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.

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