Current Events

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Judgements - And How They Hurt Yourself

To judge can be a good thing and help us make decisions. Most of the time, the mind is occupied by a constant flow of judgements, which is about a productive a the system idling process of my computer. Except while it occupies my mind, it is also harming my ability to approach the world with an open and curious mind...

Judgements: Usually they let us know where we stand with things. They reflect our own opinions and help weigh a current situation in terms of our "pre-set" opinions. In a dangerous situation it saves us time and might save our life. But truthfully, how often are we in a situation where every second counts. I myself have only been there once, when a robber pressed a 10 inch-bladed knife on my chest. My judgement was instantaneous, not to go after the can of pepper spray in my fanny pack and instead hand it over to the thief and let him walk away with it. Now THAT is, when judgements are extremely helpful. But most of the time - in 99.9 per cent, they turn into a limiting crutch that keeps us from making the best out of a moment, out of life. Judgements are often handed down, internalized opinions of loved ones around us. They were the price of admission to being part of a group. Sometime, we might use judgements about someone in order to elevate our selves. Often we judge simply because we want to exchange "knowing" for the discomfort of the unknown. To "know" gives us the sense of security and power.

During my spiritually based coaching training I heard that we could free up hours in our days, once we stopped judging other people. Wow, now that´s what I would call a great time management tool. I started putting this statement to the test. Sure enough, many of my thoughts turned out to be a judgement and not helpful at all. So, after the first step of catching myself with judgemental thoughts, I started the habit of releasing them by acknowledging their presence and sending them on their way again. Nice! I did not have to spend any further time and energy on these thoughts, not to mention hours after hours that I saved by not having to share my thoughts and encounters with my husband or my girlfriends (which would be gossip).

What a relief that was. Over time my whole life changed somewhat. And I like it a lot. I still get a lot of these thoughts at times, but I don´t nurse them or elaborate on them. I actually encourage my husband to point it out, in case I do start getting into it, which happens occasionally. Every time I catch myself when doing it, I first notice that sensationalizing feeling in my body. Pretty soon the image of a spider in her web approaching her unsuspecting victim appears in my mind. I like that reminder and at that point I catch on to what is happening and start retreating from my judgements with a smile. It feels so great not to have to do that, not to have to be the person who has bad thoughts about others and is envious of what others are or have. It has been said that we can´t decide what thoughts pop into our head, but that we can decide what to do with these thoughts. How true! In my experience, these first thoughts change over time according to where we choose to take our thoughts most of the time.

Now, THAT is good news!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Boundaries - A Necessity Hardly Ever Talked About

I was about 25 years old and already deep into my studies of psychology at the university, when I heard about boundaries for the very first time. And I did not learn about it from my professors...

"You need better defined boundaries" my older girlfriend said, after listening to my stories of entanglement with my family and resulting bad feelings. I had no idea what she was talking about. Of course, that was my main problem just there: I had not idea what she meant with boundaries.

Luckily, the seed was planted, and I started to get curious about it. Years later, I am still working on it, but our own boundaries are always a work in progress. It changes, whether we have a good or bad day, are healthy or feel sick, are stressed or relaxed....

What I learned about boundaries:
It is important to have some, to reflect about it. In order to do that we need to think about our own needs and values. Do I speak up if someone makes a remark that hurts me? Do I let a friend who is down on her luck stay on my couch - one night, two months? It is good to know the general need there and decide from case to case once the situation shows up. There is flexibility in the moment, but if I have no idea, where I stand with it in general, the situation will catch me off guard and my reaction will end up being a default mode, usually not the helpful kind.

I have also learned that I truly set my own boundaries. That is part of the fun with life. That is where I can truly feel that I am creating my own life. It says a lot about myself how long I let a situation go. Some people only act and speak up about their boundaries if it concerns severe physical needs, such as the need to survive. Others speak up as soon as some little thing does not go how they want it, or that they controlled. Neither way is ideal if applied all the time. It helps to have some reflection on how we handle our own boundaries in general, by watching whenever we need to make a decision in relationship to somebody else.

A habit that has served me well over the years is to take care of little boundary violations right away. That still means that I pick my "battles" carefully. I meanwhile know the kind that keeps growing if I don´t act. People with weak boundaries often are resembling a doormat until they can´t take it anymore and - to the surprise of everyone around - lash out. That is a sure sign for weak boundaries and it does not feel good for anyone involved. So if the matter is taken care of when it shows up, it can´t build up and make us be someone we don´t want to be.

It is a true gift to ourselves and the people who surround us if we are sincere keepers of our own boundaries. Only we know ourselves well enough, and truly it is our own job to take care of it. So, next time you find yourself say "how could he/she do that TO me?" Turn it around and ask yourself "how did I let this happen?" "What can I do that this does not happen again?". Do you feel how empowering that is?

At first it might be a little bumpy and strange. But with a little practice the joy of expressing your life fully and taking charge in your own life will exceed any bad feelings.

With good boundaries we spend so much less or no time in a bad state. People with good boundaries are very charismatic, seem to achieve a lot in life and appear very empathetic, happy and authentic. I, for one, certainly want some of THAT!

Have fun playing with it and discovering your own boundaries!