In this game you get to be sneaky. One person tries to sneak something unwanted into the other’s possession. For example, my husband and his brother spent years passing a “smokey bar” of smoked cheese back and forth, sneaking it from house to car to luggage, even mailed in a model Trojan horse. Or it might be a shorter game, where I try to, say, put something down your shirt. In both cases you suspect that something is coming and do your best to defend yourself.
I love the freedom to torment the other party, and I love the practice defending your space.
What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine, right? Not with solid boundaries, it’s not. You decide what you want in your life, and you mindfully accept or reject offerings as the world throws them at you.
In this middle school classic, if I have some trash but don’t feel like throwing it away on my own, I nonchalantly offer it to you, trying to get you to automatically take it. When you do, it’s yours and I refuse to take it back. Now you’re responsible for disposing of it. (haha!) Watch out, though, it might quickly segue into a game of Sneak It In.
This game plays with the idea of mine and yours, and it teaches mindfulness of your boundaries.
Interrupting is a skill. Some people have a hard time interjecting at all. Others have no regard for the person talking and just talk over them. Somewhere in the middle is the well-timed interruption.
Maintaining your focus despite interruptions is also a skill. Not getting derailed, keeping on topic, and maintaining control of the conversation are important things to know how to do.
If you have any doubt, here’s an interesting article on gender differences in conversation habits.
The interrupting game goes like this: There is a talker and an interruptor. The talker is talking, and the interruptor interrupts, with the intention of derailing the conversation. If they are successful, they get points. (No, the points aren’t worth anything more than kudos.) However, if the talker catches the interruption and politely asks the interruptor to save the thought for later, then the talker gets points. The interruptor can choose to listen or not. If they don’t, then the talker can get more points by completely ignoring the interruptors bids for attention. Finally, when the talker gets to a breaking point in their conversation, they have a third chance to get points by bringing the focus back to the interruptor and giving them a turn to speak.
My kids are loving this game. They like the green light to try to interrupt. They like the green light to not listen when I say to wait. They love when I give them “points” after they’ve successfully derailed me.
I am loving this game. I love not feeling guilty asking them to hold their thought. I love being free to completely ignore and talk over them while they jabber nonsense (literally) at me. I love giving them a turn to talk afterwards, and being able to totally focus on them. And I’m looking forward to finding some great phrases for holding control of the conversation. “Stop interrupting me” from the article linked above, “I’m not done talking” and “wait, I’m still in the middle of talking” are my current favorites.
When I talk about boundaries, I’m talking about a sense of self and also of self worth. Knowing where you end and ‘other’ begins, what *you* need and where *your* limits are. There are the obvious physical boundaries – what’s my body and what’s yours. This covers babies learning that they are their own person, and not just an extension of mama; and it also covers parent/kid relationships (corporal punishment and forced hugs and kisses, etc) as well as romantic relationships – nobody is “owned” by someone else. There is a lot of conversation around this right now, and it’s important. There are also mental boundaries – what is my motivation vs yours, what is my desire vs yours, what is my mistake vs yours, and the list goes on. It probably maps pretty well to the needs I’ve outlined in the framework of this site. The conversations about these boundaries are starting to pop up and they’re critically important, too.
And then there’s self worth. How much can I take, how much can I give, how much space can I give myself? How much am I worth? What’s too much to keep track of?
I have a mental picture of a circle. A bubble around an individual. The bubble represents where you end and ‘other’ begins. The volume of the bubble represents your self worth. The shape of your bubble isn’t always a circle, though. Unhealthy boundaries come when your bubble is too small (and you don’t take what you need for yourself, don’t feel like you deserve it) or when you overreach into someone else’s space (the controlling or abusive personality) or give away what is rightfully yours (the pushover/accommodator). These last two look like bulging arms reaching out, or like caves carved in to your circle.
I would say that healthy boundaries feel really good to an individual. That is the lowest energy state, and leads to the highest default happiness with life. I would also say that most everyone doesn’t have perfectly healthy boundaries. Some are healthier than others, for sure, but it takes work. You see, life is an attack on your boundaries. There is a nonstop stream of assaults, and figuring out your needs and limits is a learning process, complete with the need to make mistakes. Any time there is an assault that you’re not sure what to do with, it can dent in your circle a bit, and it stays there as trauma until you can process it. The starting shape of your boundaries is passed from parent to child, and from friend to friend. It’s contagious, because it’s defined by what we can validate for each other and what space we can hold for each other.
So you go through life, and there are assaults, and if you don’t have defenses or ways to process the assault then it sticks around. And you have a dent. A trauma. But it doesn’t always affect your self worth – the volume of your bubble. This means that if you have a big dent in one place, you’re going to want, to need to overreach in another place to maintain your self worth. And self worth feels even better (to some?) than a healthy sense of me vs you.
Now we have people with unhealthy boundaries waking around in their funny shaped bubbles, overreaching in some areas and not believing they even can reach at all in other areas. There’s not much of a issue until there’s an overlap between two peoples’ bubbles and then the conflict is brought to light. Limits are set and hopefully people move on. But limits are HARD. They can make you really upset. Because if someone tries to smooth your bulge, where else is the space in your bubble going to go? What about your self worth? Do you need to overreach somewhere else instead? Or are you not actually worthy? Panic! Anger! Fight back!
What’s happening is, either you are being traumatized by someone else’s bulge denting in your bubble, or else someone is trying to lop off your bulge and it feels like trauma (even if you can logically see that they’re right. In order to make sense of this, you need to either reduce your self worth so you can fit in this new shape (ouch!), or you need to change the shape. Changing the shape means either overreaching somewhere else (ick!) or finding a dent and popping it back out (HARD, painful). If you know what to do, you can get straight to it through tears or laughter or talking, but if you feel stuck, it’s likely to come out sideways as anger, depression, anxiety, stress, coping mechanisms. Any way you turn, it’s work.
I’ve been observing myself and my kids and how we get stuck, a lot, some of us more than others. Limits used to be painfully hard for me, but now I’ve figured them out – only they’re starting to cause more pain than growth. And so I realized, it’s time to find those dents and pop them back out again. I can’t set a limit on self care very easily, without really muddling up the self vs other lines. It involves reaching into the bubble of another and claiming ownership. I see dents in my kids’ bubbles though (it’s so much easier to see in others than myself) and now it’s time to pop those dents back out. My plan involves games humor and lots and lots of laughter, completely unrelated to anything else going on, and definitely no limits (besides the rules of the game). My hope is that by popping the dents out into a circle again, the bulges will shrink on their own, with relatively few limits and meltdowns. Or at least the meltdowns will be productive rather than stuck.
People need love. Period. With love, oxytocin flows, your heart opens up, colors are brighter, and life is easy. So put on your rose colored glasses and get to it already!
Oh wait, that doesn’t work. It’s more complicated than that. And yet, it isn’t. If the goal is a balanced nervous system, then the nervous system is in charge. Your basic needs need to be met, and you need to trust that they’ll be met. Trust. Trust comes with oxytocin. Oxytocin breeds trust. You know what else you need in order to trust your needs will be met? You need to feel worthy. The seeds of worthiness are seeds of love. To feel like you matter. To someone. To yourself. To anyone, to anything.
In order to digest your food and get the nutrients out of it, in order to not associate it with toxicity, you need a healthy gut. In order to get a healthy gut, there is a ton of advice out there – whole foods, paleo, gluten free, GAPS, low FODMAPS, open detox pathways, fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, I could go on and one… But the undercurrent that I don’t see many people talking about is the terrain. In order to make any meaningful shift, you have to shift the terrain. The neurotransmitters that control the gut. And what controls those neurotransmitters? Your mind. Your nervous system. Your stress levels and associations. How much you trust and how much you feel love. In all situations. Because your gut is with you in all those situations, you don’t leave it behind at home.
In order to rest, your mind has to be able to rest. If you’re busy or anxious or checked out or in any other way not present, then your mind is working in overdrive to keep you away, and that’s not resting. If you’re feeling loved up, you want to be here, now. You can relax into the present moment. Rest.
I could trace the lines to Movement and Engaging your Mind as well, but won’t for the sake of getting on with it. If you’re curious, Connect and ask me (wink).
So now we’re left with love. And how to feel love. How to trust that love is there. There’s love in relationships. Parent-child, friendships, romantic love… And then there’s self love. If the goal is to trust that love is always there, and you start with the assumption that none of us are at the endpoint yet, then the most reliable solution is going to be one that doesn’t rely on anyone else and their own issues. Self love. You know best how to love yourself. You might be able to feel it best when it comes from someone else, but what about when they’re having a bad day, when you’re clashing with them, when the insecurities in your head grow and nobody’s there to stamp them out for you? What happens if your beloved dies, and that bond of love is shattered? The most reliable love is self love. You are worth it. So get on with it and you’ll be golden.
Oops, still not that easy. That logic got me to the point that I could accept love without flat out assuming the other person is lying, and to want to feel the love. Once you can feel the love, then it’s time to learn to generate it on your own.