8 01, 2013

Boundaries again

January 8th, 2013|boundaries, triggering|3 Comments

Two days ago I went to a small house party with some new age performance acquaintances I have. These were people I’ve met a few times before at parties and done fun things with but didn’t know well.  Hadn’t seen them in close to a year; I’d been to India and had all sorts of different experiences in that time. It was one of those events where there was an unspoken attitude of “let go of fear, just drop all boundaries and surrender to love” with an emphasis on no boundaries and no resistance.

Immediately upon entering, one guy led an exercise where we wrote a couple words about the beginning of a relationship and again about the ending of a relationship. Everyone then paired with one or two people and used those words to speak about both of those experiences, one time “from the mind” with one time “from the heart”, with the not so subtle connotation that being from the heart was better. I was paired with a guy I didn’t know and the exercise leader.

As I spoke, I realised I was both feeling angry and defensive as well as internally “splitting” from myself, Why? In retrospect, this is forced intimacy. There was a sizeable amount of peer pressure to behave as if you have built trust, even if you haven’t.  Instead of taking time to develop a space where it’s truly OK to show vulnerability,  the atmosphere starts with “you must open up”.

I’ve seen this in other exercises before, such as where you stare into another person’s eyes for a long time. In the abstract it can sound like a break in the isolation of the modern age, but if I’m aware of myself, I notice that forcing myself to do this feels bad. And that’s the key word – force.  I hate being forced; it feels violent.  I’m more in the “sensitive” category, so what works for me is taking care on who I open up to. This means discernment about who I am revealing to in words, who I show vulnerability to in my eyes, and who I let inside my personal space and allow more familiar touch to. To me, this is self-care and is an expression of self worth. A parent wouldn’t hand their child to just anyone – why would I hand my soul (or body, or uncertain parts of me) to others?  So this is a fundamental disagreement I have with some personal development workshops and styles.

Coming from the Heart?

I then spoke up about this publicly, and the exercise leader tried to use me of an example of resistance to “coming from the heart” by inaccurately rephrasing what I said.  To be honest, it strongly reminded me of the Patrick Swayze character in Donnie Darko – “choose love, not fear!”. Love that movie.  A nice way of trying to keep control.  I left feeling incredibly triggered.

As I am wont to do, it made me think more about boundaries. I wrote about this before, but I’ve lived more, and when I get this body reaction, including minor shakes and convulsions, I think more about what they are and how I didn’t respect myself. So I’ll now list different types of boundaries.


Boundary Types

Physical boundaries are the easiest to identify, because a camera can catch them clearly. It’s the acknowledgement and respect of each other’s space.

There’s no precisestop-1560699-639x852 measure of personal space, yet everyone understands it. Experiments of time-lapse photography of people arriving on a beach in a sunny day shows how a plot of sand chosen follows a general algorithm of desiring space and respecting that of others. The area called “personal space” decreased as the area got more crowded, but became even more important.

When personal space is respected, there’s a tiny negotiation when that invisible line is crossed. This can be via eye contact, a little physical hesitation, or asking if it’s OK. After trust has been developed there is an assumption that it is OK, but part of that trust is the understanding that at any time, the asking of physical space will be respected.

Intellectual boundaries are essentially about the space to have different thoughts. More than that, a good intellectual atmosphere is when different thoughts are appreciated. There’s an interest in what you really think.

Our education system, based on memorisation, is often subtly (or not so subtly) about imitating the teacher’s mindset. You know how essay grading can be – if you rephrase the teacher’s arguments in class, you’re at least going to get a decent mark. If you go out on your own path, especially if you’re thoughts are still developing, nothing is certain.

High powered workshops or big sales events can at times be a great observation about lack of intellectual boundaries. Brainwashing techniques are essentially meant to break through these, bringing a fleeting high of closeness from everyone seemingly being on the same page. It’s called group-think. But because it’s forced, there’s a counter reaction and it never lasts. People either leave the group in disillusionment or want more, trying to that next “hit” of a time when everyone seems together in union. Workshop junkies, anyone?

Emotional boundaries are harder to define, but just as important. This is the space to have your own distinct feelings and identity. Being able to respect this space in others takes maturity and listening skills. Most people simply aren’t aware of the full range of different emotions another can have, and so jump to “oh, I understand, you’re feeling ____ (projection) and here’s my advice”.

Reactivity is essentially an expression of not allowing another space. For instance, in my childhood my mother got incredibly upset whenever I would show anger. Love that British culture! To her the world was ending, and her body would tense and she would do whatever it took to “work it out”, which meant that I had to stop feeling it. There was no space for me to have my own feelings, and I ended up feeling worthless the moment I felt anger. It’s been a lifelong lesson for me to learn that this energy has value and is essentially self-protection and self care.

Internal boundaries are also essential. Can you let yourself have an emotion or thought and give it space? Can you let it be there without immediately trying to change it? That is in essence, the basis of meditation. It’s also a great way to practice listening to yourself so you can listen to others better.

Psychologically, one word used for good boundaries is differentiation. I’ve written on that topic before as well. In a Freudian sense, it’s when you fully and deeply know just how different other woman are from your mother, and how different other men are from your father. But mostly it’s about good internal and external boundaries.

Respect of boundaries is so essential because it essentially says “hey, I know you’re a person with the same rights as me”.  To me, there cannot be any real love between people without good boundaries, because you can only love someone for who they actually and truly are. The moment there’s any sort of pressure to conform or not be, think or feel something, then in that moment, there’s non-acceptance. Most boundary crossing is essentially a desire to love by making another (or one’s self) into something easier, in this moment, to love. You find someone else’s “negativity” hard to love, so you try to get in there to affect them in some way that’s easier for you to appreciate and trust, that triggers less reactions.  This inevitably turns into conflict and confusion, because it’s all about control, and the human psyche inevitably wants to be in a free state.

Do you know when you cross boundaries?  Most people don’t seem to.  We get into arguments easily when there’s a lack of respect for intellectual boundaries, such as dismissals.  Relationships end up with fused personas, leaving people wondering where it all went wrong.  And in the dating scene the physical boundaries can be an issue, commonly talked about regarding men not respecting women, but it also occurs from women to men too.  It happened that night to me!

Too often we want to jump steps because we want to feel good. It’s amazing how much “just choose LOVE!” philosophy is about non-acceptance. Jumping into “love”, meaning something other than who we are, can never be loving, because it’s not respectful to the present moment. That’s where appreciation comes from – just being fine with what’s going on now.

That wasn’t the end of the evening, but it’s all I want to write about.  It’s taken me a couple days to get centered again, and I’m not totally there yet. I’m still learning that my internal reactions that say “no!” in a strong way are really and truly valuable, no matter what the reactions of other people are. It’s all part of the journey of being true.


24 06, 2007

boundaries revisited!

June 24th, 2007|boundaries, conflict, counseling, Travel and Places|1 Comment

In honor of my mother’s visit (there’s a conference on commodity stocks in town she’s interested in) and in self-preparation here’s some thoughts on boundaries. I’m always learning about this when she’s in town!

To start off with, probably the best analogy is that of a cell in our own bodies.

(Note: does anyone else see a similarity to a brain in that?)

The membrane in a cell does an essential function. It controls, among other things, what goes out and what goes in. This is essential, because analogous to us, what is food to one cell can be poison to another. Without a good boundary, health decays as the composition becomes a cesspool, good for little in the long term. Boundaries allow for choice, which is always a good thing.

Boundaries are also essential for clear perception. Without them, it is impossible to tell causal factors, such “what brought up this feeling?” Emotions and psyches are so enmeshed that eruptions occur without rhyme or reason. In a relationship, this most often shows up as drama. Strong emotion occurs, and because of the lack of clear boundaries, it is impossible to determine where it comes from. Thus there is a huge tendency for projection and condemnation.

This occurs even when positive intention is set. Our psyche and energy systems have their “waste products”, much like the cells in our bodies mentioned above. Hence the term “shit”! But this isn’t a bad thing either; as above, what is excrement to one can be food to another, even on an energetic level. However, in a close relationship it is likely the people are similar enough that this wouldn’t be the case; hence the need for boundaries and awareness of actions.

Looking at two people are in a relationship and healthy boundaries aren’t there (which is fairly common, as we as a society are learning about boundaries), I see two general patterns as coping mechanism.

i. Distance/withdrawal. In this case, at least one person withdraws to keep the relationship peaceful and not too rocky. There is a spectrum of this, from conscious choice, to unconscious internal actions. An example of the latter is the overfunctioning/underfunctioning dynamic, where one person relinquishes self in a dance of withdrawal or inability to cope to the other person, who acts like they’re the one who “has it all together”. The former might include two people being “together” but living very separate lives; some societies have very rigid splits between men and women that help keep this distance to avoid drama and having issues come up.

ii. Conflict and drama. Instead of distance keeping the peace, two people jump even closer together. This can be for a variety of reasons, from wanting to “figure out the relationship”, to “resolving issues”, to wanting the other person to “just get it”, to a passionate pronouncement of love without awareness of self. Sometimes this results in conflict between the two parties, but it can also involve triangulation, where two people get close, but see all the froth of the chaos as being “caused” by a third party, which could be a person or even a political/social ill. This coping mechanism is more about constantly “diving in”, because if new issues constantly arise you never have to see more fundamental, pervasive choices.

It’s important to note that there may be underlying issues in all these behaviors, but a major factor is proper boundaries. Or to put it in other terms : knowledge of self. To have proper boundaries goes hand in hand with self-knowledge, and the perception of how complete you are as an individual.

Now, that’s all background. So the question is, how are good, healthy boundaries achieved? Many people get the idea that establishing good boundaries is a constant war zone, where an uneasy truce is arrived at after warning shots. While that can be a boundary, it is not a healthy one, as it can all too easily escalate into an entrenched war zone.

Boundaries are a form of Love.

Although most people wouldn’t see it as this, they do what they are meant to do: provide safety and protection, which is in itself a form of love.

Nothing is lost by setting a boundary. Rather, it is a declaration of the person, yourself, that you are creating in the moment.

Because boundaries are a form of Love, they already exist naturally. You don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is allow them. Boundaries are not cultivated from mammoth efforts. Rather, they are cultivated by allowing the complete expression of your full being, including self-protective elements. This may include elements unacceptable to the culture you live in, but so what? Your self is truly far too large to be contained in any culture.

Take a look at a cat being stroked. At some point, it will have had enough. If restrained or irritated by touch it doesn’t like, it will set boundaries. For those of you not close to cats, this isn’t done with any malice, nor attack. It is the allowing of a message from within that says : what I need in this moment has changed from previous moments. Please listen.

Apart from simply allowing the process, another essential factor is play. It’s very hard to learn anything without playing! You try something out of a sense of discovery and fun, and watch the results. You then try something differently. There’s no right or wrong, only a continual process of learning about Self. This is how children learn for so many years, until we educate it out of them. It’s no accident that most learning in life occurs while this sense of play is unrestrained. Even though playing with boundaries can provoke irritation and ire, that’s no reason to be too serious about it!

People may ask “but people often use setting boundaries as a form of control.” That’s true. If someone is triggered easily, they can be invasive on what’s not alright with them. This IS based in protection and self-love, trying to take care of one’s self – but if a large amount of pain exists then the area of protection desired may be so large it crosses into other people’s lives. This is what control is. In which case, these people need help. And the best help is ALWAYS a good example – a living example of what a loving boundary looks like. It’s by living examples we change the world; merely speaking words doesn’t actually do that much, comparably. And yes, that gives me some humility!

11 01, 2007

The secret – my own thoughts

January 11th, 2007|beliefs, black and white thinking, boundaries|0 Comments

For the last few months, there’s been considerable amount of hype about the movie “The Secret”. I finally saw it not long ago. For those who haven’t seen the movie and don’t consciously know about “The Law of Attraction”, or “like attracts like”, I would generally recommend it, along with the comments below.. However, it brings to mind certain other patterns common to new age movements that I wanted to share my thoughts and insights on.

The first of them, obvious to anyone who’s seen the movie, is the subtle (and not-so subtle) assumption that being rich is better. As a lot of new age workshops evolved from marketing, this is fairly common. If you truly get it you can be as rich as you want!” is voiced. It’s a subtle push of spiritual greed. At the core of things, there is no “better” â???? there is only “does it help for doing ____”. It’s certainly more comfortable not having to work overtime to survive or being able to buy organic foods, but 5 million dollar homes aren’t better than a comfortable 1 bedroom apartment. In fact, from the soul’s viewpoint, it’s all about the lessons; sometimes money issues distract from the true learning going on. (That’s why it’s good to be very in touch with one’s entire being before placing intentions; a mixed message from different parts of the psyche generally brings mixed results. )

Secondly this movie has a LOT of hype â???? even in the movie itself, the first 10 minutes is just that. Hype in itself is quite interesting. When there’s hype there’s always a message of lack. You need to know this! Your life will be better off with this knowledge!” â???? a message spoken with passion and zeal. However, if you look deeply into this, there is always the flip side: your life is not perfect just as it is.” All hype contains this â???? the perception of emptiness and lack that must be cultivated before a desire is born. Advertising knows this process intimately. So anytime you hear hype and sales, look inward and see what part of you buys into it; it’s the same part that doubts its own perfection.

The way things are spoken communicates far more than the words themselves, too. The maxim of “be the change you wish to see in the world” speaks to this â???? the embodiment of a message teaches more than words do. For those of you who have seen the movie (parts of it are available, as shown below), see if you can see the difference in the subtext between, say, Neale Donald Walsh or Esther Hicks and another subtext given by Rev Dr. Michael Beckwith, a fairly new age pastor. With Esther Hicks speaking, there’s no “push”, no need to convince anyone. Esther seems to breathe compassion, not because anything is wrong, but because it’s the unfolding of her natural being and who she is creating as “her”. As far as I can see, she’s speaking to give others more tools for joy, but totally seeing their perfection as they are. With Neale Donald Walsh, there seems to be a bit of humor thrown in. This is all a game, and we create our experiences, collectively and individually, and everything is truly perfect â???? let’s play consciously!” is a message I got. There’s a great acceptance and presence.

With the Rev Dr. Michael Beckwith, I felt his positive intentions glowing â???? he was obviously in touch with his sense of higher good. At the same time, there was a “push” and hype involved, leading me to feel a “I absolutely know what’s best for you!” energy. It’s a desire to help without a positive humility and perspective.. While this may feel good to those who want another to take away difficult choices, to me it doesn’t truly help at all, because of the subtext involved.. I know what’s best for you” in a passionate voice that hasn’t investigated each person individually is the same as “you don’t know what’s best for you.”

Back to myself, it’s been part of my lifelong learning to see that everything in life is just perfect as it is. This includes George Bush, poverty, inequitable distribution of wealth, and all the problems we perceive out there. It also includes, of course, the soul’s natural desire to help others out of love â???? it’s not meant as an excuse for complaisance. Lately I’ve actually been feeling intensely grateful for my problems and limitations. The tension in my body, coming out regularly, is a great sign of lack of trust in the universe â???? and having it made physical makes the learning of that concrete and deep. Perhaps it’ll only take a few more lifetimes to learn â???? who knows. And in effect, who cares? Simply knowing we’re on a continual expanding process of knowing and loving is enough, simply as it is. Patience is another thing we’re all learning.

13 06, 2006

giving, receiving, and the flow of love.

June 13th, 2006|boundaries, love, relationships|2 Comments

To begin this, when referring to giving and receiving, I’m not mainly talking about giving and receiving of things, though of course that’s included. Giving includes such things as time, appreciation, listening, insight, “energy work”, and so on. I sum up all of these things as “energy”, because that’s about as generic as possible.

A main thought that I see as very misunderstood is the concept of “as ye give, so shall ye receive”. It’s sometimes understood to mean that we should all be selfless and give endlessly, and then in the future we will get something for our actions.

What a load of malarky! I don’t subscribe to any notion of doing something so that something good will come in the future. Some things need to be planned, yes, but I try to always do things because they’re the right thing to do *now*. All spiritual teachings are really built into the Now, the ever changing present moment. If you look at the tense of the above quote on giving and receiving, it’s about the present moment. It isn’t about future reward – it’s a statement of how the universe works. As energy goes out, it also comes in – and vice versa. You can’t have one without the other. “As ye receive, so shall ye give” is equally true.

Giving and receiving are always happening at the same time – often in a very non linear way. As we give to another person (e.g., giving them a compliment), we’re at the same time giving to self by saying we appreciate this quality in ourselves. We’re also receiving a sort of feedback loop from another person as they truly receive it – this can be in the form of gratitude, or joy, or even the other person’s transformation. This last one is an extremely powerful feedback of energy. We all can grow and invite joy helping others grow. (Note: we don’t help others grow by ignoring our own growth at the expense of others!)

We’re not islands unto ourselves – our entire being is really an energetic system. And because it’s a system, wherever there’s an output, there has to be a corresponding input, or motion stops. As we give, we also have to be open to receiving, or the flow stops. The reverse applies – in order to truly receive, we need to be completely open to giving.

I’ve met a number of “selfish” people in my years so far. To me, it’s simply sad, as they’re so focused on getting all they can that they block out the possibilities of giving. Because they severely limit their output, or giving, (even if it’s a heartfelt thanks!), they don’t take that much in either. If they want to “accumulate” love, for example, they find it never sticks. At the energetic level they aren’t letting that much of what’s given in, because they’re blocking the entire flow that’s needed. Oh, they can accumulate things, and when you’re monetarily poor it seems very seductive to have this attitude, but because of the attitude, they often get mired in a poverty consciousness. External things are really only a small part of what makes us happy, after all. You need to give love in order to have it flow in. This isn’t about reward or punishment – simply how the universe works.

A similar thing is when people, to external appearance, are always selflessly giving, but blocking receiving anything. One manifestation could be because they’re afraid of feeling worthless, they keep giving to not feel that feeling – but then don’t think they’re worth getting anything. This can make people around them tense, because there really isn’t much giving energetically – the flow being blocked on the receiving end makes the real giving (ie, “Love”) slow down to a trickle.

This energetic feedback loop of giving and receiving is subtle, but very important to be aware of. When I’m trying to help someone, I notice if the person is receiving it and open to the entire process, including the giving part. If I start to feel “drained”, I usually stop, because something’s going wrong with the flow. If the other person’s not taking it in, the energy can simply dissipate. Now I’m not even close to perfect in this regard, and I’m still learning an awful lot, but I’m getting better in trusting my intuitions. Trying to give – even in forms the other person wants – when they’re not open to all that’s required to receive it is simply a waste of energy, and it’s not loving (for self OR others) to persist at it.

The best example I know of giving and receiving are babies and cats. If you think of it, there’s very little they conventionally “give” other than their presence, attention, and natural response. But what a joy that is. Everyone can feel that flow – how grandly loving the energy is. We get so much from giving of our time and love. That’s the flow I’m talking about.

Now I’ve been writing mostly about energy, as the world of things can have a lot of variety. Giving away $1 million means nothing to Bill Gates, but to me it’s an extremely large amount, which I don’t even have. The time and energy I’d invest to get it is enormous. So while detachment from things is very helpful, it’s important to have self-care in giving. It wouldn’t be self-loving for me to give away my retirement, whereas by the time Bill Gates has gotten back from a coffee break he could have made that much. Self-love is as an important part of giving and receiving as anything else – if something doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t. It can be a very loving thing to do to stop an ongoing gift that doesn’t feel right, because it can bring the element of truth and clarity into it. If it doesn’t feel right, you often learn more about why after you take a break from it.

Now, I look at this unrestrained, unblocked energy flow simply as Love. That’s part of what Love is – the natural flow of energy in this grand universe. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if you’re giving or receiving at any given moment. If you’re part of this natural tide of giving and receiving, without ego-centered controls (but with self-care and good boundaries), you’re in a loving state. When we isolate ourselves or block off part of this flow, we natural block off all of it, because a river flow needs both an entrance and an exit to exist at any point. But when we participate, we find the utter joy in being part of the grand energy system we simply call “Life”.

As Gibran quote from The Prophet says:

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.