I drove East out of LA a few weeks ago, into the desert on my own. I was eager for the clear air and vast space, for time to reflect on what I wanted, needed and felt without the busy-ness of work, relationship and friends.
So off I drove and I had a sore throat. I thought, “Ok, I’m in the car alone for hours where no one can hear me. I’ll just speak here and say everything I haven’t expressed to anyone throughout my life.”
As you may know, I believe in the power of our energy broadcast whether there is anyone there physically to hear it or not. Besides, I wanted the tension out of my body for the sake of my own health, and so I expressed- the anger, the pleasure, the gratitude, the fear, the discomforts…
A couple hours later I got a message to call my parents, so I did. I have felt a lot of peace with my mother lately, but this time there were 3 things she said that triggered me and I found myself snapping a little.
Then, I listened to some mp3s on “Non-Violent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg, which a friend had lent me. Marshall suggested that to communicate peacefully and powerfully, we focus simply on our needs and make direct requests for how those needs could be met, without judging or evaluating anything other than observing what’s happening and offering our feelings.
So I got to look more clearly at the areas where I, after decades of spiritual practice, still did not recognize, honor or express my own needs. As I listened to Marshall’s stories and examples, I got ideas about how I could say what I needed that actually helped me understand what I really needed.
To me, anger often indicates a boundary violation. We get angry because someone violated our boundaries.
In order for that to happen, we had to violate our own boundaries. It’s usually not that we mean to hurt ourselves; more often we are just out of touch with our own needs and figure it out once our environment shows us what signals we are putting out– or failing to put out– about what’s ok and what’s not for us, and about what we most deeply want.
In my work people ask me to teach them how to set boundaries to protect themselves. Boundaries are most effective when you know what you want before you set them.
In fact, knowing what you want and then communicating that with compassion IS the boundary; usually, nothing more is needed. Instead, what commonly happens is either we don’t know what we want, or we simply don’t know how to express it.
Sometimes we lack the skill, and sometimes we’re afraid what we want is not ok. Then, we feel inundated with “bad energy” and want to protect ourselves, when really we are misunderstanding the core issue. When we create boundaries from this fearful place, they are not only ineffective, they usually create even more conflict.
With my mother, I felt projected upon and then felt mad that she did that to me. I judged her for doing so, and without knowing how to address it effectively just snapped and moved on in the conversation.
When I thought about it, my need in that moment was to have my autonomy in relationship to her. A very human need which I could have told her if I had recognized it. Probably, I had disconnected from that need as a child when I also needed her for survival, and feared being autonomous would deprive me of survival– also understandable!!
I had 2 other conversations during my trip which triggered me to take a look at my boundaries. Both were with friends.
In one case, I felt disappointed because my friend talked almost exclusively about herself. I had not expressed my need for support and then felt angry after the fact.
With the other friend, I had the opposite problem– she went on and on giving me advice I hadn’t asked for. I felt uncomfortable, but instead of getting angry I decided to get curious about why it happened.
So I called her back the next day and told her what my need was that night, and what I observed happening. I asked her if there was something I said that led her to think I wanted advice instead.
She said she didn’t know, but I felt my power in speaking up, and I could tell it helped her look at some things. We talked for an hour after that and all felt easy between us.
Once I got home from traveling, I found myself expressing more with my partner too. We had some adjusting to do but now we are doing better than ever and I’m feeling so supported. I simply won’t have it any other way now, in any of my relationships!
I realized through this process though, how much safer it’s felt over the years to judge other people (or myself) than it has felt to acknowledge and express my own feelings at times. It can be uncomfortable, but the payoff is profound. And the other choice– judgement– leads nowhere constructive for anyone.
So, besides peace, what are the payoffs in healthy boundaries? Just like a river which flows through a strong riverbank, our boundaries support us in building our power and allow us more creative flow.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?:
1). Ask yourself: What do you want to flow stronger in your life? Money? Love? Creativity? Energy and health? Business success?
2). Then ask yourself specifically what you’d like to experience in this area.
3). Next (and please take your time with each of these steps- really think them through), what specific experiences would give you the feeling you are looking to have? When in the past have you felt this kind of flow? At that time, what were the circumstances? For example, what actions were you or others taking that made you feel that way? What specific actions have you experienced that did NOT meet this need or desire?
Once you know what you feel and want, and what specifically contributes to that, it’s generally easy to align your choices with the results you want. It’s also easier to ask others to support you.
The good news is: most of us have the same core needs, and most of us really do WANT to support others in getting their needs met. That means most people really want YOU to have your needs met, when you are vulnerable and human and honest.
If you’re having trouble sorting out your needs and how to express them, I can help. Learn more about spiritual reading & healing sessions and my free initial conversation for new clients.
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copyright 2012 Ann O’Brien- All Rights Reserved.