Archive for August, 2011

Will the Meek Inherit the Earth?

There is a subset of our population who are only out for themselves. They compete rather than collaborate. They are exploitative, envious and arrogant. They feel they are special and entitled – even to that which is yours; and they lack empathy so they don’t understand or care why others don’t like their behavior. They may have narcissistic personality disorder or they may have narcissistic traits. My grandmother would have called them “just plain naughty.” Whatever the label, if you get entangled with one of these lovely people, it can make your life Hell.

Those of us who are nice guys (and gals) are deluding ourselves if we think we can win these people over with loving kindness, for they see it as weakness. But it is equally mistaken to think we must sink to their level or play their game. It builds bad karma and most of us do not have it in us to act that way, (thank Heaven.) Besides if you are a nice guy (or gal,) you certainly cannot win at their game. These people value only those who can help them and respect only those whom they fear.

It is best to avoid or repel these people, but most of us end up bumping up against a narcissistic person on the job, in our families or we discover we’ve been dating one for weeks but couldn’t tell. We all have some degree of narcissism. I have read estimates that around 4% to 20% of the population could be significantly narcissistic. Based on the effects of narcissistic business managers and politicians, I would guess that close to 100% of the population have been victims.

The best way to avoid a narcissist in personal interactions is to be strong and have very healthy boundaries. Just as the way you carry yourself can make you less likely to be victimized on the street, it can make you less appealing to a narcissist. Like a predator on the prowl, the narcissist wants easier prey – someone with self doubts whom they can manipulate or use. Many of us have not been raised to have healthy boundaries and when an exploitative person finds the chink in our armor we are vulnerable. But boundaries can be learned and the anger that results when we have been used or manipulated is a great building block for healthy boundaries.

In fact, as a good gal myself, I believe it is the responsibility of those of us who would play fair, to make it more difficult and unrewarding for the narcissistic among us to pursue their selfish ends. I have watched the narcissists in my life think twice about bothering with someone who is psychically and emotionally strong. I have also seen them back off from me as I learned to manage my thoughts and feelings in ways that make me powerful.

If we are strong and difficult to manipulate, we will condition the selfish among us to behave more like good citizens. Perhaps over time, we could make narcissism a losing proposition!

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Where are Your Boundaries?

“…Good fences make good neighbors… Robert Frost

Even in the land of the free, too many people are not really free mentally and emotionally. Many of us are controlled by others in subtle ways and brainwashed by the media to subscribe to others’ opinions and values (or lack thereof.)  When controlled by the opinions, definitions, criticism and anger of family members, bosses or partners, the results can be trauma, confusion and lack of energy.

Most systems of spirituality offer paths to the goal of liberating and actualizing the individual’s core self and teach that we create our experience with our spirits and energy. Some of these teach that the very reason we are here is to learn these things. Yet too many of us cannot create what we truly want because the energy of our thoughts and feelings is full of other people’s ideas and opinions. We may not even know what really makes us happy.

Advertisements convince us we should want certain kinds of bodies, houses, clothes, and relationships.  As a result, we bypass the true desires of our hearts and pursue shallow goals which are difficult to accomplish because they are not truly our own.  Relationships we see in the media are all about one upmanship. Communications are peppered with put downs and those who complain are “too sensitive.”

You can opt out of this behavior and take your power back. It involves strategies many of us have never been taught for maintaining personal boundaries, keeping your mental space clear and letting your authentic self shine forth.

When personal boundaries are created it becomes much easier to see which thoughts and feelings are your own and which have been foisted upon you by others.

A simple first step is to learn where your boundaries are- or should be. Simply look at what is acceptable treatment by others and what treatment would you prefer NOT to experience. The only rule for this determination is that you should like your boundaries.

Perhaps you would prefer that people in your life be punctual and keep their commitments with you. Maybe you think that your friends ought to be able to distinguish you in their minds from their other friends. Perhaps it is okay for your children to help themselves to your property but not for your in-laws. Possibly you are okay with people swearing around you but never swearing at you.

Wherever you set your boundaries is fine as long as they are yours. It helps to imagine these boundaries in space, like a bubble that surrounds your body. Where are they? Do they give you room to spread your arms? Imagine your boundaries have sharply defined edges, but are clear and allow you to see and be seen.

Now you can begin to ask trespassers to back off when they cross your boundaries.  You may need to limit your interaction with those who disrespect you. If you focus on these boundaries for as little as a minute every day, you will soon see a difference in how others interact with you and the enlightened way you interact with them.

You can also make sure you are honoring other people in the ways you choose to be respected.

Why do we call it brainwashing when it clutters the mind?

Who's in Charge?

We all tend to think the thoughts in our minds belong to us alone. When we start looking at them carefully we realize how often other people leave their stuff in our space. How free are we really?

Most of us have mental and emotional instruction manuals from our moms, pictures of what we should look like, rules for social engagement, and notions of good and evil. Some of that information was put there by our parents for our own good, but is probably long past its expiration date. Some was projected onto us by institutions or employers who want us to behave, again, for our own good. But we may not have examined who really benefits from our behaving as prescribed.

What is troublesome is the information we accept from others that keeps us in the personal control of a partner, friend, parent or other relative. Love is supposed to support what is best for the loved one, but in truth, most of us have insecurities and want others to help fulfill us in some way.

Even though I have been making distinctions between thoughts which are mine and not mine, I was shocked to discover recently, that I had subscribed to a belief that belonged to a family member. I had not really examined it to notice that it wasn’t mine. This belief made me responsible for a fellow adult’s continued existence, so it served him well to leave it in my space like a cuckoo’s egg, where I would nurture and cherish it as my own.

Then one day, someone pointed out to me that this belief did not make sense and did not look like any of my other thoughts. I felt positively illuminated! I also felt intensely relieved to absolve myself from a responsibility I coudn’t fulfill. Life became much easier. Once I got rid of the cuckoo egg, I was able to hatch some of my own creations!

Of course, the thoughts of others don’t affect us unless we buy into them in some way. Our buying into them camouflages the foreign thoughts so finding them is like a find-the-hidden-object-in-the-picture game, but it is a game worth playing. The more we release other people’s stuff, the more room we have for our own creations. Put more plainly, we will more often have experiences and things that we want.

We are always taking in information from others, but it is possible to distinguish that which controls you.  When an idea or belief seems to really tie you down, then it is one to examine.

Sometimes it is appropriate to be tied down by, say, caring for small children or aging parents, or being responsible to a job you wish to keep. But sometimes the thoughts that tie us down do not stand up to scrutiny. Will the sky fall if you don’t do what your partner demands? Will your children really be happy if you give in to their every whim? Will your mother die if you do not drop everything to visit her this Saturday?

Often, all that is needed to deal with insidious control thoughts is to notice them and they start to untangle and release.

However, an abusively controlling person will often mete out unpleasant punishment those who refuse to be controlled. So, if you are in a seriously controlling relationship, you may need to get help dealing with other’s thoughts.

The best kind of freedom is freedom of thought.  At least I think that’s what I think.