Setting Limits

808 Relax and Succeed - Self care is not selfishHow far should you let people push? How much should they get away with? How much should you be accommodating them? And how are your feelings about them playing into that? Would you put up with as much from your neighbour as your boss? Or what about your children or a spouse?

May I suggest you begin by setting some limits on the idea of setting limits? Because we’re talking about how long (how much time) we should put in before it’s too much. So can you see that the very idea of setting a limit traps you in time? You’re upset because of what’s happened again which means there must have been a before and you’ll be worried it will keep on happening which means by setting a limit you’re trying to alter your future. It’s like your mind colours in a section of your life stretching from a point in your past to a point in your future and you call that your relationship.

Fortunately one thing that actually does impact the future is what we do today. And even if we live in the moment we still have access to all of our knowledge. So we can make a decision today that we’re going in a new direction, but as soon as that person approaches us again we either have to re-make that same decision or we cave in and double back to our old decision. You can use the moments of now to plan your future but that future will still happen one moment at a time.

808 Relax and Succeed - Bent pots need bent lids

This isn’t to diminish what’s happening in people’s lives. This can get serious. If you’re dating a drug addict or someone that gets violent then these can be some of life’s most important decisions. But important and unimportant decisions are all made the same way. You can say whatever you want but your life is ultimately made out of what you do.

We all have those friends who keep going back to the same agonizing relationships over and over like a drug addict visiting their dealer. And it’s a good analogy, because the person really is addicted to the source of the drug they want (anger, sadness, victimization, whatever). So they see this person and they make them react in this predictable way and voila–they get the brain chemistry they came for and you have a perfect co-dependent relationship.

If this is something small it’s easy. You decide you don’t like this person or that activity or whatever and you just quit. You’re not setting a limit so much as realizing something doesn’t suit you. But setting a limit implies that we want to be close to a person (remember–be wary of that word want), but the person’s behaviour makes being close to them impossible or difficult. If it’s not something small and easy like an acquaintance or co-worker–if it’s a child or a spouse–then you still have to make your decisions one at a time and your only recourse between decisions is to accept your situation–which means don’t re-think a past choice.

808 Relax and Succeed - We are all searching for someoneIn the end the closest thing to setting a limit would be to continue to make that same decision, each time, for the rest of your life. But of course many of you will end up waffling. You’ll set the limit and then have a low day or a high day where you’re a little needier or a little softer and you’ll let whoever it is close enough to hurt you again. But don’t beat yourself up for that even if you do end up with a broken heart. Because that’s what the you in that moment felt compelled to do–otherwise meaning you’re living your life wisely and in the moment because both decisions are equally fine, they each just match the state of mind of the thinker at the time, as they should.

Either accept people for how they are or you are doomed to a life of vainly trying to get them to be the way you want them to be. No one owes us any sort of behaviour so we certainly shouldn’t get attached to what we perceive as good behaviour. Other people live in moments too and they are always in a state of change. But it’s also very important to remember that we too are always changing. And as we change ourselves we also naturally change our idea of just what our limits really are. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #59

The fundamental sentiment here is fine—I’m just not sure why it doesn’t include half the planet. Men and women are all raised quite differently in essentially every culture on Earth and those do lead to thought-pattern differences that get added to the differences dictated by the actual brain structures. But it’s not like either gender corners the market on some feeling. It’s not like men or women have different emotions to experience. They might call on them at different frequencies, but we all have essentially the same composition. So yes, if you hurt any human being too much they will become conditioned to poor treatment. So if a parent screams at a kid constantly, then when the kid starts dating someone that screams at them, they don’t leave because to them that behaviour has been made “normal.” And it can start to feel so normal that people will actually reject better behaviour in favour of the behaviour that feels more familiar and therefore more comfortable. So people will stay to get yelled at or even physically attacked because that does not seem out of alignment with what they feel they might deserve for treatment based on their childhood. So; however a child gets treated is the behaviour they will seek later in life. If a child has been supported and loved and cared for, then their assumption will be that their romantic partners should have the same affect. But if they’ve been belittled and abused and disrespected, then that will be what they’re used to and that will be what they will subconsciously seek in a partner. So if anyone of any gender is pushing someone away who is treating them well, that’s probably because they were trained by their childhood to think that being treated well is something that should be regarded with suspicion. It will have historically meant that someone will have had a motive. So don’t criticize people for what might seem to you to be irrational fears. In their world they unfortunately weren’t irrational, and that’s a fact worth remembering. And the only way to change that is by treating someone well over time until that becomes their new normal. The world can be harsh at times. So be kind to each other out there folks. And don’t forget it’s the March Kindness Challenge. Be kind to yourself, avoid gossip or complaining, and give lots of compliments. Have a great week!

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Taxing Our System

Everyone’s stressed. Everyone’s taxed. Everyone’s tired. Fuses are short, tempers are hot and despite how logical all of our anger and frustration is, consequences remain. It makes sense that people will be pushed past physical limits by things like pain, a lack of sleep, a bad diet or other particularly long-term stresses. So as a society we must learn to accommodate flashes of various emotions that are entirely natural for people to experience. At the same time we don’t want to coddle people who are literally addicted to anger as their natural response to not getting what they want. That’s onerous for others to deal with and that’s not good for harmony in the tribe. And as challenging as aspects of the 436 Relax and Succeed - Nothing in the world can bother you as muchtribe are, you simply cannot live a rewarding life without a tribe.

Just the other day I saw a guy losing his temper near my house. They’re rebuilding a lot of the roads and sidewalks near where my parents and I live, and I also live near several churches. I recently saw a guy railing in anger while his wife patiently listened to him for over half an hour about how the city shouldn’t have done this and it should have done that. Of course this guy has zero appreciation for the complexities of actually planning anything like that, and of course these are private companies and not “the city,” and even then, we’re only talking about a one day inconvenience to him. And for that he put his wife through a minimum of a half hour of hell. Volunteering to do that is crazy. And listening to it when you know it’s crazy is what love does. Because I could tell by the look on her face that she totally knew his diatribe was his and his alone. It had nothing to do with the city. The city did not insist that he ruin his day with his wife.

It’s important to remember that your anger will get worse the more you use it. Like any part of the body, your mind gets better at recreating emotions if you create them pretty regularly. So the more you get angry, the better you get at being angry. It’s why Olympians and Jeopardy contestants both train the way they do.

Now, as to the why you’re getting angry—this we can dissect. We can prove that your criticisms are one-sided and unreasonable. As soon as you accept the truth in that, then it will be your truth too and so will end that conflict within you. Now I’m actually fine with you expressing a flash of frustration—and if your mind turns that into a burst of colourful language, no problem we can all handle it. Sticks and stones. Where it’s too much is when it starts fuelling itself. Meaning, you aren’t venting off some chemistry from an immediate reaction—instead you’re fuelling your own personal internal dialogue and this now has nothing to do with the original event other than the subject matter is the same. Your angry replaying of it is entirely voluntary.

436 Relax and Succeed - If you feel badWhat this effectively means is, the man was not angry about the sidewalks and roads. He was angry about his thoughts about the sidewalks and roads. You know how I know this? Because I’ve got entirely different thoughts about the very same situation. And I know how the brain works. So I can appreciate that the addictive quality to knowledge—that is; the belief that things will continue to follow the same patterns they historically have—makes sense for so many things that we do subconsciously. Even things as difficult as driving, which we rarely think about consciously. But it can be very dangerous to desire patterns when it comes to our emotions because, as you can see, when that man’s mind wanted things the same and the nature of the world did not comply, his brain smashed into that reality—that Isness—and his reaction was to incite the chemistry for anger, which his wife then had to deal with. We want to change that by changing our narratives, and then go on to use our elevated consciousness to eventually dispel our narratives altogether.

So why don’t I get angry about the same thing? Because I don’t tell myself the story that guy told himself. Because I didn’t expect things to stay the same. I know they’re changing. All the time, every moment of every day. I get that it’s difficult to avoid inconveniencing people when you’re doing something as major as paving their street. This guy wanted them to only do half the streets and sidewalks and then come back another time to do the other half. But breaking up the work—even if it’s done back-to-back, is going to be way, way more expensive. And pretty much every city council in history gets blasted if they announce even a 3% tax hike. Well if we want them to work around our daily needs to that degree then that’s going to cost a lot of money and I have this sense that a tax increase would just be one more thing that poor guy’s wife would have to hear all about.

There’s nothing wrong with the world my friends, we just think we’re more important than the world does. We’re all integral—that’s for sure. But none of us is critical to the ongoing survival of civilization. The world is doing some big things for large numbers of people. Sometimes small numbers of people need to move out of the way to accomplish a greater good. So yeah, we can look at things and think “these idiots. They’ve made it so hard to move around,” as though that’s what they were doing—trying to make it hard for us. Or we can see it the way I do, which is either no opinion at all, or maybe something like “wow this will be great. When they’re done we’ll have brand new sidewalks and roads!” I’m not lying to myself. What I’m saying is true. But it’s also enjoyable to think. And that’s what we all need to do. We need to approach things selfishly. We need to notice things in ways that feel better for us.

436 Relax and Succeed - Your complaints about life are meaninglessHere’s a way of thinking about it: You can smash your expectations into reality, or you can be like Bruce Lee recommends and be like water. Because water can flow and water can crash. But it does not win through resistance, just persistence. So if for instance the change to the roads and sidewalks is a rock in your flow, then you don’t freeze up in anger and trap yourself. Instead you have your initial shock wave of chemistry that goes with recognizing the situation—the splash—and then let those thoughts go and flow around the issue and get your mind onto the next moment where you can choose thoughts that feel better. It really is that easy. Stop thinking things should be different. Accept how they are and move into the next moment with that flexible reality being the context which you are operating from. It’s not, I want the sidewalks a different way, it’s: now that they’ve done this, what’s my best bet?

Anger is created within us by whatever narrative we choose to engage in. If we become conscious of our thinking we will go there far less often and we will be highly motivated by how good it feels to succeed at redirecting our previously angry thoughts. It’s quite the achievement both psychologically and spiritually. If I can do it anyone can do it. It’s just changes in habits of thought. It’s tricky, but it’s not hard. I wish you every good fortune with your meditations. And my best to your spouses. 😉

peace. s