Setting Personal Boundaries

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” and “the state of being whole and undivided.”  Your personal integrity stands or falls in your ability to have clearly-defined principles and expectations that describe the behavior you find acceptable in yourself and others.  Integrity is not a secret code known only to you; the rules must be public and must be consistently upheld.

You cannot have a healthy relationship with someone who has no personal boundaries or who doesn’t communicate them directly and honestly.  Learning how to set (and enforce) personal boundaries is fundamental to self-respect and self-worth.  It is your responsibility to care for yourself and to protect yourself from the behavior of others when necessary.

Many of us struggle in our relationships because we have never taken the time to really determine our personal boundaries and communicate them to others.  It’s very unfair to punish someone for crossing a boundary they never knew existed.  If you’re ready to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Mason and Mr. Dixon and set your personal boundaries, you can begin with these steps.

Do a survey

The first step in learning to set appropriate personal boundaries is deciding what you consider unacceptable.  You can do this through self-awareness: by listening to your intuition and paying attention to uncomfortable emotions when you experience them.  For example, pay close attentions to situations when you feel like you are losing energy, feel like you are avoiding someone because of their behavior, or feel like you are allowing something that you know isn’t good for you.

If it helps you, make a list on paper by completing these three sentences with as many answers as you can come up with (I’ve provided some examples to help get you started:

  1.  I will not permit others to _______.
    1. Invade my personal space
    2. Humiliate me in front of others
    3. Criticize me
    4. Make comments about my weight/style of dress/hair color
    5. Go through my personal belongings
    6. Use profanity in my presence
    7. Tell offensive/demeaning jokes in my company
    8. Gossip about others
  2. I have a right to ask for _______.
    1. More information before making a decision
    2. Time to think before giving an answer
    3. Help when I need/want it
    4. Privacy
    5. Honor and respect from others
    6. Proper notice before an event/opportunity
    7. Others to keep their commitments to me
    8. Time when I can unplug/care for myself
  3. I give myself permission to _______.
    1. Decline invitations/opportunities I don’t want to accept
    2. Change my mind
    3. Take my time in returning calls, texts or emails
    4. Ask for what I want/need
    5. Limit my exposure to certain people/events/circumstances
    6. State my beliefs and opinions in a calm and respectful manner

Publish the results

Boundaries don’t really exist until you make them public.  You must inform others that the boundary exists and let them know when they have (or are about to) cross it.  If you’re setting a new boundary, you should let others know that a new boundary has been created – in advance.  Other people cannot hope to meet your expectations if you don’t tell them what they are.

The key is to share your boundaries calmly and respectfully.  It you cover them up with extreme emotion, no one will take them seriously.  Use simple and direct language.  Be firm, but use a graceful and neutral tone.

This process may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you practice it will get easier.  Get support from a friend, family member or coach if you need it.

Enforce the consequences and provide alternatives

Personal boundaries are enforced (and re-enforced) through consequences.  How do you intend to enforce your boundaries and what consequences will you apply for those who choose to violate them?  It’s important that these be clearly communicated using simple and direct language, and then enforce them.

It’s also beneficial to provide alternatives to the behavior you consider unacceptable.  This gives the other person the option of modifying their behavior to meet your expectations.

You don’t need to defend, debate or over-explain your feelings.  When you face resistance, simply repeat your statement or request.  Be firm, gracious and direct.

Here are some great examples of how you might choose to word your boundaries, consequences and alternatives when interacting with others.

To set a boundary with an angry person:
“It’s not acceptable for you to yell at me. If you continue, I’ll leave the room/ask you to leave/hang up the phone.”

To set a boundary for inappropriate humor/language:

“I don’t find jokes about that funny.  In fact, I find them offensive, and I’ll ask you not to repeat them in front of me.”

“I find that word offensive.  Please don’t use it around me.”

To set a boundary with someone who is critical:
It’s not okay with me that you comment on my weight/hair/job/spouse/etc. I’m asking you to stop.”

To buy yourself time when making tough decisions:
“I’ll have to sleep on it. I have a policy of not making decisions right away.  I will give you my answer in (insert appropriate unit of time).”

Some final thoughts

Don’t let anyone guilt you into backing off of your personal boundaries.  You have to be ready to make some difficult decisions, but if you know your boundary is healthy for you stick to it.

Remember that setting boundaries is about you not the other person.  You can’t control anyone else.  If they choose to not respect your boundaries, you can choose to not interact with them.

Use your experiences to determine if your boundaries are service your intended purpose.  If not, you can change them whenever you wish.

If you’re going to make an exception, let the other person know it is only an exception but that your boundary hasn’t changed.

You teach other people how to treat you.  Consistency is key.

 

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It’s Time To Get your Hopes Up… Really

How many times in your life have you faced a potentially good thing, but instead of getting excited about the prospect you told yourself not to get your hopes up?  It seems like a logical thing to do, right?  Why set yourself up for disappointment?  Why allow yourself to get excited just to run the risk of getting your hopes dashed, your feelings hurt, your idea rejected?  While the desire may be self-preservation and protection, the outcome is actually much worse.

This type of self-preservation is a product of the ego.  Its desire to protect us (really a desire to protect itself) creates the very thing we think we are bypassing.  In fact, what we end up doing is creating the very emotions that we are attempting to avoid.  Instead of allowing ourselves to experience the pleasure of excitement, the anticipation of joy, the potential of possibility, we self-impose pre-disappointment.  We choose to squelch our own hopes, and negate our own excitement, in order to beat everyone else to the punch.  We invoke the very thing we thought we were being smart to avoid.  We become our own disappointer.

What’s worse, if you do this often enough it begins to color your view of yourself and the world.  The cumulative result is a dark and ominous worldview; you become cynical and jaded; you begin to anticipate the worst and expect bad things to happen.  Before you know it, you feel demoralized, hopeless and depressed.

You decide to believe that the world is a dark and evil place; that everyone is out to get you; you are always waiting on the other shoe to drop.  Over time it can become nearly impossible to experience any type of pleasure or joy – and you think your experiences are to blame, you think the deck is stacked against you, when in fact you have done it to yourself.

Seeking to avoid disappointment actually causes you to experience it unnecessarily, without realizing it.  Isn’t it ironic that we feed ourselves emotional poison and then blame everyone else that we are sick?

Of course there is an alternative.  You can begin to cultivate a more positive outlook on the world, and yourself.  Add in a measured amount of healthy risk-taking and before you know it you’ll be living a more exciting, positive, and energized life.

Below are six specific steps you can take to detoxify your worldview and embrace the joy of risk.

 

Control your information intake

We all know that the media loves to sensationalize.  Stories of happiness and success get lower ratings.  What you may not realize is the impact that over-exposure to negative, violent images and stories can have on your outlook on life.  Not every story ends in tragedy or failure.  You can choose to limit your exposure to negative, sensational stories and images and choose to seek out more encouraging, inspirational messages.  You will be surprised how this one simple change can alter your worldview and help you cultivate a more positive attitude.

Focus on what’s going right

Chronic complaining and worrying just feeds a negative worldview.  Challenge yourself to only talk (and think) about what’s going right in your life.  Acknowledge every blessing.  Be grateful for every simple gift.  Try it for one week and you will be amazed at how you feel and how many miracles you may have been taking for granted.

Accept setbacks as normal

Setbacks are a normal part of living.  Plans change; unexpected circumstances arise; tragic events do occur.  But they only stop you if you let them.  You can choose to meet setbacks as learning experiences, as opportunities for growth.  Let them stimulate your conviction and passion.  Let them feed your determination and commitment to continually moving forward.

Create a support group

Positive thoughts and encouraging self-talk are both great, but if you really want to accelerate positive change in your life, get them out of your head and start talking about good things with others.  Make a commitment with your family, coworkers or friends to keep your conversations uplifting and encouraging.  This doesn’t mean that you put on rose-colored glasses:  self-deception is just as unhealthy.  But you can choose to talk about what is going right in your lives and encourage each other to press on.

Look to positive role models

History is full of people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and not only survived, but excelled.  Virtually every significant advance in culture, science and society came about because of women and men who saw a problem and walked right into it.  Read about these people; take inspiration from their stories and believe that you also have something important to contribute.  People who avoid disappointment never take risks, and people who never take risks never achieve greatness.

Accept risk as opportunity

It goes without saying that I’m not talking about seeking out physically dangerous activities.  But you also shouldn’t avoid opportunities, conversations or activities just because there’s a risk of things not going according to plan.  Allow yourself to embrace risk as a required part of opportunity.  Listen to your intuition and trust your heart.

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I Surrender All – Usually

There is a lot of talk in the self-help cosmos that’s focused on manifesting the life that you want through visualizations, and affirmations.  I believe that these practices work – when done correctly.  However, when overly simplified, the theory becomes misinterpreted into “if you focus on what you want for long enough, and hard enough, it will absolutely become a reality”.  I believe in the benefits of visualizations, affirmations and “positive thinking”.  However, when these concepts are taken out of context and coupled with the (particularly American) philosophy that success is achieved through mastery and control, we can end up creating situations that are more judgment than joy.

Some people may be able to achieve their goals through domination and sheer force of will.  That seems more exhausting than exhilarating to me.  For most of us, and certainly for me, the desire to control can leave us constantly battling with the twins of perfectionism and failure.  Instead of cultivating contentment, we end up sowing the seeds of guilt, criticism, judgment and pain.  I am learning that there is an alternative – surrender.

I don’t know about you, but just typing the word pushes my ego’s need for control to its limits.  But if we’re completely honest, we all know that being in control is really just a fantasy.  We have no control over other people; we have no control over the weather or the economy.  We have no control over the many of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  The only thing we ever have control over is ourselves and how we choose to think, act and react; our thoughts, feelings and actions.  Everything else is truly beyond our ability to control.

You can apply for a job, but you can’t force someone to hire you.  You can focus on being a loving partner but you can’t make someone else love you.  You can eat well, sleep enough and exercise, but you will still die eventually.  Those statements can seem terrifying without a willingness to surrender.

So, if we understand that we really have no control over anything outside of ourselves, why do we struggle with surrender?  I think it’s because we confuse giving in with giving up.  They are not the same thing.

Giving up is passive.  Giving up is quitting.  Giving up leads to a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and depression.

Giving in – surrender – is active.  Surrendering is the opposite of giving up; the opposite of quitting.  Surrendering requires perseverance and faith.  Surrendering means that you don’t waste any energy on things that are beyond your control.  Instead you focus all of your energy and attention on the things that are within your control – yourself.  Surrendering leads to peace, empowerment, and joy.

Surrender keeps you connected and present.  Even in painful situations, you can experience a calmness and sense of peace because you know that you are riding on the current of your experience rather than struggling against it.  Surrender keeps you engaged in the reality of your circumstances.

Surrender is a decision.  Acknowledging and embracing the reality of a situation allows you to choose your role in it.  You maintain complete control over how you choose to act and react.

Surrender is drama free.  It requires no fanfare.  Giving up almost always requires blame, exasperation and a dramatic display.

Surrender is not weakness; it is not giving up; it does not mean that you are weak or didn’t try.  It means that you have done everything that you can and are consciously choosing to acknowledge the limits of your control.  Surrender is empowering!

Let me go back to visualization and manifestation for just a moment.  I believe in these practices.  I believe that they work – if done correctly.  Practicing manifestation means that you decide what you want, acknowledge it, and then release it to the Universe.  Yep, the process is contingent on surrender, not on control.  You can’t manifest by obsessing over your desires or trying to coerce them into being.  You manifest by getting a clear picture of the outcome you desire and then surrendering that outcome to the Universe.

When you don’t know what to do – stop. Do nothing. Breathe deeply and listen. I’m learning that there is a difference between perseverance and struggle. Giving in is not giving up. Surrender to the knowledge that a higher power is working. You may be fighting the very thing that is working in your favor.

Relax into the flow of your current circumstances and the guidance you desire will arrive – and it probably won’t look the way you expected. That’s the true measure of faith, isn’t it? To float upon the waves even when they’re frightening, to trust that the current is taking you to shore even when you can’t see it?

Trust. Believe. Surrender. There is a greater force at work.

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The Truth Will Set You Free (and perhaps a few other people as well)

I’m regularly reminded that even though we communicate constantly, we are seldom as effective as we would like to be.  I think there are three primary reasons why and they build on each other.

One reason is that we assume that other people already know – or should know – what we’re thinking; which is almost always untrue.  How can other people know us unless we show ourselves?

Secondly, we seem to have a fear of the truth.  It’s ironic to me that one of our most fundamental needs as human beings is to be seen and heard for who we are but yet we fear rejection if we reveal our authentic selves.  And so we tell half-truths, and occasionally complete lies.  We say “I’m fine” when it’s obvious that we are not.  We say “it’s no big deal” when it really is.  We say “I don’t care” when we care a great deal.  How can we really be seen when we hide behind a mask?  How can we expect to get what we want, and need, if we are unwilling to ask for it?

Thirdly, we repress our emotions until we can’t control them any longer.  Most of us learned as children that painful emotions were “ugly” and should not be expressed.  But the truth can’t stay buried for long, and unexpressed emotions build up until they boil over.  When the scale of silence tips we can lose control and say things that are extreme, hurtful and damaging to ourselves and others.  You never really avoid confrontation, you simply postpone it until such time as the pressure is too great and you erupt.

These reasons are particularly true when another person does (or says) something that hurts us.  When we’re hurt, upset or irritated we tend to assign blame, make hasty generalizations and assumptions and raise the defense mechanisms.  But you have another choice.

Emotions are tools, and like all tools they can be use to build or to destroy.  Holding in, or repressing, your true feelings is self-destructive and projecting them unfiltered on another is damaging to them.  Both are abusive.

There is a healthy alternative and in each situation you get to choose.  You can choose to honor yourself and your relationships by telling the truth, expressing your feelings in a productive and healthy manner and asking for what you want in each and every interaction.  That’s communicating with integrity.  That’s honoring yourself and others.

Like any new habit it takes some practice to cultivate, but the five-step process I’ve outlined below can help you begin communicating with others in a way that honors both of you and keeps you living in integrity.  Why not give it a try the next time you desire to be seen and heard?

  1. Be clear about your intention.  What do you want to accomplish?  Your intention is like a compass; it will guide your communication to meet your end goal.  Remember that communication is never neutral.  Everything you say either nourishes or poisons the other person and your relationship with them.  Set the intention to nourish the relationship.  Set the intention to remain in your integrity.  Set the intention to always tell your truth in love and respect.  All actions begin first with a thought and setting the intention will help ensure your actions/words align with your true desire.  As Stephen Covey says, every interaction can be a win/win.
  2. Tell the truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  The goal is to establish common ground regarding what has happened (or is happening).  Keep these statements emotion free and avoid generalizations such as “always” and “never”.  Talk about this particular situation.  Also avoid making assumptions.  You don’t know why the other person is doing something and they don’t know the impact it is having on you.  Keep it simple and stick to the facts.
  3. Explain how this truth makes you feel.  Now is the time to own your feelings about the truth.  How do you feel about this situation?  What impact does this have on you and your relationship? Share your honest feelings.  Use first person pronouns (“I” and “me” not “you”) and active voice.  “When this happens, I feel…” or “Because of _____ I feel _____.”
  4. Seek mutual understanding. Communication is a dance, so give the other person space to tell their truth and explain how they feel.  Allow the other person to challenge your understanding of the truth if they disagree, but not your feelings; all feelings are valid – always!  Empathize with them and invite them to empathize with you.  Ask, “Can you understand how I feel?”  Invite them to share their feelings.  Ask, “How does hearing this make you feel?”  Mirror back what you have heard to see if you comprehend each other.
  5. Negotiate a mutually beneficial outcome.  The first four steps just lay the foundation for this step.  It’s time to ask for what you want to have happen going forward.  Your request should be reasonable and within the other person’s ability.  Aim for common ground here.  The goal is not to control or manipulate the other person, but to find a mutually beneficial solution.  What productive and healing action steps can you both agree to?

Teaching yourself to engage in productive and healing conversation can avoid countless future problems.  Cultivating healthy relationships is just like gardening.  When you notice a weed (any painful emotion) the time to extract it is right now!  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it will die of its own accord if you ignore it.  It won’t.  Instead, it will grow and send out deep roots into other parts of your life.

If you’re carrying around old pain, you can also use these techniques to begin the healing process and rebuild a damaged relationship.  It’s never too late if you’re willing to do the work.

I hope these tips will help you heal any past injuries you are carrying, and deal with future situations as they arise, in a healthy manner.  If you’re hurting anyway, you have nothing to lose – other than the opportunity to lay the burden down.  I think it’s worth it.

~

If you have a damaged relationship that you would like to repair, but don’t know where to begin, you may benefit from assistance.  Let me know if I can support you on your journey.

Blessings to you,

M. Todd Null, M.A, CTACC

Spiritual Life Coach

Visit The Well-Tended Life website for more information: www.mtoddnull.com

And be sure to like, and follow, The Well-Tended Life on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheWellTendedLife

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Don’t Repress Your Emotions

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ~ Sigmund Freud

“Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what’s going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater.” ~ Nicholas Evans

“If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.” ~ Emile Zola

A major principle of the spiritual healing work that I do with clients is the understanding that emotions buried alive do not die; instead they grow and devolve and (sooner or later) come back to haunt and torment us.  Repressed emotions impact our relationships, keep us from emotional healing can even result in pain and disease in our physical bodies.  I have this image of a (thought-to-be) dead horror movie creature clawing its way out of the tomb to wreak havoc on unsuspecting passersby.

When you bury unresolved emotions, your response to current events is impacted by the events of the past and those unresolved emotions associated with them.  Repression of painful emotions may seem like a solution at the time, but it’s really like burying landmines in the middle of a playground.  Sooner or later someone is going to get hurt.  Avoidance results in repressed painful emotions either being projected outward onto others or inward in self-abusive behaviors.  That’s because you can’t keep them buried.  It’s like trying to keep a balloon underwater:  You might be able to do it temporarily, but eventually your concentration will slip and it will pop up.

You see, it requires a tremendous amount of energy to keep painful emotions locked away because they want, in fact demand, to be processed.  When processed in a healthy manner, painful emotions are released.  When repressed or denied, you are just piling them up in your body – creating emotional baggage.

Why do we do this?  Because we’re taught to.  Our earliest experiences with discipline involved being punished for acting out painful emotions.  We’re taught that it’s not appropriate to yell and scream; we’re taught that good girls and boys don’t hit other people or throw things.  But in learning how to control our behavior we also learn to repress the emotions themselves.  Many of us have done it for so long that it’s no longer a conscious action.

We carry these lessons into adulthood.  We don’t want to be seen as vulnerable, or out of control, or emotionally fragile.  We don’t want to hurt another person.  And so we repress.  All we really succeed in doing is committing acts of violence unto ourselves.

But there is a significant difference between experiencing an emotion and acting out in response to an emotion.  One of the goals of spiritual growth and maturity is to learn how to appropriately do the first without doing the second.

The Damage of Repressed Emotions

Painful emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and guilt are not negative in and of themselves.  In fact, they provide us with valuable feedback about our experiences and our surroundings if processed in healthy and productive ways.  Holding on to painful emotions past the point where they are ready to be released is unhealthy for body, mind and spirit.  This damage occurs in four distinct but interrelated ways:

It takes energy to repress emotions.

  • The energy you spend on keeping painful emotions suppressed is energy that you are not using for your benefit.  This can result in constant tiredness, inability to focus, and difficulty accomplishing things that are important to you.
  • Secondly, the energy applied in keeping the painful emotions repressed causes them to pressurize and become more volatile.  It’s like shaking up a soda can – The slightest crack and the entire thing will explode.

Repressed emotions devolve and generalize.

  • Painful emotions that are repressed do not remain in their original state.  Instead of resolving they devolve.
  • Unresolved anger mutates into generalized bitterness and a jaded perspective on the world.
  • Unresolved sadness mutates into depression and the feeling that life is hopeless and meaningless.
  • Unresolved fear mutates into generalized anxiety and paranoia.
  • Unresolved guilt mutates into a sense of worthlessness and inadequacy.

Repressed emotions attract similar experiences and emotions unto themselves until they are processed.

  • Because repressed emotions need to be processed, they will attract experiences into your life that bring about similar emotions.  This process continues until the emotion is processed and the cycle is broken.
  • Pay attention to the painful patterns in your life.  They are pointing to healing work that is asking to be done.  They will continue repeating until you work back to, and release, the root of the problem.

Repressed emotions lead to damaging avoidance behaviors.

  • Do you ever find yourself:
    • Ignoring your feelings or feeling numb
    • Being unable to experience true joy, peace, calmness and comfort
    • Experiencing extreme emotional swings or overreacting to situations
    • Engaging in any type of compulsive or excessive behavior – shopping, eating, exercising, media, sex, alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs
    • Keeping so busy that you don’t have time to feel
    • Constantly analyzing or intellectualizing your feelings
    • Keeping conversations and relationships superficial
    • Burying your true emotions under the mask of humor or sarcasm
    • Focusing your attention on the emotions or actions of others
    • Blaming others for the way you feel (or don’t feel)
    • Expecting others to “make you feel” a certain way
  • All of these are avoidance behaviors that point to the existence of repressed emotions

Consider These Emotional Healing Techniques

Your ability to become a whole, fully integrated and healthy individual is dependent on learning how to release and heal repressed painful emotions.  You don’t need anything to begin the work other than willingness and awareness.  However, please understand that some past injuries or traumas may be too extreme for you to process independently.  In those cases, it is best to work with a professional healer, coach, mental health provider or spiritual/religious mentor who is experienced in emotional healing to support you.

The first step in emotional healing is choosing to become aware of the painful feeling, memory or thought-pattern as you experience it.  Then allow yourself to fully experience it – without responding or acting – and without denying or repressing.  You have to feel it to heal it.  These techniques may assist you in beginning the process:

  1. Tell the Truth.  This may seem obvious, but painful emotions are repressed because they were originally denied.  When you find yourself experiencing a painful emotion, name it.  Say it out loud.  “I am feeling _______.”  Once you give it a name, you can begin asking yourself questions.  “What is bringing up this emotion in me at this time?”  “Am I feeling _______ based on the current situation or because of an unresolved situation from my past?” (Notice that none of these questions are about the current situation or other people who may be involved.  Your emotional responses belong to you and originate in you.  Looking for external blame is a form of denial.)  Now explain your emotion out loud – keeping all pronouns in the first person.  Never externalize an emotion (“You’re making me feel.”), instead say, “I feel _____?”  It’s vital to take responsibility for the emotion you are experiencing.
  2. Yell, scream, hit or throw – but in a safe and non-damaging way.  It can be very healthy to release stored negative energy by yelling and screaming or by hitting or throwing something.  The key here is to do it in a controlled, safe, and non-damaging way.  Never direct these activities at another person or animal or at valuable possessions.  Acting out is not productive.  While you’re engaging in the activity, say out loud the emotion you are experiencing.  Hit a pillow.  Yell like a pirate, “aaaarrrrgggghhhh!”  Throw or hit a ball.  Whatever activity you choose to do, make certain that it is controlled, productive, safe and non-damaging.
  3. Dance or shake it out.  Trauma healing pioneer Peter Levine explains that animals process trapped energy through their bodies and so can we. Bring up the painful emotion and then dance or shake yourself.  Run or exercise.  Most importantly, connect this activity with the emotion and allow yourself to feel the emotion being released as you use the energy.
  4. Write it out and burn it up.  This can be especially helpful when healing past emotional trauma – especially if it is not possible or beneficial to directly confront the person who injured you.  Use a pen or pencil and paper and write out your experiences and feeling using longhand.  Be totally honest.  Put everything out on the page.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or syntax and don’t worry about content.  Just write everything you need to release.  Then – and this is crucial – take the paper outside, light it on fire, and release all of the energy you have been holding as the paper burns up.
  5. Engage in healing therapies.  This is particularly helpful for loosening up and releasing repressed emotions that you have forgotten about.  You may know that you are holding on to anger, but may not remember the original circumstance that created it.  Healing therapies such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), regression therapy, massage, and Reiki can help you begin to process the emotions and release them.
  6. Establish a relationship with a professional.  It can sometimes be difficult to see past our own filters.  Working with a professional healer, coach, mental health provider or spiritual/religious mentor who is experienced in emotional healing can offer you the support you need to begin the process.

You don’t have to remain locked in repressed painful emotions.  There is healing available.  All that’s required is your willingness to do the work.  If I can assist you in doing your work, please let me know.  Visit www.mtoddnull.com or email me at mtoddnull@mtoddnull.com.

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The Power of Intentions

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” ~ Sigmund Freud

“Each person carries within their core the birthright of creative freedom, which, when organized and orchestrated, is the most awesome force on earth.” ~ Bryant McGill

“Just what is meant by ‘your word’? It means your conscious intention, your conscious direction, your conscious faith and acceptance that, because of what you are doing, the Power of Spirit will flow through your word in the direction you give It.” ~ Ernest Holmes

“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.” ~ Deepak Chopra

“Our repeated failure to fully act as we would wish must not discourage us. It is the sincere intention that is the essential thing, and this will in time release us from the bondage of habits which at present seem almost insurmountable.” ~ Thomas Troward

“Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and then sustain it.” ~ Warren Bennis

“Choose your intention carefully and then practice holding your consciousness to it, so it becomes the guiding light in your life.” ~ John Roger

 

Happy Independence Day! The Fourth of July is a day when we celebrate our forefathers/foremothers and their willingness to stand up against tyranny, to rebel against oppression, and to form a “more perfect union”.

What if this year each of us declared our own personal independence day?  What if we rejected the tyranny of others’ opinions, judgments, and criticisms?  What if we rebelled against the oppression of fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame?  What if we proclaimed our emancipation from damaging relationships and harmful habits?

It starts by setting the intention – by making your own declaration of independence.  Isn’t today a great day to do it?

The Power of Intentions

Do you ever feel like you’re floating through life, simply reacting to all the things that happen around you?  Maybe you’re just hoping for the best?  So many of us walk through life without any clear idea of what we really want, but then get upset with life when we don’t like what we receive.  The problem is not a lack of desire, or a lack of hope, but a lack of intention.

Without clear intentions, there is no place to direct your time, effort and energy.  A clear intention takes the light from an incandescent light bulb and focuses it into a laser beam.

Learning how to set intentions will put you in the driver’s seat of your life.  A clear intention is like a target with a bull’s eye in the middle.  It gives you a focus and a direction, and sends clear instructions to the universe about what you want to happen – what you intend.  Once a clear target is there, you can direct all of your energy, thoughts, feelings, and actions toward that intention.  It becomes a guide on which to focus your attention.

Think of it as entering an address into your GPS.  It’s not a plan or a goal; it’s a specific final destination.  That doesn’t make it less important.  If you don’t know where you are headed then no road is the right road.  Choosing an intention, a destination, allows you to make conscious choices about the steps needed to reach your goal.

Take Time and Get Clear

There really is no secret to setting intentions other than taking the time and effort to get clear on your true desires.  Then frame that desire into a simple declarative statement.  Before I go into any planned conversation or event, I take a few moments to ask myself, “What is my intention in this interaction?”  When I can answer the question I know that I am ready.

Share Your Intention with Others

If you are going into a meeting, or a (potentially) challenging conversation, share your intention with the other person.  Simply say, “My intention for this conversation is…” or “I would like us to get the following out of this meeting…” or “By the end of this conversation, I would like for us to accomplish the following.”  You may be surprised at how effective your conversations can become when you publically set the intention.

When Conflicting Intentions Arise, Negotiate

Conflicts may arise when you have an intention that involves another person.  You may want to have a healing conversation and the other person may want to blame and argue.  In such cases, it’s necessary to negotiate.  That’s why it’s beneficial to begin by sharing your intentions with the other person.  The highest intention usually wins.

Take Consistent Actions that Support your Intentions

An intention calls the universe to help you fulfill it, but it still requires action on your part.  I can intend to do laundry today, but if I never put the dirty towels in the washer they will not get clean.  The machine will do the washing for me, but I have to load the washer and push the start button.  Spiritual intentions work the same way.  You have to take action to get the process flowing.

When Your Focus Fades, Go Back to Your Intention

Diversions will arise, and when they do, go back to your intention.  For example, you may set an intention to exercise for 30 minutes per day five days per week.  You usually walk, but today it is raining.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take consistent action today.  What other actions can you take that will fulfill your intention?

 

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The Process of De-Cluttering

“Clutter-clearing is modern-day alchemy.” ~ Denise Linn

“Clutter is stuck energy. The word “clutter” derives from the Middle English word “clotter”, which means to coagulate – and that’s about as stuck as you can get.” ~ Karen Kingston

“Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter.” ~ D.H. Mondfleur

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” ~William Morris

“Clutter is a physical manifestation of fear that cripples our ability to grow.” ~ H.G. Chissell

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” ~ Edwin Way Teale

 

I’ve had a couple of requests from followers to talk about clutter in the blog.  My first thought was, “What can I say about clutter, my house is neat and tidy.”  Then I opened my hall closet.  Isn’t it funny how we lie to ourselves!  After some thoughtful meditation, I had to admit to myself that I have a clutter problem – and it’s not just about the physical stuff.

You see, physical clutter is just the tangible effects of spiritual clutter.  We hold on to objects because of the positive (or negative) emotional attachments to them.  Let me give you an example.

I have an unfinished cross-stitch in my closet that I started over 15 years ago – and haven’t touched since then except to pack and unpack it over the course of eight (yes eight) moves.  I bought it on clearance, worked on it for a week or two, and then it went into a closet; and in many closets since then.  Every time I see it I think about throwing it away and then my ego starts acting up.  It says things like, “You can’t throw that away, you paid for it.”  “Remember, you were going to give that as a gift.”  “If you throw it away, you are admitting failure.”  “You’ll get back to that someday.”  And it goes on, and on, and on.

The truth is that I will never finish that cross-stitch.  I’ve had 15 years to do so.  It’s not important to me, so why do I hold on to it?  Because it symbolizes unfinished work.  Giving it up would feel like failure.  It’s not about the cross-stitch, it’s my fear of failure that keeps it in my closet.

I also have several boxes containing every card I’ve ever received.  There are hundreds of them.  I never look at them.  I never display them.  I just carry them from house to house.  Occasionally, I think about putting them in the paper recycling, but every time my ego starts acting up.  It says things like, “Those people cared enough for you to give you a card and you want to throw them away?”  “How could you be so careless of their gifts to you?”  “You obviously never cared for them if you are willing to throw their cards away!”

The truth is that many of those cards are from people I don’t even remember.  They were temporary acquaintances, co-workers or even strangers.  I’m sure I have a card from my mail carrier in 2000 somewhere.  Many of those cards are not important to me, so why do I hold on to them?  Is there some irrational fear that by throwing away the cards I am throwing away the person?  Do I really think I will need the mail carrier’s card from 2000 as research when I write my memoirs in 20 years?  Am I afraid that recycling the cards is throwing away a piece of me?  I’ll have to ponder on this some more.  Perhaps you can relate.

The point is that we have physical clutter because we have spiritual clutter.  Think about it.

Are you holding on to clothes that are much too small for you because you think that one day you’ll be able to wear them again?  Would getting rid of them mean that you have to accept your current weight?

Do you hold on to objects that you don’t use (or perhaps you don’t even like) because they were a relative’s, or given to you by a deceased friend?  Does the person live in the object?  Is their impact on your life limited to a coffee mug from Tucson?  Does it diminish them to send that mug to the Thrift store?

All physical clutter is really spiritual clutter.  The objects that clutter up our physical spaces are connected to (and reflective of) the negative thoughts and emotions that clutter up our spiritual space.  The objects take on, and store, all of that negative energy; all of the guilt, fear, judgment, and unworthiness that we would prefer to not see.  That’s why it’s so difficult to get rid of clutter.  It means we have to process the feelings, and more often than not, we would prefer to keep them locked up.

The problem is that blocked emotions are not neutral.  They are quite the opposite: they are toxic.  They keep you from fully experiencing and embracing the “now”.  Your home is an extension of you and impacts you.  The level of physical clutter in your space is reflective of the level of spiritual clutter in your life.  It’s perhaps an unpleasant truth, but truth nonetheless.

I love helping others do this work because it makes me accountable for doing my own.  I guess it’s time to go through those boxes of cards and say goodbye to that cross-stitch.  What physical and spiritual clutter are you willing to say goodbye to?

What is your home doing to you?

A dirty and cluttered home:

  • Makes you feel out of control in your life.  That’s because the stuff is controlling you.
  • Makes you feel hopeless.  Having too much stuff becomes overwhelming because you can’t manage it all.
  • Makes you feel exhausted.  A cluttered home is an energetic drain.  Ignoring clutter requires at least as much energy as removing it – probably more.
  • Makes you do without the things you really want and need.  Holding on to too many things takes up energetic space – space that could be filled with the things you really want and need.

A clean and organized home:

  • Puts you in control of your life.  It creates order in your universe.  You can easily find things when you want them.
  • Gives you a sense of calm.  Walking into a mess-free room is relaxing.  There is no anxiety because everything is in place.
  • Increases your energy and well-being.  When your home is energetically balanced, you feel better, rest better and are more productive.
  • It makes room for new things to come.  When you create space for new things to enter your life, you are giving them permission to come in.

Simple Ways to Begin De-cluttering

Take small, consistent actions.

If a project is too big, you won’t start it.  Don’t attempt to empty the entire garage in a day.  Instead, focus on one shelf or corner.  Appreciate the work you have done and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction.  Then, hold yourself accountable for taking another small action in the near future.  If it helps, make a de-cluttering schedule and put it on your calendar.

Allow adequate time and take breaks.

People often get overwhelmed by the emotions that come up when purging belongings.  It will take longer than you expect.  So, schedule in regular breaks and allow yourself time to process the emotions as they arise.  If you attempt to do the physical work without doing the spiritual work, the clutter will either remain or quickly return.

Avoid distractions.

When you find something that belongs somewhere else, resist the temptation to put it away immediately.  You’ll just end up being diverted to another space or project.  Instead, keep a “goes somewhere else” box in the space you are de-cluttering.  If it doesn’t belong, toss it in the box.  Put the box aside for another project.

Ask yourself why.

If you think you need to keep something that you aren’t regularly using or actively benefitting from, ask yourself why, and keep asking yourself why until you have the real answer.  Either you will be justified in keeping the object because it brings some function or beauty to your life, or your spiritual clutter will be exposed and you can address it.

Create a place for things.

Establish an official place for things.  If you have a problem with mail being strewn all over the house, make a space for it.  Put a basket or tote next to the front door, or on your desk, that will hold all mail.  Then, when you are ready to pay bills, read a magazine or recycle junk mail everything is in one place.  Make a commitment to yourself:  if it comes out of the space it gets processed.

Don’t buy storage containers until you have a use for them.

It may seem like a good idea to go buy 100 totes at your favorite store, but it’s not.  Bringing items into your home that don’t have a specific benefit of purpose is just continuing the clutter.  Begin collecting like items together.  Then you can decide the size and shape container you need to house them.  Don’t forget to also measure closets, cabinets and shelves so that the containers you purchase actually fit the space for which you intent to use them.  Buying containers without a clear purpose just creates a clutter of containers.

Be realistic.

Organizing and de-cluttering isn’t about being perfectionistic.  Decide what your top priorities are and consider your space limitations.  You don’t have to color-code the rubber bands and purchase a separate container for each.  Focus on what really matters.

Get help if you need it.

The TV show Hoarders may be able to gut a hoard and scrub a hose clean within 3 days.  But they have a professional crew and provide months of after-care assistance and therapy.  Don’t expect to be able to do it all by yourself.  Sometimes, we can’t see past our own attachments to things.  There will always be a justification.  Invite someone you trust to help you in the process.  Give them permission to gently and lovingly challenge your decisions.  It may not always be fun but it can be effective.

Og Mandino Poem

Never again clutter your days or nights with
so many menial and unimportant things
that you have no time to accept
a real challenge when it comes along.
This applies to play as well as work.
A day merely survived is no cause for celebration.
You are not here to fritter away your precious hours
when you have the ability to accomplish so much
by making a slight change in your routine.
No more busy work.
No more hiding from success.
Leave time, leave space, to grow.
Now.
Now!
Not tomorrow!
Og Mandino

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