What You Allow

gaskinsYou can’t control what other people will do or say, but you can choose the way you’ll respond. This comes up in so many areas. Maybe you have a family member who has a history of being verbally and emotionally abusive, and now you’ve gotten to the point where you simply don’t want to subject yourself to that treatment any longer. Lots of things can get us to that place; we’re always evolving. Maybe you’ve reached a point in your healing process where you’re ready to set boundaries. Maybe you have children now, and you’re able to speak up on their behalf, even though you’ve never been able to stand up for yourself. Whatever it is, you won’t change the offending party, but you can definitely change the way you interact with him or her.

Speaking calmly but with confidence about your experience is a gift you give yourself, and everyone in your life. Being able to say, “When you do this, it makes me feel X, and X is not okay for me anymore. So from now on, when I come to town for a visit, I’ll stay at a hotel. We’ll see how things go. If you’re unable to not do or say X, then at least I can remove myself from the situation.” You’re taking responsibility for your feelings. You’re not blaming them or making them wrong, you’re just stating how things are for you, and how you’ll be honoring what’s true for you. If the other party tells you not to come if that’s how it’s going to be, so be it. You aren’t here to be a punching bag for anyone. If the requirement is for you to subject yourself to behavior or comments that are hurtful, that’s too great a cost. If a person can’t be kind and loving, if that’s too much to ask, they don’t belong in your life. If you want them in your life anyway, then you have to set boundaries that work for you, and if even those can’t be respected, then you’re left with no choice but to walk away.

When we start to make changes in the way we relate to the people around us, you can bet there’s going to be push-back. This is especially true if we’re shifting a role we’ve always played. I used to be a lot less assertive. Sometimes people would say hurtful or inappropriate things to me, and I’d collapse in on myself and internalize the experience. I’d have the feeling of being punched in the stomach, way down where it really hurts, but no words would come out of my mouth. When that started shifting for me, I was met with resistance and threats and rage. How dare I stand up for myself? But that’s your job, that’s your work. You carve out a place for yourself and a way of being that brings you peace and joy, and you don’t sacrifice that for anyone. Most people come around. They might scream and yell and wave their arms, but eventually, most people will quiet down and shift the way they deal with you. So you’re not changing them or teaching them or making them wrong, you’re just requiring a certain level of respect and consideration. You’re changing the rules of engagement.

This is an essential component of healing. You have to be able to act on your own behalf. You have to value your own tender heart, and your peace of mind, and your ability to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day when you’re brushing your teeth. When we allow ourselves to be mistreated, we also betray ourselves, and it’s hard to face that. If you grew up feeling powerless, it’s likely that you regress to that stance when you feel confronted, and when you start trying to assert yourself, it will probably come out with more force than you intend and that’s okay. You can tell the people in your life that you’re trying to change some profound things about the way you’re moving through the world, because the way you’ve been doing it so far is not working for you. You can explain that you’re working on standing up for yourself, and speaking up when things don’t feel good or right, but that this is a new experience, and you’re still birthing into this new way of being, and it isn’t all going to be pretty. Maybe they’ll take that in, and maybe they won’t. You’re not responsible for managing anyone else’s reactions or path, you’re just responsible for your own clear communication. Practice with people you trust. Like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Moving through life allowing yourself to be disrespected is not going to work; it’s too much to bear. If you need support with this, reach out. I do coaching sessions, but I can also recommend wonderful therapists. Hitting a bag or taking a kick-boxing class might not be a bad idea, either.

Sending you love and wishing you strength and peace,

Ally Hamilton

You Might Not Get Everything You Want, But…

allowDepending on your personality, and many other factors including the way you grew up, your level of self-esteem, and your ability to speak out about how you feel, creating boundaries with people may be a great challenge for you. I really get that, because I struggled around this issue for years.

What makes it difficult to speak up when you want to? Maybe you’re worried about disappointing other people, or not being able to show up the way they want you to show up. Maybe you grew up and felt you had no impact on the people or the world around you, so it never occurred to you to value or investigate what you felt or what you wanted. Maybe you’ve decided that your worth as a person, a friend, and a partner is based upon how much you’re able to do for the people in your life. And maybe, you don’t know how you feel, so when you come up against a strong-willed person, you let them take the lead.

The thing is, your job while you’re here is to shine. I really believe that; you have something precious and unique to offer that only you can. I don’t think you’ll be able to do that without some belief in yourself and your own value, so I’d look at that first, if you find it difficult to act on your own behalf. If you don’t feel good about yourself, why is that, and when did that begin? Upon what evidence did you come to the conclusion that you don’t measure up, or have anything enormously special to offer? When we don’t stand up for ourselves, it’s often because we’ve grown up feeling powerless. We’ve internalized that, and sewn it into the fabric of our being. When confronted, we collapse in on ourselves. We cope, when we should fight back. But if you’re grown up, you’re not powerless anymore. Sometimes we really have to unlearn ideas or ways of being that are not based in our current reality, and are also blocking our ability to both give and receive love to our maximum capability (which is huge).

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter with me when I went to get my eyebrows waxed. This place is nice, and they have organic cruelty-free nail polish, and they’ll paint your kid’s nails while they wax your eyebrows and whatever other parts you might want waxed. So there we were. My daughter went to pick out a color, but she’s five, so she picked four colors. She wanted a rainbow. They don’t charge to paint your kid’s nails. You tip, of course, but they don’t charge for it. So I was debating whether to tell her that might be asking for a bit much, when the woman called her over, and the waxing woman started talking to me. When I turned back to my daughter, she had pink nail polish on every nail, and was looking down at her hands, and up uncertainly at the woman painting them, and then she looked at me. I knew she was disappointed about the lack of a rainbow. Before I could step in and explain to the woman what it was my daughter had wanted, this grandmotherly woman at the table next to her, also getting her nails done, leaned over and said, loudly but nicely, “She wanted a rainbow. She wanted a different color on every nail.” My daughter beamed at her, and the woman said, “Always ask for what you want, dear. You might not get it, but you definitely won’t if you don’t ask!” And the woman who was painting her nails promptly and happily gave her her rainbow.

Communicating how you feel, what you need, and what you’d like is a gift you can give to the people who are close to you. It’s so refreshing when people are just honest about where they’re at, and what’s happening within them. As my friend at the nail place said, you might not get everything you want, but it never hurts to clearly state what that is. It takes the mystery out of the thing. No one can read your mind, and sometimes we project and assume so much. We think other people must think and feel the way we do, so certain things should be obvious. But you know what? I would take nothing for granted. What’s obvious to you might not even occur to someone else.

So there’s clear communication, and then, sometimes, there’s the need for boundaries. Maybe you have someone in your life who hurts you, intentionally or otherwise. Sometimes, even when it is a family member, your only healthy option is to step away, but there are certain situations where that isn’t possible or desirable, and that’s when boundaries come in. You may not get everything you want in life, but you deserve respect. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to fight for it, but that’s not always how it goes, and sometimes we have a long history with someone, and there are ingrained patterns and dynamics. When we seek to shift that stuff, there’s always resistance. Most people struggle with change, and if you’ve been playing a certain role for a long time, don’t expect to be able to calmly give your two weeks’ notice. People in your life have probably gotten used to you being the way you’ve been. That’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t change, it doesn’t mean you can’t change. You may lose some relationships if you’re making big shifts in your life. Those close to you may feel threatened, they may feel like they’re losing you. Or they may get angry and say they liked the “old you” better. Of course. The old you didn’t confront them.

Anyway, my point is, there are times in life when you have to stand up for yourself and say, “Enough.” That’s part of the responsibility you bear; you have to be able to protect your, “little spark of madness” as Robin Williams called it. You can’t let people trample on that. If this is new for you, it will take time, like anything else. The first several times you speak up when you’re not happy with the way you’re being treated, it might come out with more force or aggression than you intend. Of course, you’ve been bottling up your voice for so long, it’s not surprising it might explode, but if you stay with it, and explain to the people in your life that you are in pain and are trying to change some essential things about the way you move through the world, the people who are meant to travel with you will support your efforts. Over time, you’ll be able to speak out with confidence, clarity and compassion about what’s real for you. It’s worth the effort. You deserve a rainbow if that’s what you want.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Clear Communication

millmanWe’ll all have times in our lives when we need to stand up for ourselves, or create boundaries with people for our own well-being. Depending on your history and your personality, this can be very challenging. So may people avoid uncomfortable or painful conversations because they fear hurting or disappointing the other person, or because they know once they speak about what’s true for them, everything will change. Maybe they’re afraid of the other party’s reaction, or they just want to do what they want to do without having to compromise or be confronted. When we try to maneuver around what’s true for us, or push those feelings away, or numb them out, we land in a world of pain.

Facing reality as it is, even when it breaks your heart, and maybe especially then, is always your most powerful option. No one wants to live a lie, or have to numb the edges every day so their fuzzy reality almost looks like what they’d hoped to create in their lives. You can’t nurture yourself, or anyone else when you’re denying what’s true in your heart, because it’s just so depleting. Letting fear stand between you, and a life that could feel good is one of the most disheartening experiences we have.

Most people would prefer the truth. Clear communication is such a gift. It’s not easy if it’s new to you, but being able to speak about how you feel calmly, and with compassion for yourself, and the other person, is a skill worth fighting for. No one likes to be kept in the dark, trying to piece together what’s really happening. If you’re close to someone, and something is off, you can feel that. Sometimes you already know a thing, you just don’t want to know it, you don’t want to accept it.

When you doubt yourself, your worth, or whether you’re lovable, it’s really time to get some help. Life is pretty short, and if it isn’t unfolding the way you’d like, you have to take ownership of those things you can control; namely, the way you respond to what you’ve been given, the way you show up for yourself and for the people in your life, and your ability to act on your own behalf. When you participate in a situation that’s crushing to you, you become lost to yourself. Trying to communicate clearly when the ground is slipping around underneath your feet is pointless. If you enter a conversation full of fear and doubt about who you are, what you want or need, what lights you up, what terrifies you, and/or what you have to offer, you can’t expect it to go well. If you’re trying to speak to someone with a strong personality or perspective, and you’re coming from a confused and weakened place, there’s a good chance how you feel will get swept under the rug.

Before you can be clear with other people, you have to get clear with yourself. How do you feel? What isn’t working for you? What changes would feel productive, and make the situation tenable for you? What are you afraid of? What do you want from the other person? Once you have those answers, you can share how you feel, but that’s the way to talk about it. It’s not pointing fingers. It’s not an attack. It’s a conversation that might start with the words, “I’m in pain”, or, “I’m scared to talk to you about this, and I hope you can help me to feel safe”, or, “I want us to be close, and in order for that to happen, I need to share how things are for me”, or, “I need to have a conversation with you, and it isn’t easy, and I don’t want to hurt you, but I have to tell you what’s in my heart.” Usually it’s starting that’s hard. Once you get those first words out, if you’ve given the situation enough thought, the rest will come.

When you’re centered and feeling strong, you can consider what you’re putting in the space between you and this other person. You can choose to fill it with rage and blame and a list of ways you’ve been wronged, or you can offer your honesty and your kindness. If you’re able to do the latter, that’s a gift you give to your own tender heart, and to that of the other party. May we all be strong, kind and clear.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You can find my books here <3

Keep Your Side of the Street Clean, Then Let Go

reberSometimes we can get really caught up in someone else’s drama. There are all kinds of people in this world, and many of them are suffering in some way or another. You really have no idea about the interior world of another human being unless they choose to share it with you. There are people coming out of abuse, neglect and abandonment. People trying to overcome betrayal. People clinging and trying to control whatever and whomever they can so they don’t feel so afraid. People with personality disorders, people suffering from depression, people grasping onto their anger like a shield, people numbing out so they don’t have to feel anything at all. If you get too close, you’re going to get some spillover. It’s just the nature of things.

It’s possible that a person in pain has been that way for so long, it isn’t immediately obvious. Everyone has coping mechanisms, some are healthy, some are not. It takes a good long while to truly know another person. If we’re speaking romantically, it takes even longer, because you have to let the dust/lust clear before you can really see what’s there. Regardless, people will show you who they are, and/or where they are on their path if you give them enough time. Some people have walls up. Some people are angry and nasty because they’ve been hurt and disappointed so much, they can’t think of anything else to do but keep people out. You cannot negotiate with a caged animal.

When people are in fear or in anger, there’s no point trying to communicate. There’s also no need to take it personally, unless you did something hurtful intentionally, or not. If you have something to own, by all means own it. The art of the apology has gotten lost in recent years. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not a satisfying apology, nor is yelling, “I’m sorry!”, or justifying what you did because what they did was worse. Unless you’re five, “He made me do it” isn’t going to fly, but if you haven’t done anything except cross this person’s path at a time when they can’t or won’t do anything but rage at you or shut you out, move along.

We can only manage our own side of the street. Honest communication is always good. By all means, try to speak about how you feel, or what you want, or what your fears are. Try a few times if it’s very important to you. Try in person first. An email is never as good as a face-to-face conversation, because so much can get lost in translation. You cannot see the expression on someone’s face, or hear the tone in their voice over an email, but if a person won’t see you, or get on the phone with you, that’s your next best option. Texting is never the way to go when emotions are high. Do your best to say how you feel, and then leave it. Your apology will or will not be accepted. Your attempt at connection will or will not be received. Your desire to make things better will or will not be shared.

You have power over how much time and energy you give a thing. Sometimes we want closure, or we’re attached to a particular outcome so much, we obsess. We spend hours, days, weeks, ruminating over details, replaying conversations, writing new ones in our heads. Sometimes we look back with rose-colored glasses, or we idealize someone, or we confuse our desire to be seen and heard and understood with a need to have those things happen with someone who is not available to us for whatever reason. People can only be where they are, and they can only have the tools they have. Drama is for the stage. Life is too short and too precious for that.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

You can find my books here <3

Speak Your Mind

voiceshakesClear communication is so important when it comes to understanding and being understood, but for many people, it isn’t easy. There are all kinds of reasons we don’t always say what we mean — maybe we don’t want to admit what it is that we want, because we feel conflicted about wanting it; we might feel ashamed, or afraid or insecure. Maybe we were taught that our feelings didn’t have an impact on the people or the world around us, so we don’t bother. We might think we already know what the other party will say. Perhaps we want to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable conversations. We might be quiet because we know if we speak up, things will have to change. So much can get lost in translation when we keep things to ourselves, hoping other people will possess the gift of telepathy.

Sometimes we avoid saying a thing, because we fear it might cause pain for someone else, but most people would really prefer to understand what’s happening, even if it hurts. I mean, of course you always want to do your best to speak kindly, and with compassion, to put yourself on the receiving end before you speak, but I don’t believe you do anyone any favors by keeping them in the dark; most people know when something is off. We may not want to know a thing, but usually if something is stirring below the surface, we know it in our hearts.

Life is pretty short, and it isn’t an easy gig. We have an unknown and finite amount of time, as do all the people we hold dear. We all have a song to sing, we have particular gifts to offer. It’s worth asking yourself, if you knew you only had a year to live, what would you do? I don’t just mean your bucket list, here, I mean, what would you say? Where would you put your energy? With whom would you spend your time? Is there something you’d stop doing or being right away? You realize you might only have a year, right? I mean, I hope you have ninety more great ones, I’m just saying, life doesn’t happen out in front of us, someday when “things calm down.” It’s happening right now, today, this is it.

I think you really make yourself sick when you deny what’s in your heart. I’m speaking mostly of big things here, the meaningful things we push down, but even in day-to-day interactions, every time you make yourself small, or shy away from saying what you mean, you weaken yourself. You can say what’s on your mind in a kind but confident way, it just takes practice. It takes more practice for some people than others, but it’s a gift to assert yourself. You won’t get everything you want, of course, but life is hard enough without adding murkiness to the equation. Even when we speak clearly and allow ourselves to be known and seen, intimacy is still challenging, but it’s completely unrealistic to hope for it if you leave too much under the rug. Dishonoring your tender heart is painful and lonely, and it will deplete you. Feeling like no one really knows you is lonely, but betraying yourself is the loneliest thing there is.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3