Boundaries Webinar Q&A: Part 2

Happy Thursday nurses!

During my recent webinar on boundaries I was asked a very good question.

As a care taker for a loved one, it is difficult to watch them make choices that cause more problems (pain, symptoms that cause problems, etc). But I will always be the care taker no matter what - even though poor choices makes my job harder. I can't figure out how to set a boundary about this. How can I not feel frustrated at the consequences of poor choices?

Many of us have probably faced similar scenarios, so though I'm using this question as a prompt, my suggestions are directed at all of us, not just the lovely person who submitted the question. :-)

Since there is much to discuss with this question, this is the second part of my response, you can see part one HERE.

Last week we talked about how trying to control something we don't have control over (such as another persons behavior) is an easy way to get ourselves feeling frustrated.

This week we are going to talk about what you can control – your own thoughts and feelings.

If you are thinking that the only way not to feel frustrated is for your patient to behave a certain way, then you are creating a relationship where you are the victim and you are just waiting to see what your patient does which will determine your feelings.

If he does X then you will be happy. If he does Y then you will be frustrated.

You are a strong and capable nurse, why would you want to sit around waiting for someone else dictate your feelings to you?

The stronger strategy is to take full responsibility for our own actions (i.e. how we are going to treat and feel about people who make “bad” choices), and to NOT take responsibility for the fact that they are making those choices, or to attempt to demand a particular outcome from them.

Our feelings in this situation are the direct results of the thoughts we are having about our patient. If our thought is “He is being so foolish and difficult! Doesn't he care about what I am trying to do here?” we are going to have a different set of feelings than if we think “He is so lovably stubborn, the old poop!”

Which thought is going to give you the feeling you want to have when you are caring for him?

All you have to do (don't you love how I make it sound easy?) is to think the thoughts that are going to make you feel the way you want.

  • “The rascal is sure lucky to have me.”

  • “This is not easy but I'm so glad I'm able to be here for him.”

  • “I feel good about the care I give him no matter what he does.”

  • “It's a good thing I am such a strong and capable nurse that I can put up with all of this nonsense and yet still enjoy myself.”

Even something like “It is a shame he doesn't take better care of himself” is probably going to feel better than “Why is he doing this to me?”.

Remember, his actions are not a reflection of your success or failure as a nurse, they are a reflection of his priorities and desires as a patient.

In the end, he is going to do what he wants. Relaxing our need to control him and giving him permission to do what he is going to do anyway just might end up giving you a lot of relief.

Giving permission doesn't mean you have to like what he does however, and next week we will talk about the choices you still get to make for yourself, even as you stop trying to make choices for him.


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