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How to Get Out of Something That Just Isn`t Working

How to Get Out of Something That Just Isn`t Working

Sometimes in car accidents, the vehicles involved become so entangled and crushed that people inside need to be extricated in order to be saved. Firefighters use the “jaws of life” along with many other tools to get the patients free, and as a volunteer firefighter, I have helped to do this several times. I have also been a volunteer at a Victim Support Unit, and I think there are some interesting parallels that can be drawn between being extricated from a smashed up car and extricating ourselves from abusive situations or other times when we feel trapped.

The first thing we do as firefighters when we arrive on a scene is size up the situation. We deploy signs to tell motorists that there is an emergency scene ahead. As we drive up, we assess the number and type of vehicles involved — the 9-1-1 calls are not always accurate — and immediately radio for additional resources if we can tell we will need more firefighters or ambulances on the scene. The next two people out of the truck do inner and outer surveys of the scene, looking for victims and checking for hazards that will affect the extrication. Everyone else gets the tools ready.

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Similarly, you will need to size up your situation. If you are in an abusive relationship, you will need to have a very good plan in place and you’ll need some other resources to leave safely. Contact your local police department, victim support unit or women’s centre so they can help you make a safety plan. There are a great deal of hazards in leaving an abuser, so do not take them lightly. If you are in an unbearable job situation — that is, you feel like you can’t leave but know you must — or considering another major life change, you may also need the support of family and friends. Do some research before changing careers or seek out a career counselor. Size up your money situation so you are clear on your expenses versus desired income. Make a plan for when/how you will leave, apply for other jobs or enroll in training courses. When making any major life change, planning always helps.

The next thing firefighters do is stabilize the vehicle the person is trapped in. This involves putting blocks under it, or using straps or jacks to make sure it won’t shift while we do our work. Similarly, you can take steps to stabilize your situation before you begin the actual extrication — save up some extra money if you can, think carefully about the best time to leave, and do anything else you can to prepare. You may want to talk to your doctor if you think your health might be affected by this big change.

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Now, we get to work.

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    The firefighter in charge will decide the best course of action to remove the vehicle from around the person. Then, as a team, we get the tools we need to implement that plan and start breaking glass, cutting, prying or bending metal. A firefighter or paramedic will usually get into the vehicle with the injured person and talk them through what is going on and reassure them that they will be out soon. The rest of us use the jaws of life, reciprocating saws, hydraulic, pneumatic and even hand tools to cut the vehicle so that the person can be removed as carefully and quickly as possible. We never rush this step (moving the person) unless it becomes a “life over limb” situation, such as the vehicle has caught fire or the person’s condition is deteriorating to critical.

    If your situation is serious, such as a violent, abusive relationship, you will not be able to extricate yourself, but you can call the right people to help you. They will know the steps to take. If you are not in any physical danger, such as the person who is changing jobs, then the next step is just do it! Take a deep breath and carry out your plan. Believe that it will all work out for the best!

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    Usually, once the trapped person is free, they are loaded into an ambulance and the medics take over. When you are extricated from your nasty situation, realize that you might need some “first aid” too. You might want to get some counseling. Be kind to yourself if you can tell you aren’t coping very well. Don’t make any other changes for a while and use stress management techniques — get enough sleep, drink enough water and eat fresh foods. Big changes take time to adjust to, so don’t expect it to be over instantly, especially if you’ve “been injured.”

    Lastly, forgive yourself for letting yourself get into the situation. Like an MVA, it was an accident. You didn’t mean for this to happen, but it did. Forgive yourself and the whole situation for being what it was — that will help you let go and move on more than any other “action” you can take.

    So, next time you are in a traffic jam wondering why all the traffic is stopped, remember, it could be a group of firefighters saving someone’s life up ahead. Rather than be annoyed, be grateful that we have people dedicated to the fire service. (In the US and Canada, 70% – 80% of firefighters are volunteer.)

    Featured photo credit: In to the fire, a Firefighter searches for possible survivors via Shutterstock and inline photo by Tom Bech via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    Teresa Griffith

    Teresa is a passionate writer who shares about productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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