Tag Archives: boundaries

Never, Ever Get Hurt Again. Ever.

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In our last post in this series on expectations, we started a conversation about framework.

Framework is basically the rules and structure that we use to sort through the events of our life – both the little day-to-day stuff and the really big stuff.

Here’s the thing about us. At first glance, it seems like we would build this framework based on what’s happening now to help us deal with whatever is happening now.

Surprisingly, it’s different. We build framework based on what’s already happened so we can try to predict what’s going to happen next.

Let’s say you go through something really hard, like a relationship that doesn’t work out. It could be romantic love, a friendship, a work relationship, anything. What is the first thing we do when it’s clear there is a separation we can’t fix? We call our best friend, or hit the gym, or eat some fried chicken and ice cream. And, we analyze. Oh, do we analyze.

We ask ourselves questions like:   What happened? What did I do wrong? What did they do wrong? Why didn’t I see this coming sooner? How can I make sure this never happens again?

I mean… this is a burning desire in us. We are driven beyond belief to try to prevent this pain from ever happening again, aren’t we? We talk with our friends, family, a counselor, even complete strangers about our story until we can make sense of it.

We are hard wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

What is it that we are trying to do with all this information?

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First, we look for a blueprint that will fit our current belief system. We hunt diligently, feverishly for patterns, clues, nuances, and scraps of information that will outline for us what this framework – our new, improved protective structure is supposed to look like.

This is a very big deal. It’s the latest, most updated version of something that is going to keep you safe and shelter you from breathtakingly painful events. Your body’s own “fight or flight” system is activated and you must protect yourself. It’s a survival instinct.

Your clues and patterns may look like this:

  1. Something someone said, wanted, or withheld from you.
  2. Something you said, wanted, or withheld from someone else.
  3. Something that happened immediately before you felt blindsided.

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Once you have an idea of what this structure is supposed to look like, you must look for building material. This is super important because you’ve got to make sure that your protective structure is strong enough to withstand whatever has already been hurled at you, and (egads) what is still out there waiting to be flung at you when you least expect it.

Your building materials are you looking for things that will withstand a terrible force. They will likely look like this:

  1. Shutting down
  2. Sleeping a lot or hard to sleep
  3. Reluctance or refusal to make new friends
  4. Withdrawal from your current friends & family
  5. Increased time spent alone
  6. General mistrust of others

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Lastly, you need to pick up your tools and build this thing. Have you ever noticed how when you learn something new, it seems to crop up everywhere? It’s a psychological process called Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

This same thing is going to happen when you build your structure.  You are going to feel all this “aha” new discovery wonderfulness and renewed vigor.  “I’ll never be hurt again!” will be your glorious war cry.

And, at first, it works fabulously.  The more you build, the more you see and hear clues from the world around that you that this thing is really going to work!! It’s so genius.  Why didn’t you think of this before?  You joyously beat away at this structure until you arrive at the final, amazing moment after which you can dust off your hands and be done with pain forever. You need to hang the door on your structure.

You stare at it for a moment, and try to make sense of it. What is this all about? There’s no doorknob on the door. How am I going to get in & out? How are others going to get in & out? You stand outside your structure and look up at the tall, massive walls. Holy crap, there are no windows in this thing. WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? HOW AM I GOING TO GET IN AND OUT?

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Deep breath.  Here’s the thing about external, rigid framework.  Nothing gets in, nothing gets out.  What we don’t realize when we start building is that everything goes in and out the same door:  love, pain, joy, sorrow, belonging, fear… all of it. What’s happening outside in life shines through the windows – sunshine, storms, hail that breaks the glass, little baby birds that sit on the windowsill and chirp.. all of it.

Stop and cry, or your version of pounding a pillow, if you need to because this sucks. It really does and it’s ok to feel however awful it feels about seeing that. To me, it was disappointing, incredulous, infuriating, embarrassing, and exhausting to think I had to start all over.

How do you protect yourself then? I remember actually physically and emotionally feeling like one of those metal balls in a pinball machine. Punched and jabbed from every side. It was so awful, but I don’t feel like that any more and you can, too.

What we do, instinctively, is we learn from nature and the world around us that, in order for things to be safe, there needs to be a hardness on the outside to protect the soft insides. We see this in hard bricks that house our families and the people at work, hard metal cars to protect us, armour worn in battle, shoes on our feet, jeans that our tougher than our skin, bicycle helmets on our heads and kneepads on our knees. We see this everywhere. And it’s true everywhere, except with ourselves. You know – the inside of us – our hearts, our spirit, the essence of who we are.

Seriously? You want me to stop protecting my heart!? That’s the whole reason this mess happened in the first place.   

Except, it’s not. Have you ever met someone who was prickly like a porcupine? Tense, got offended easily, not able to communicate freely how they felt about something they liked or didn’t like? That is the mark of someone who is soft on the inside and hard on the outside. They have built that hard, exterior structure with no working door or windows and nothing.. I mean nothing is getting in or out. Their guard dogs, Anger, Emotional Unavailability, and Withdrawl are fed a steady diet of shame, fear, and self doubt and are absolutely fat with it. And there they sit in the middle of that bare structure with no warmth, no meaningful human contact, no healthy food or emotional support. We wouldn’t let someone treat a human being or animal that way – so why on earth would it be ok to treat ourself that way?

Our strength must come from inside, not outside. Picture some of the strongest heroes you’ve seen. They are very likely strong, courageous, kind, inspiring, honest, and wise.

Are these qualities that are going to grow and flourish on a bare floor in a dark room? Nope.

Our mind, body, and spirit needs fresh air, sunshine, and even storms.

So what’s the answer? How do we protect ourself from pain?

It begins with awareness. When I felt like a ping pong ball, desperate to get out of harm’s way, I began to follow my curiosity on Google. The first thing I Googled was “what is a healthy relationship?” and, in two years of research and study, it seems like the questions have never stopped for me. Through that first search, I started seeing the word “boundaries” and really had no grasp of what those were.

Boundaries, my friend, are internal framework. They say “Whatever happens around me and with other people is outside of myself, I can only control two things:

  1. How close I let people get to me
  2. How invested I let myself get in something

We will talk more about boundaries next time, and I also highly encourage you to Google it if you’re curious. It’s a life changer 🙂

Onward……

Up next:  Boundaries:  Get Happy & Stay That Way

Expectations: Where Do You End, and Where Do I Begin?

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Our last discussion about expectations sparked new questions, radical brainstorming, and some heated debate.

Words like should and general gasping came up a lot.

Like this:

What are expectations anyway?

Well, they’re basically things you can predict from someone or something.

Does everyone agree on what those things are?

Ummm…. PAUSE. Obviously not.

So, what are expectations?

PAUSE

PAUSE

PAAAUUUUSSSEEEEE

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Right.

But… but…. We SHOULD be able to expect things from other people? How else do we know what to … uhhhh…      expect?! I mean, a person can’t treat us any way they want to!

Actually, a person can treat us any way they want to. And they do!

The interwebs are littered with statements like:    c3216c2d89fa7ed967b479e87915bf76

Alright… so if no expectations, are we all just flailing around out here willy nilly?  Fortunately, not.

The question then becomes “Where do you build your framework?”

We all have framework – it’s a basic need for our brain to be able to not process a million pieces of data a day. We establish assumptions, rules, and predictions based on experience.   We see a piece of metal coming toward us at a fast pace. Our brain flips through categories and quickly slips the incoming data in one – bullet (RUN!), car traveling reasonably on interstate (no reaction), spoon thrown by our 2 yr old (duck or catch it before ketchup gets on the wall).

Framework makes us feel safe. It lets us know what’s going on now and what’s probably coming next.

There are two places we can build our framework – internally (inside) or externally (outside).

  • External (outside) framework says that I must make sure everything around me is as I need and want it to be. Then, I can feel happy and safe.
  • Internal (inside) framework says that I must make sure everything inside me is as I need and want it to be. Then, I can feel happy and safe.

What do we have control over, really?

I mean…. really.

It’s a freaky thought, isn’t it?

Here is what we have control over, in a nutshell: we have choices.

Most of the time, those choices determine how we act when something happens. It does not control the “what happens” part of that sentence.

Goodness, this is just getting so good.  But I must sleep 🙂

Onward…

Next up: Internal and External Framework: Where do you build your strength?

Expectations vs Contentment

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Something happened today and it caused me to think about expectations.

In total fairness, my first reaction was surprise.  Then hurt.  Then blame.  Then shame.  Then, as the pain passed I was able to think about what I want.  Not about what someone else has to offer me…. but about what I do and don’t want in my life.

It occurred to me that people we know & love are just going about, living their own lives.  They have hopes, dreams, fears, and hang ups all their own.  Enter, us and our agenda.  Our expectations.  Our assumptions.  Our hopes, dreams, fears, and hang ups.

it.  gets.  messy.

Like, really messy.

I was really thinking about blame.  It’s my go-to deflector for discomfort.  “Well, I wouldn’t be hurting/embarrassed/upset if YOU had done… what I expected you to do.”

Who died and made us the boss?

I mean, really?

Who are we to have any expectation of another person?

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People make promises, and sometimes they don’t keep them.  That’s totally their stuff over there.  This is my stuff over here.

We assume that if someone says they love us, that means the same thing to them as those words to do us.

But it might not.

Expectations feel like control. It feels like they might be an excellent bridge to carry all our emotional baggage straight to someone else’s front lawn and dump it.

“Here”, we say. “You love me? You wanna be friends? Great. Now, you are responsible to please me and fill my pre-formed idea of what love and relationship should look like. Here is all my stuff. Please sort through the debris, drop your own issues like a hot rock, and present yourself to me confident, whole, and ready to make me happy.”

Are we serious with this shit?

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What if….
◾We expect things to be kinda messy.
◾We have compassion for someone else’s journey.
◾We take time to calm down and get some perspective when our own stuff gets triggered.
◾We get clear about what we want for our life.
◾We stay open, warm, and loving – especially when we are saying no thank you.

In moments where we feel our most loving, whole self, we are able to let relationships, opportunities, and life events ebb and flow in and out of our lives.

In a grace full, grateful way, we can sit in the green field of our own life and appreciate the simple goodness of breeze in our hair, the sun on our warm skin, and watch in love as time weaves its unique tapestry through our life.

It’s beauty takes my breath away sometimes – the joy, the pain, the peace, and always… always… the love.

Onward…

PS – I am quite sure there will be a follow up to this about what expectations are ok.  If there are any.  Research, here we come.

Love Does Not Have to Come Wrapped inPain

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I found this leaf on a camping trip in the spring of this year. Near the fire pit at my campsite, it literally stopped me in my tracks.  It felt like seeing my own heart, lying there on the ground.  I was camping alone, in a relationship a man who ran hot & cold, and trying to find my way back to myself.

It’s hard to find our way back to ourselves if we weren’t ever anything solid to begin with, isn’t it?  We like the things our guy likes, his hobbies become interesting to us, and we just sort of dissolve into his life.

What if it wasn’t like that?  What if we had this beautiful, warm, loving life of our own and found a great way to merge our great life with his great life?  What if we stayed ourself and he stayed himself and we just rolled along that way… supporting each other… loving each other… inspiring each other to be our best selves?

Count me in for that.

I believe that once we get our hands, hearts, and minds around who we are and what we’re about, it’s a whole lot easier to decide who gets to enter that life with us.  When we can honor our little snags, life just smooths out… because the rough stuff snags.  The hurt stuff snags.  We can feel it on the way in, can’t we?  And we get to love ourselves through that growth and say “I recognize that I have always done it that way, but I am not getting the result I want.  I intend to keep my mind and heart open to finding a different way to be in this life.  I intend to find a way to feel whole and good.”

Love does not have to come wrapped in pain.

Onward…

Stillness

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solitudeI know what a healthy (maybe) relationship looks like from the outside, but what does it feel like to be in one?  I had absolutely no idea. So, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and Googled it.

Article after article talked about boundaries. What are boundaries? I had heard the word, many times, but what does it really mean in a person’s life? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

Boundaries, to me, always seemed like artificial walls people would erect when 1. They had been hurt and said “Never again!” and then promptly shut their heart down for all eternity. Or 2. A buzzword that women use to criticize themselves or other women. “She clearly doesn’t have any boundaries (she’s easy)” or “If I was stronger and had better boundaries, this wouldn’t have happened to me (I must be stupid)”.

Where to start? It didn’t seem right to just arbitrarily make up rules. Because then what if I wanted to change them? What if I didn’t like them?! So, I panicked and decided to just try to be aware of how things made me feel and try to do my best to honor those feelings with the same respect I would give to someone else.

Here’s what I learned: We know when a boundary has been crossed. We might not even be able to put into words what the boundary is or what we don’t like about what just happened, but we feel it. In our gut. Something hurts. Something snags. Something about what’s happening just doesn’t feel right.

Want to grow a little?  Try to stay open to your feelings as you go through your day.  When something snags, stop for a moment.  Pick that little feeling up with two gentle hands and tell it “I don’t know what just happened, but I’m going to take care of this feeling.”  As you collect and take care of those little snags, you will start to see a pattern.  For me, the first pattern I began to see was “I don’t like it when I get up the nerve to call the guy I’m seeing and he doesn’t pick up the phone.”  Even saying that I didn’t like something was empowering!  Hey, I didn’t like it.

Then we get to ask ourselves great questions.  Like:

“What does it mean that he didn’t pick up the phone?”  I’m not important

“Ok.  What does it mean if I’m not important to him?”  That he doesn’t love me.

“Ok.  What does it mean if he doesn’t love me.”  Maybe nobody can love me.

Aha.

When we can start to be aware of snags, and then take care of those little feelings, we begin on what is maybe the most talked about journey in all of mankind.  Who am I and what’s important to me?

You are so, so loved.

Onward…