Tag Archives: Culture

Outer Limits-1With all the talking that goes on about thinking outside the envelope, there have been very subtle, if not important, changes happening to the envelop itself. If we understand the concept of the envelope, we recognize that it represents the usual limits or boundaries to which people think or perceive within. When we speak of someone thinking or working outside of the envelope, we assume that their thoughts and actions occur outside that of the average person’s awareness and comfort zone. They are out of the ordinary. They tap into a little know current of thought and awareness.

shoes-too-small-1But, what if those outer boundaries change? What happens if the field of what is considered normal shrinks into a smaller range of potential; a smaller range of what is acceptable as being usual or common to our mental and spacial capacities? Minimizing the field of choice may make it simpler or easier to see and understand what is considered normal but it also makes anything seen as unusual or creative to be perceived as being more remote, father away from possibility and more outrageous as compared to what we’re used to and comfortable with. The further away the choice, the less likely we are to be aware of it let alone choose it for our action.

With life becoming more organized, automated and programmed, we find ourselves becoming much more dependent, complacent, lazy and more prone to allow ourselves to be led by those who establish “new” technological limits. We are gradually being “farmed” into a headspace where we will readily expect less and be complacent enough to accept only what is offered by those doing the programming. If we know and expect less, we are much more manipulatable in areas that we are unaware of. Let’s examine this premise from another perspective.

strict-teacher-1Our educational system is becoming much more regulated and stringent in terms of what is “necessary” to fulfill our idea of being educated enough to successfully live and work in our rapidly changing world. Fifty years ago children in elementary school only had to contend with a few aptitude tests, IQ test and general testing for academic proficiency upon leaving elementary school. The general consensus of thinking by teachers then was that they were “crystallizing” a child’s innate abilities lying dormant in each by teaching them reading and math in order that they might have a common language with the rest of the world to share their individual creativity. Since then, things have radically changed. State testing of our children now occurs beginning in the second grade. This seems innocuous enough but when we more closely examine what is being tested, it becomes acutely obvious that technological skills and their testing far outstrips the humanities and all but eliminates truthful knowledge about our history and the history of the rest of the world. This, in itself, is alarming enough, but when we then consider that most teachers, having only a limited amount of time to teach and too many students to service effectively, resort to only teaching Robots-1children what is necessary to pass the test rather than developing their innate talents, all of our internal alarms must now ring off the wall telling us that children are now selectively being channeled and programmed into becoming specified cogs in a technological wheel depending on their tested ability to regurgitate facts and knowledge. It becomes distressfully apparent that individuality and creativity are no longer valued by the educational administration unless they promise to enhance or improve the existing proficiency of wanted and expected performance and its ease in being tested. Despite the rising percentage of children being home schooled and enrolled in private schools due to fears of unwanted potential violence, undesirable social influences and a desire for their increased physical safety, creativity and humanitarian education are still being kept alive even in its wake. Based on our current financial structure and the powerful influences presented by consumer and manufacturing lobbies, its continued evolution towards its technological end shows no signs of retreating. In this light, maintaining humanitarian values in our children is a task that rests solely and squarely on our shoulders; their parents.

portrait of stressed teacher and blackboard backgroundIt should not be assumed that blame for the outcome of our children’s lack of humanitarian awareness rests within the responsibility of our teachers. There own survival as teachers is included in the coercive dynamic. We can see this in the fact that teachers themselves are “graded” on their children’s ability to perform well on the state testing and their tenure or continued services in the educational community depends on how high their quotient of effective performers compares to other teachers. Those who accelerate the effectiveness of children performing well on state testing are the ones who are retained by the schools, especially, since funding for public schools comes almost exclusively from the state.

TV-lockupThe shrinking envelope can also be evidenced by what appears on television now and what was programmed fifty years ago. Current programming which is banal, inert and corporately owned is geared to effectively enable and monitor a public mindset which does not questions, counter or threaten the validity and effectiveness of our currently existing political administration. In the same vein we can also see a stark absence of programs that support our curiosity and our TV-cooking showattention toward examining our feelings and circumstances with an eye toward improving the depth and richness of our own personal lives. What have taken their place are reality shows, cooking shows, a larger variety of “cops and robbers”, survival shows, forensic shows, crime investigations, “Judge Judy” shows, “lockup” shows, and many other shows espousing the prudence of focusing on and aligning with popularly known systems of living and conformity. The media has effectively directed our attention away from what we feel within ourselves and is refocused on the TV naked & Afraidcircumstances surrounding others who we’re encouraged to believe have it worse than we do. If that’s not enough to discourage us from “listening” to our hearts and our conscience, the onslaught of extreme and offensive advertising insists that we buy products or services validated by an underlying implication that we are somehow less desirable and less efficient to others than we have an assumed responsibility to be and that we need their assistance to regain the appropriate power and dignity. What is so ironic is that it is we who are not being listened to or considered by others when it comes to our needs, our opinions and our individuality. Our culture, religion and family beliefs systems are responsible for making us capitulate and become susceptible to accepting less for ourselves by TV NCISmaking us believe that others’ welfare should come before our own and that we are somehow responsible for fixing their needs and comforts before even considering our won. Our value system has been totally turned upside down. Why do we talk about self-improvement when the end result is only to be coerced into believing that it is our responsibility to give those same self-improvements over as advantage to others coupled with the enabling of a guilt generated feeling of neglected obligation when we don’t? When we allow this to occur, our “envelope” of what we consider normal and acceptable shrinks even further.

WebAs a culture, this change has been perceived by very few since its progression has happened over a long period of time. Similar to the old analogy of the frog and hot water, if the frog is immediately thrown into hot water it will immediately feel the sudden change of temperature sparking their awareness spurring them on to struggle feverishly to escape. But if the temperature starts to change at body temperature and  rises slowly, it will take much longer for them to become aware that it has become unbearably hot. In the slower change, the frog will even notice the change much later than when it occurs in the moment. Most people are notorious for not noticing or sometimes ignoring changes that occur right under their noses. Others will be afraid to mention what they feel out of fear of offending others or believing that “this is the way it’s supposed to be.” Those of us with a longer memory, like our elders, may notice simple things like actors no longer having the refinement they had “in the old days” or “We never had to do that in school when we grew up.” And because these observations of change come most often from those who are retired or aging, they’re observations are chalked up as their being “stuck in the old days” or “going senile and living in the past.”

Rose-Colored-GlassesAs technology and the media have evolved to growing and changing faster, and as we as consumers have had to chase “progress" simply in order to survive, the process has become an all encompassing  distraction from looking at our human values and considerations from the perspective of what our hearts need simply to feel peaceful and relaxed. But now with the Shrinking Envelope, and as we slowly lean back into that well deserved peace and tranquility, we can’t help noticing that our world has lost a bit of its color, its individuality and the things that spark our curiosity and interest in feeling the awe in recognizing how we and nature are and have been so superbly intertwined.

 

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Emerald Forest-1We’ve all seen movies with youths from Borneo, Africa, South America or other places we might regard as uncivilized go through horrendous feats of physical endurance just to be accepted as adults in their tribes. Our first comment or impression is almost always, “How barbaric?” especially, since we wouldn’t think of doing such a thing in our own “subdued” culture.  But when we actually think about it, is it really that barbaric? Is it really a travesty to put youths through such a tortuous ordeal just to belong? At first glance we might think so, but the ritual serves as a very important landmark in the youth’s psyche. So then, what is the significance of Adolescents & Rites of passage?

BreakthroughAsk yourself about the difficult physical challenges you’ve been through, anything from birth to a near death experience and ask yourself, did it make an impression on you? Did it bring that period in your life to the forefront of your perception? Was it life changing? Did it mark a new beginning or ending? Odds are, you’ve answered yes. During that time, we all tend to make decisions about ourselves and how we view our lives leading up to making important changes in our life perspective. When we pair a physically challenging situation with an intangible belief or concept, it tends to have a dramatic effect on our life and how we consequently perceive it.

Relative to the uncivilized cultures I’ve cited, and I’m sure that there are many others, those who are part of those cultures have no doubt as to their position and responsibilities within that culture and to their families, neighbors and themselves. Now ask yourself, what experiences do our “advanced civilization” western adolescents have to compare to that could possibly make an equally indelible impression on how they view themselves or to know what their position is in being part of our culture? I presently perceive none of any consequence barring a few exceptions that are, perhaps, vestigial rites which have long lost their teeth due to our over-civilizing influences and gentile preferences for how we now view ourselves as a culture.

First killIn losing our connection to nature we have lost something vital that links us to the natural flow of life tantamount to our residing in these bodies. Even animals in the wild have a first kill as their ascension into becoming an adult and fending for themselves. How can we compare?We are born into these bodies yet, excluding the simple pursuit of personal pleasures, they no longer have significance in how we conduct our lives except in terms of our supporting them to be able to carry us around to every new intangible cultural expectation that we have organized for ourselves to convince ourselves that we are superior to our animal natures; the kingdom to which we still most tangibly belong. And even in that we do a tremendously poor job poisoning ourselves with synthetic foods and pesticides, let alone, never giving ourselves time and space to renew our connections to our true nature. What do our youths have to emulate in us that shows them how to become adults? What, now, does adulthood even mean to them? With our having no holistic view of ourselves, what is it that we expect them to become? We are a lost civilization teaching our young to remain lost with us. How did this happen?

animal masteryThe first factor to contribute to this path was to come to believe that we are superior to the animal kingdom. This exhibits a primarily egotistical need to elevate ourselves above all else. Why? Because we’ve been trained to behave that way.By whom? Predominantly, by western religion.Even the bible tells us that we are to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” So for us, according to the bible, the mark of having value in life is our ability to dominate our environment and those within it. This has also encouraged us to accept and believe that humility, especially in nature and the stewardship of it, are marks of what it is to be inferior.This translates into denying our animal nature as a psychological compensation for our obvious inadequacy within it with a wholehearted encouragement from religion to accept it as being so. Yet, in Sermon on the Mount and other biblical passages, it tells us that humility is a mark of being pure of heart and acceptable to the deity responsible for “writing” the bible. Already, we see a stark contradiction in expected behavior and beliefs.

TREASURE ChestThe second factor is our physical survival coming more to the fore enabling our continued evolution toward becoming more materialistic. This is a function of and comes on the heels of an ever widening gap between the “haves and the have nots” in our culture; the top .1% if you will. You would think that with the advent of our western world and its cultures becoming more physically oriented that the environment would provide more fertile ground to renew the practice of Rite of Passage. But being still so firmly entrenched in our separation from nature as a compensating factor contributing to our perceived personal value and the our total distraction with physical pleasure, our attempted release and distraction from pain and stress and our culture’s promise that following its requirements will free us, its potential, let alone its re-implementation, has eluded us. Even if it were reinstated, it would still be viewed as barbaric. Yet, the media produces super heroes who go through that very process as we vicariously live through them wishing it could part of our lives too in movies such as Hunger games, Star Wars, Dune and the Emerald Forest. Classic and modern mythology is full of example showing personal trials and tribulations contributing to the life changing evolution of value and beliefs. As a result of assigning our own personal authority, trust and accountability to others we have lost, or more appropriately been encouraged to give up, controlling our own fates and destinies. Rites of Passage would have put that power squarely back into our own hands. However, our culture has taught us, through the promise and bribery of support and the comfort and security of group inclusion gained through our acquiescence, to give that up.

Bar_MitzvahThe few remnants of Rite of Passage that exist come in the form of impotent vestigial processes such as Bar mitzvahs, Bas mitzvahs, military service (which is no longer conscripted), Christian Confirmation and probably many more which go unrecognized as having once been effective. The few of us who still seek out the process instinctively recognize the need to find or create an experience which will mark our passage into adulthood doing things that are physically challenging and death defying like survival games and sky diving, desperately searching for a trigger that will confirm our passage into what we perceive as the adult world.

The third factor is the “advent” of adolescence. Adolescence is quoted as being a transitional period between childhood and adulthood or, more precisely, from puberty to acculturation. It is a social position that, in my opinion, has evolved in the wake of our attempts at civilizing cultures or groups of people. Etymonline.com defines civilize as “to bring out of barbarism.”

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01Barbarism is defined as “rudeness, foreign, strange or ignorant.” The use of the word civilizing became “mainstream”around 1868 enabling the submersion of barbarism through the implementation of using social rules for an enforcement of courtesy. The concept of ignorance obviously pertained to those members of the culture, mostly adolescents, who had not yet acquired the tact and finesse necessary to maneuver within and respect the social expectations designed to prevent the exposure of those who were civilized from the rawness of their own innate animal nature. At the onset of puberty in the civilized world it was assumed that these skills had yet to be developed. In other words, civilization was, essentially, awaiting the youth’s being trained into not socially acknowledging the animalistic urges that arose with the onset of puberty except within the strictest guidelines guaranteeing their denial and enabling the society’s compensated superiority to reign over the animal kingdom. I believe a compounding of that practice came on its heels as a desire of those in power to harness the power of youth in a way that would be socially controlled and dominated thereby insuring an extended security for their position of social dominance.

Native americans-2In what we call uncivilized or more primitive cultures, youths who enter puberty are given the opportunity to learn social responsibility and to become part of the tribe’s power structure through Rites of Passage. A primary example of this can be seen in the Native American tribes of the US. Although the youths were not old enough to have the experience necessary to advise and guide the rest of the tribe they were not only taken into apprenticeship learning expected social participation from seasoned members, but they were permitted to act and perceive themselves as adult members of the tribe. This permission and perception was marked by their passing through Rites of Passage. Currently, their relegation to the position of a modern adolescent by civilized society has not only taken away a youth’s potential for perceiving themselves as having become an adult but has also disarmed their capacity for self-determination and for developing Self-Trust by extending their position in perceived uselessness until they “came of age.” Essentially, they are now perceived by our culture as a liability to the rest of the civilized tribe.

Gang-1I find it curious that our contemporary anthropologists and sociologists find it so puzzling as to why the adolescents of our culture appear to be so angry and rebellious. They attribute it almost exclusively to the chaos created by hormones while never fully realizing or analyzing the social implications of the non-person status that the civilized world now holds them to. We only have to imagine ourselves in a position of feeling ineffective and lacking permission for self-determination to comprehend the underlying causes for teenage our perception confusion. This is something that the women’s movement has been battling with for decades. In this light, and as one of the worst examples in our culture, many women are glibly and chauvinistically referred to as  “trophy wives” by egotistically insecure males. Women’s social position in the Middle-Eastern-WomenMiddle East is, essentially, seen as the same as that of adolescents here…ineffectual and essentially regarded as a possession but sadly in those cultures, even a male adolescent has more power and independence than any adult woman.

So where do we go from here? I think that I can safely say that the issue is not so much about restoring Rites of Passage as it is our actual perception of becoming or acknowledging ourselves, and adolescents, as effective and accountable adults. How can we put self-determination and the ability to develop Self-Trust back under the domain of not only adolescents, but back into the hands of adults who have been taught and now believe that their lives are inconsequential except as a vehicle for the benefit of the wealthy and the powerful (whom they have now unwittingly come to view as their parental surrogates)? I have no solution other than to say that we must become more aware of how our actions, based on our own insecurities and our own resulting compulsion to manipulate and control in order to compensate, interfere with the well-being and potential for others, adults included, to grow into a place where it is even feasible for them to develop Self-Trust through being allowed to perceive their lives from the perspective of their own heart’s direction, let alone to receive the opportunities to pursue the emerging of that perception through their own personal bored studentsexperiencing. We can only learn so much from a book and, as it is becoming much more obvious in schools, most poignantly as children grow into adolescents, that words still don’t teach. The old adage actions speak louder than words is even more alive and verifiable than ever. If we treat our adolescents from the place of our own insecurity, preventing them from assuming the positions in life that we fear losing due to our own perceived and trained sense of inadequacy and ineffectiveness, they will most certainly grow up to repeat our pattern through emulating what they’ve seen in us. Children learn by example. In fact, everyone does. We must first, ourselves, come to a place of Self-Trust before we can even hope to understand how to raise self-directing adults who feel effective, useful, needed and accepted as part of our culture. Then their mayhem will cease and our confusion about their social position will diminish. But until that time they will remain as an enigma to us and viewed as a liability by most of society.

lone-ranger-1Our culture, as well as other worldly cultures, has always been enamored with heroes like Superman, Batman, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hercules, Robin Hood, The Lone Ranger, Bruce Lee, Indiana Jones and countless others, even Popeye and Jesus. Seeing them “materialized” on our screens has filled something within us that very few of us even have an understanding of let alone comprehend the implications of what is being answered deep within our psyches. In contrast to our own “mortal” perceived fears and believed inadequacies these heroes exhibit courage and, for many, super human powers. The intensity of their courage and powers are usually proportional to the human frailties we perceive within ourselves. So in areas of our lives that we feel small or inadequate we find heroes to admire who exhibit the strengths and qualities we believe that we ourselves lack. So for those of us who believe we lack physical strength or courage, we might admire Superman or Hercules. For those of us who feel we are not as smart sherlock-holmesas we would like to be, Sherlock Holmes or Albert Einstein may hold our efforts toward emulation. For those of us who feel we lack peace and calm in our lives people like Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha or Jesus might hold that position. The point I’m making is that the qualities we believe that we lack will attract us to the hero that exhibits them the most strongly. That being said, we can see the types of heroes that have evolved over the centuries based on the contemporary circumstances at the time that we believed we were unable or unwilling to handle. Heroes operate almost like the yin and yang relationship of our personal awareness and unconscious forming our Shadow. For those of you who have a limited understanding of what our Shadow is, suffice enough to say, it is the submerged parts of ourselves that we feel are unattractive to others or those that we are unable, fearful or unwilling to act on for fear of the unknown changes accepting them might evoke within us. While heroes may be a person representing our ideal self, they are also a needed compensation to tie up and account for or dismiss the “loose ends” in our lives.

joseph-campbell_bill_moyersWhen it comes to heroes, probably the most concise, authoritative and on target author is Joseph Campbell who has written extensively on the subject including “Hero with 1000 Faces” and “The Power of Myth.” His insights are extremely detailed and documented through his exposure of the historical stories, roles and scriptures we’ve taken up over the centuries showing the timelessness of our struggles.

When it comes to actually emulating heroes, we not only follow what we learn about them but almost always fall into the mythical patterns of attitude and experiences that reflect the quality and color of the hero’s life. What’s even more interesting is that we can find all these myths, on a smaller scale perhaps, in the family dynamics and scenarios we find in our own families. In most families, given enough participants, we can usually find those who are warriors, protectors, martyrs, rebels, saviors, villains, vampires, masterminds, scoundrels and many, many more. So, why then would we allow ourselves to fall into emulating the heroic roles we’re exposed to?

Parents are godsFirst, at a very young age we see our parents a having all the power and essentially as gods and heroes.

Second, we have to understand that our parents lead us to assume that if we follow their heroic behavior, we will receive the same rewards as they appear to enjoy.

Third, storytelling about heroes is the product of generational and family experiences and is used to encourage living the ideals and behavior fitting for perpetuating the culture and family structure that we’ve been born into.

Tribal storytellingFourth, these stories ensure a continuity of the rapport between the members of a culture and insure the continuation of any culturally dynamic tradition. However, on a smaller scale, we can see the same thing occurring within the family structure, yet, as the child in us matures and seeks to find our own place and power consequently “de-pedestaling” our parents, there may no longer remain a hero within the family that we wish to emulate. As parents fall from the heroic pedestal, there now lies exposed to us a closed family power structure providing no position or “promotion” available for the child to participate and graduate into. Additionally, if the parents themselves are involved in their own power struggle with each other, we, as child, have no recourse but to either work at playing both parents against each other to get what we need from them or find a hero to emulate outside of the family who shows a potential path toward freedom and a promised opportunity for us to flex our wings and feel our own power.

Father knows bestPlease understand that parents tell of their own experiences and those of their elders in order to encourage their offspring toward an expected behavior that will continue their current family dynamic and rapport whether it’s healthy or not for the entire family. So, in addition to us potentially finding no hero within the family to emulate, our family dynamic may also run at cross currents to what we may feel comfortable enduring or living within. But, even more difficult, what if the family dynamic presents us with abusive circumstances? Remember, once our parents fall from hero status we now left with perceiving ourselves as having no power or say in any parental decisions. Now, anything that might offer respite from our perception of our feeling of being trapped within a locked and perhaps hurtful family structure becomes an open avenue for our exploration. These open avenues used to originate from historical stories, myths and literature. This is where we looked toward Perseus, Hercules, Jesus and similar figures for direction and encouragement. As we’ve moved into more “modern” times, yet with the same underlying struggles but with a different landscape, our heroes Robin-Hoodmorphed into characters that better reflect the times and tools like Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, Superman, Indiana Jones, The Lone Ranger and characters still moving with our current belief systems professing to follow the traditional rules for sustaining our altruistically dominant culture. But as we perceive and believe that times are becoming harder and with materialism replacing older idealistic and simple spiritual values, we now perceive ourselves to be more oppressed by an openly aggressive and profit driven leadership. Justice, fairness and compassion seem to have fallen to the wayside and we are now left with the belief that if we want to survive, every man must fend for himself. Now, dawns a new hero; the vigilante.

Charles BronsonThe vigilante is a very different breed of hero. Our first was Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” and then Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry.” Their active dynamic is very different. They didn’t follow the rules as the generations before them did. They didn’t solicit or expect help from the public nor did they believe that the public was capable of providing it. Both became romanticized by the public as being the “Tough Guy” and the “Lone Wolf.” Feelings were now seen as an inherent weakness incapacitating heroic action. Saving the world through love and compassion had fallen from the ideal and was Dirty Harryreplaced with winning for our own clan and family at any cost. Both these attitudes stem from a growing and expected hopeless in our receiving justice and support from the powers that be; the belief that our cultural system has become so corrupt that no help or validation can be expected from our leaders.

Once the profit oriented media took hold, the fear incessantly generated by our governmental administrations, the greed fueling our corporations and vigilante heroism became married together in violent doomsday adventures where only “one man can save the world” because only he or she has the extraordinary powers required to unseat the evil and financially corrupt oligarchs. Psychologically, the violence we now seen on the screen is a pale salve to the depth of the frustration we all feel relative to our inhumanity to each other. It serves as a vehicle for catharsis to vent some of our unconsciously repressed angers and pressures. Our heroes have Terminator-1now taken on a dark and macabre coloring reflecting the depth of the hopeless many of us feel. The progressiveness of that violence is simply a reflection of the intensity with which we feel that hopelessness. We can see these feelings seeping out in the screaming and emotionally charged ranting at sports events. Essentially, they’re venting and sublimating the unconscious violence felt toward those who actually create the social pressures and frustrations we repress within ourselves. Our race issues are a much more visible example of our cultural frustrations as they have been exploding in response to their dealings with our established “cultural norms” and prejudices. As they have escalated, minorities have been pushed way past what the majority of the population has needed to be able to keep it repressed and compensate for. The issues with gun control are now a stark example and only the tip of the iceberg exposing the feelings of fear and violence that have metastasized within our culture.

Whom you select as your hero has everything to do with the level of frustration you feel that you must repress and shows the training and support you’ve received in dealing with the same Crying chief-kinds of frustrations within your family. The dissolving family structure has had the effect of incapacitating many of the emotional safeguards we might have developed had we been raised within a more extended and sharing family structure. But contemporary pressures toward emphasizing personal independence have cut us off at the knees where family support might have compensated for the understanding and elder wisdom which would have helped us immensely through hearing the stories of how and why our elders did what they did. But we moved out and we missed it. One of the age old ways of subjugating a population is to divide and conquer.

NewAge-LftFortunately, there is a movement, mostly underground but slowly surfacing, that has been actively working toward restoring honesty, prosperity and providing a family unity but on a much wider scale than simply as a nuclear family or clan. Here, the heroes are much less defined, and exist more in a common feeling that any one image that can be crystallized and then defeated. We probably learned this “tactic” from participating and observing the actions in Vietnam where guerrilla warfare was born. What’s even more fortunate is that this movement, like Vietnam tactics, has no leader that can be beheaded leaving its followers adrift. Once we become accountable, “spiritually mature” and listen to our heart, we all know what must be done. But it takes personal courage and resources. Our largest stumbling block is the materialism that seduces many of us with the promise of personal comfort, power and advantage but which must inevitably be shared in order to sustain the survival of our humanity.

So, don’t make me your hero. Don’t make someone else your hero. Be your own hero. You can find them all within yourself; that part of you that makes you shudder when you think of putting it into action. That part of you that makes you teeter on the edge of danger and excitement but wizard-of-oz-cast-2with the potential to put you in a place where you can finally provide your own peace and a haven for others who step within your light. Remember, the Cowardly Lion already had courage. The Scarecrow already had intelligence. The Tin Man already had a heart...and Dorothy never really left home. Look within. Your hero is there. Just let him out…

Fence-Split Rail-1In this day and age with our population growing in leaps and bounds, we’re finding less and less space to be able to expand in. Some cultures find it easy to live in close quarters. Others of us, like those of us who have become acclimated to the wide open spaces of the western hemisphere, find close quarters and people who move too close to us, unnerving and sometimes even painful. For some of us, we may find it surprising that there is more to establishing personal boundaries than just deal with physical proximity. Because physical space is tangible and essentially visible, it is easy for most of us to understand why we might feel the pressure we feel and can easily comprehend what needs to be done to minimize its effects. However, the feeling that we may be encroached upon emotionally or intellectually includes much more than just the visible space we can see and feel. Since it is intangible, it is also much more difficult to navigate let alone to recognize that we are emotionally or intellectually being squeezed. In this article I’ll cover:

  • Boundaries operate from two perspectives,
  • Cultural Differences,
  • Family Dynamics,
  • What causes the necessity for personal boundaries and
  • Points to remember that will assist you in clarifying the limits to which you’d like to protect your self-determinism and comfort

Knight in armor-1Boundaries operate from two perspectives. In both tangible and intangible cases we do our best to establish boundaries or fences, if you will, to prevent encroachment. Generally, we think of these fences as keeping people out of “our space.” But these boundaries give us something more. They give us perceptual limits to know where our space ends thereby giving us our Girdle-1limits and permission as to how far our reach and responsibility might be allowed to extend. An analogy might be if we owned property that was tangent to another property owner and there were no land marks to tell us where our property ended and our neighbors’ began, we would have no way of knowing how much space we had to work with or what we were responsible for. But if a fence marked the dividing line between the two, we could easily have a feeling of what we had to work with and how far we could develop it. Our emotional boundaries work exactly the same way. They enable us to feel how far we can go while also telling us when our neighbor has stepped too far into our space. The difference between physical space and emotional space is that physical is established by traditional distancing by way of culture. Emotional “space” is established by the prevailing implementation of manners inherent in the culture and etiquette concerning self-determination.

Giri-2Cultural Differences: A major component to look at in establishing personal boundaries is that where we set our fences will be different for each person and their culture. For example, in a tangible format, southern European people are used to living in close quarters and in a hot climate. This gives an intensity to not only their rapport with us but tends to draw them in closer physical proximity to us when they are relating. Northern Europeans also live in close quarters but their climate is much cooler which also reflects in their proximity in creating more space between themselves and the people they are relating to. Hence, the perception that northern European people are more cool and “stand-offish” than southern.

Closetalker-1Generally, our physical boundary settings transfer to our emotional boundary settings as well. That is, we will find southern Europeans behaving in a more intimate manner with us than northern Europeans including much more flexible allowances when it comes to interpersonal manners. So emotionally we find northern Europeans to be cool, calm and reserved and with more rigid emotional guidelines while we find southern Europeans to be hot, animated and expressive with looser emotional guidelines. When they relate to each other the northern European will find the southern European agitated, pushy and invasive while the southern European will find the northern European elusive, withdrawn, rigid and secretive.

Personal space-1Family Dynamics. Since our country is such a melting pot of cultures, there is a tremendous variety in how people relate to each other. Our expected boundaries between us and others will be a reflection of how we perceived our family and its boundaries. It is in this way that we will approach others and consider ourselves considerate if we stay within our learned boundaries. Most of the time we don’t recognize differences with others until they encroach or evade. So, when things include someone outside the family structure, things often become a little dicey.

What causes the necessity for personal boundaries? We can easily understand the dynamics where physical boundaries might be involved, but suppose we are relating with someone who wants to emotionally direct our behavior for their own benefit. Their assumptions about how they expect us to behave may lead them to putting us in a social situation where we might feel shameful if we didn’t respond in a specific way. For example, if someone they know is having difficulty performing an activity or is unable to perform that activity, the person making the assumption about us may volunteer our services to their perceived person in need. Suppose that this is an activity we would rather not involve ourselves with but saying no would make us Female Dominance-1appear to be selfish in the eyes of others. This would make us feel that if we didn’t perform what we were offered for, our social standing would be diminished in the eyes of the person being “serviced” and surrounding individuals. The person offering our services either has no awareness that performing as such would be disagreeable to us or, in a more sinister way, they volunteered our services so they would not have to become obligated yet gain “credit” for finding someone the assistance. If we don’t speak up, we would find ourselves cornered and performing. Yet if we do, we look as if we are behaving selfishly.

There are many people in the world who are master craftsmen at manipulating us into performing in ways that will augment their social status and benefit while augmenting our responsiveness to their coercions through a form of emotional blackmail. Yet, there are also still people with whom we come in contact with that have no comprehension of the pressure they put us under to perform in the ways that they assume simply because in their family and culture it’s the way that they would have responded. We need to be aware that those who coerce us are CrushedCulture_Forbesaware that their coercions can be and most often are interpreted as innocent expectations based on their own culture. They play this game much like a double entendre provides an opportunity for a manipulator to “be excused” from blame simply because it’s possible that they acted innocently. Personal boundaries are necessary because of both scenarios; the innocent assumer and the crafty emotional manipulator.

Erecting personal boundaries has a lot to do with our self-perceived social image and the amount of Self-Trust and personal dignity we were allowed to develop as we were growing up. The more Self-Trust and dignity we were able to develop, the more likely it is that we will permit ourselves to set up strong personal boundaries. The less Self-Trust and dignity we were allowed to develop, the more likely it is that we won’t speak up and will have weak personal boundaries thereby finding ourselves performing the tasks assigned to us by the “assumers” and the emotional manipulators. So, what must we do and not do relative to establishing personal boundaries?

The following points will assist you in clarifying the limits to which you’d like to protect your self-determinism and comfort…the goal of setting personal boundaries.
Megaphone-LPoint #1 – We must learn to speak up even if we are put in a position of appearing cowardly, selfish or lacking compassion. The person who innocently assumes that we will act the way that they would will simply be surprised at our lack of conformity. The person who is attempting to emotionally manipulate us will really lay into us by emphasizing their perception of us as being selfish, cowardly and lacking of compassion relative to their comfort or preference. They will essentially threaten us with the potential conveyance of this perception to the individuals involved in the circumstance they are manipulating. This will trigger our acquiescence into action thereby preventing the need for conveyance. We must not give in. We must still refuse even in light of this threat. If we do give in, it will open us up to future manipulation by them and others just like them. The key with handling the manipulator is that once we get past their initial assault by sticking to our guns and not capitulating, they will most likely not use us again in this fashion for fear of being exposed for dishonest manipulation themselves. They know that if they push their perception too far, most people receiving it will sense something “fishy” going on and their cover will be eventually be blown. They will then simply move on to someone else whom they feel will be an easier touch. Remember, it’s getting past that initial assault that frees us. Once you’ve given in once it’s much harder to turn off the manipulation.

writing a list-1Point #2 – It’s extremely important that we have a clear understanding of what we want and what we don’t want. This way our erecting of personal boundaries will be solid and clear, especially, to us. Then, when someone contrives a situation that attempts to waffle our convictions and our fear of social disapproval, we can simply say, with certainty and comfort, I don’t feel comfortable doing that. You should know that it takes courage to offer a flat refusal. You are essentially calling the manipulator’s bluff and are forcing his or her hand. Many will launch into conveying your “unworthiness.” But you must remember that if you allow this to happen once there may be many more repeat scenarios. It’s better to endure one “besmirching” than to live through a whole series of them. Your best defense and support is a strong Self-Trust and respect. You can develop this easily through listening to your own feelings and intuition and respecting their validity…something many of us have been inadvertently programmed by our parents to disregard in our early childhood training.

Talk to the handPoint#3 – When we do say I don’t feel comfortable doing that, do not offer an explanation as to why! The manipulator is a master at turning the game around to his or her benefit. If he or she can show you the holes in your preferences and reasoning, you will then again feel obligated to do what it is you’ve decided that you don’t want to do because the obvious reasoning has been invalidated by your manipulator. If you don’t perform what your reasoning has been trashed for, you will again feel like a fool in the eyes of your peers.

It’s important to know that emotional manipulators can “smell out” those of us who have weak Self-Trust and confidence. It’s as if we broadcast “I’m easy” simply by the way we hold ourselves and the way we interact with others. Once we develop stronger Self-Trust and confidence, the way we hold ourselves and the way we interact with others will broadcast that we’re not susceptible to manipulators. Then, they will set their sights on others to fill the mark.

Personal Boundaries are not something that we need with everyone. That’s one of the reasons why it is so difficult in knowing when to express them. Those who are unaware that they are overstepping them are often very apologetic and sometimes even ashamed. As long as you verbalize your preferences, it is enough in dealing with them that they won’t be transgressed again. It’s when you encounter emotional manipulators that you must remain aware and up on Pic-cat-in-mirroryour game. The best way you can do this is to know your limits ahead of time and not be afraid to express them and stand up for them even in lieu of potential personal assault of your character in the eyes of others. Your limits and preference must be clear and apparent to you. Their best tool is their ability to tune into and use your hidden shame, self-consciousness and any lack of self-confidence or Self-Trust as their weapon to implement your coercion. Building your Self-Trust and respect is the best thing that you can do to guard against being manipulated. Remember, you are responsible for your own subversion by letting them do so…not them! It’s all in your hands…

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