In celebration of Independence Day in the US, ponder your own individual independence. How free are you? Do you allow the decisions of others to dictate how you feel? Do you find yourself tailoring your decisions to please the wishes of others? If I was talking about obeying a law so you don’t hurt another human, that would make sense, but I’m referring to healthy personal boundaries.
Here are a few areas where we choose not to exercise our own rights (maintain our own boundaries):
- Choosing a career, home, clothing…based on what others want you to do.
- Stuffing feelings so you don’t make those around you uncomfortable or stuffing so they don’t see the real you.
- Allowing others to walk all over you.
This is just a brief list, but I hope it gets your juices flowing as you think about ways in which you aren’t maintaining boundaries. Creating and maintaining boundaries can be tricky work but it is well worth it when you experience your life the way it was meant, the way you were designed to live, in freedom!
I was pondering the struggle of a butterfly as it makes its way out of a chrysalis. I was thinking about the word for that and catharsis came into mind. That isn’t exactly the right fit but I was considering how important it is not to stop a person from releasing deep emotion; just like the butterfly who struggles to get out of the chrysalis. If we snip the chrysalis and free the butterfly it will drop to the ground, its wings useless. The struggle is what strengthens its wings and enables it to fly, a critical component to a butterfly’s life. If we do the same to a person, pluck them out of their internal struggle, they may not strengthen necessary parts within.
Catharsis involves a process to free oneself of profound emotion. If I say, “Oh you’re fine, just move on” or “Look at the bright side of life”, the person is being encouraged to ignore or push down his real emotional experience. There is power and freedom in allowing our emotions to rise to the surface and spill or even gush out of us. If we can do that with others who are willing to hold that emotion with us, the healing is exponential. The job of the holder is to be there, which communicates, “Yes, I see your pain. I will not ignore it. I will not tell you to ignore it. I’ll sit with you as you feel it. I’m here. You are seen and not alone.”
Sometimes people need words, some need silence. Some people need physical comfort, some don’t. As one who sits alongside another in her pain, ask how you can best support her in her pain. She will likely tell you. “Just be here with me.” “I need a hug.” “Tell me it’s ok to be so sad.”
Stay away from moving her to fix or solve her problem. She will either get there on her own as she allows her pain to be felt or she will ask for your help in what to do about the situation. If she doesn’t, at some point, after lots of tears, you may ask, “Would you like help figuring out what to do about this?” If the answer is no, accept the no and don’t press the issue. You can say, “If you ever want to talk about the pain or solutions, I’m here. Just ask.” If the answer is yes, search together for solutions. Avoid having all the answers. Let her explore, too. Even the searching for the next step is part of strengthening her wings.
For some, simply the experience of purging the emotion and being literally or figuratively held in that space is all he needs for healing. Some pain doesn’t need a solution or a next step, some simply needs to be felt and released. And sometimes that same pain comes back again, and needs to be released, again. It’s all a part of the healing process.
Sitting with someone in their pain is not easy. That’s why many of us avoid it or try to smooth it over so the person doesn’t make us uncomfortable. Press into that. What’s that about you that you avoid emotional pain? Maybe you have your own catharsis to experience!
My last blog post was on June 21, 2018. Over the last two months I have written the beginning of many posts but none felt right. I try to write about my own experiences and weave in a useful tool for you but I just couldn’t find a way to accomplish this that sat well with me.
I unravelled earlier this summer. I could feel it happening and I knew I needed help knitting parts of myself back together. I see our journey in life as layers. When I first embarked on my healing journey in 2005, I looked at parts of my life and childhood for the first time as I sought clarity for why I was in such a mess. Thanks to the help of counselors, coaches, EMDR, Shadow Work, and various experiential groups I healed many wounded parts. But I wasn’t done. I often tell my clients our work is not a one time experience where we find “perfection” and then we’re good for the rest of our lives. We’re more like rehab projects. You do all the work to get the house that’s falling apart shored up and looking good but over time the paint peels, the carpet frays and things need to be mended.
I went through a major overhaul between 2005-2008 as well as several tune-ups in the years since. These are just new layers that need work. I discovered some devastating aspects of my family of origin. From my perspective it seems we do not always have each other’s back through thick and thin. We were raised to be independent, like islands. As long as we are all just humming along, not being real, we’re good. As soon as we do or say something that is against a person or idea, we’re shut out. The phrase “blood is thicker than water” is not true in my family. In full revelation, I have been both the recipient and offender of this approach.
To heal, I spent my summer in the company of human and equine therapists. Yes, horses have been part of my therapy! I am not a horse person and have limited experience with them. As I looked into equine therapy, I felt tears rise to the surface and thought, “I really want to try this”. Since then, I learned that horses do not do well alone. They need the herd–their family. What irony or is it fortuitous!?
Most of my work has been on setting boundaries (1400+ pound horses are intimidating!) while simultaneously seeking to understand as well as accept others’ messiness. This is not generally a huge issue for me in most arenas of my life. With family, it’s become a very painful issue. I’m still in process on this. I work daily to swish away negative and unhelpful thoughts like the horses swish flies with their tails. I’m focusing on loving others as is. I’m in process. I don’t have this all figured out nor do I execute it in every encounter.
I’m grateful for my unravelling; the closer I stay to my humanity, the more compassionate I am with my clients. It also opened up my understanding of equine therapy (it is not just about brushing and riding horses…I did neither of those) but about bringing in their way of partnering with me in my healing process. I’m grateful for my four legged therapists – Three Socks*, Pierced With Light*, Guinness, Samwise and of course, Courtney (my two-legged therapist). 🙂
*Not their real names. I took the liberty to name them when I didn’t know what their real names were. When I learned their real names, I liked mine better! 😉
May 4, 2018
Relationships are fulfilling and exhausting! When we see eye to eye we usually get along better. But we don’t always see things the same way. How do we navigate the space of different views, different experiences? I think we have to be willing to accept that the process will be messy.
I’m in a space like that right now. My siblings and I own a business my father gave to us years before he died. Prior to us being involved, it was just his. He made all the decisions. Now, the task of making decisions falls on the shoulders of me, four of my siblings and our children. We are strong, independent people. We have different ideas of what success looks like. We have different ideas of how to grow and when to grow. It’s unbelievably challenging navigating these waters.
I see life through my filter. They see life through their individual filters. We are currently in a state of “my filter or experience is not like yours”. Our rough edges are showing. Harsh words have been spoken. Hard feelings are on the surface. Where do we go from here?
We must step back and listen to each other. We must understand where each person is coming from and why each has the view they have. It can’t stop there. We must own our part in why the discord exists and ask ourselves, “What am I doing that is contributing to the dissonance?”
This doesn’t mean I give up on my view of the situation but it does mean that I not hold so tightly to my view that I “make” others accept it as the only possible view. I am a work in progress on this one. In the end, we are not talking about literal life and death. The consequences could, in a worst case scenario, mean the end of our family business. It’s a business. Businesses come and go just as empires rise and fall.
How does this apply to you and your life? Are you in a disagreement with someone?
- Step back, give time and space to see the other person’s point of view.
- Repeat back what you are hearing the other person saying, as this may bring some clarity. Sometimes what we think the other person’s view is and what they actually mean are different. Avoid assumptions by asking questions.
- Be honest about your experience without bringing in shame, blame or criticism.
- Work toward solutions that are a win for all concerned, if possible. I’m actually a fan of the belief that if a win/win cannot be found, no decision is the best decision. Table the issue and come back to it after you have had a chance to process as well as get neutral input.
In the end, I think relationship should trump a decision. Life is short. Is anything really worth sacrificing relationship? We think so sometimes, but I believe nothing is more valuable than healthy, human connection.
Personally, I’m still in process on all of this. It’s much easier to say than do. 🙂
If you want to be truly free, you must let go of any attachment you have to how others respond to you. What?! Yes! If you do things in order to receive accolades, approval or acceptance, you are setting yourself up for an unhealthy bondage. You will never please others all the time. Your opinions and theirs don’t always match up. Your execution might not be what someone out there was thinking it should be. If other’s approval is your goal, you are doomed.
I’m not saying just go about your life doing whatever the hell you want without regard for how you might be affecting people around you. That’s called selfishness and I am not talking about that. I am talking about the part inside of us that is crushed when we don’t get any likes on our Facebook post, the part that gets gloomy because no one noticed the trendy outfit we’re wearing or our manicured lawn.
Many of us are motivated to do something so others will notice and that is misplaced motivation. It’s extrinsic. Healthy motivation comes from within. Sure, it feels good when others give us a compliment but that cannot be our marker for our achievement.
Set goals for yourself because it will feel good to you to achieve them. Wear the outfit because you feel awesome in it. Care for your lawn because that’s how you like it. When you notice you are doing something for the stamp of approval from others, stop. Pause for a moment. Recognize what you are doing. Remind yourself you are putting your sense of accomplishment into the hands of others. That is a place it was never meant to be. Take it back.
I’m an advocate of boundaries. Through boundaries we define who we are, what we like, what we don’t like, what we find acceptable and what we don’t. It’s important to know who you are. It’s equally important to remember we are responsible for ourselves and responsible to treat others with kindness. We must allow others to have the views they have. If you demand other people adopt your views, you’re trying to take away their boundary.
It’s fine to disagree with people. We live in a country where we actually have that right. Here are some phrases that might help with speaking your view while honoring another’s right to hold a different opinion:
- “That is how you see it. My view is…”
- “I understand you have a different opinion. My opinion is…”
- “That’s your perspective. My perspective is…”
Notice there are no “buts.” When you speak your opinion avoid using any blaming, shaming or criticizing words.
I’ve noticed, not just in the last few days but for quite some time, how vitriolic people have gotten in their disagreements. Professionals and leaders sound like mean-spirited children. Telling people their opinion is stupid is not only unkind, it does nothing to bring people to a place of seeking to understand where each side is coming from. Pick any debate right now, there are many, and look at the way people on opposite sides speak to each other.
I am a marriage coach. I help couples who are in crisis learn new ways of communicating with one another to help bridge the chasm versus pushing one another farther apart. As I look at the dialogue going on in the news and on social media, I keep thinking, “If you all would get some training on effective communication strategies and do some work healing the wounds of your past that show up today as venomous hate, the country would be a much better place.” You might not agree with me. That’s ok. You get to have your view and I get to have mine. 🙂