This year I turn 40. Like many hitting midlife, I have been reflecting on what l have learned so far and have yet to learn. I’d like to share with you one truth I have learned, “I am not a victim!”. Although I cannot control the things that I face on a day-to-day basis, and you can bet at times I’ve tried, I can control how I respond and that is where my true power lies.
The late Dr. Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust Survivor, suffering some of the most inhuman treatment in history, and yet he rose to teach others a powerful process to find deep purpose and meaning in life and a simple truth that we all have the ability to choose our internal response to difficult circumstances. He wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” While nearly all boundaries can be broken by forces outside of us, there is one boundary that is uniquely ours, our internal boundary! I would like to begin my discussion here as all other boundaries flow from it.
Having an internal boundary is essential to personal balance and a joyful life. We often feel shame and anger when this boundary is being violated. This is the first clue to us that an internal boundary needs our attention.
Some choose to return the darkness with more darkness both toward themselves and others. This violates our internal boundary and increases suffering. Imagine a space within you where your personal light is held. This space needs an inlet for light and an outlet to expel darkness that is foreign to our true nature. Sadly, when we have been injured we often flip this process in reverse and take in negative influence (darkness) and block the light that is trying to get in.
When discussing internal boundaries, I often picture a balance like the attached picture with love for self and love for others on either side. When feelings of anger and shame start to well up inside of us, it is important to mindfully look inside and see if our balance, which is personal to each of us, has been disrupted. Two opposites, love for others and love for oneself, are meant to serve as guideposts. We should not live at either of these extremes, but find a balance between them. We have the power to restore balance by choosing to add weight to the side of that internal balance that is lacking attention.
For example, although serving others is a worthwhile practice, we must use that sense of internal balance to notice when serving others has gained too much weight in our lives, and attention to our own self is lacking. We will need to use that internal power that Frankl discussed to choose to set a boundary for how we respond to our emotions, thoughts, and circumstances in a way that balances honor for both ourselves and those around us. The mindful practice of stillness discussed in a previous post is key to owning our emotions, learning from them and then choosing to act in a way that restores balance. We can stop, breathe, reflect, and then choose healthy internal boundaries that honor our highest values and restore a joyful balance to our lives.
Weekly Challenge: Setting Healthy Internal Boundarievs
Use the following process to assist in setting at least one healthy internal boundary this week:
- Identify when you are feeling either anger or shame
- Use the mindfulness skill: Stop, Breathe, reflect and choose.
- Visualize the picture of a balance in your mind
- Mindfully place a “Yes” in the area of the balance in your thoughts that is of greatest value and lacking on the scale
- Set an Internal Boundary so you can rebalance
Remember the following:
- When I say “yes” to one thing I am in turn saying “No” to something else”
- Balance is personal and the power to choose it lies in each of us
- We are not victims and we can choose to love, serve, and live in ways that increase joy and freedom no matter our circumstance