Brené Brown on Boundaries & Compassion

“To assume the best about people is almost an inherently selfish act, ’cause the life you change first is your own.”

–  Brené Brown

But it can also change the lives of the people around you. You can’t know, without a doubt, if someone (who has been getting on your nerves) is doing their best. But if you can make the assumption that they are doing their best, then you actually feel more acceptance, less judgment, less resentment, and more accepting of your own imperfect, “needy” self, and maybe even recognize that you deserve support, whether any one particular person can give it to you or not.

“Generosity,” says Brené, “can’t exist without boundaries.  Empathy without boundaries is not empathy.  Boundaries are friggin’ important.  It’s here’s what’s okay with me, and here is what’s not.”  

Achieving this level of self knowledge often requires a lot of work.  But it’s so worth it.  Here is a video where Brené is being interviewed about compassion and boundaries.  I just love it.  Take a look!

Here is her question:  What boundaries need to be in place for me to maintain my integrity and make my most generous assumptions about you?

That’s BIG:

  • Boundaries
  • Integrity
  • Generous

Becoming Embodied, One Ache at a Time

Bringing my spirit back into my body.

That is what I’m about.

Those places that let me hear from them

Are God’s voice, calling me back where I belong.


So yesterday I started to notice a real achiness in my lower left back–in my ribcage when I turned my body in a particular way.  Oh no.  Now what? was my initial response.  What’s wrong now?  Why me?  I quickly ruled out travel.  I’d actually made a very long journey, but it had been kind and it had been a couple days since I had arrived home safe and sound.  I went to bed hoping that it would be gone in the morning.

No such luck.  So I made tai chi and my date with my beloved on the roof a priority.  First thing, I was on the roof with my tea in hand.  No gorgeous sunrise, though.  Not even visible stars, with Hurricane Matthew roaring off in the east somewhere.  As I listened to Trina Brunk on my iPhone, I heard her words and they penetrated my soul, opened my heart.

Remembering that my task is to live what I ask others to do, I brought my awareness to my ribcage.  Tight.  Frightened.  Abandoned.

And I realized that as my spirit enters my body, it may need to do so little by little.  And that is what is happening here, though without realizing it, I had been resisting it out of fear.

And so I made an adjustment in my perspective.  Today my spirit is entering my ribcage.  Am I going to greet it with “You are too much!”  “Go away!” “You are such a pain!”  It is asking me for my caring, tenderness, touch.  Curiosity, listening.

Yes, I think I can do that.  What else might be in order?  I could check with a couple books to see what “ribcage” might suggest.  What it means in the universal language of dreams and nature.  What I already know is that this has to do with breathing deeply, turning to the left and flexibility in the face of expanding capacity.

I can rub myself gently and be aware of this tender place in my beloved, vulnerable body.  I can slow down.  I can pause and say, “I notice you, and I’m wondering what you need.  Are you okay?  You have been protecting me and supporting me for all this time, and I have not even acknowledged you.  I am so grateful for what you do for me.  I honor your presence in my body as part of my system.  I recognize that you have needs and I am interested in understanding what you have to say.  Your pain is not so great that I need to shut it out.  I am not afraid of you.  Thank you for communicating with me.  You matter to me.

Ahhhh, that feels better.  And I can add Mantak Chia to my meditation regimen, which will encourage me to breathe more consciously and bring awareness to my organs and inner energy flow.  I realize that I am needing a little more structure to provide boundaries to my days.  I also realize I am needing a durable but expandable container that allows for movement of the whole, while protecting the vital vulnerable parts inside.  Thank you, ribcage.  Welcome, spirit, into my body.  Thank you for your wisdom that I can know with just the right timing and in just the right way that I can understand and allow this amazing, transformative process.  I am willing.  I am grateful.  Aho.

Reclaiming Your Inner Authority Playshop

Explore the edges of your awareness of who you really are . . . and deepen your sense of empowerment and joy in living.

Through guided visualization, journal writing and interactive processes, we’ll delve into your ever-expanding connection with your Higher Power, regardless of how you define that.

We’ll explore:

  • deepening trust in your relationship with the Divine
  • strategies for accessing your higher guidance
  • clearing blocks to manifesting your full brilliance
  • living a transformed life

Wear comfortable, loose clothing and bring yoga mat or blanket and pillows, whatever you need to feel comfortable lying down on the floor.

Workshop fee includes healthy and delicious snack prepared by the wonderful folks at Centro Latino.  An optional dinner will be available at an additional cost following the event

When: Saturday, June 1, 2013 from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
(Late registration is between 2 and 2:15 p.m.)
Where: Centro Latino de Salud, 609 N Garth Ave, Columbia, MO
Cost: $45 for four hours of fun!
Save ~ Early registration: $40 if payment is received by May 21

Register online now here »

Event facilitators:

Toni A Rahman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in trauma recovery and body-mind connections.  Visit her blog at

Trina Brunk is a singer/songwriter, artist and intuitive consultant focusing on personal and planetary liberation.  Visit her site at

The Art of Effortless Living

I’m reading a fabulous book that was required reading for a recent 4-day SomatoEmotional Release class I attended in St. Louis in August. Below are a few excerpts from:

Stop Trying. Start Living.  The Art of Effortless Living.  Do Less, Let Go, and Discover Health, Emotional Well-Being, and Happiness, by Ingrid Bacci, Ph.D., 2000.Berkley Publishing Group, New York, NY.

This couldn’t be more timely for me.  If you’d like to read the toni-style cliff notes, click on the link above.  I’m pasting in a few of my notes below.

Also, while I’m thinking about it, Boundaries 101 class is going to be offered at the Columbia Area Career Center for the third time beginning November 12.  Monday nights for 5 weeks.  6:00-8:00 pm.  Check it out!

pg 233:  When we stop allowing our fears to control us and focus instead on developing inner balance and vision, then we become capable of deeper partnership.

pg 234:  …healthy relationships depend on understanding that relationships are not in our lives to support our needs or foster our dependency.  Instead, relationships teach us, often through difficulties, how to transcend our own limitations and to share with others from a place of mutual empowerment.

pg 239:  You are not meant to ask someone else to give you what you need.  That is so much less rewarding than discovering that you can give yourself what you need.  You are not meant to accept the low standards that rule our world.  You have the capacity to transform those standards and to inspire others to follow in your footsteps.

Today I Walk

Thoughts in July

On the last leg of my walk this morning, my upper realms connected with my lower ones and I came to a glorious epiphany.  Let me explain.  In my spine lies a story that repeats itself at countless levels, the most visible and obvious of which is my living situation.

I realized today that my downstairs represents the places in my mind I don’t want to go.  The dark unconscious places that cause discomfort and pain.  Things like fear of being alone; fear of not being able to make it on my own; fear of not being enough; not having enough; not fitting in; not being able to connect, or have a whole, full, conscious, happy life if I don’t make particular sacrifices or tend particular safety nets.  Today, on my walk I let myself venture into those dark places.  What, I asked myself, does my grumpy roommate  represent to me?  She  spends her time in the lower realms.  She represents negativity, emotional immaturity, an unconscious need to protect one’s self from the unpleasant, the unsafe, the uncomfortable.  But this was the path of blaming, and projection, and I knew it was more complicated than that.

Her grumpiness had been on my mind of late.  But this morning I realized that what was at issue with me were my fears, not hers.  What I realized this morning is that my basement had begun to represent my fears to me, and that’s why I didn’t want to go down there.  Didn’t want to feel the ways I felt when I visited there.  Perhaps, because I am an empath, picking up on my roommate’s fears (that tend to resemble mine) was making the situation even worse.

A growing conscious aversion to the lower realms is what had guided me to discreetly move my bedroom upstairs in the past month.  This along with other conscious shifts in my behavior based on my relationship with my body, my higher power, my guides, my inner knowing have resulted in a subtle but noticeable improvement in my connectedness with myself.

This morning’s walk allowed me, for the first time, to go certain places in my mind to entertain the most frightening of thoughts, to explore how true they were, and to notice my feelings about them.  What if the natural consequence of my behavior is that my roommate can’t tolerate living with me if I don’t share the lower spaces of the house with her, or for some other reason she decides not to be a partner in the household?  What then?  Would it be a crisis?  For either of us?  Going through all the places in my mind: separation, splitting assets, furniture, all that we have built in the past three years, buying her out, determining real equity, etc.  What would it be like – a future without the stability she has represented for me?  In a way she has served as an emotional anchor.  Without that anchor, who and where would I be?  A rudderless ship afloat at sea?  I think about my traveling sister, Tracy, living out her dream but seeming at times so alone.

And somehow my thoughts, on the last third of my walk, came back around to what I know.  Being tethered to a particular person in a particular place is not the grounding I seek.  What grounds and centers is intimacy with the self.  And that, for me, today, is knowing at my core that regardless of the players at the physical level, there is enough, and I am enough, I have enough.  Connection, creative opportunity, guidance, love, purpose, affection, worth, credibility, strength, etc.  Whether I have the responsibilities of caring for small children or not, whether I have an incredible client base or not, whether I have a wonderful home or not, whether I have a partner or friends or savings or not, I am okay.  When I am connected to myself, I am not alone.  Those I know, those I have yet to know, and those I will never know; we are all connected.

Without a doubt, feeling some efficacy around money, probably for the first time, has helped me achieve this place.  Not having to worry about whether I’m going to bring in enough money to make the mortgage payment or meet the next financial obligation that comes with being a parent can consume so much psychic energy that it’s almost a luxury to tune in to the deeper inner realms.  Reaching this stage in my life has been a long time coming, but now that I’m here I can breathe a little more freely.  I can afford to entertain ideas one has a harder time entertaining when the biggest numbers are red.

So the great epiphany.  Maybe two-thirds of the way around my circuit, maybe a little more, I straightened a little taller, allowing my head to be suspended by the light nimble energy from the heavens.  I pushed my shoulders down, brought my jaw back and sent my shoulder blades down my back once more, and I felt it, if just for a moment, the connection with my core, my upper leg muscles, my psoas, my abdominal wall.  This was the feeling I had been wanting to avoid — and still do, if you want the honest truth — as these core muscles are so weak as if they are only now waking up from a very long slumber.  I’m not sure of the extent of the power that lives here; it’s so far been easier to let it sleep.  But now, as I watch my father (who is wrestling with the question of life and death) playing with the idea of waking up, and as the Universe pushes me to wake up, connecting upper with lower, I realize I’ve been slumping and restricting my movement and avoiding life experiences because I have been afraid.

Bringing consciousness to these dark fearful places, using the guidance I have learned to trust, feeling the resulting feelings, and building intimacy with myself is a sustainable path.  And it is a path of joy and deep fulfillment.  And to this path I say a heartfelt yes.  For you I am so grateful.

Today I Know

When I notice rage or hate, I can understand that I’m carrying beliefs from the past that tell me that my discomfort should be attended to by others, and that my survival, in fact, depends on it.
Today, I know that my discomfort is my business. In the light of this knowledge, I bring consciousness to this part of me. I can choose to ask for your attention or your help in a way that is respectful and kind. I can tolerate your no, knowing that I can get my needs met in more ways than one. I know that I do not depend on you to meet all my needs.
I now understand that my emotions belong to me alone. I can use them to inform me. I am learning to tolerate them as they move through me. This understanding makes it more possible for me to allow you to own your emotions (and allow them to be your business – not mine) as well.

When I see myself rushing from one task to another, without resting or attending to my basic needs, I can understand that I’m carrying the beliefs of others who taught me that my worth is conditional.

I now choose to bring consciousness to this idea of my worth being conditional. Here is how the programming seems to go (as modeled by the people around me when I was growing up). Sometimes the emphasis is based upon how hard I work. (I am worthy when I work.) Sometimes it’s on how much I accomplish. (I am worthy when I get lots of stuff accomplished.) Other times, it’s on how pleasant (translation: agreeable) and/or how strong I am. (I am worthy when I don’t rock the boat or make demands.)
This mistaken belief goes something like this:
• If I don’t have enough it’s probably because I’m unworthy.
• If there is the appearance of lack, or imperfection, it’s probably my fault.
• If there is an appearance of lack or imperfection, I have no business resting or playing.
• The more I work the more worthy I am.
• I am beyond reproach if I am always working my hardest.
• I am exempt from the scrutiny of others when I work and remain continually productive.
• I can avoid feelings of vulnerability if I can provide for all my own needs and if I require nothing from others.
• Asking others to help me meet my needs is humiliating and unacceptable.
• It is shameful and humiliating to have unmet needs.

Today I know that my worth is unconditional. I am worthy whether I am working, playing, resting, or just being. I am learning that it is normal to have needs and that it is good and right for me to attend to them. I am learning that my needs are real and important, and that I will not self destruct if they are not immediately met. As with any skill, it will take time for me to learn to attend to my needs with grace and dignity.
I can allow myself the time that I need to learn.

More On Forgivenss

The following is taken from: McLaren, K. (2010). The Language of emotions: What your feelings are trying to tell you. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

Pg 118:  In practice, anger and forgiveness actually work together (and often at the same time) in any real healing process.

You can’t move to forgiveness until your emotions move you consciously through stages one and two, because your emotions are the only thing in your psyche that can move energies, memories, and imbalances into your awareness.

If your pain is tucked very deeply into your unconscious (as traumas usually are), only strong and urgent emotions will be able to dislodge it.  Therefore, the movement to the true forgiveness available in stage three often requires not just anger, but rage and fury; not just fear, but terror and panic; not just sadness, but despair and suicidal urges.  Real forgiveness is not a dainty or delicate process—it’s a visceral and deeply emotive awakening from a trancelike state.  It is, in essence, a return from the dead.  Real, foundational forgiveness is a messy, loud, thrashing process of coming back from death into life.  It looks on an empathic level like those animals I helped heal as a child.  There’s shaking, kicking, grunting, trembling, and spitting—and then it’s done.

Real forgiveness isn’t a polite and teary gesture, made with a bowed head and demurely folded hands.  Real forgiveness would never, ever say, “I see that you were doing the best you knew how, and I forgive you.”  No! Real forgiveness has an entirely different take on the subject.  Real forgiveness does not make excuses for other people’s improper behavior.  Real forgiveness does not tell itself that everyone always does the best they know how, because that’s preposterous.  Do you always do your best?  Do I?  Of course not!  We all make mistakes, and we all do things we’re not proud of.  Real forgiveness knows this; it doesn’t set itself up as an advocate for the tormentors in your life.  It doesn’t make excuses for the disruptive behavior of others—because that sort of nonsense only increases your cycling between stages one and two.  Real forgiveness says, “I see that you were doing what worked for you at the time, but it never, ever worked for me!”

When your anger-supported boundaries are restored again, forgiveness will be as easy as falling off a log.  Forgiveness naturally follows the honorable restoration of your sense of self.  Anger and forgiveness are not opposing forces; they are completely equal partners in the true healing of your soul.

When we rush to forgiveness, we lose our connection to our original wounds.

First, we might forgive after a bout of properly channeled fury, and we’ll get our boundaries back—our authentic and honored anger will help us rediscover our strength and separateness.

Who’s Controlling You?

As you can probably tell, I’ve been interested in the topic of power and control in relationships.  I just finished Carol Rogne’s book, Who’s Controlling You? Who Are You Controlling?  I’ve typed up 22 pages of gleanings you can find here.

I am personally using Carol’s ideas as a springboard to examine the dynamics in my own relationships.  She’s very thorough, and whether you’re on the controlling end or the being controlled end, you are sure to find something interesting here.

Here are a couple things of hers that you might like:

Pg 274:  I learn that [in relationship] surrender and being humble is more important than being strong.

Pg 275:  the competitive paradigm [often found in the world of work] has certain requirements:

1)      We must be the best, the person who has the most knowledge, the right answers, and is skilled in problem-solving.

2)      We must listen for the most important points to assess the problem and fix it.  Paychecks depend on this skill.

3)      Expressing feelings is a sign of weakness and unwelcome in the work setting.  Self-control is important.

4)      Admitting mistakes and ignorance shows weakness.

Opposite skills are required in personal relationships where affiliation and cooperation are necessary.

1)      Listening to conversations respectfully, providing solutions only when invited to do so.

2)      Functioning as a team with a partner who is viewed and treated as having equal power.

3)      Sharing personal thoughts and feelings.  Realizing that one does not have to be always right.

4)      Solving problems together.

5)      Admitting mistakes and making amends.

6)      Affirming others.

Pg 287:  The basics of being assertive:

  • Communicate in a neutral, middle power position rather than a superior, one-up, aggressive position, or an inferior, one down, passive position.
  • Start sentences with “I” rather than “You,” to avoid blaming statements.
  • Be honest, respectful and kind.
  • Speak in normal voice tones.
  • Listen as well as speak.
  • Being assertive also means affirming others.  Thank your partner for listening and for her/his time.

Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship:

  • The power structure is reasonably equal.  We can feel when our relationship is out of balance.  A good relationship is often 60-60, because partners enjoy going the extra mile for the other.
  • There are minimal controlling or enabling behaviors.
  • There is emotional intimacy, which is not smothering, caretaking, or merging with another.
  • There is mutual sharing and concern for the other.
  • Each person’s true identity is respected and treasured.
  • Communication involves speaking clearly as well as listening intently.
  • There are equal benefits for both partners.
  • Trust, support, and affirmations are provided to the other partner.
  • Partners are available to each other when experiencing individual difficulties.
  • Partners work together as a team, take time for each other, and have fun together.
  • Personal boundaries are respected.
  • Participants share on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.
  • There is an understanding that we cannot expect more than we are willing to give in relationships.
  • There is mutual appreciation.

Apathy & Boredom

The following is taken from: McLaren, K. (2010). The Language of emotions: What your feelings are trying to tell you. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.


Also visit U-TUBE for an 8-minute video of McLaren discussing the function of anger, fear, sadness at Emotion Theater

Apathy and Boredom

The Mask for Anger


Detachment – Boundary-setting – Separation – Taking a time-out


What is being avoided? What must be made conscious?


Monotonous indifference, impassivity,

Or distractibility that halts creative action



Honor your need to be separate and detached

without taking yourself out of commission.

Use the anger beneath apathy to reset your boundaries

 in healthy ways.

Repression in any emotion causes trouble throughout your psyche, but anger is so vital to your health that repressing it actually brings up a specific state in response.  This “masking” state of apathy (or boredom) arises when you’re unable or unwilling to deal with your true anger.  Apathy is not an emotion, but it does protect you.  However, since it stems from repression, it can lead to trouble if you’re not aware of it.  It’s fine to feel apathetic, but it’s important to know what’s happening in your emotional realm when apathy appears.  In unmasking apathy, you’ll learn about the anger trapped within it (and how that entrapment is sometimes a helpful thing), and how to support yourself in addressing the rue angers beneath your mask.

When you don’t have the time, energy, or ability to work with your anger properly – when you don’t protect your boundary or the boundaries of others, when you feel unable to speak out against the injustices you see, and when you feel incapable of affecting our surroundings, you’ll often fall into the masking state of apathy (also known as boredom).  In a masking state, you cover up your inner truths with a protective attitude that can distance you from uncomfortable situations.  Apathy squelches emotions by affecting an “I don’t care; I can’t be bothered; whatever” attitude.  Apathy seeks distractions such as TV, fun food (as opposed to nourishment), new loves, travel, money, shopping, instant fame, instant meaning, and a quick and easy way out.  Apathy is a dissociated state, usually related to being stuck in the wrong environment for your needs.  Because it masks emotion, though, apathy is powerless; it longs for change, but it doesn’t have the emotional agility to make conscious change happen.

If your apathy is allowed to flow freely in your psyche, you’ll let yourself take small vacations from focus and industriousness – you’ll be able to daydream, detach yourself with diversions or comfort foods every now and then, or plop yourself in front fo the tube or a mindless book when you need a break.  You won’t fight your movement into distractions by throwing yourself into overwork or hyper vigilance.  If you welcome your apathy, it will move on quickly, but if you inhibit it (or wallow in it), you’ll plummet into imbalance.  Here’s how to maintain your equilibrium around your need to detach yourself and take a time out.

The Message in Apathy

Apathy often masks anger and depression, both of which arise in response to inappropriate environments and degraded boundaries.  You can see apathy trying to slap a boundary together—trying to define itself with material possessions, addictions and distractions, sarcasm, or perfect-world scenarios.  Apathy points to a loss of boundaries, and to a distinct and urgent need for change, but it does so in an ineffectual and distractible way.  Apathy chatters and gripes all day, but it doesn’t ever accomplish anything.  Conscious complaining, then, is an excellent antidote for apathy because it takes powerless griping and turns it into an intentional and defined practice.

Apathy and boredom can serve important functions in many situations where effective action cannot be undertaken.  Adolescents, for instance, whose lives are controlled by schools and parents just as if they were still toddlers, are often plagued by apathy.  Since we no longer have rituals for the complex transitions of adolescence, we don’t notice or honor the ascent into adulthood, nor do we honor the individual who’s trying to emerge.  The human trapped in adolescence is ripe for ongoing bouts of boredom and apathy; she’s in an environment too small for her soul, and she can do nothing but wait until trudging, stubborn, endless time sets her free. Apathy helps to mask and staunch the incredible angers within her—angers that might incinerate the only home she has.  Therefore, in our incredibly unaware culture, boredom in teenagers can be seen as a good thing.

Apathy and boredom in adults is another story altogether.  Boredom is a sign of becoming a product or a victim of your environment, instead of an active and aware participant.  Boredom in adults (who have choices and options teenagers can’t even imagine) is often a sign of emotional repression, avoidance, and dissociation.  However, this is no reason to consider apathy and boredom as entirely odious things.  We need the masking state of apathy if we’re unbalanced or dissociated and can’t use our emotions properly, and many of us use apathy to provide the flow that should come from our emotions.  For some of us, apathy and the distractions it requires are the only things that can get us from one place to the next.  We get bored with one job and take another; we tire of one relationship and grab on to someone else; we trudge away at work to get enough money to buy this perfect car or take that perfect vacation; we survive.  We don’t understand ourselves, and we don’t live full lives, but our apathy keeps us going and provides a certain shielding from our deep issues (and the deep issues in our culture).  The mindless activities apathy and boredom require can even protect us from falling into the true depressions and anxieties that underlie many distracted and dissociated behaviors.

We struggle against our natural depressions and anxieties with incredible amounts of boredom-relieving stimuli – most of us have instant, in-home access to TVs, phones, music, and computers.  We can be tuned-in to noise, other people, or trivial information twenty-four hours a day.  There’s no longer any socially approved time for rest, quit, contemplation, or privacy because we’ve created a world that doesn’t have room for that.  We scrabble around for money, housing, and relationships; we obsess about our health, our appearance, and our families; we attempt to heal ourselves or others in what often seems a futile race against the ravages of time; and we have very little peace.  People as preoccupied and stimulated as we are certainly aren’t going to drop into a meditative or contemplative mood when we slow down; we’ll either collapse into fitful sleep or fall into deep depression and anxiety about all that we haven’t got, don’t know, or didn’t do.  So instead of slowing down, we surf the Net, turn on the TV, or use our favorite addiction or distraction to ignore our need for rest (or our squashed emotions and dreams) in order to keep all of our balls in the air.

Apathy masks our true selves and gets us through the inanities of modern life.  It helps us believe that another car, the right lover, a different job, or the perfect slice of pie will cure us.  Apathy lets us be shallow, and sometimes that’s all we can manage.  Sometimes, all we can do is mask our true feelings and stay on the surface with our meaningless activities.  Our emotionally deadening culture makes us believe that deep empathic living is impossible, as if true feelings or brilliant visions would slow us down unnecessarily or prevent us from meeting the rent, raising the kids, or turning the thankless crank.  That’s not true, of course, but the overriding message in our culture tells us that we can’t stop to feel or dream because we have to keep moving.  In response, we become highly distractible automatons.  This next practice can help us become living, breathing human beings again.

The Practice for Apathy

It’s important to make distinctions between apathy that arises from your unwillingness to rest and apathy that arises from your inability to set boundaries and channel your anger appropriately.  Here’s how to tell the difference.  If you’re filled with apathy right now, honor it, but feed it with a deeper version of what it wants.  Take the reins and become its master, instead of letting it pull you around by the nose.  For instance, if your apathy wants a perfect lover, work on making yourself a valuable love partner instead of passively waiting for some super person to appear.  If your apathy wants a better house, a better car, a better body, or a better wardrobe, put your best critical energy into your current house, car, body, or wardrobe, and make those things better right now.  If you begin to act consciously and deepen the demands of your apathy, you’ll be able to unearth your true issues.  If your apathy is a response to your refusal to rest, this practice will uncover your fatigue and probably some sadness or depression.  Please set your boundary strongly, ground yourself, and replenish yourself by performing your rejuvenation practice as often as you can for a few days (and, of course, rest!).  Also, have yourself checked for a sleep disorder; they are amazingly prevalent and astonishingly under-diagnosed.  If these suggestions don’t relieve your fatigue, or if you drop into depression, please skip forward to the practice for depression…

If your apathy is a mask for anger, this practice will bring your anger forward.  You might feel indignant, perturbed, open to attack, or trapped in your current surroundings.  Please skip back to the anger chapter, set your boundary strongly, burn your contracts ferociously, and protect yourself with the information and intensity your anger brings forward.  If apathy and boredom are habits for you, you may need to perform this practice a few times before you break the cycle – but the cycle will end when you bring your full awareness to it.

It is important to listen to our apathy but not to follow its demands mindlessly, because mindless action only invites more mindless action.  Break the cycle mindfully by answering your apathy and boredom in conscious and honorable ways, but remember that both apathy and boredom act as tourniquets or shut-off valves for your anger and your energy when you’re not in a position to effect change.  If you’re truly unable to affect your surroundings, let your apathy be, and simply deepen your responses to its demands. …

However, if you can effect change, but you’ve been hiding from your responsibilities and diminishing your boundary in the masked state of apathy, please focus and ground yourself.  Ask the questions for apathy: “What is being avoided?” and “What must be made conscious?”  Listen to your answers, peer out from under the mask of apathy, and find out what you’re really feeling.

Surviving Though Motherless

Boundaries 101 – the 5-week course is now officially scheduled at the Columbia Area Career Center.  I’ve just put the finishing touches on the Study Guide, and enrollees will join me in a 5-week course, which will serve as a safe space to learn new skills and practice healthy ways of managing personal power.

Visit the Career Center’s site to enroll or for more information!

Boundary violation happens in so many different ways, it’s hard to know where to start talking about it, and virtually impossible to take complete account of the devestation it causes.  What follows is a short story by an anonomous contributor that describes in profound detail the phenomenon of one form of boundary violation — motherlessness, this case as a result of addiction/mental illness.  I hope it moves you as much as it did me.

Thriving Though Motherless

Some say you never miss what you never had. I suppose. But one of my first memories at around 18 months was of a motherless mother.

I heard a noise in the middle of the night followed by my father’s voice. I distinctly recall his words, “well, look what the cats drug in.” I toddled to the hallway opening, and what I heard and saw next put the glue in memory – a memory that little ones supposedly aren’t capable of.

My mother stepped into the living room as my father held the front door open. Her teethy response was, “shhhh you’ll wake up the g__ d___ kids.” They slipped into the kitchen and chilled the seats at the table. I scrambled to my mother’s lap and became instantly aware that her arms were hanging limp at her side. I looked for her mommy eyes and saw stone. As I glanced over to daddy’s face, I saw a painful look and my tiny eyes traveled back to my mother’s empty stare. I knew then I couldn’t go there for love anymore. I was awakened. I crawled off her lap and walked capably back to bed. That memory ends there, but I see now that she was in a survival mode all her own.

It was not a dream. My first task for survival was to understand the significance of physical changes. My mommy was outside and not inside like she had been before. She was cold like a statue, instead of cooking in the warm kitchen while I sat in my highchair watching her. My diapers were changed by women coming and going. There were other kids. Daddy came home at night.

I wrote a song about it years later as a sort of survival ceremony.  If the song ever comes to mind, i still choke back the tears – but moreso from the outside looking in – at that late epiphanic evening in Lewiston, Idaho.

Thriving can be an unknown concept for traumatized or starving people. Some say moreso for children, but then children can be resilient. I suppose. Whatever.

Fortunately, our father was a loving man. A veteran of front-line World War II. A survivor of death and horror. A seer. But, its hard to see how his new job as a single parent of four-under-six could be less frightening than his first-wave landing on Utah Beach. Another dreaded D-Day. It was 1958 or 9. And one of Sargent Arnold’s little soldiers was injured.

Jeffery might have been a colicky baby, but for whatever reason, he now had a brain injury. One that caused a stir. A divide. A recognition that not all mothers are fit for the job. And in fact, one might be the enemy.

Somewhere between surviving and thankful to be alive, our dad fed, clothed, sheltered and loved us the best he could – through graduations and grandchildren. He remarried after we all left home.  When he died in 1997, I felt my daddy’s-little-girl heart rip right out of my chest. But his love remained.

Wrapped up in survival, a person’s social skills can have jagged edges. And so my three older brothers and I went around jagged for years. Still jagged in places. Two divorces later, Jeff has been married for 18 years to a loving woman who is also handicapped. Two divorces later, Brother #2 is likely to remain single and run his bar and grill for years to come – surrounded by young, implanted girls who will never fill the void. Two divorces later, brother#1 is thinking of “settling” in order to settle down for good. There is a common element in our memories, but our battles were unique. Influenced by age, gender and experiences.

It took a lot of love to make thriving a concept for me to entertain. Tommy to the rescue. For years, I’d threaten to leave. But he never did. We’ve been married over 31 years, and I feel grateful we survived some very rocky roads. After the first five years of marriage and kids, I think I was yelling-mad for ten years nonstop.

We had polarizing issues, and I slowly realized other people like him have baggage too. And sometimes baggages don’t mix well. But we were persistent. Or stubborn. Or tired. And we have grown to appreciate each other more.

We are not the only ones with scars. People all around have stories to tell. Including our children. Some never make it. Others do extremely well. I am hoping.
There have been windows to joy amongst the shards of glass. And glimpses of sunshine. Babies, music, dancing, singing, colors, fresh air, kisses and belly-rolling laughter. And with enough love and persistence, these are tools for thriving. However elusive, they can be mined.
It’s about the moment. About recognizing it’s usually all in the head. It doesn’t matter if someone is laughing at you. They have their own little scars and illusions. They put on their panties the same way as the next person. We fragile-but-durable individuals have as much right to be here as any other individual. Harboring anger and fear keeps the soul and body down, but forgiveness is liberating and calming.

A liberated mind makes the moment amazing. The deeper the scars, the harder one might have to practice. But if the rewiring works and the rubberbands-to-old-thinking can be clipped, life can be like a bicycle ride. You’ll remember the motion, keep on riding and drink in the scenery.