Friday, October 5, 2012

Becoming a Person of Power - Voicing Yourself

This map we've been creating through the landscape around personal power and living healthy, empowered lives has taken us deep into our own core wounds and out again through how we think and feel around not just the wounds, but around everything in life.  We've looked down to see the foundation upon which our feet are planted and have looked all around to determine whether we are in balance, and within to find our center.  We've seen how all our relationships are touched by our thinking and feelings, and that our reality is, literally, created by the ways we think and look at the world, our lives, our relationships, and our spiritual connection.  We've explored the boundaries that are important to respect -- both ours and those of others. All of these factors help us to engage deeply with the world around us in deeply authentic ways.  Quite a bit of this work has been internal process -- the fourth principle focuses on bringing the internal out into the world.

The fourth principle of personal power is Voicing the Self

The ways in which we voice ourselves is the primary way through which others know us. It forms the framework around how we engage the world around us.  Voicing ourselves uses the voice, certainly, but it also involves the non-verbal cues that form 85% of how we are received by others when we communicate.  This is important to remember because our words and our non-verbal cues need to align for our message to be projected authentically.  There are lots of examples to demonstrate this.  Someone asks us to do something we really don't want to do, but we're trying to be accommodating so we say, "Sure," but our hesitation, demeanor, and expression powerfully communicates that we'd rather say, "No."  Or someone tells us a wonderful piece of news, say, about a new job, a dream job, and we say, "That's great. Congratulations." but what we're actually feeling is jealousy because we might be toiling away in an unsatisfying job, so our body language and expression might seem less than enthusiastic.  People pick up our non-verbal cues and trust those more than our words.  We are deeply intuitive creatures when we are paying attention and over millions of years have developed a non-verbal language that either affirms or undermines the words we speak.

When people are listening to politicians, religious leaders, potential life partners, children, they are looking beyond the words to communicate the truth of what is being said.  Anyone who has been a parent knows when their children are being less than truthful -- it's not the words that children say, but the facial expressions, how they are holding their bodies, whether they make eye contact, and so many other forms of non-verbal communication that reveal so much more than words do.  In the recent presidential debate, commentators made note about much more than what President Obama or Governor Romney said, but how they were saying it.  They asked, "Why didn't he make eye contact?" or "Did you notice how much more confident [this one] seemed over [the other]?"  The fact-checkers were busily at work too, but the non-verbal cues were noticed and reported.  Interrogators have been trained to notice the non-verbal cues that betray falsehood -- a well-trained interrogator is better than a lie-detector machine.  

I mention all of this merely to point to the fact that our thoughts and feelings translate into body reactions that communicate how we are thinking and feeling, regardless of the words we are using to communicate our message.  When we are passionate about something, people can see it and feel it.  When we are feeling low, people can see it and feel it.  Being an amazing word-smith is helpful in communicating, but it is not our main tool for effectiveness in voicing ourselves.  Mental and emotional self-mastery is the chief tool in being able to voice the Self well.  And when our words are aligned with our true thoughts and feelings, we can become effective and powerful communicators. 

When we voice ourselves effectively, we communicate that we are powerful beings and people pay attention to us and listen as we speak. This enables movement and possibility for attaining the outcomes we are working toward.  Standing in our power enables confidence -- crucial to the ability to voice ourselves.  It is the outer expression of inner health and well-being and a sense of our own personal power.

The ability to voice the Self is always life-giving and is never abusive to another.  We know we are in integrity with this principle when we check in around our communication and are able to discern that how we voice ourselves is for the highest good.  Not just for ourselves, but also for others and for the world.  A good indicator of this is compassion. 

Is our communication compassionate, even when (especially when) we are setting a boundary?  Is there respect in our communication, for ourselves and for others?  Does our communication acknowledge the needs of others as well as our own needs?  (It is important here to be able to distinguish between needs and wants.) Are we being authentic, true to ourselves and to the greatest good in ways that reflect self-mastery, in the areas of our thinking and emotions?  And, finally, are we in integrity with the commitments we have made?  Are we communicating and acting with integrity? 

Checking in around all these factors enables accountability with ourselves that demonstrates that something outside of us does not need to hold us to a standard of accountability.  This is true power. Our power is reflected in the world through voicing ourselves authentically.  And this empowers our engagement with the world in all areas of life and in our relationships.    

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Becoming a Person of Power - Attention to Boundaries

Connecting with your foundation and moving into balance are core to living from your spiritual center. We are able to move more gracefully through life and to manage the unhelpful thoughts and toxic emotion that can undermine our personal power.  As we live more fully from our center, our relationships improve as we find that we are living more authentically and beginning to resist projecting our internalized wounds onto others.  We feel more fully ourselves and can begin to recognize both healthy and unhealthy behaviors in others.  This recognition is important -- not from a perspective of judgment, but from a perspective of living compassionately.  As we begin to learn about out own projections, as well as those others project onto us, we can relax around the trigger points that arise within us and can begin to look at ourselves, and others, with more compassion.  This breaks us open -- in good and life-giving ways -- and we find that we are more open and accepting of ourselves and of others.  It also provides valuable information to us -- as we learn more about ourselves and the ways we sabotage and undermine ourselves and our relationships.  When we can look honestly at ourselves with non-judgment and compassion, a whole new kind of freedom opens up for us.  All of this is part of being human. It is part of our light as well as our darkness. 

So often, what we most appreciate about ourselves is our light.  But our darkness is equally valuable.  It is the great teacher and the place where all possibility begins.  Many ancient cultures, when expressing their Creation myths, agree that life begins in darkness. It is the place of pure potential, the moment before creation, the silence before the speech, the darkness before the coming of the light.  This is a great metaphor for our experience. It is also the reality of our experience.  We learn the most valuable lessons about ourselves by exploring our darkness.  We step into our greatest courage by being willing to see our shadow as well as our light. We step into our greatest power by being willing to embrace the shadow and hold onto ourselves as we move through our transformations. But so often we fear our shadow so much that we never venture into this realm.

What is so frightening about the shadow is that it is the landscape of our rejected parts.  These are the parts of ourselves that get shoved into the shadowy realms of the Soul when we experience the negative projections of others, especially of our parents, teachers, and other significant authority figures and systems during our younger years.  The irony is, the shadow often holds our greatest gifts.  They live there in a state of virtual limbo, or as unconscious motivation that often undermines us, until we are able to shed some light on the rejected parts, see their value, reclaim them, and make them allies rather than enemies.  Another way to look at it is, this undermining clues us in to what needs to be seen with compassion rather than with judgment, named, claimed, and made our own.  Working with these rejected parts is like planting seeds that will eventually lead to abundant harvest as we continue to grow and nurture this new growth.

The third principle of personal power is Attention to Boundaries

A boundary is the understanding of where you end and another person begins.  It has to do with awareness around our own wounds and with being able to recognize the projections of others.  With knowing what is yours and what is not.  When we are conscious at this level, we are more able to establish and maintain boundaries that lessen the possibility that we will be controlled by something outside of ourselves. This control usually manifests as emotional reaction to something projected onto us by another person, group, or structure OR as a cascade of thoughts that undermine our own sense of Self. 
Healthy boundaries are permeable.  They are not fixed and isolating.  They give us freedom to dance gracefully through life and enable healthy, life-giving relationships. They are respectful to the Self and to the Other.  A major threat to our boundaries is projection, our own and that of others. 
A projection is usually a rejected part of another person that we receive as an accusation about ourselves. What can happen over time is we may begin to accept these accusations as personal reality.  If we are told over and over again by a selfish friend, for example, that we are selfish, we may begin to confuse nurturing the self with being selfish.  If we are told over and over again by a demanding parent with low self-esteem that we are not enough, we may begin to confuse our normal, human limitations with feeling like we can never satisfy reasonable expectations, even when the expectations are unreasonable.  If we are told over and over again that we are controlling by a controlling partner, we may begin to confuse the right to have agency in our own lives with a self-understanding that we are control-freaks. I am not saying here that we are perfect and don't need to work on ourselves, but each and every one of us is just right when we are living authentically, and the authentic self is just that -- the self that is authentic to the individual.  There is nothing wrong with you, even if you have some work to do on yourself.     

The simplest way to establish a boundary is to say, "No."

"No, I am not selfish for wanting to nurture myself."  "No, I am not deficient simply because I refuse to give myself away."  "No, I am not controlling because I exercise agency in my own life."  "No, there is nothing wrong with me because I am being my authentic self."  "No, I am not a bad person because I am not perfect. Sure, I have some work to do on myself -- and it's okay -- it is part of what it means to be human."

And by saying, "Yes."

"Yes, I will nurture my need for some time by myself even if that disappoints my friend."  "Yes, I will give myself a break today and accept that my efforts are not only good enough, but good."   "Yes, I will live authentically, even if something about me triggers another person's wound.  That is their work to do, not mine."  "Yes, I will see the good in myself and be loving toward myself."

Another kind of projection that undermines us and sabotages our relationships is our own projections onto others.  The idea is the same as I describe for projections onto us, except that this time we are projecting our rejected parts onto others.  This can lead to isolation in relationships as we are rejected by someone with healthy boundaries or as we drain the energy of others whose boundaries are also unhealthy and who leave without knowing why but knowing that they must.  Worse, yet, are relationships where both people are not consciously aware of their wounds and do continual mental, spiritual, and emotional violence to each other and never understand why the relationship is failing.  Only awareness around our internalized wounds and conscious self-work will enable us to establish respectful, yet permeable, boundaries. 

Establishing these kinds of boundaries within the Self and within our relationships opens the way to freedom.  It brings limits that actually increase our personal freedom and our personal power, while encouraging authentic intimacy, as we give ourselves permission to be authentic and to require those with whom we are in relationship to respect us and the limits we set within relationships.  All relationships are negotiated, and so people who are healthy in their thinking and emotions navigate this challenging process of mutually life-giving boundary setting with the understanding that there is give and take in relationships.

How do we do this in a relationship?  We talk to each other, share our thoughts and feelings authentically, listen deeply to ourselves and to others, are willing to give as well as to receive.  To show respect as well as to require it. What we are looking for in relationships is creating balance so that we can protect ourselves while letting others in. Core to our ability to establish and maintain effective boundaries is the ability to voice ourselves.  This is the fourth principle of personal power, which we will discuss in the next post.