How to Have Difficult Conversations with Your Loved Ones

It’s tough to disagree with loved ones. Really tough. Ideally, we could just avoid fighting with our families, friends, and partners… but it’s not an ideal world, is it? It’s important to know how to have difficult conversations so that you can navigate small and major disagreements when they happen. 

Whether it’s small things like putting away laundry to bigger topics like finances or family planning, there are some overarching tips to help mitigate awkwardness or anger. Let’s dive thru some ways you can manage difficult conversations with loved ones: 

1. Prepare 

Think carefully about what you want out of the conversation. If it’s an argument, ask yourself what a reasonable resolution would be. If it’s a discussion about planning for the future, ask yourself what compromises you’re willing to make. When preparing, be mindful that the discussion should only be about one topic—if you have other grievances or concerns, try to keep those in a separate conversation, and don’t bring up old disagreements. Prepare to “fight fair,” because yelling, insults, and silent treatment don’t create anything positive. 

It’s also a good time to remind yourself why this person is important to you, and that they’re most likely not your enemy. Just because you have a different perspective or opinion, does NOT mean that you still don’t love them and value their presence in your life. Obviously, there are some things that are not okay to ignore in the name of family or love, like racism/ sexism/ homophobia or abuse. Those are more challenging convos and we’ll tackle them later in the article! But for other disagreements, remember that your endgame is not to “win” the argument at all costs, but to come to an agreement. 

2. Choose a Time 

While it might be tempting to blurt out your frustrations in the heat of the moment, that’s not the best way to handle sensitive subjects. Pick a time when both of you are free, but not right after work or before bed. Also, maaaybe don’t shoot them a “we need to talk” text because that’s a day-ruiner right there. 


3. Phrasing 

Because we all have a tendency to feel personally attacked when having arguments or serious discussions, it’s a good idea to phrase things in a non-accusatory way. Even though you may be feeling upset, people are more likely to get their guard up if they feel like they’re being accused of something. Here’s an example: 

Poor phrasing: “Can you not be so lazy and clean up after yourself? I’m sick of always putting your dishes away.”

Better phrasing: “I feel stressed when our house is messy. Can you help me keep things tidier?”

In the latter example, the person says how they’re feeling, doesn’t ascribe blame, and asks for a resolution they can work together toward. 

In another example, where a relative says something offensive at a family gathering, flat-out saying “you’re being shitty” isn’t going to foster a conversation. If you have the bandwidth for it, framing the conversation as being helpful is more likely to create a dialogue (calling someone in, instead of out).

Something like “hey [name], that’s not the best way to say that. Here’s what you should say next time. I know you’re not a bad person so I’d hate for you to make other people feel unsafe unintentionally.” 

Obviously it’s a different conversation entirely if it’s not the first time and someone is intentionally being, well, shitty. But if a loved one uses a wrong or dated term, and you feel you can put in the emotional labour to talk about it, calling them in instead of calling them out will go a long way. 

4. Listen 

An important thing to remember when having a difficult conversation is to listen. You might be hopped up on adrenaline and anxiety, but allowing your loved one space to express their feelings and be heard is really important. Instead of catching your breath and waiting for a pause so you can start arguing your side again, listen to what they’re saying. Work to understand why they feel or act the way they do, instead of ascribing intent. 

If your goal is to work together with your loved one to find a solution, that can only truly be done by understanding where each of you is coming from. As far as how to have difficult conversations where one of you is clearly in the wrong, that’s another story and we’ll dig into that more later. 

5. Acknowledge Your Bias and Assumptions 

Everybody is the main character in their own story. And while you might try your best to be open and understanding with others, you will always have a bias because you can only ever truly know your own POV. So, acknowledge that. Understand that your truth isn’t necessarily the objective truth. 

Likewise, as tempting as it may be to try to plan out exactly what your loved one is going to say before a discussion, you’re making assumptions about their feelings and perspective. Going back to that example argument about cleaning the house, it can be tempting for the one person to assume their partner is just being lazy, but that’s still an assumption. There are other possibilities, so listen to them (hey that was tip #4!). Work to understand their perspective without judgment, because that’s what you want them to do too! 

6. You Don’t Have to Win Every Discussion  

Most of the time, even difficult conversations with loved ones aren’t a zero sum game. Conversations about household chores, planning for the future, or even beliefs do not need to have a winner and loser. 

If you view every interaction with a loved one through the lens of a scorecard, you might “win” an argument but at a great cost, where ultimately the toll it takes isn’t worth it. Consider how you would feel if your partner fist-pumped and whooped after a difficult conversation… the relationship would suffer. Even in major disagreements, the goal should be to move the relationship forward, and that means everyone wins—even when they have to compromise. 

7. Deal in Good Faith 

The previous three points really could be summed up as discussing in good faith. We don’t mean religious faith—we’re talking about the legal term. If you’ve seen enough of Suits or The Good Wife, you know that good faith is the sincere intention to deal fairly with others. So basically go into the conversation with good intentions toward creating the best possible result for everyone involved. Sometimes that might mean you’re “right,” but remember that’s not the point. Just be the kind and amazing person that you are, and your loved ones will be inspired to be kind too! 

3 Types of Difficult Conversations 

Let’s get technical! There are many levels of tough conversations, from day-to-day arguments to big-picture disagreements. While the severity of topics and consequences vary, they’re all stressful to handle in their own special ways. Let’s dive in! 

Day-to-Day Arguments 

These can be run-of-the-mill arguments, like household chores, staying out past curfew, or the result of a poorly-phrased comment. When dealing with these, it may not require as much planning or scheduling, but there should be an emphasis on phrasing and listening. So think constructive criticism instead of yelling.

This can also include setting boundaries with your loved ones. Which can be really hard! You might feel guilty, anxious, full of self-doubt, and a whole bunch of other stressful emotions. But there’s a reason that you want to set the boundary, and in these cases the only emotions that are relevant are yours. When setting a boundary, phrasing is important. You’re ultimately telling someone what you want and what the consequences are if that boundary is crossed. 

“If you make comments about my appearance then I’m going to leave.” 

“If you don’t stop yelling at me then I’m going to hang up the phone.”

While phrasing is important, you ultimately can’t control their response. Some people have a hard time being told no and will take it v personally. That’s why phrasing the consequence as something you will do is better than saying they won’t be allowed to do something. It’s up to them how they respond, but phrasing boundaries clearly helps remove any loopholes or misunderstandings they might try to find. 

Planning for the Future 

It can be awkward to plan your future with your partner. Sure, odds are you’re already pretty open with each other about what you want in life, but it’s still uncomfortable to put yourself out there. Figuring out plans for where you want to live, if you want to marry, whether or not you want kids (or how many!), how you’ll split costs, and other big life choices is STRESSFUL. 

For these conversations, all of the above tips are relevant. Don’t spring a conversation about opening a joint bank account on your partner over lunch. Set a time and give both of you a chance to prepare. Be mindful of phrasing, because there’s a big difference between “I don’t think we need a joint account because xyz” and “I don’t want you spending MY money.” 

And speaking of family planning, if you do decide to be child-free, that can be a very difficult conversation with your families. Once again, plan ahead when and how you’re going to tell your loved ones, and set clear boundaries about future discussions. You can only control how you tell people something, not how they feel about it.  


You’ve probably heard something to the effect of “never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table.” There’s a good reason why! 

Our brains are hardwired to reject information that contradicts our beliefs. If you haven’t seen it before, check out this great comic on the backfire effect. As the author put it, making snap judgements based on emotion over logic makes sense from an evolutionary perspective because “if you were a caveman and another caveman threw a boulder at your head, you wouldn’t react by logically debating the pros and cons of getting brained.” BUT unfortunately this also means that we’re far more likely to fall victim to confirmation bias, where we only look for information that supports our view instead of looking for objective evidence. 

This makes conversations about politics, religion, and other beliefs much more difficult. Not everybody has the same beliefs, and that’s okay. If you disagree with someone about iPhone vs Android, or Marvel vs DC, that’s totes fine! But if someone’s beliefs preclude them from believing that all humans should have equal rights, then that’s NOT okay. 

How to Handle These 3 Types of Difficult Conversations

So, what the heck are you supposed to do if your loved ones are sharing conspiracy theories about the pandemic or making thinly-disguised (or blatantly) racist comments? How do you have that particular difficult conversation without things getting awkward or defensive? 

1. Start With Your Boundary

Think of it like setting a boundary. As mentioned above, the best way to set boundaries is to explain how you feel. 

“If someone is choosing not to be vaccinated then I don’t feel safe having them over for dinner, regardless of whether we’re related.” 

“If you continue calling the pandemic a hoax then I’m going to stop coming over to visit you.”

“When I hear you talk like that about women’s reproductive health, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel that way around my family.”

If the person gets angry, then you can choose to end the conversation and enforce your boundary. At that point, you need to do what’s best for your own mental health, and hope your loved one figures it out on their own. Australian journalist Myke Bartlett had this comparison for people dealing with major disagreements with loved ones: 

“This is a lesson most parents learn eventually. You can tell your kid there’s no monster under the bed, but you can’t stop them feeling like there is. All you can do is turn on the light, let them do the work and hope they eventually come to the right conclusion.”

2. Work Through the Awkwardness

If someone is open to having a good faith conversation, then you can choose to continue (or plan a future time to talk). It’s probably going to be awkward, but you know what they say about breaking eggs to make an omelet. Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want To Talk About Race, had this to say about working through that awkwardness: 

“Know what your goal is, and state that goal, and then tailor the conversation towards that. If you come in really confrontational … and your goal is to get them to be more supportive of you, that’s not going to achieve the goal. If you want them to know that maybe the things they’ve been saying are unacceptable, then maybe just saying, ‘You know, this is unacceptable, and this is why,’ is your goal.”

3. Listen to Their Fears

Listening to your loved one’s concerns can also help foster a conversation. Fear is a powerful motivator and can overwhelm logical thinking. Listening to your loved one talk about their fears, even if unfounded, will make them feel validated. You’re not actually validating their problematic belief, just the fact that they feel scared—but that can be enough. People may feel attacked if they feel they are being criticized for a belief they honestly hold. Oluo again, on listening: 

“[I recognized] that the fear I was hearing … was fear that maybe this was going to divide us …. So me being really clear about how I needed her to support me … gave her a purpose and a place.”

Of course, this is all related to good faith conversations. If your loved one seemed open to chat but then refused to acknowledge their bias, used false evidence without remorse, or became hostile, then the only thing you can do is enforce your boundary. It sucks, because you never want to feel like you need to choose between your own mental health and a loved one. Just remember, all you can control is your words and actions, not your loved ones response. 

We hope this helps you deal with major disagreements or difficult conversations with your loved ones. But either way, we’re proud of you for being thoughtful about how you handle whatever situation you find yourself in. 


6 Self-Care Tips to Practice After a Gender-Affirming Surgery

Gender-affirming surgery can be such an amazing tool for people to feel right in their bodies. It has a HUGE satisfaction rate post-op, with over 94% of people happy that they underwent the procedure! Trans people deserve to feel secure in their bodies, and surgery is one way to achieve that!

But just like any surgery, you’ll need to focus on self-care afterwards. Post-op self-care for trans folks will be different from the normal physical routine! For this list, we’ll break down some self-care tips for people who’ve undergone gender affirmation surgery.

1. Lean on Your Support System

Surgery is a big deal, so you’ll probably need some help right now. Your support system is gonna be huge in making this process as painless as possible! 

Whoever you include in your support system is up to you. Friends, coworkers, family, Mr. Rogers-esque neighbours, and anyone else who has showered you with unconditional love after coming out can count here! If you’re looking for a little extra mental health support, talking to your therapist can deeefinitely help.

If you’re too sore to go get groceries, need reminders to take your pain meds, or are feeling so many emotions about the procedure, let your support system know that you need your people around you. You would do the same for them, so relying on them right now will make both of you feel good! 

2. Prioritize Physical Recovery

You should obviously take care of your mental health right now, but your physical health is your top priority. Make sure that you follow directions from your doctor regarding the aftercare of whichever procedure you got done. 

When it comes to physical recovery, some trans people that have undergone surgery are critical of the lack of warning from therapists pre-op. Lily Carollo, a trans woman, said this about the vaginoplasty recovery process:

“… my pre-op therapy didn’t help me realize how extraordinarily hard it would be to recover from the surgery I had: the stress from being unable to eat solid food for a week and a half, and the feeling of helplessness from being so bedridden and unable to walk normally for weeks, to name only two difficulties.” 

The recovery process will be challenging, and the way you physically feel can affect your mental health. So make sure you’re ready to take on these challenges before you undergo surgery. Definitely look up personal experiences from trans people and find out the reality of gender affirmation surgery. There’s also post-surgery physiotherapy for trans folks that can help with recovery after and preparation for top, bottom, or any other kind of cosmetic surgery. 

3. Prepare Your Expectations

Carollo points out another important factor to consider after undergoing gender-affirming surgery: it’s not a cure-all for the struggles that trans people face.

The message isn’t exactly upbeat, but it’s an important thing to remember. While gender-affirming surgery does have a huge satisfaction rate, it won’t get rid of gender dysphoria. There’s also societal issues, like discrimination, misgendering, and increased rates of violence against trans people. 

We’re just adding this as a primer for the procedure. If you’re struggling with gender dysphoria, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, make sure you’re taking all the steps needed to take care of your mental health before AND after the surgery. It can act as a mental health boost to help with gender dysphoria, but there might be more work to do! 

4. Find Your Community

Undergoing a procedure like gender-affirming surgery is a big deal that not a lot of people are going to understand. Your inner circle will empathize, sympathize, and accept you during your social transition, but gender-affirming surgery is not an experience that many people go through. That’s why it’ll be hugely helpful to find a community that has had gender affirmation surgery.

You can look for local 2SLGBTQ+ organizations in your city to find people who are experiencing the same thing as you. You can also turn to the internet for support! Organizations like Trans Lifeline can help out, with trans people on phone lines ready to talk through any concerns, and microgrants for things like legal name changes, gender identification changes, as well as trans healthcare. You can also check out The Tribe for 2SLGBTQ+ peer-to-peer support. 

Finding your people can be tough sometimes, but that’s the beauty of the internet! Get connected with other trans folks who know what you’re going through. 

5. Journal It Out

Journaling can be a super helpful tool to figure out your own thoughts. You’re probably going through a lot post-op: physical pain, stress, and a whole bunch of other emotions surrounding your surgery. So how do you really feel about it?

Think about prompts like these:

  • How do I feel about my gender identity now that I’m post-op? 
  • What are some ways that gender affirmation surgery has affected the way I view my body? 
  • How am I feeling about my gender dysmorphia? Would a check-in with my therapist help me manage these feelings?
  • What are five kind things I could say about my body right now?

Journaling is a great (low impact) activity to work through whatever you’re going through at the moment. It’s for your eyes only, so don’t be afraid to let it all out! And the DiveThru app has plenty more prompts to choose from. 

6. Practice Self-Love

Your post-op sensations are gonna be overwhelming. You’re sore, tired, but most likely happy with your choices. So show yourself some love!

It can be difficult to show self-love when your body doesn’t feel right. So now’s a time to show gratitude for yourself! Grab your favourite snack, wear your comfiest pair of sweats, and watch your most loved nostalgic movie. Self-love is a great way to boost your happiness and really act on your own feelings to show appreciation for yourself.

And if you want to find out all the wonderful ways you can build gratitude in your life, check out the course Practicing Gratitude in the DiveThru app. Therapist Simone Saunders will cover the incredible ways that gratitude can make a positive change in your life – without that toxic positivity nonsense. 

Gender affirmation surgery is no small decision, but you committed to it. Whatever makes you feel at home in your body is worth it! So take all the time you need to recover, heal, and become emotionally well. From the DriveThru team to you, you have our full support!!


5 Signs of Emotional Abuse & What to Do Next

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Okay, before we start off on this article, we should give you a trigger warning! We’re going to be talking about abuse and how it affects victims. If this content is difficult for you to read, please take care of yourself and step away. 

Because it’s discussed more often, you’re probably aware of the common signs of physical abuse. It can be easy to miss the signs of emotional abuse because it can come in different forms and be harder to identify. 

Emotional abuse, like physical abuse, is when the abuser uses power over you to exclude and intimidate you mentally through their words and actions. Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” did NOT know what they were talking about. If you’re anything like us, you probably still remember things that a childhood bully said decades ago. It can be so much worse if those words come from a loved one, like a parent or partner.

So we’re going to dive into the warning signs, effects of emotional abuse, as well as how to deal with it if it’s happening to you or a loved one. 

What Is Emotional Abuse? 

If you’ve ever been exposed to love-bombing, manipulation, or the downplaying of your emotions, you’ve likely been vulnerable to mental and verbal abuse. It can happen to you without you even realizing it. Emotional bullying gives the perpetrator influence over you by accusing, exploiting, condemning, and humiliating your feelings, ultimately affecting your mental health and self-confidence. 

Emotional abuse can start subtly, sometimes using personality and charisma to captivate you while masking their true colours until they know you are comfortable enough with them to control you. Then, they make you believe that what they are doing is a normal part of your connection or friendship with them. At that point, you’re in a cycle of abuse

The most common kind of emotional abuse is observed in romantic relationships, but it can happen in pretty much any situation where someone is in a position of perceived power over another person, such as a parent, boss, or caregiver. No matter the type of relationship that exists, abuse is never the victim’s fault. There is no excuse for that kind of treatment—and no one deserves it.  

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Signs of Emotional Abuse

Let’s get into a few signs of emotional abuse so that you know exactly what they are and how to recognize them.

1. Love Bombing 

Maybe you’ve never heard the term love bombing but you’ve seen it before, whether in real life, on TV, or in movies (looking at you, Ross Geller…). There’s a difference between love bombing and the honeymoon phase of a new relationship. Love bombing occurs when a partner overwhelms you with affection, charming words, and behaviour patterns to gain your trust and manipulate you over time.

This act of intense affection can only last for so long. As abusers might start to withhold affection from the victim. Some more examples of love bombing include: 

  • Not taking no for an answer
  • Sudden interest in everything you are interested in 
  • Always in your personal space, not giving you room to breathe 
  • Overbearing compliments 
  • Constant communication with you through texts or calls to check-in
  • Randomly appearing at your home unannounced 
  • Saying “I love you” very early on in the relationship 
  • Giving you gifts constantly 

This can also happen in non-romantic relationships. Friends, family members, coworkers, and managers can also be charming and complementary to try to create compliance instead of community. 

2. Gaslighting 

When an abuser repeatedly distorts or denies the truth, it causes victims to doubt their reality and/ or perceptions. As a result, you lose faith in yourself and begin questioning your memories of what happened based on what the person has told you. This is called gaslighting.

For example: in the Netflix series Maid, Alex was trying everything she could to avoid returning to her abuser. But when she needed his assistance, he began to lovebomb her and be there for her. Then, as she got more at ease, he began to gaslight her about leaving him and claiming that the abuse she claims he committed was not valid. 

Here are some examples of gaslighting: 

  • “I never said/ did that.”
  • “Are you sure that happened? I don’t remember that.”
  • “You’re too sensitive.”

3. Constant Criticism

Nobody’s perfect, but no matter how hard you try, it’s never good enough for your partner, boss, friend, or family member. It’s as if they’re always looking for any “imperfection” to point out to you, making you feel sooooo self-conscious. It can feel as if they know just what will set you off and break you apart.

Constant criticism is a form of emotional abuse as the abuser tries to make their victim feel like they’re not good enough and don’t deserve their partner… which can play a role in trauma bonding

Some examples of constant criticism include: 

  • Criticizing small actions (like leaving a dirty dish on the counter instead of putting it in the sink) as a character flaw
  • Body shaming, whether it’s criticizing weight or clothes or eating habits
  • Refusing to apologize for hurtful things they’ve said or done because “you’re being too sensitive,” or otherwise dismissing valid emotions 

4. Insults, Swearing and Physical Aggression

When an abuser realizes they can control their victim, they may begin to lash out with nasty comments in rage. It might be a supervisor at work making verbally abusive statements to you when they are angry. It may also involve physical aggressiveness that may or may not be directed at the victim, like throwing a phone or punching a wall.

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5. Possessive and Controlling 

It feels good to be cared for. But while it’s nice to get a text from your partner asking if you made it home okay, it’s not nice to get a text asking where you are because your partner needs to know otherwise they’ll get angry with you. That’s the difference between being cared for and being controlled. 

Abusive partners may use patronizing or condescending language to make you believe that you can’t do certain things without their permission. You are your own person, with your life. You know you’re not doing anything wrong, but someone who wants to control you may make you believe you are. 

Here are some examples of possessive and controlling behaviour in emotionally abusive relationships: 

  • They try and control who you are allowed to hang out with 
  • They tell you what you can and can’t wear 
  • They need to know where you are and what you’re doing at all times 
  • They need to know private details like your debit pin or other passwords 
  • They always want to be with you 

Effects of Emotional Abuse

Since we’ve gone over all of the emotional abuse red flags to look out for, let’s move on to the effects. It might be difficult to leave an emotionally abusive environment. You might not even know you’re in a risky position until you leave. And when you’re bonded through trauma with the abuser, it’s much more challenging to go since you’ve become accustomed to their abusive behaviour as well as the love and assurance they still provide you. It might also feel like you don’t know where to go. It can feel humiliating to share what you have gone through. Like in Maid, Alex was trying to express the emotional abuse she had been subjected to to the social worker, she didn’t know how to describe it in a way that would be taken seriously.

Emotional abuse may have long-term and short-term consequences. You may learn things through that connection or relationship with that person that you will carry with you for a long time. You may be afraid to open out to new people because you’re so scared they’ll treat you as the abuser did. It can instill a lot of fear and have an impact on your physical and emotional health.

Some examples of the effects of emotional abuse include: 

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Inability to make decisions 
  • Confused 
  • Not sure of yourself 
  • Low self-confidence 
  • Guilt 
  • Tend to doubt yourself a lot 
  • Over apologizing 
  • Easily triggered 
  • Feeling ashamed of yourself                                                                                                                                    

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How to Heal From Emotional Abuse 

If you’re suffering from emotional abuse, the best thing you can do is leave. Unfortunately, that’s not always immediately safe to do. In Canada, three-quarters of intimate partner homicides happen during the separation process, and a similar increase in the risk of violence for the two years following separation. We have links to resources at the end of this article, with tips to help access them more safely. 

Whether you’re in the process of leaving an abusive partner or have experienced emotional abuse in the past, it’s a traumatic thing to go through. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope with your feelings. 

Love Yourself 

In an emotionally-abusive relationship, the victim can ignore their own feelings or prioritize the abusive partner’s emotions over their own. Emotional abuse can also create feelings of low self-worth. It’s so key to remember that your feelings are valid, and that it’s okay to do things you want to do. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care. By actively choosing to prioritize your own interests and feelings, you’re re-learning to love yourself. 

Find Trustworthy People 

Because abusers often work to isolate their victims, people dealing with emotional abuse can feel alone. But just like Mr. Rogers said, “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there are people who will help you. Loved ones and support workers can help you escape, and rebuild your life. Suffering emotional abuse can make it hard to trust others, but it doesn’t mean you’re incapable of trusting—just that you have to make a more conscious effort. 

Seek Professional Help 

Last but not least, seek professional support, whether from a mental health professional or social worker. This is one of the ways you will be able to escape the situation, as these professionals can guide you on ways and things you can do to be safe is important.

We can put a lot of guilt on ourselves when we know we aren’t being treated with respect. If you recognize any of the signs listed in this article, remember that you DO NOT deserve this treatment, and you ARE NOT to blame. You deserve far better treatment, and it doesn’t make you selfish or a bad person for thinking so. Getting space to acknowledge the situation and finding a safe way to leave an abuser can be really hard, but your wellbeing is worth it. Finding positive support systems around you, like trusted loved ones or a mental health professional, can support you in coping. It’s not always easy to open up about what you’re going through, but going at your own pace can help you go back to living a healthy life where you are free to live life on your own terms, not anyone else’s. 

If you are in any danger and are experiencing any type of abuse, please get in touch with these domestic violence hotlines at 1-604-875-0885 (Canada) and 1-800-799-7233 (United States). There are also some more resources for crisis situations here.

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Internet Safety Tips

Here are some tips to minimize the risk of someone knowing that you’re researching domestic violence-related topics (via Tech Safety): 

  • If you think your devices or internet search activities are being monitored, access this information from a device that isn’t being monitored. That should be a device that the person does not or has not had physical or remote access. This is the safest thing to do if you don’t want someone to know that you are visiting these websites. 
  • Sign out of other accounts, such as Google or Facebook, before visiting these sites. 
  • Use your internet browser settings to increase your privacy, such as turning off browsing history or using the browser in-private mode. 
  • If it is safe to do so, delete the websites URLs that you don’t want stored from the browser history. 
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to increase the security of your internet browsing and activity.

Different Types of Therapy & Approaches in Psychology

What comes to mind when you think about therapy? Maybe you’re picturing that episode of Euphoria where we got to see Jules’ therapy sesh. Or maybe you’re just picturing yourself lying on a couch in a stuffy office while a psychologist scribbles your struggles on a clipboard. Therapy is definitely better than that second example, because good therapists do way more than just scribble. And your therapy session won’t be the plot line of a TV show episode… so that’s also good.

Therapy was once a taboo subject that few people discussed openly. But mental health has become more normalized in recent years, thanks in large part to the pandemy we have been living in. So whether you’re already seeing a therapist, in the process of finding one, or are just open to the possibility but aren’t sure where to begin, we’ve got you covered! Hi-fives all around!

So, enough babbling: let’s dive thru the different types of therapy! 

Approaches in Psychology

Psychotherapy is provided by mental health experts who have received specialized training, such as psychiatrists (who can prescribe medication), psychologists, and therapists. This sort of therapy can be one-on-one, as a couple or family, or in a group. Psychotherapy can help by giving you a chance to talk through your struggles with someone who is actively listening to you, and provide coping strategies to help make things more manageable. 

Psychotherapy, sometimes known as talk therapy, has four major perspectives:  

Psychoanalysis/ Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychoanalysis was developed by neurologist Sigmund Freud. The idea is that everyone has unconscious thoughts and feelings that impact the way they think, feel, and act. Treatment is usually a series of sessions where the client and therapist talk and try to dig deeper into the why. Psychodynamic therapists support you by addressing patterns in your dreams, feelings, ideas, and early experiences, helping you express yourself and understand your self-identity. 

What distinguishes this therapeutic method is that it focuses on each individual’s experiences and self-awareness. Over time, the person builds long-term coping habits while recognizing how their patterns impact them. 

Psychoanalysis therapy can help with: 

  • Depression 
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety 
  • Panic Disorders 
  • Grief 
  • Eating Disorders

Psychoanalytic therapy does focus on discussing past traumatic experiences, so it can be a lot for people who aren’t ready to do that. In that case, this next type might be a better option. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term therapeutic approach that handles unpleasant emotions such as pain, anxiety, and grief. CBT is based on the idea that psychological problems are largely caused by a cycle of flawed thinking leading to flawed actions. The goal of CBT is to help people cope and correct those flawed thought processes. 

These types of common thinking errors can include: 

  • Filtering (refers to only looking at the negative elements of a situation while filtering out any positive details)
  • Polarized thinking (refers to thinking in a binary or black/white way, either a total success or abject failure)
  • Overgeneralization (assuming one incident constitutes a pattern, like getting a bad grade on a paper and believing you are a bad student who should just drop out)
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Catastrophizing 
  • Personalization (thinking that everything is about you/ your fault)
  • Fallacies of fairness (the idea that the people who work hardest or sacrifice the most will be rewarded fairly) 

CBT helps treat medical conditions like substance-use disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, and depression. It’s also the most widely used intervention to improve self-esteem. For example, instead of saying “I’m stupid,” CBT would have you challenge that negative thought and remind yourself of the evidence that it’s not true. Tell yourself “I got into university” or “I helped someone at work with something they didn’t understand,” instead of accepting your negative thought as truth. 

We fully know that those self-reminders can be veeeery hard to, well, remember. CBT is more about developing the skills that will allow you to work through your thoughts. So most of the “work” is done on your own, outside of the therapist’s office. If that sounds like something you would like – great! If not, consider humanistic therapy (which is further down in our list!). 

Exposure Therapy

Almost everyone is scared of something. Maybe it’s spiders, heights, or wide open spaces. Exposure therapy is a process where a therapist helps their client accept or even overcome their fears or triggers. This is done by creating a safe environment to confront the fear. This could mean literally facing your fear, like having a spider in a terrarium for the patient to look at. But it can also be done with some sort of virtual reality, like using a flight simulator to help alleviate flying anxiety. It could also be entirely done using imagination, where the person imagines a traumatic experience and talks their way through it. 

Exposure therapy has a lot of benefits, including the possibility of getting rid of those visceral feelings you have about the trauma or phobia that’s affecting you. However, it’s also a very intense experience, and that can often make things feel significantly worse before they improve. It’s really important to talk this over with a therapist before doing any kind of exposure therapy—do not just google images of your fear to try it by yourself. 

Exposure therapy can start off with some elements of CBT—as you develop the skills you’ll need when you come face-to-face with your trigger. There are a lot of strategies and different paces that exposure therapy can be done at, so don’t expect your therapist to bring a tarantula to your first appointment. Unless it’s Take Your Pet to Work Day or something? They should really give you a heads up, though! 

Exposure therapy can help the following mental health conditions:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Phobias 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety disorders 

Humanistic Therapy 

Humanistic therapy takes the concept that you must be your genuine self to live the life you want to live. Everyone sees the world through their own eyes, and you are the only person who understands your desires, aspirations, and, most importantly, what you want out of life.

Therapists that work with the humanistic approach don’t interpret how you feel. Instead, they work with you by simply accepting you as you are and teaching you to do the same. They support you by actively listening to you and might occasionally ask questions to be clear on what you are saying. For people who aren’t into CBT, humanistic therapy can be a better option because it focuses on adjusting the external factors of your life, instead of the way you think about them. 

Because there’s an inherent power imbalance between therapists and clients, it’s important for your therapist to make you feel like you are equal partners in the process. While they are the experts, if you feel like you’re being condescended to or otherwise looked down upon, you’re not going to want to listen to their advice or even make another appointment… which kinda defeats the whole purpose.  

Humanistic therapy can be used to treat some of the following: 

  • Addiction 
  • Personality Disorders 
  • Depression 
  • Panic Disorders 
  • Schizophrenia

Choosing the Best Approach for You

With so many treatment options available, you might not know what the best kind for you is. Don’t worry! You can talk to your general physician about what you’re going through, and they can recommend a few options! That’s kind of their job! Plus, as you’re interviewing therapists to see which one would be the best fit for you, this can be one of the questions you ask. (Along with all of these other questions that will help you choose a therapist and figure out the best one for YOU!)

Also, one more piece of advice we wanna share—you don’t HAVE to choose one of these approaches. This is meant to give you an introduction to the different perspectives in psychology but it’s defs not meant to put you into a neat little box with a fancy title. In fact, your therapist might recommend skills and strategies that overlap two approaches! What matters is that you communicate with them whether you feel like you’re making progress and then adjust according to your own unique history and needs.

Going to therapy for the first time can feel scary, but you’re not alone. You have loved ones and medical professionals who can support you! Plus, we believe in you! You go, bestie!!!


Not Sure If You’re Being Manipulated? 12 Examples of Emotional Manipulation to Look For

It can be hard to see the signs of emotional manipulation. Sometimes, the people we trust the most are actually using tactics to make you feel guilty, wrong, or like you’ve hurt them, even though you’re the one that’s being hurt. In fact, they might be using manipulation tactics without even realizing it! This can be confusing and hard to spot.

If you’re being manipulated, you probably feel some mix of fear, guilt, or obligation, but you don’t understand why. We’re here to help you see the signs, understand that you’re being manipulated, and respond from there!

There are many types of emotional manipulation, and knowing how to tell if you’re being  manipulated can help you navigate your own feelings. Here’s 12 examples of what someone could say to manipulate you, and the emotional manipulation tactic that they’re using.

Let’s DiveThru it!

1. “I was just kidding!”

If someone says something that makes you upset, but then insists that it’s a joke, it’s “just a prank bro,” or that you’re being too sensitive, then they’re trying to tell you that you aren’t allowed to be upset with them. Uuuuuhhh, nope. That’s not how that works. If you’re upset by a comment or “joke,” you’re allowed to be upset, and no one can invalidate that feeling. 

If you’re comfortable with the person, you can try to use “I” statements to explain to them why it hurt you, like, “I didn’t think that was funny because that topic is triggering to me.” If the person didn’t mean to hurt you, using an “I” statement like that can help them understand where you’re coming from.

2. “If you lost some weight, that shirt would look better on you.”

Yikes. Major red flag. A manipulative person will prey on your insecurities to make you feel bad about yourself. So whether it’s your weight, income, education, or appearance—if you feel insecure about something, they’ll sniff it out and use it against you. 

It could also take the form of a backhanded compliment, like, “I like your hair today. It looks better than it usually does.” Still an insult, but starting with a compliment gives the manipulator the ability to deny the insulting part. Rude AF.

3. “That never happened! You’re acting crazy.”

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation where the person tries to convince you that you’re misremembering things or just “crazy” in order to change how you feel about a situation. So if you know that your partner was being rude to you all night but they try to convince you that it never happened, you’re overreacting, or that you “always get like this,” it may be them gaslighting you. Long-term, gaslighting can cause people to question their own senses and reality because they’re constantly having their experiences invalidated. 

Gaslighting is also pretty common in relationships with people who have narcissistic personality disorder. A lot of the behaviour in this list can be exhibited by people with NPD, honestly, so check out our other article if you wanna know more.

4. “Well, your mother agrees with me, so you must be wrong.”

A common form of manipulation is when a manipulator uses other people in your life to back them up. They’re trying to make you feel outnumbered and powerless. By pitting you against not only them, but people you’re close to, like your friends and family members, they’re trying to take away your support system and give themselves the upper hand. Sooo not okay. 

5. “I don’t want to talk about this here. Come to my office instead.”

This tactic is called home court advantage. The manipulator wants to be in a place where they feel powerful and in control. In a workplace setting, this could look like a person insisting that you talk to them in their office rather than in your workspace. With a partner or friend, they would want to speak to you at their home instead of yours. Think about it – don’t you feel more comfortable and at ease in your own space? That’s what they’re banking on. 

6. “I know we haven’t known each other for very long, but this feels better than any other relationship I’ve been in.”

Have you heard the term “love bombing” before? It’s a form of manipulation in relationships where someone showers their romantic interest with grand gestures, too much attention, and big proclamations of love. They might claim that you’re soulmates, give you lots of gifts, and always text/ call you. 

Check in with yourself: if the love you’re receiving is super early and pretty overwhelming, they’re likely love bombing you in order to get an intense commitment right away. Red flag!! Someone who loves you will respect your boundaries, time, and individuality, and not go too big, too fast. This can also be done inadvertently without ill intent, but it’s still harmful. It’s really important to set boundaries, no matter how excited you are about your new relationship. 

Maaaaybe you’re new to setting boundaries, or find that sticking with them is really tough. We’ve got a great course all about boundaries in the DiveThru app! In “Boundaries 101,” registered therapist Simone Saunders goes through the different types of boundaries, how to set them, and how to enforce your boundaries. In a manipulative situation, boundaries will be suuuuper important. Get into the app and check the course out!! 

7. “Oh, I’m in the wrong? You’re the one who spent all of your time with your friend last week!”

Smokescreening/ a red herring is a tactic where the manipulator brings up a different topic—usually something you did wrong in their eyes—in order to deflect from being confronted by you. If you try to communicate with a manipulator and they want to change the subject right away, it’s a big sign that they’re being manipulative. 

8. “I want to know about you. Tell me everything.”

Okay, so this one will kinda depend on context and intention. Getting to know someone isn’t an inherently bad thing. Obviously. But if you find that the person asks lots of probing questions right away without offering much information of their own, they could be establishing a baseline and looking for weaknesses to manipulate later. Again, that’s not to say you shouldn’t get to know a new partner! But it should be a conversation you have together, not an interrogation. 

Remember that thing we said earlier about setting boundaries? That applies here too. If you like the person, but find their questions to be a bit much, you can let them know that you aren’t ready to divulge everything right away and that you’ll tell them when you’re ready. Setting a boundary around your personal information is toootally fair. 

To give you a less relationship-y example, think of a salesperson at a car dealership. If they get you talking and find out that you need to buy a car that day, they might keep the selling price high because they know you’re desperate. So, y’know, keep some information close to the chest.

9. “…”

Aaahh, yes. The silent treatment. This is a form of manipulation that’s loud and clear—without saying a word. The goal of the manipulator is to make your thoughts spiral. This is because silence can be uncomfortable, especially if it’s unexpected. They want you to reach out, apologize, and make up for whatever it is that’s making them ignore you, even when they don’t make the reason for the silent treatment clear. The silent treatment is not an effective replacement for open and honest communication. 

10. “Fine. Don’t let me borrow your car. But could you at least give me a ride to work?”

The door-in-the-face technique can be used to manipulate people into giving into a request by making a bigger request at first, which then makes the following request seem small. In the example above, borrowing someone’s car is a pretty big request, so asking for a ride to work seems reasonable in comparison, even if it’s not something you want to do. 

The foot-in-the-door technique is similar, but in the other direction. The person will ask for something small, then escalate to something bigger. A salesperson in a retail setting might use this by asking you to try a sample of their product, then, after you’re covered in twelve of their products and have been in the store for fifteen minutes, they ask you to buy something. You already said yes in the beginning, so why not say yes now?

11. “You’re not going to stay late tonight? I’m really starting to question your dedication to this team.”

Toxic workplaces loooove guilt-trips. Your manager or supervisor might guilt you into staying late in order to lessen the load on your co-workers, prove your dedication to your workplace, or show that you’re “worthy” of a raise or promotion. Remember: you sign an agreement with your workplace to work a certain amount of scheduled hours per week, and you shouldn’t have to work late if you aren’t able to or don’t want to. A good work-life balance is vital to your mental health. 

12. “I know that you agreed to see me once a week, but I really need you to see me three times a week at least.”

This tactic is called moving the goalpost. The manipulator will ask for something, then change what they want after the manipulated person gives in. You give ‘em an inch and they try to take a mile! It’s a form of boundary pushing where the manipulator is trying to see how much they can get from another person. Remember what you originally agreed to and, if you don’t want to do more, then don’t do it! 

This is an under-discussed form of sexual assault. Just because you consented to one thing doesn’t mean that you consent to anything more than that. Consent is an ongoing process, and there’s nothing sexier than our boundaries being respected! 

You’re Being Manipulated. What Now?

You’ve made it through this list and thought, “huh, maybe I am being manipulated…” How do you respond?

As always, it depends on the context. In a sales situation, spotting manipulation can help you shut it down and protect your money. Let that salesperson know that you read up on all their tricks and you want a fair deal! Or take that free lotion sample from your fave place, say thanks, and walk out—because you’re not obligated to buy anything. 

If you find that someone you’re close to is manipulating you, it can be a bit more complicated. Sometimes, manipulative people will use these tactics without even meaning to. If someone was brought up in a household where emotional manipulation was the norm, that might be how they were taught to communicate. 

Does that mean it’s okay? Nope! It’s a conversation you’ll need to have with the person involved, for sure, and as long as you both remain direct and honest with communication, it can be worked out. But not everyone will be receptive, or accept that their behaviour is manipulative. Be ready to set boundaries with that person. 

Purposeful manipulation is a form of abuse. If you find yourself unsure of your feelings, questioning yourself, and feel your mental health declining, reach out to your support system. Establishing firm boundaries with the manipulative person will be super important, as we said before. And a good practice is to delay your response to a request or demand from a manipulator—so you don’t let them guilt, shame, or confuse you into giving in. If it doesn’t feel right, check in with your emotions, and stick with your boundaries!