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In order to do good, we must first do well.

I used to work for the Sisters of Charity, an order who ran successful health care systems.  They promoted efficiency and success in their charitable mission, by saying, “in order to do good, we must first do well.”

This is just as true for individuals with an important mission.

Women who want to make the world a better place, tell me they get worn down by the resistance in their organizations.  Those who have an important mission seem to be targeted disproportionately; getting upstaged, being excluded, dealing with power plays.

Mean girls and bullies can turn the work you love into the job you hate.

This leaves otherwise strong, capable women doubting their abilities and efforts, feeling drained, eclipsed, and wondering if there is something wrong with spiegelthem which subjects them to these tiresome experiences.

This all-too-common scenario may not mean what you think it does.  Consider that those who don’t shine brightly are not targeted.

This sort of experience is certainly not your fault.  However, there is an inner game here and you can change it when you recognize it.

Consider this.  Articulate your important mission in a single sentence.  It might be, “I help girls become leaders,” or “I help people find exhilarating careers,” or “I promote products which protect the environment.”  Whatever it is, create a sentence about it.

Now, imagine saying this statement to your parents, your boss, the board of directors, your children, your husband, your siblings, your employees, your coworkers….

How do they react?  Some of them probably applaud and cheer, but notice who does not.

Whose reaction ties your stomach in knots?  What is the source of that anxiety?  Who is skeptical of your power?  Who is opposed to your power?  What early lessons cautioned you not to stand out and not to shine too brightly?

It is this inner resistance which slows your progress.  It also can help attract bullies who want to put a stick in the spokes of your wheels.  You don’t appreciate these people at all, but a part of you suspects they could be justified.  This inner conflict makes you doubt your entitlement to respect and success.

Now that you see this resistance for what it is, can you get a sense of the drag it exerts on your progress?  Can you see how it keeps you from moving decisively forward?  It’s hard to succeed and achieve when you lose your power to inner and outer saboteurs.  These problems can subtly drain energy away so you are not doing well and are ready to give up the good you do.

Now that you see this inner resistance for what it is, you can dismiss it whenever it comes up.    When detractors mirror your resistance back to you, you can ignore those images.

Bit by bit, this will restore your energy.

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A Parable about the Power of the Collective

Handsome tuxedo cat with striking eyes surveying world from his treeIndoors, Ted was an affectionate, loving house cat; a fastidious in his black and white tuxedo, with a sweet disposition.

An avid outdoorsman, Ted was also a mighty hunter.  Frequently, within 5 minutes of being let outside, he would have caught a mouse or bird.  He was the scourge of the small animal kingdom.  When he ventured outdoors, all the creatures who could fly or climb would ascend to high branches and hurl curses and insults at him.

One evening, during nesting season, I stepped out to enjoy the evening, and heard a chorus of scolding robins, and their “chirp! chirp! chirp!” alarm calls.   On the lawn, a semicircle of 10 robins faced the bushes, where they had a cat cornered.

Of course it was Ted who was surrounded and being given what for.  When he ventured onto the lawn, the robins hopped toward him aggressively, squawking, and he slunk back into the shrubbery.  He tried to sneak out of a gap at the side of the shrubbery, but the robins met him there, backing him into the bushes.  He tried a different escape, but the robins had him surrounded there too!

I walked closer to where Ted was cornered.  When he saw me, he meowed the most pathetic cry I had ever heard from him outside of the vet’s office. “Aowwww!” he cried, “Helllp meeee!”

I rescued the mighty hunter, picking him up and carrying him away into the house.  The band of robins broke up and went about their business, now that the threat to their families was gone.

These robins taught me something about collective action.  Normally easy prey of a big tom cat, they banded together, and were aggressive rather than reactive.  These birds easily got the hunter to back down and even cower!

Even though each of these birds was less than a tenth the size of my cat, they were able to immobilize and control him.

Pay attention, humans.  Do you fear a threat which is bigger and more powerful than you?  Can you collect a like minded flock to keep this threat at bay?

Love is Out There?

Whenever I lead clients through emotional clearing, they get to a basic underlying state, below the shifting emotions, and they almost always describe this state as love.

Indeed, love is our field state; the energy at the core of the being, and its power is always present and available.  With this force as the very fabric of our beings, why then, do we find it so hard to believe that we can attract the experience of love into our lives?

Our world of competition and dueling soundbites is more and more convincing us that love is some unnatural thing; a prize which must be earned by biological attraction; a game that’s hard to win.  Unplug from the media and practice the slightest bit of mindful present awareness and discover instead that love has been right in your own back yard all along.

We must be convinced that no matter what we experienced before, love is available, right here aloversnd now.  That frustrating, invalidating experience you had before – that was not love – and it did not disqualify you from love.

Love is always available.  It is a clean-burning fuel which drives anyone who pursues a specific mission.  It is the force needed for success and satisfaction.  The importance of setting   boundaries is to channel the power of love in ways that feed and enrich life; in ways which also attract relationships which feed and enrich life.

Love, thwarted, by relating to those incapable of empathy or bonding, can lead one to believe that love doesn’t exist.  The call for love remains unanswered, so it appears that love is not “out there.“

The solution is to turn to the love that is “in here” at the core of the being and tend to that, valuing it highly, protecting it with good boundaries and practicing selectivity which comes with self esteem.

Attracting good relationships, for love or money, relies on a state of being which is tapped into the inner and ever-present state of love.   Allowing your love to act as a magnet for good things involves getting beyond the chatter and the one-up competition which comprise the media’s hypnotic story of an ugly reality.

Becoming and remaining present, experiencing emotions such as compassion and joy, and developing a high level of healthy self esteem, bring the state of love into clear focus and create an irresistible attraction to love in all its forms.

The Key to Legitimate Personal Power

If you’ve been a victim of politics and power plays, narcissistic abuse, manipulative managers or mobs, you may have been told and sold a lie about power.   The people who perpetuate power over tactics, or bullying, would have you feel disempowered.

You may think you can lose your power to someone else.  You might have come to believe that if one person has power, another does not; that if you win, someone else must lose.  If you believe these things, they are true. This is the reality which is touted by the thug, control freak or manipulative.

However, if you would restore and use your personal power and regain your confidence, you must subscribe to a different version of reality; one in which you can be powerful without having to control anyone else or get the upper hand or have power over them.

The key to personal power is found in the word personal.  Your true power wells up from your individuality and uniqueness.

Calling on this form of power, you can prevail over the one-up mentality of the bully, as long as you don’t buy into that world view.  I would not recommend pitting your personal power against a bully, because there is surely an environment which is a better fit for your unique strengths.  However, if you find yourself in a mean environment, restoring your personal power is the best way to navigate the perils.
The civil world view is much kinder, more organic and relies on your unique strengths rather than any form of struggle.  What’s more, in this reality, power is attainable and unassailable.

There is no need to look over your shoulder.

The truth you must keep in sight is that you are unique and uniquely powerful.  There is no real competition.  The more you are true to your core self, the more attractive you are to situations and people which suit you ideally.

statue the Minerva

Statue of Minerva, 

When you integrate and express your true power, there is no such think as rejection.  There is only poor fit for people and situations.  If there’s a poor fit, then move on to more suitable situations – the sooner the better.

You can be coached to be more powerful and this will help you to more fully align with and express your unique self.  There is magic in this form of power.  It has the midas touch about it. It contains a love potion, and wards off the evil eye.

This is the power you need to be successful, satisfied and pursue your important life mission.

The Anti-Mob: A force for good

Constructed hand

It is called “mobbing,” when a group gangs up to shun or thwart an individual.

We humans are social, thrive on attachment and register physical pain and stress when we are excluded.  No matter how we try to minimize it, mobbing is hostile.

The mobbing tactic can be turned toward the good, however.  When group solidarity is invoked to resist gossip, competition and divisive tactics, order, support and inclusion can be maintained.  I have witnessed this a few times and it is as beautiful a dynamic as a bullying mob is ugly.

The manager likes to talk to one worker about another, stirring up hard feelings, competition and distrust.  However, the workers know how this manager operates, so they agree to never get sucked into saying anything negative about each other.

  • If the manager suggests to Jill that Jack complained about her, Jill answers that she’s had only good experiences with Jack and will talk to him about his complaints.  (The manager will, of course, urge Jill not to say anything to Jack.)
  • If the manager then suggests to Jack, that Jill thinks his department gets an unfair portion of the resources.  Jack responds that he and Jill can work everything out easily together as they always do.
  • Jack and Jill then confer with each other to find out what, if any, truth underlies the manager’s comments.

A vice president likes to come into the department and nose around when the department head is on vacation, digging up problems to confront her with later.

  • The staff, when questioned, resist any impulses to act defensive, or to play the expert or the hero.
  • They are careful not to commit themselves to answers until they have thoroughly researched any inquiries the VP has made.
  • Staff then reassure the VP that processes are being followed and errors have been corrected.
  • All the information is compiled to inform the department head as soon as she returns.

If work group members are all trustworthy, they can maintain power and a collaborative spirit by recognizing the troublemaking forces in the culture and agreeing to stick together and support each other, working out any differences privately.

The wagons are circled, calm is maintained, arrival at conclusions is postponed.  The work group continue to enjoy their mutual support which is their best defense against troublemakers.

This creates a safe haven and positive work environment within an otherwise unfriendly culture.

Being Sensitive; Good News & Bad News

vishnulakshmiThose of us who are sensitive tend to empathize with others’ feelings and care about them.  The general run of good people are empathic and considerate of others.  Those of us who grew up in chaotic situations often develop more acute sensitivity; having become adept at using our “antennae” to monitor the emotional weather around us.

This can be a very handy trait in good relationships, keeping us attuned and appropriately responsive to others’ feelings.  Sensitive people are often highly responsible in relationships. With others who appreciate and reciprocate, this sensitivity can keep the machinery of relationships well oiled and highly functioning.

If you are a sensitive person, you know there is the downside to it. The empathic and sensitive among us may have porous boundaries and feel responsible for others to our own detriment when those others lack empathy.  Manipulative people test others’ boundaries to see how much they can control and benefit from their interactions.

An sensitive person can be far too understanding of manipulative people fall prey to their machinations.  A heightened sense of responsibility for others’ feelings can keep a sensitive person entangled in a false relationship, trying to make the interactions right.  Ironically, when a sensitive person does object to manipulative behavior, he or she is often told, “You are too sensitive!”

Despite excellent intuitions about other people, the sense of responsibility can cause the sensitive to project motives onto others rather than seeing what is really there.  Awareness of this is the key for a sensitive person to unlock any unhealthy relationship patterns.

If empathy and sensitivity are directed differently, they are powerful in steering a path to great relationships.  If sensitivity is used to accurately read the feelings of others, and one remains sensitive to one’s own boundaries as well, the nature of the interaction becomes obvious.

Is the relationship a hollow involvement with someone who has little empathy; someone who cannot bond and does not reciprocate?  Or is the relationship real, involving someone who is similarly sensitive?

In the realm of real relationships, sensitivity pays big dividends!

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

In “Mending Wall”  Robert Frost* and his neighbor meet to repair the wall between their properties.  The neighbor repeats, “Good fences make good neighbors,”  while Frost seeks to know what it is he and his neighbor are walling in or out.

Great relationships are full of great paradoxes.  They are not based on meeting needs, but with your best-friend or soulmate, your needs often get met very beautifully.  A transcendent relationship is not based on physical attraction, but the compatibility is usually there as if it were!

The profound connection of a great relationship also comes with the paradox of strong boundaries.  Walls and boundaries strengthen relationships by strengthening individuality, recognizing equality, creating empowerment and and requiring consensual connection.

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photo pin cc

I appreciate your individuality and your perfection as a soul by honoring your boundaries and  letting you express yourself exactly as you are without interference from me, although we may choose to be influenced by each other.

I acknowledge your power, by allowing you to own what is on your side of the boundary.  I might think I know how to resolve problems for you, but that assumes you have no power or choice of your own, so I do not trespass without your consent.

Walls, boundaries, and good fences make good neighbors because they reinforce the sovereignty of each neighbor.  Our delight in relationships is when someone who is not us appreciates and loves us.  Especially when it is someone we appreciate and love.

Walls make us acknowledge what territory is ours or not ours and make it clear when we are invited to cross the boundary as opposed to when we are trespassing.  Those who trespass our boundaries early in a relationship and get too close too soon can flatter us with their attraction, but in truth, it is like a stranger walking into your house without knocking or waiting for an invitation.

Being invited to cross the boundary is an honor and accepting the invitation is a powerful way we overcome our separateness.

Good fences make good neighbors.

*See the Poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Boundaries

DSC00784In a talk I gave a few weeks ago about transforming toxic interactions, a member of the audience asked me, “What do you mean when you talk about boundaries?”  This was a great question from a group of people who were interested in changing their interactions for the better.

In fact, many of us have had blurry boundaries modeled for us through family interactions, TV shows and romance novels.

Boundaries define what is or is not acceptable treatment from others.  They mark you as being sovereign; a free agent in charge of your life and your choices.

When boundaries are honored, you feel respected and empowered.  When trespassed, you feel, and probably are, disrespected.

The distinction can be very obvious, as when someone eats off your plate or calls you a foul name.  When a friend shares embarrassing confidential information about you to a whole group of acquaintances, you are likely to feel disrespected and even vulnerable about what future boundary violations may be in store for you from such a person.

More insidious disrespect is often shown by those who provide unsolicited help, and such help is often a power play.  The employee who tells me how to turn on the projector which I have already powered up is being helpful.  He is also demonstrating his assumption that I don’t know how to operate the projector without assistance.

The person in the audience who interrupts the presentation to add expert information, which doesn’t really support the speaker’s topic, is pretending to be helpful while her intention is to demonstrate superior knowledge, even though she is not the speaker.

Notice the wonderful people who honor boundaries and show you respect.  Seek out more of them.  They have certain sterling traits.  Primary of these is the empathy to discern where your boundaries are.  They also respect your ability to live your life, make choices and take care of yourself.

They may seem less helpful, but they respectfully assume you are handling things until you tell them otherwise.  They won’t often rescue you unless you request their help, but when they do help you, there will be no strings attached.

Through the Portal from Avoidance to Attraction

DSC00860Those of us who have experienced power plays, bullying, narcissistic abuse and just plain awful relationships find we are much better off when we learn to identify and avoid toxic people.  Being consciously aware and cautious of the red flags which signal unhealthy interactions is critical for anyone who has been entangled with a wolf in a sheep suit.  Developing discernment is the first step to freedom.

Getting too focused on problem behaviors and red flags, however, has a downside.  It is not enough to avoid difficult people.  At some point, we want to actively attract healthy, supportive people and have easy, loving relationships.  Avoidance is not attractive.

The metaphysical minded tell us that what we focus on expands; that we attract what we think of the most according to habitual feelings.  This makes avoidance a bad strategy for finding new and better relationships.  And, indeed, avoidance is only a part of the process.

When avoiding problem people, it’s a good idea to ask, “What do I want instead?”  In this way, we move away from the competitive and move toward the collaborative.  Rather than moving randomly away from the problem, and perhaps toward another problem, we can set a course away from the problem and directly toward the solution.  The solution is the relationship we wanted in the first place, or maybe even better than that.  This is to be found in a different territory altogether.

Simple steps through this portal;

  • Believe that there exist wonderful relationships with delightful people.  Find an example of a wonderful relationship, to prove to yourself it exists.
  • Know you are worthy of great relationships.  If you have been targeted by a low-empathy type, chances are very good that you value relationships, have a great deal of empathy, and are a socially savvy person.  Your matches, personally and professionally, are others who empathize and collaborate.
  • List the behaviors and traits you avoid as red flags.
  • For each red flag, define what you want instead.  For example:  My last manager made me feel criticized.  I want a manager with whom I feel accepted and supported.
  • Seek out people with whom you feel consistently good.

Set aside any cynicism.  (It doesn’t really protect you.)  See what happens after a couple of weeks of redirecting your attention in this way.

Some Facts are Easier to Face than Others

If you have been the target of abuse, it can be easy to believe that all relationships have serious downsides.  Experts may have told you that even the best relationships are a lot of work.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

If you have been conditioned to have poor boun
daries, people who disrespect boundaries can find you highly attractive.  It’s as if they see you and think, “Oh goody!  She’s nice and I don’t have to behave around her!”  You may meet a narcissistic or controlling person and (maybe subconsciously) think, “All my patterns fit in beautifully with his!  It’s a match made in heaven!”  Thus, you start relationships which seem great and then end up being painful.  This could make you feel that you can only draw disrespect from others, but it’s not true!

Some so-called experts suggest that a target of narcissistic abuse can never really heal, but I find this claim highly suspect, not least because it usually comes from a victim who has never really healed.  The exceptions prove that notion wrong, for me, and for clients and friends.

It is possible to identify and break the patterns that have put you in what passes for a relationship.  You then attract people with surprising depths instead of shocking shallows.

Finding good, safe relationships requires an attitude change, but it is well worth it!  Most of the new ideas you will need to accept are ones you have always wanted to believe anyway.

At their core, people are whole, perfect and complete.  This means you!  When I coach clients to get the messages from their emotions and release them instead of stuffing them, we always uncover the same core state.  The underlying energy is love.  Just as the sun shines steadily behind a storm, love is the steady force
behind swirling emotions.Depositphotos_6988428_s-2015

As you begin to function on this deeper level of love, you are more genuine and you attract people on that level as well.   There is always access to more love.  There is no need to settle for painful relationships. There is no rejection at this level, either.  You either fit with another or not.

Meanwhile, you do have to become more mindful and present, and you do have to learn to begin relationships more slowly.  Give yourself time to identify personal boundary gate-crashers, and to mark the contradictory messages from crazy-makers with “return to sender.”

You may have to just trust that there is something worth holding out for.  But you can hold out for soul connected partnerships, sane and loving friends, a therapist who is actually therapeutic, honest attorneys, a reliable hair stylist (I’ve seen it happen!) and maybe even collaborative workplace relationships.