A Neat Way to View Relationships: Post 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, today we look at Marianne Williamson’s spiritual teachings of what she calls Level 2 relationships:

“The second level is a more sustained relationship, in which, for a time, two people enter into a fairly intense teaching-learning situation and then appear to separate. During their time together, they will go through whatever experiences provide them with their next lessons to be learned. When physical proximity no longer supports the highest level of teaching and learning between them, the assignment will call for physical separation. What then appears to be the end of the relationship however, is not really an end. Relationships are eternal.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love. 

When I think about this level of relationships, it helps me to understand my own situation, in having separated from my ex-husband after 23 years. A portion of my grief was in what I considered to be a failure of a sacred union. Marianne Williamson’s description has helped me to understand that the lessons I learned from my marriage make the relationship a success. She goes on to say:

“Now it may be time for physical separation so that more can be learned in other ways. That not only means learning elsewhere, from other people; it also means learning the lessons of pure love that comes from having to release the form of an existing relationship.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love

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A Neat Way to View Relationships: Post 1

Marianne Williamson has a way of looking at relationships that focuses on our spiritual connection to others. She notes that relationships are assignments, and are part of a bigger plan towards expanded love. She talks about three levels of relationships, each providing teachable moments to greater awareness.

Level 1 relationships are those that we would consider to be casual encounters; someone you might chat with at the dentist office, or a person you begin talking to while you’re waiting for the bus. Marianne Williamson writes:

“It is mostly in casual encounters that we are given a chance to practice the fine art of chiseling away the hard edges of our personalities. Whatever personal weaknesses are evident in our casual interactions will inevitably appear magnified in more intense relationships. If we’re crabby with the bank teller, it will be harder to be gentle with the people we love the most.” -Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I have always considered it a part of good manners to be friendly to those we meet out in public; whether that be someone who serves us in a restaurant or someone we pass by on the street. I appreciate Marianne Williamson’s description of what it means to come in soft, to be kind to those around us, to extend positive regard to our casual encounters; it creates a richer experience to our everyday life.

Tomorrow’s post will explore Level 2 relationships.

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A Little Quote with a Big Message

I love this quote:

“The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has started to understand the meaning of life.” – Unknown

This message is about altruism. It is the ability to create random acts of kindness; to actively choose to do so without any means of knowing the full effect. Altruism often feels out of reach as we work through our busy lives; yet it can be achieved in the smallest of ways. Kind words, paying for someone’s order at a drive through, giving money to charity; even a smile to someone we pass on the street can be an altruistic act.

Plant trees so that others can sit in their shade; what a lovely thought 🙂

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The Guidelines of Fighting Fair

When anger strikes, we often lose the ability to fight fairly. Words get said, names get called, tones change, yelling happens. All in the name of needing to be right. For that is what anger does; it propels us to a place where we lose the perspective of wanting a solution and instead need to prove that our opinion is the right one. Unfortunately, there are times when the conflict moves to an unhealthy place. Learning how to fight fair is an important step in having to lessen the degree of repair. Here are 3 guidelines to get us started:

  • No name calling. Hard to do sometimes, but necessary. A hard fast rule: if I don’t call you those names when we aren’t fighting, they aren’t worthy descriptions when we are.
  • Stop the blame game. As soon as you realize that the argument has turned to blaming your partner instead of keeping an open mind to your own culpability, it is time to take a break and let your logic in.
  • Leave the past in the past. Arguments are the perfect time to bring every little mistake made back to the present time ~ or so we think. What it actually does is move the discussion away from what is important (solution) and into a contest of who has the bigger point to prove.

Although there are many guidelines to fighting fairly, these three can become ground rules in a relationship to help keep the conflict on the right track – towards solution, compromise and health.

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5 Habits of the Mentally Strong

What does it mean to be mentally strong? Part of it comes from our ability to be resilient; to challenges, to change. Part of it comes from our ability to honour and regulate our emotions. Part of it comes from the habits we form in purposefully working on our emotional strength. Here are 5 habits of the mentally strong:

  • Maintaining a sense of personal power. Being mentally strong allows us to believe that we have the ability to choose how we deal with any circumstance that comes our way. We have the ability to set healthy boundaries that best support our life goals.
  • Making peace with the past. Our story informs us; we need to understand the past in order to move forward from it. This is where being mentally strong comes into play as an understanding that the past is to be integrated into our life story ~ as a stepping stone and not as a roadblock.
  • Practicing gratitude. Make no mistake about it, when we actively count our blessings, we feed the part of our brain that builds resilience.
  • Accepting full responsibility for choices/actions. Mentally strong means that we can handle when we have made a mistake, overstepped boundaries and can move in for repair. It also means being able to take credit for the good things we have done too!
  • Setting aside time. When we are mentally strong, we understand the importance of self-care and the need for reflection.

Habits of the mentally strong can easily become part of our lifestyle with some understanding and practice. 🙂

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A Tip About Panic Attacks

One of the books that I read on vacation was entitled “maid” by Stephanie Land. A memoir, “maid” was  Stephanie’s story about how an unplanned pregnancy, and subsequent life as a single mom, saw her strapped in poverty for years as she struggled to support herself and her daughter.

For anyone who suffers from panic attacks, you know first hand how frightening and debilitating in the moment they can be. You most likely also know that they do tend to pass, and when we ground ourselves, we can help to dissipate the panic. A passage in the book that I earmarked spoke about how Stephanie handled her overwhelming feelings:

“At the stop sign at the end of the street, I pulled over to the curb. I leaned forward, pressing my forehead against the steering wheel. This had happened often in the last year. Whenever I felt the pain of loss – my chest caving in right at the hollow spot in the center – I found it best to stop and wait, to give the feeling a moment to pass. The pain didn’t like to be ignored. It needed to be loved, just as I needed to be loved. As I sat in my car, I breathed in and out, counting to five each time. I love you, I whispered to myself. I’m here for you. Reassurance of self-love was all I had.”

What I like about this passage is process, grounding, and affirmations; a great combination in how we can focus on the panic to help ourselves get through the overwhelming feelings. Being able to acknowledge our fears in the moment, breathe through them while focusing on our courage will help us to keep the love for our self close by.

A lovely story, “maid” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: Me!

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An Empty Well

Following up from yesterday’s post about self-care and how it functions to allow us to properly take care of our loved ones, here is a lovely quote by Rumi:

“Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.” – Rumi

How many times are we giving from the depths of our well? Our circumstances will often dictate the amount that we have to do in each given day; our jobs can be stressful and overwhelming, we may be in charge more in the planning and organizing of the household, we may have convinced ourselves that we don’t deserve to have a full well.

But that is where the fullness is; the overflow is the abundance piece. That is the part that we want to give from. Self-care is not selfish; it is a necessary, actionable choice we make. Fill your well. 🙂

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Let’s ask the question “Is Self-Care Selfish?”

I often hear in therapy that “self-care feels selfish.” One of the things we explore when first hearing this statement surrounds a person’s understanding of why they feel that way.

If we tend to be someone who self-sacrifices or is a people-pleaser, self-care does not come naturally. Hence, the feeling that we are being selfish. Other times our busy lives dictate this feeling. Running around with little kids, having a commitment laden job, or trying to manage work and home life can sometimes throw time for yourself on the back burner. Giving any thought to self-care feels self-absorbed.Perhaps growing up we didn’t witness our own parents pursuing a personal interest or spending time on their own with friends. Self-care? What the heck was that?

Self-care is not about self-preoccupation.  In fact, when we ascribe to self-care practices, we allow ourselves to better take care of those we love. When we have the ability to first recognize and then begin to practice the art of balanced self-care, we have more calm energy. We have spent some time purposely feeding our comfort system. This leaves us less frazzled, less overwhelmed, less crabby. We have a better us to present to our family and friends.

Self-care is not selfish, is it an act of love that we choose not only for ourselves, but for those we love as well. 🙂

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A Series on Boundaries: Post 3

Clear, healthy boundaries come down to behaviour and responsibility. Essentially, if we move from a flexible position and are able to recognize what is our responsibility in relationships and what belongs to others, we are on the road to forming appropriate boundaries for ourselves. This is not always an easy process, and can take both some commitment and practice, but it is possible.

First we begin by understanding how we came to having poor boundaries (yesterday’s post). From here, we can begin to work towards forming healthy boundaries by:

  • Learning how to say no. In other words, when someone asks you to do something, it doesn’t have to be an automatic yes. It can be a “let me get back to you” answer so that you can take some time to discover if you have the time, support and desire to dedicate yourself fully to what is being asked of you. This is an important boundary to establish both at work and in your personal life.
  • Ask yourself “Is this really about me?” Very often, when other people in our lives are drama-driven, they will create scenarios that try and pull you into their unhealthy space. If it makes no sense, it is most likely not about you. Don’t take the bait – choosing to not engage is forming a healthy boundary!
  • Use your intuition. We all have our own set of values and moral code. You can stick to that regardless of what others in your life choose to do or pressure you to do. It is okay to create limits for yourself that feel right for you.
  • Use the 24 hour rule. Have a big decision to make? Not sure how to respond to someone else’s emotional reaction? Slow everything down. It is okay to take some time to figure out what boundary needs to be put into place for your own emotional health.
  • Understand that you have choices. Oh, yes you do. We all have challenges in our lives that we have to navigate through; sometimes those come to us in the form of a relationship. You have choices available to you in how you handle any given situation. If you are unsure, ask someone who you look up to, get professional advice, read and research. Knowing that we have choices is an important component to giving ourselves permission to set healthy limits.
  • Be self-reflective. One of the best ways to continue to increase our sense of self is to be in a state of learning. Read the self-help books, listen to the podcasts, watch the Ted talks that support the area that you are trying to heal from and grow into.

Setting clear boundaries is key to feeling grounded and secure. It is one of the ways that we can begin to gather strength in ourselves so as to be in healthy, reciprocal relationships with others. Healthy boundaries are a gift that we give ourselves 🙂

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A Series on Boundaries: Post 2

Building on our post from yesterday, today we will look at how poor boundaries may have found a way into your operating system.

Our sense of personal space is intuitive; we often know when someone is asking too much of us, the situation in front of us doesn’t make sense, or someone’s (or our own) reaction is “over-the-top.” What tends to interrupt our intuition, however; is doubt – if we don’t have a strong sense of self, we can often get pulled into situations and relationships where poor boundaries are plentiful. Here are some common causes of poor boundary formation:

  • A too rigid or strict upbringing. Growing up in a home in which you had no freedom to make decisions can lead you to not feeling confident in making them as an adult; often putting you in a place of relying on others for boundary making.
  • An overly permissive upbringing. Poor boundaries can also result when you grow up in a home with no structure – this can make your own boundary making too ‘loosey-goosey.”
  • The tendency to be a people-pleaser. Let’s face it, if we can’t say no, we are not going to have great boundaries.
  • Having experienced trauma as a child. Very often, if you were the victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, you can begin to experience and believe that your space is not your own.
  • Living in a co-dependent household. Having an alcoholic parent for example, can lead to co-dependency. So can living in a closed family system. Any time there is co-dependency, poor boundaries are present.
  • Having been a parentified child. If we were taught as a young child to take care of our parent (either physically or emotionally), we may have difficulty in our adult lives in setting proper boundaries with others.
  • Learned behaviour. Having watched a caregiver subscribe to poor boundaries can easily lead us to following the same path.
  • Poor self-esteem or lack of identity. If we don’t have a secure sense of self, we can fall prey to poor boundaries as we rely on others to feel good about ourselves.

If you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, an important step is to start there. Become curious; explore. Seek help to do so if necessary. Understanding how poor boundary formation came about is an important connecting dot in getting to a place where healthy boundaries are a part of your operating system.

Tomorrow we will take a look at healthy boundaries and how behaviour and responsibility are key components to creating healthy space around you.

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