If there is one thing I find myself re-iterating lately with clients, it is that everyone and every circumstance can be a mirror to our relationship with self, and that the only person we can really control is us. That we are the key to our own internal freedom.
So annoying, right? I know, I know. I kind of want to poke my own eyes out as I write that.
When we are irritated or triggered by others or specific situations, the last, last, last thing we want to do is really start to turn inward and ask ourselves how the perception of the event or OUR perception of other’s opinions and words are actually mirroring something WE believe or fear to be true about ourselves. Regardless, that is the root of where the problem lies, that, on some level, we AGREE with what is being presented and because we can’t accept the part of ourselves that we see in the mirror of that situation, we have to get angry. We have to blame the universe or others. We have to make something outside of ourselves wrong. In doing so, we get off the hook from our own personality responsibility.
When I started to really look for this in my own life, it was staggering how much I either a) shifted blame off myself whenever someone inferred something that made me feel vulnerable or b) it turned into a mad personal fight club scene with myself. Either the person or situation had to be wrong, or it/they were right, which meant there was a big ole part of me that was wrong and broken. Bring on the shame and subsequent, self-punishment. So either I felt anger or deep shame. Typically anger came first, because anger is a great shield for shame. It feels less vulnerable but is just as isolating.
So, a lot of times, when working with people on their relationship with food, in their relationship with others, in their relationship with careers, we always look at how their relationship with that external “thing” is actually mirroring their relationship with themselves. They start to recognize that the changes start with actual self-acceptance, and that work ain’t for the weak of heart y’all. It’s not just zen, and peaceful. Sometimes it is painful before we break through to really seeing ourselves, that we do contain darkness and ugliness, and that it is totally, completely, okay. Once that work is done, however, suddenly we can rise to new levels of consciousness, take new action and accelerate momentum. Results follow quickly afterward.
But then there is the other piece to this whole thing.
Just because we may realize that others are a mirror for our relationship with self doesn’t mean we need to put up with their crap. It doesn’t mean we have to let others continuously poke our wounds (re-opening them and making it harder to heal). In fact, it is not only CRUEL to ourselves but also cruel to them.
Of course, there are some situations in life where someone who is massively triggering is our co-worker, boss, parent or the other parent of a child (someone it feels like you truly can’t escape). And in those situations, of course, because we may be deeply and truly committed to that specific relationship or job (and that is a choice), the emotional health of a child (also a choice), we may have to go deep internally and do the hard work to find inner peace and let go. It will demand that of us. Sometimes those people are our greatest teachers for deeper acceptance and freedom. They may require us to fall to our knees and surrender, because their isn’t another way out besides a lifetime of anger and resentment.
But a lot of OTHER times we stay in toxic situations and relationships because we are afraid it will mean something about us if we draw boundaries or bow out. We tell ourselves things like “I should be strong enough, wise enough, evolved enough to just work through it” or we stay in toxic cycles because we are afraid of the repercussions or implications of them changing. We continuously put our most vulnerable self on the front battle line every day, open to bullets. And the more that self is wounded and bleeding, the easier it becomes to harden, to drawn battle lines and put on the armor that prevents us from accessing our authentic truth and connection with others.
So, how do we navigate these rough waters of personal responsibility vs. drawing boundaries?
The answer to this came to me, strangely enough, through reading the book, Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. By the way, when I read it, I wasn’t even sure I believed in a God, in the typical sense. Whether or not you believe in a creator, (in my opinion), there is no doubt that the advice given about how to live life in a deep and meaningful way is pretty spot on.
The book speaks to making decisions that are in alignment with our highest selves. That doesn’t mean it is always the easiest decision. Sometimes what our highest/deepest self is telling us to do is sell our house and go take care of an ailing parent, or to show up for a friend whose child has just died. Making choices for our highest self is courageous and sometimes requires moving through fear.
Also, it can be easy to really BS ourselves here, and say “Yes, this person just insulted me, so I’m ending the relationship” because we have just been triggered, while that person might actually be a wonderful addition to our lives and majorly helping us to expand. The beautiful thing is that we can’t lie to our bodies for long. It knows our truth, even when our fear-based minds are saying otherwise. So, we have to get really good at listening to our intuition and asking,
“Is this kindest thing for my highest self in this situation?”
The highest self is the self that is bigger that this situation, bigger than this trigger, more expansive than this specific moment in time. Its truth is in favor of our seventy year old self, and our five year old self and all the selves in between that share one common thread…our consciousness and humanity and all the potential for love that combination holds.
Take a moment to think of a difficult relationship or circumstance that you are CHOOSING to continue engaging in, and ask yourself:
Is this kind to my highest self to keep engaging with (in the way that I am)?
It doesn’t have to be abusive either. It can just feel draining, contracting or unkind to yourself. Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe when you really connect and plug in with yourself, you are learning from it in a really valuable way, so maybe it is worth sticking around. Notice, however, when your body says “no,” and then your mind justifies staying in it. Because that may be a fear-based mind rationalizing away your authentic truth.
If the answer is “no,” it is okay to draw some self-loving boundaries or to bow out completely.
It is not kind to stay in an abusive relationship. It is not kind to us and it not kind to the abuser’s highest self either. It is not kind to allow someone to continue abusing, using, exploiting, taking out their pain on us. If someone is cruel to us consistently, it is not kind to continue allowing them to be cruel to another sentient being. Drawing boundaries or ending the relationship can actually allow us the ability to be more loving, empathetic, and compassionate to that person (just from a safe distance).
We cannot control others, of course. We have to stay firmly planted on our own side of the street. We can, however, express ourselves and ask for what we need. Then, upon their response or lack or response, we can choose what to do next in favor or our highest self. I highly recommend getting still, doing some deep breathing and making sure you are making the next choice when you are no longer feeling incredibly triggered. That allows our deeper wisdom to emerge. We CAN operate with love and curiosity without letting someone continue to damage us.
Brene Brown, whom I love and promote her work any chance I get, says about boundaries:
“I am not as sweet as I used to be but I am a whole lot more loving.”
Not sure how to draw boundaries or even what that means?
Take a moment to watch Brene Brown’s video on creating loving boundaries.
Thanks for reading! More to come soon!
Rock On & Be Well,