I could see it happening to me, like being a distant observer of a tornado! You see clearly its destructive nature, you know there is a fall-out coming. You are aware of that voice of warning that calls from some silent place within. It cries with anguish “This is all about to go PEAR SHAPED!”
The beauty of self-awareness is that I now know what is happening to me when I begin to spiral. For those who haven’t experienced the spiralling emotions of mental illness or never felt the triggers that spark them, you may consider yourselves lucky. Yet there is something profound about the places that can be discovered when you learn not to trust yourself completely. When you refuse to give your emotions permission to become excuses for poor behaviour. After so many years developing self-awareness, I now understand that during these moments I am being forced to cling to my faith. I know that I must ride the wave of emotion with acceptance and awareness, and not make any sudden decisions. I must be prepared to repair any damage that is left in the wake of a triggered attack.
This recent episode came with familiar foes, second guessing and self-doubt, with a flood of tears and a self-critical scowl. I found a safe place to unload, my wonderful hubby, who knows how to listen without adding fuel to the fire. He leaves aside comments like “Pull yourself together” & “Its not that bad” He knows I need validity, that my emotions are very real TO ME in that moment, and that refusing to accept them only makes matters so much worse!
Sure enough in the aftermath, I needed to debrief, and I soon came to recognise that it wasn’t quite as bad as all that. I found clarity in the long honest conversation that came afterwards, and then I received that wonderful, insightful epiphany, that nugget of understanding which made it all make sense. This spiralling episode taught me to understand yet another trigger of mine. Another inner enemy to be watchful of, I learned how to articulate something about myself which I could not give voice to before. This nugget of understanding also revealed an answer to a situation that I had been praying about, something that had been bothering me for a couple of years!
I’ve mentioned before that I despise deception! It is my biggest fear! But who else recognises the trigger of not knowing where you stand with others? A history of reactive guilt trips and emotional instability leaves us with a need for constant feedback, seeking for any thread of warning, any scrap of insight into the future mood of another person. That way you can be prepared for the attack, and place up that protective wall before the shock of rejection takes your feet from under you. And isn’t it funny that it always seems to come from those who are overly nice to your face! Full of gushing compliments and open armed invitations.
Here at Inner Angels & Enemies we recognise the tricks the enemy plays inside us, and inside others. When we have faith and self-awareness, we can use these revealing moments of insight to remind us of the weapons available to us, and once we know a little more about the battle, we can prepare our armour accordingly!
YEEEEEW! God is so Good!!
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Lately I have noticed that I am praying a lot for tolerance… Tolerance from others while I am at my worst, tolerance for others when I’m irritated by them, and tolerance in others when they need it.
Tolerance is defined, in the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary as –
*Willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.
*The ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant.
“Tolerance” … This word just seems to keep popping up all over conversations lately. Or is it only around me?
For most of my “pre-therapy” life, and before my Dad began to show me a new way, I used to have very little tolerance. If I thought you were out of line I would call you on it straight away, no grace, no compassion, no self-awareness. I was young, defensive, and quite honestly, very insecure. It made me feel better about myself, if I came across faults in others. I notice this is very common practice in many people.
When my Dad taught me about grace, he made me try to find excuses for all types of behaviours which I regularly found unacceptable. He tried to get me to step out from who I am, what I know, what I think, and see any situation from another perspective. It helped me begin to give grace to others for things I would usually get annoyed at. This didn’t only help others feel more comfortable around me, it also made me feel more comfortable in situations that would usually irritate me. That’s the thing about tolerance, it works both ways. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being irritated or blindly irritating others, so this was such a blessed lesson for me.
After years of therapy and faith, I have noticed something valuable that I want to share with you….
The more I love and accept myself, the more I work on being my best self, the more tolerance I have for my imperfections, then the more I seem to create a buffer of tolerance around me.
I began to notice more and more, that the small annoying imperfections of others generally roll off my back. I no longer go about continuously and harshly judging others because I know how hard it can be to get things right all the time. Snide remarks don’t always make me feel like I must respond and put them back in their place. The criticisms of others don’t always make me defend myself by trying to make them change their mind about me. Almost like a big cushion softening the blows that would normally have me reeling in despair and reacting with aggression. Life has taught me about grace. How greatly we need it ourselves when we are at our worst. How genuinely we can give it when others are at their worst.
Having greater tolerance doesn’t mean you permit others to treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. It is that you are less effected by their ill-treatment or irritating behaviour. It doesn’t bother you as much as it does when your level of tolerance is low. What it does give you, is a more stable platform from which you can decide when someone’s behaviour has crossed a line, rather than reacting irrationally out of intolerance. Then you can set a boundary in place to protect yourself, before their behaviour begins to effect you in an extremely negative way.
There is only so much tolerance we can have when we are exposed to nastiness, abuse, and attack. We may tolerate these things for a period of time, but once you stand firmly on a foundation of self-acceptance and put up that boundary, you are stating to those around you that you will not tolerate being treated in a way that lacks decency.
I believe it is important for people to own their actions. Setting in place a boundary, gives you a place of protection until they are willing to own up to their mistreatment of you and repair any damage. Some will, and many won’t, but at least you won’t spend your days being in a state of irritated intolerance. You may even be able to move forward with peace…..
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for tolerance. Help us all come to understand your grace and build up your truths in our hearts and minds. Help us accept ourselves as your wonderfully made creations, and help us increase the amount of tolerance in our lives. Let us know your instructions clearly when it is time to set up a boundary, and give us security in your strength and protection. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name, I pray.
I used to think my Dad was narrow minded and hard to please (back when I really didn’t know him). He would ‘tut and huff’ under his breath if he came across something that bothered him, and I always felt guilty just being myself around him. I later learned that he wasn’t tutting at me, (He was tutting at the increasing level of evil which he felt all around him), but I was so used to guilt trips, that I thought I was disappointing him each time I heard that “Tut”.
After 10 years of close relationship with my Dad I came to believe I was good enough. Good enough for him, and good enough for God. When he passed away and took his place with the stars, I knew his approval, acceptance and love for me could never change. He loved me and was proud of who I am. This realisation gave me a wonderful freedom from the guilt that had haunted me all my life. Then everything changed. I began to work hard on building boundaries against those who used guilt to manipulate me. Those who tried to make me feel not good enough, so that I would change to suit them.
It seems a popular topic at the moment. Many feel guilt from expectations, and the difficulty of establishing a healthy boundary with those who use guilt to manipulate. And many more think their expectations should be forced onto others, at the cost of being kind, or giving grace. They become manipulative, without even realising it.
The problem with having expectations is that you can be thrown into a negative mindset when they are not met. I remember being adamant about what I thought others should do, especially a romantic partner, a parent, or a sibling. It caused me to be constantly disappointed, surrounded by drama, and bitterness grew easily in my heart.
We all have various expectations, it is what makes us human, but are they reasonable expectations, or are they restrictive, high, and unreasonable? Do we expect others to behave in ways we have determined to be right or acceptable, and find it unbearable when others have completely different views? This can make personal relationships extremely complicated and difficult.
Guilt has some terrific benefits to the human condition, it convicts our hearts when we need to correct the choices we have made. To develop and grow into who we really want to be. The consequences of our choices is what brings about this healthy type of guilt. Sometimes we can come to the conclusion, for ourselves. Other times we forget to self-assess and it takes an outside source to point it out to us. These can all be beneficial experiences in the long run, if we are open to them.
However, when someone tries to force us to feel guilty because we didn’t meet their unreasonable expectations, this guilt changes from being beneficial to being manipulative. It is up to us to get honest with ourselves, to consider if we trust ourselves to decide, and if WE can live happily with our choices. The reactions of others may or may not be in line with our thinking, and it seems to have become too common to slip into trying to please every man and his dog, as a priority over what we believe is right for us, living guilt free.
This is such a complex issue and so many variables make it hard to give one simple answer. That being said, I have found that being a “people-pleaser” (i.e. trying to stop people being disappointed in you) only gets you so far before you begin to lose sight of who you are and who you want to be.
Setting a healthy boundary decreases this manipulation. This boundary might be, to consider the feelings of others, but only so far as to weigh up the possible consequences of your choice, and accept that they may not like your choice. Recognize that coming up against opposition doesn’t automatically make you wrong, or in need of a good dose of guilt. Think it through, are they being reasonable or not? Are they supporting the choice you are making for YOUR own reasons? Or are they putting their own expectations over your permission to choose for yourself?
I am so very glad that I had Dad to show me how toxic high expectations can be. He taught me to aim for grace over restriction, to try being accepting instead of dissatisfied.
Life is hard enough without tripping over the graceless expectations from others. We are human after all. The ability to get it wrong and change is upon our own shoulders, no one elses. Grace is a blessing waiting for us to grab onto. Give Grace to others, but also Give Grace to yourself and be freed from manipulative guilt!
I have come across many people who hide from themselves, they resist the pursuit of finding themselves, and miss out on growing into the happiest possible version of themselves.
Have you learned how to be happy and accept who you are, and ignore the opinions of those who set out to change or criticise you? Have you stopped the force of influence from people who you do not aspire to be like?
Are you authentically true to yourself?
Does your life and character reflect who YOU really want to be?
There are some important steps to pursuing the authentic, untainted version of you! Steps towards learning how to become the You, that YOU really want to be.
I have found these steps to be the foundation of what I have gained during over 6years of honest therapy, with a few different psychologists.
Sometimes, often even, a stigma can follow an announcement of seeing a psychologist. Those who have not had therapy, or not understood the need for it, may vastly misjudge those of us who go regularly, and wonder what is ‘wrong’ with us. Some may avoid therapy even if they think they need it, because this stigma covers them with shame. Sure, the most extreme cases of ‘crazy’ are treated in therapy, and so are a variety of mild to severe mental illnesses, mood disorders and psychological conditions. However I don’t feel you have to have a severe problem to benefit from regular therapy. In fact I think everyone would benefit from seeing a good therapist, even just once in a while.
I have found that a good therapist is a sounding board, a place to express your own thoughts, feelings, desires and concerns about who you are and how your life is going. It is place to escape the onslaught of voices from those who have taught us their own rules of good & bad, right & wrong, should & should not. It can become a place where you get to investigate and choose which rules YOU agree with, which ones you want to alter, and which to delete entirely.
A good therapist will not tell you what they think you should or should not do, but will empower you to eliminate those toxic, unhealthy influences and rules you are not benefited by. Those you have adopted through exposure during your lives, which do not improve your sense of fulfillment and self-acceptance.
Have you spent time digging through your beliefs, choices, actions and habits and figured out what makes you tick? I recommend we question everything we were ever taught and test it against what we have learned in our own experiences. What was true for our parents and teachers may not be true for us. What we teach our children is based on our own perceptions and may not be true for them as they grow into their true selves.
Once you have figured out which rules you want to keep and apply, establishing some boundaries will protect your belief system. Developing your own boundaries in a healthy productive way, gives strength and stability to your choices. Good therapists will help with this. The instability from past attempts at boundaries, I have found, resulted because they were actually walls put up reactively, out of anger and resentment etc. These unhealthy walls will probably crumble at the first sign of challenge, or cause even more of the bitterness and anger that first created them.
A healthy proactive boundary will bring a sense of peace, it does not need to be pushed onto anyone else, but when challenged can be gently, or firmly, reinforced exactly where you have comfortably placed it. It gives assurance of the ‘You’ who you want to be, because when challenged, you won’t allow someone you did not permit to influence your beliefs and your sense of the authentic YOU!
The third anniversary of my Dad’s passing is here, He is missed enormously.
Has it really been 3 whole years since I looked into your eyes? Really!?!?…..
Many things stand out to me when I reflect on who my Dad was, numerous good things, many difficult ones, some sad.
Today I am thinking of something I feel a pull to dig deeper into and treasure up into my heart, so I may emulate it in my own life. I am naturally a personality hungry for love and acceptance. Many of us are, yet not only hungry, starving even. I have tried to expect it, demand it, beg for it, manipulate it, wait for it and eventually … appreciate it.
This week I had an epiphany, I realised that for as long as I can remember I have felt a pressure upon me to compromise my own opinions and perspectives in order to avoid conflict. As if, to be loved and accepted, to enjoy the company of ‘everyone’, then I must alter my beliefs to keep the peace.
Please understand that I am pretty strong willed and rarely accommodate this change, I don’t back down or let people walk over me. However, I have let the feeling of this lack of acceptance seep deep into my convictions. I second guess myself often, or desperately try to justify and explain, and I search for ways to cope with forcefully opposing views. I find myself either giving in to the pressure over time, or putting up huge walls, or copying some behaviours of others, behaviours that are not ‘mine’, in order to feel I have something in common with them, something that might connect us.
When I was young, doing drugs, drinking and smoking eased the pressure off my reluctance to enter into a sexual relationship, because everyone else was doing ‘it’. I could still engage with my peers that way, without being rejected for being too different. Wanting to be a singer and actress, or a lawyer, was too far from what my peers envisioned for their lives, so I went into hospitality and became an expert at pouring a beer and carrying a tray. Being a Christian came with strange looks and the ‘Goody Two-shoes’ label, so I began dressing in an overly Gothic style and swearing like a sailor.
Do you see the pattern??
I was running around trying everything everyone else was doing, because I had no idea how to be strong and happy enough to just be me, and be different. I needed others to like me for being anything else, anything acceptable. Problem is…What is ‘acceptable’ can change with each new face you greet. It is an impossible bar to reach.
There is a need to be quietly confident in our beliefs, so that we don’t feel threatened when they are challenged.
I am not very good at this, because as the years have passed I have allowed this pressure to cause me to become very defensive of the person I am, the person closest to my ‘true’ self, without the influences of opposing opinions. Yet, I am on guard, certain that previous offenders will threaten my lines of certainty. It makes me anxious and I react badly, lose my composure, and therefore treat these offenders aggressively. The worst part is that these are people I care for, and also if I begin to fire off defensively, innocent people may get hit with friendly fire in the process or aftermath. I feel very far from quietly confident in these moments.
As far back as I can remember, my Dad didn’t compromise his beliefs for anyone except God. He held up his opinions against the word of God and against his relationship with God, and allowed God to challenge him and not the acceptance of people. He stood strong in his convictions against all who tried to manipulate him to change. This affected his family life and his social life to the extent where he spent many many years completely alone, with God. It wasn’t until the last decade of his life when he finally found a bunch of people who accepted him and his beliefs so that he could finally relax and enjoy the company of others.
So in order to still have people in our lives and achieve quiet confidence, we need to develop a loving way to protect our boundaries, without allowing the onslaught of attack and opposition to send us into a tizzy of defensiveness. Not everyone will fall into the category of peacefully agreeing to disagree. Some will always feel that an opposing view needs to be challenged and this can be extremely vexatious to the spirit.
Like Dad, I have begun avoiding spending time with people who can’t help but confront and try to move my boundaries. Lately there are much less times that I feel this pressure, than when I do. I have found my own bunch of people to be comfortable being myself with, who I can disagree with, without getting defensive, and not feel the slightest need to change in order to suit them, because I know they love and accept me regardless of our differing views. I don’t have to defend my boundaries, I don’t feel anxiety in their company. I can relax and be me and it’s all good.
I am going to keep working hard on being quietly confident, and lovingly protect my boundaries with those who I feel anxious around, without the overly defensive reactions. I will definitely need all of your prayers on this one, it’s a biggy!