyone else.

4. Focus on what you want from the situation and what you are willing to accept in the way of mutual compromise i.e. “interdependent” vs being dependent on them to do something so you can have what you want.

5. Speak from an “I” perspective instead of a “you” perspective. Saying “Im feeling irritated and need to wait to talk” is a lot different than “You pissed me off and need to get out of here”.

What other ways have you found to ease communication conflict?


 Want more on creating healthy communication?
Listen to our current podcast series “Communication Quicksand! Find and follow Amy Eden and Susan Kingsley-Smith at Blog Talk Radio here.
Get daily notes of encouragement, inspirations and information to help you create your own unlimited life at the Empowering Solutions Community page here.

Empowering Solutions Radio – Communications Quicksand: The Cycle of Drama


Susan, Todays show was wonderful. I can’t believe how well you know ME! So, So helpful! I am so glad I found you. I feel like I am learning all those things I should have learned growing up. Your guidance is priceless! ~Donna – PA, USA

  •  Today on Empowering Solutions on Blog Talk Radio my friend Amy Eden and I had a great conversation that answers questions like:
  • What is it about me that I keep getting in these abusive relationships? (OR “do I have a sign on my back saying “kick me”?)
  • Why can’t I live without all this drama? Am I addicted to it? (in other words – for those of us who learned to live in the fast lane; where there is no drama we can easily create some!)
  • So just how DO I communicate with my “dysfunctional family”? (Surprise! It’s not all about them!) 
  • I feel so on edge all the time – what IS that about? (“hyper-vigilance does not have to be a “way of life”…:) ) 

If you are looking to understand and break the cycle of drama/trauma and dysfunction in your life…you may enjoy this show! 

Listen here: Communications Quicksand – The Cycle of Drama

Then – I’d like to invite you to join the conversation here at the Empowering Solutions Facebook page and here at Amy’s Guess What Normal is page! 


Don’t forget to subscribe here (top right) for blog updates and the occasional newsletter….

And follow, share and like us at Blog Talk Radio! 

Defeating Depression


It’s a common understanding that dealing with “depression” is a real life issue for many.

What we most often don’t know and don’t hear about though – is that we can change this by learning to change our mind and check our lifestyle.

This article at Psychology Today asks and only grazes the answer to “can we heal our brain”? as it addresses the latest in neurobiology and the fact that negative thinking patterns and life experiences create a chemical disruption in the brain and – through changing our thinking patterns and creating new experiences for ourselves we can literally “change our brain” and thus – how we feel. 

And from my own personal experiences and research on theses issues I am giving a resounding “YES! We CAN heal our brain, our mind and our life (video).”

We can learn to change our brain, improve our health and start to become the creators of our “best life”.

What keeps depression going though, is oftentimes complex:

  • how we deal with caring for our physical self
  • how we cope when feeling drained or overwhelmed
  • a lifestyle of care-taking and “doing” and “doing for others” that “pushes” us beyond what we are humanly capable of
  • our diet/nutrition, food intolerances and allergies, high consumption of sugar or grains (gluten)
  • how we react/respond to life events ie “I can handle this” or “I can’t handle this”
  • the way were raised and the coping and life skills we learned – or did not learn
  • the sense of self we have and the “self-confidence” we have to be capable to deal with life on life’s terms
  • our ability to own that we can change our life vs being stuck with a life less than we deserve

The way we think and what we do affects the way we feel. viciouscycle

But – when we believe we have no power to change this for ourselves the cycle can continue for years, decades and ultimately devastate our entire life. 

This in turn perpetuates the cycle and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness to ever be free of the darkness that can take over our life.

We hear over and over about identifying “depression” symptoms – but we rarely if ever hear about the “how do I change this?” and – that this does NOT have to be something we struggle with “for life”. 

There are many “therapies” we can look at for assistance; CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has been shown to be an effective strategy to learn to “retrain our brain”.

And fortunately – this is a tool that we can learn to use ourselves to help ourselves. 

The biggest challenge? 

Is choosing to engage in the daily checking, challenging and changing of our thoughts that will in turn – change our life. 

Defeating Depression is not only possible but probable.

We can definitely change our life by learning how to change our mind.

Personally – I was told I would be “sick for life” and “managing” and coping was all I could hope for – that I would suffer “for the rest of my life” with this debilitating “thing” that seemed to overtake me…..and suck the life right out of me. 

Yet – I found that I was “clinically” and chronically depressed not because I was “sick for life” but because I had never learned how to create my “best life”.

Yes; its true. I changed my life by learning how to change my mind. free

It is also true that I learned how my past had set me up for this in that as a survivor of drama/trauma and dysfunction my power had been taken from me.

I was left to believe that I “had no choices”.

That my value lie in being submissive to others, the way they defined me and punished me for attempting to assert my own thoughts, feelings and desires in my life.

The truth is that I have many choices – the task is learning to over ride the thinking that tells me I don’t. 

In CBT, the aim to break the negative thinking/feeling cycles by changing something – what we think or what we do.


From a self-help CBT course; a resource that you can use to learn the basics of self-management and thought management.

My disclaimer is that while I do not necessarily agree with everything in this resource I share it with you today as a tool and resource to aid you on your own path to your own “unlimited life”.

An excerpt from this workbook:

CBT aims to get you to a point where you can “do it yourself”, and work out your own ways of tackling problems.

CBT has often been described as guided self-help, and this self-help course will help you learn how checking, challenging and changing negative thought and behavior patterns – can help you.

You can access this self-help workbook here:


Have you found the Empowering Solutions Community page on Facebook? “LIKE” us here. 

Build That Brain! #brainpower!


Too often those who come from backgrounds of drama/trauma and dysfunction continue to struggle with the after-effects of these early life experiences – for the rest of their life.

We get “stuck” in emotional states of anger or even rage, sadness that becomes depression and fear that becomes chronic anxiety. For some who have found life became overwhelming the only coping mechanism left can be to “shut down” or “zone out” aka “dissociation” where life goes on yet we are stuck in a time-warp and don’t go with it.

This is that place where we live our lives “reacting” to the world around us instead of being able to “respond”.

Today I’d like to share some tips that can help you learn how to bring those levels of stress down to a place where you are able to see yourself as the creator of your life and know that you can create a place of peace for yourself – whenever you want to.

In the past it was believed that the brain and mind were unmallable – unchangeable. That it was not possible to change moods, thinking patterns or behaviors; that thoughts, feelings and behaviors were ingrained from a place of mysterious genetic code and that was it. No hope for anything different.

Yet today we know that to be untrue. The reality is that the brain can be “rewired” from early life experiences and that we can do this through our mind; our thoughts and conscious intentions.

Neuroplasticity – understanding that the brain and mind are moldable through intentional creation of new thoughts and experiences allows us to take back our lives from obsessive thought patterns that disrupt our days and our lives.

We can choose to change our lives by choosing to change our mind and which path of thinking we choose to follow.

Keep in mind that this is not the same as avoiding the thoughts…this is choosing to acknowledge the past and its effect on us while choosing to live today instead of being consumed by yesterday.

How do we do this?

By using the tool of mindful awareness of our thoughts, experiences, reactions – and that we have options – that we don’t have to go there or stay there.

This – is a practice. Not something we “try”.

 We do it and when we forget to do it and realize we are back in the muck – we choose to return to it. 

Like building up your biceps or strengthening your back; to have a strong mind and brain we learn to consciously and purposefully exercise our mind and thus our brain. 

And in doing this – we can heal our mind and our lives.

The trick is to get rid of the idea that this has to be a big production or there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” and simply start where you are – then learn to incorporate this practice (exercise) into your life each day while not beating yourself up for missing a day.

Instead – simply notice “Oh…I haven’t practiced today and I’d like to build this skill so I think I’ll practice now”.

Here you go….the “how to” of developing your own exercise program to strengthen your mind and brain. :) 

Try this.

A tool that helps to develop this mind-muscle is that of meditation aka “training the mind” – learning to let thoughts pass by while focusing on something in the now – like your breath, a slow walk or the greenery as you sit outside.

The “practice” of “meditation” is simply developing the skill to choose your thoughts and thus choose to create a state of well-being. 

Start with 1 minute then work up to 5 minutes over a few weeks to see a difference in your ability to “choose” where you mind goes and thus – how you feel.

That’s it! Really – it is that simple although some days it may not be easy; we still have to choose to “go here” instead of “going there”.

Join us at the Facebook community page here to join the conversation!

I don’t need your permission!


Do you sometimes (or even most times) feel as though you are waiting for someone’s permission to make a decision or take action?

Do you feel afraid of making your own decisions or taking your own actions?

Do you vacillate back and forth, indecisive? Feel as though you made the wrong decision if you made a decision in your own?

shy-hispanic-girl-280x280Feel like a child waiting to get “caught” by disapproving parents or worried that someone in your life will criticize the choices you have made?

Do you feel stuck? Frozen? Unable to move your life forward?

I did too. For a very long time. And as I traveled this path I realized that this was part of the conditioning of the drama, trauma and dysfunction that I came from and was recreating in my adult life and relationships.

It can feel like this is soooo big and affects our lives in soooo many ways.

Yet – anything that is broken down into smaller pieces can be conquered and changed. 

Beginning with awareness of these feelings AND connecting it to my past experiences. This allowed me to see beyond the idea that something was “wrong” with me but that something had happened TO me that caused me to learn to feel worried, fearful and insecure; to respond to life this way and not have the sense of self or confidence or self-esteem necessary to live an “empowered” life.

Then – learning to build myself up instead of tearing myself down. Using positive self affirming statements like “I CAN and I AM doing this” and “I AM amazing” to over ride the programming and quiet the voices if those in my deepest memories that told me I was otherwise.

And doing this FOR myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me. 

Then – limiting and starting to separate and remove myself from relationships that put me down or needed to remind me how incapable or stupid I was.

We don’t need anyones permission any more.

The hardest part was learning to recognize that this is what I was doing when I couldn’t do anything. conquered-290x290

It’s the small steps like this that are the “daily grind” of changing our lives.

You can do this – and you don’t have to do it alone. Have your found us at the Empowering Solutions page on Facebook? No? Check it out here! 

I’m always glad to see you and welcome your notes – join the conversations on the Facebook page here!

Thank you for reading and “clicking to share” :)

An Empowering Solution: 3 Steps to Sanity

Part of the challenge for many who have experienced life and relationships that were either over controlling/abusive and/or over permissive/lacking parental direction is that we are left feeling powerless – yet often told to own up and take responsibility for our lives without having had the life experience of ever doing so.

Some of us were punished or shamed for attempting to exert any influence over our life and relationships. We often learned how to fix everyone else’s problems but grew up feeling powerless and confused as to how to make our own life better.

This could often leave us in a chronic state of overwhelm, anxiety, anger, sadness or depression. Sometimes we could find ourselves where we would “act out” in chronic drama or “act in” by just “going away” or shutting down. And sometimes we just put on a mask and did the “fake it till you make it” thing.

Today I wanted to share an empowering solution in learning a foundational simple – not always easy, but very simple – 3 step process, or formula,  that I can apply in any situation to ease my distress and confusion about “what to do” when I don’t know what to do.

First – being at peace with myself and to recognize where I’m at and accepting what “is” while releasing what was or might be.

That this is today and while it may “feel like” something from the past – it’s not.

Today is also not tomorrow so holding on to worry, fear and anxiety about what “might” or “could” or “should” or “Should not” happen – was not so helpful.

In releasing yesterday and tomorrow I discovered I could create my today and the tomorrow I wanted by learning to release my anger and sadness about yesterday and have hope for the tomorrow I wanted instead of the one I feared.

Second – think about where I want to go and the steps I could take to get there.

If there is something I don’t know that I need to know to accomplish this goal – then I set out to learn it.

For survivors of chronic abuse/trauma/dysfunction this step is really the foundation to our future.


Because in trauma/drama/dysfunction we are most often in survival mode – not learning mode.

Therefore – many of the developmental tasks that allow humans to function independently in the bigger world – never get accomplished.

A few examples of what I mean by developing the skills and sense of “self” that can enable us to feel accomplished, in control and empowered:

  • number 1 – was getting past the story that I kept telling myself that kept me stuck in my pain; learning how to shift from telling the story about what happened to telling the story about how what happened effected me. For more on how I did this check out these posts at my personal blog, A Journey.
  • developing a sense of “self” that is separate from others
  • learning to trust myself vs blindly trusting everyone and feeling disappointed and disillusioned about humans in general ie I didn’t know who to trust so I trusted no one
  • emotional regulation vs feeling as though I had no control over my feelings and emotions
  • emotional expression and learning how to effectively express myself to meet my own emotional needs vs feeling hurt and angry that others didn’t just “know” or “get it”
  • reading social cues so I could engage in healthy give and take in social relationships vs making everything “all about me” or – feeling as though I was fending off or protecting myself from others poor boundaries that felt intrusive
  • understanding assertive vs passive aggressive communication styles so I could get past the daily “drama” that was my life
  • understanding the difference between life “stressors” and the feelings of overwhelming “stress” that can shut us down when we don’t know what to do
  • managing my physical health so I could create health vs being dependent on “professionals” to manage “sickness”
  • recognizing and choosing healthy vs unhealthy relationships
  • recognizing dysfunction and my role in it so I can stop re-creating it in my today relationships
  • time and money management vs feeling as though I never had enough time or money
  • home management skills so I could create an environment that nurtured my soul and know I was safe
  • life management skills so I could create the life I wanted for myself vs just tolerating the life I had and no longer wanted
  • life and coping skills and strategies in general that I did not get in the abuse and dysfunction but I can learn now

Third – being willing to take the actions to do the first 2 steps over and over until I have achieved the me I want to be and life I want to live.

This is what “empowering solutions” is about – learning to cultivate the confidence to create our own “best life”. 

I’m glad you’re here. :) 

Susan :)

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Create the life you love – not “getting over it” but “getting past it”

It’s important that we are able to tell our stories, to be heard and have our pain, frustrations and justified anger at the losses we experienced at the hand of those who have hurt and harmed us – recognized and honored.

Regardless of the source of the abuse or trauma – its important to have our experiences heard and validated.

Yet, to have our pain “witnessed” by one other is different from chronically spilling our pain for the whole world – expecting to be validated at each turn.

It is important that we learn how to get past the re-telling and re-living of the story and find healing that we can use our stories to influence change and impact our own life and the lives of others if we decide to use our experiences as part of our life purpose.

The other side is that if we don’t – our past will become our today and prevent us from having the tomorrow we deserve.

Being stuck in that place of telling and retelling without any forward movement is often viewed as “complaining” by those who don’t understand that in telling the story we find healing.

It is important to find our “one witness” who can sit with our pain as we experience it in the healing process vs expecting family, friends and even strangers to empathize with our pain.

When we get stuck in “rumination” vs “revitalization” that comes from healing our wounds, we often can find ourselves either avoiding anything that might “trigger” the memories or chronically talking about it and reliving it in our todays – even though it may become an unconscious influence after this replays and repeats over the years.

We can ultimately feel hopeless, depressed, full of anxiety and anger when we have not resolved our past experiences.

The trick, if there was one, is to not seek validation from those who can’t validate what we suffered and survived and to get to a place where we can validate ourselves when we recognize we have returned to rumination with no healing results.

I’m not talking about “getting over it” but rather about learning how to get past it by choosing to shift from telling the story  about what happened and who did what and what a jerk they are to telling the story about how what happened affected us, what we lost, what we will never have, what was taken from us in the abuse, trauma, drama and dysfunction.

Our sadness, the grief, the pain?

It is in the “going through” that we “get out of” the reliving and retelling to finally shift from living a life we hate to creating the life we love.

Then the final task is to recognize that we don’t have to “stay there”. We don’t have to keep revisiting the pain over and over but rather to learn to accept the past as the past and learn to live in today – today.

For more on learning to use our story to heal ourselves visit my personal blog A Journey here: 

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when I believed I could.001

Learning how to live my “best life” began with learning how to create the life I wanted vs continuing to live a life of “less than”.

Many of us who hail from backgrounds where we were not allowed to be our own unique self by way of oppression, abuse and/or trauma – deal with a deep sense of worthlessness that can consume us from the inside out.

The trick, if there was one? 

Was to start learning how to actively engage in changing the ingrained messages that were telling me things like…

Something is deeply wrong with you…

You can’t do anything right….

Try harder….

Be better….

Be more….

You need help

And what I realized?

Is that I didn’t need someone to tell me what to do but rather that I needed to learn what to do for myself.

We can begin today with creating the kind of change that can change our life by  beginning to change the things we were taught to believe about ourselves. 

Today – each time those thoughts come up?

Choose to change them…

There is nothing “wrong” with me.

I may have been a victim then – but I am no longer a victim now.

My best is good enough.

I am perfect as I am and I can learn how to be more of who I want to be.

I am more than enough. 

I don’t need anyones “help” that I did not ask for.

Give it go – then be ready for the ride of your life…

The one that will take you to your own best life…

The one you decide to have.

Best always,

Susan :)


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Thanks always for sharing!

A Journey…: Your assignment if you choose to accept it…

Today…a share from my personal blog….A Journey…: Your assignment if you choose to accept it….

via A Journey…: Your assignment if you choose to accept it….

enmeshment, enabling and empowered

Compartmentalizing my life was something I was totally unfamiliar with.

Coming from dysfunction I learned that I had no boundaries because my initial instinct to protect myself from hurtful things was punished, guilted and shamed.

I learned to talk about everything all the time to everyone because in dysfunction I was responsible to know all things and reveal all things. I was not allowed to have a sense of “self” or any of my own thoughts, feelings, dreams, desires or wishes. Often this kind of boundary violation included the reminders that my body was not my own as well…

imagesI literally had no idea where I began or ended. 

I was a chameleon and became what my circumstances demanded.

So as I became a chronological adult – I was very much stuck in that childlike place where I had no privacy, no sense of self, no limits and no understanding of what was appropriate or inappropriate behavior for myself – or others.

Every day in all of my relationships – whatever was going on in my life bled into all areas of my life from neighbors, work, family and friends….I had no sense of limits. I had no way to compartmentalized and understand appropriate boundaries. I had no clue as to what was appropriate to share so I shared it all.

All the time.


My physical health, my “therapy”, the problem I was having with so-and-so, the “narcissistic” boss, the “anti-social a-hole”….that I didn’t get my laundry done, that the neighbors were keeping me up at night…the rash on my leg, that my daughter was _____, my son was ______, I was ______.

Get the picture?

Everything and all of my relationships were about me.

And I fully expected “you” to do the same.

The end result being that we could have a really great bitch & moan about how awful life was and what victims we were to everyone and everything, how hard we were working this thing, how difficult it was to get “help”, that no one “understands” just. how. hard. it. is..

UnknownThe other part of the deal was that my relationships were often rocky and filled with power struggles as we tried to fix and rescue one another, getting irritated when our “advice” wasn’t followed…

“If you/he/she would just _____ then everything would be ok”

Yet – as I traveled this path to wholeness and well-being I discovered that this particular trait was the trait that often violated others healthy boundaries because I expected them to be that “open book” and would feel intimidated by their healthy boundaries – often interpreting this as though I had done something “wrong”.

A natural response for someone from dysfunction who had carried the burden of being “good enough”….

And I couldn’t understand why those who appeared to have healthy relationships ie: a life and relationships I admired from a distance –  often pulled back or why I felt uncomfortable around those who did not engage in this kind of daily drama and what I now understand to be deeply inappropriate chronic self disclosure.

At the same time – I found myself continually engaging in relationships that seemed to oddly resemble the dysfunction I came from….

As the “hero” – I had all the answers for everyone…except myself. I could jump into any crisis…yet…I couldn’t manage my own life day-to-day.

As the perpetual “victim” – I truly believed that I was powerless over my own life and had no idea that I didn’t have to put up with chronic abuse and dysfunction.

As the “perpetrator” of wounds on others – I would often rationalize butting in, bullying or engaging in manipulations or power plays so I could be “one up” and justify my bad behavior and efforts to control my environment by controlling others.

Learning to compartmentalize my life and relationships was hard at first because I didn’t understand that in doing so my life would drastically change – for the better.

That I would feel less stressed and more rested.

That I would no longer feel the drive to have others approval in order to do what I wanted to do.

That I would no longer feel afraid of what others might think or say.

That relationships and reactions did not have to always be painful or volatile.

That I would finally find some focus and feel empowered to create my OWN life.

That I would finally be able to take care of and learn to resolve my own issues and problems when I let go of trying to solve everyone elses.

That I would learn its ok to have many friends and many interests and each of them could be separate.

That I could say “I don’t want to talk about that” and not die from fear.

That I could have my own thought, feelings, opinions…

That I HAD my own thoughts feelings and opinions.

Yes. Learning to compartmentalize my life has paid huge dividends even though I’ve had to let go of some relationships where it was not ok to say “no”. 

Learning to live my “best life” began with creating my “best self” and to do that I had to learn to see myself as a “me” vs a “we”.

There is a fine line between interdependent and dependent.

Enmeshment and enabling are different from being empowered.

It felt “normal” to be that “open book” because it was all I had ever known and I was naturally drawn to those kinds of relationships as an adult where I ended up recreating the same or similar dance of drama as in original dysfunction.

Learning to separate myself and see myself as separate from others enabled me to shift from unhealthy enmeshment and enabling to understanding what the word “empowered” meant.images-1

I finally began to see that I held the power to create the life I wanted and….

If it was to be…

It was up to me.