11/25/2014 11:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Surviving the Holidays With Healthy Boundaries

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The holidays can be a time filled with joy and peace and giving... and they can also be a time of visiting with family whom you moved far away from for a reason. If you would rather stick needles in your eyes than sit across from them at the dinner table, you are probably dealing with a toxic person. And the best way to deal with a toxic person is with healthy boundaries.

Let me offer up this metaphor. People are like plants. We need water and sunlight and nutritious soil in order to grow to our full potential.

Each seed, even though it has its own gifts, is given the same potential at a flourishing life right before it is planted in the ground. For some plants the gift is a particular color and for others it's a sweet insect attracting scent. The gift can be a foul fragrance deterring animals from eating them, or beauty or strength. Some are gifted with flexibility and others with prolific reproduction to the point where they will take over the garden and choke out all the other plants. But that potential to grow is innate.

So why do some grow better than others?

A lot of times it depends on the quality of soil it's planted in, the sunlight and water. For a person, that means the environment in which you were raised, the amount of nutritious food you had access to, the love you received from your family, and the quality of your intellectual and emotional education.
What do you do when the soil is deficient? Or the sunlight is too strong or not strong enough? Or there's a drought or a flood? Or, the case I deal with the most, another plant is taking over the whole garden?

There are a few options.

1. Add some fertilizer! Keeping in mind that we can only control ourselves and our own actions, we have to look at the ME in the WE. Part of my job is to help empower people to have a say in their own lives. We want all of the parties in a relationship to feel honored and have the chance to grow to their full potential.

2. Create some borders! Some flowers just don't play well together, they need different quality of soil or they have root systems that get tangled in with the others. Have you ever planted a garden next to grass without a border? Before you know it there is no definition to the garden. This happens most often in codependent relationships where you don't know where you end and the other person begins.

3. Time to transplant! Sometimes you don't have to remove the plant from a garden you just need to relocate it to a sunnier spot. But sometimes another plant has invaded the garden and in order for the flower to survive she has to be separated from the invasive weed. This is the most drastic approach to healthy boundaries and can sometimes cost a relationship. We work together to figure out if the garden is sustainable or if it's time to relocate.

There is a very strong basic need for humans to feel a sense of belonging, which is why we create intimate relationships, families, tribes, social circles and communities. No one wants to live removed from everyone else and be forever alone, but I strongly affirm that each individual has a right to being respected, and empowered in the unity of any type of relationship. My goal for championing healthy boundaries in our self-care is to empower individuals to be part of rewarding relationships.