We-first-make-our-habitsRewiring your system is never easy; after all, it took years to get it up and running, and if you’ve come to the conclusion that an overhaul is in order, you can count on some resistance and turbulence. We have our experiences, and we figure out how to cope with whatever struggles and challenges we’ve faced. If your early childhood was not stable for whatever reason, you figured out how to self-soothe, or you didn’t. If you had stability in your early years, but faced loss or tragedy later, you found a way to get through, or you wouldn’t be reading this right now. If demands were placed on you to keep the peace, you learned how to repress your own needs and wants. The human heart can be very resilient, and the will to survive, strong.

Having said that, it’s very possible that your coping mechanisms aren’t serving you well anymore. Sometimes we develop a thick skin, or we dissociate, or numb out, or make ourselves so busy we don’t have time to feel anything. If all you’ve ever done is direct your energy outward, and extend yourself for other people, it’s not going to be a simple matter of deciding one day to shift your attention to your own peace and happiness. You’re probably going to have to work for those things.

Care-taking at the expense of your own well-being is exhausting. In this context, the premise is that your worth is determined by how much you’re able to do or be for other people; if you want love, you have to earn it. Your needs are not the thing, the other person’s are…how you feel is not on the menu. When we bend over backwards for people, we lose our center. I’m not talking about giving of yourself, or being of service, or using your gifts to uplift those around you. I’m a big believer in sharing whatever you’ve got, in lending a hand, a shoulder, your ear, your heart. I’m talking about a one-way street where you do all the giving, and the other person or people do all the taking; where you’re constantly trying to manage another person’s path, or fix what isn’t working for them. When we try to save other people, we lose ourselves, and we also set ourselves up for failure. If we could do each other’s journeys, we would. We’d remove obstacles and suffering from the paths of our children, our parents, our best friends and our partners, but you can’t save people, you can just love them. You can’t make another person happy, or reliable, or compassionate. You can’t make anyone fall in love with you, or show up for you, or take care of themselves. People do these things, or they do not. You can give someone all the love in your heart, but that won’t fix things if they don’t love themselves. Care-taking doesn’t work for either side of the equation.

Numbing out doesn’t work, either. You’re a slave to your pain, and to the agent that numbs it. You’ll need more and more of whatever that is, and your pain will own you. The people who love you will suffer, and here, too, you’ll lose yourself.

Running and making yourself insanely busy also lead to pain and exhaustion. Keeping people at an arms’ length is a lonely way to go. Making yourself hard so no one can get close to you, hurt you, or leave you also ensures that no one gets to really love you. Bailing when things get tough, wallowing in self-pity, marinating in rage and blame, none of these coping mechanisms will serve your highest good, and yet, it’s not as easy as deciding to break the habit.

If you’ve been operating a certain way for years, reworking the way you relate to other people and to the world at large is no easy feat, but it is doable. If you’ve developed habits or ways of getting through during turbulent times, you have to understand, at least on a subconscious level, you’re living in the past if you’re still functioning as if you’re under fire.

If you want to rewire your system, you have to set about the business of finding tools for healing that will work for you, and that’s extraordinarily personal work, and will probably involve exploration and determination. As you’re beginning that process, it’s very likely you’re going to feel depressed. You might wonder why you’d feel that way while you’re trying to make positive changes, but if you think about it, it makes sense. You’re intentionally crashing your own hard drive. Your system won’t know quite what to do with that.

If you’re trying to set healthy boundaries for the first time in your life, you’re likely to encounter resistance from within, and from those who are used to your usual way of moving through the world. When you shift, everything around you shifts. Most people resist change, even though it’s the only thing we can count on. Re-learning how to be with yourself, and other people takes time, effort and patience. Re-birthing yourself doesn’t happen without pain, fear and discomfort, but no feeling is forever, and I’d rather be deeply uncomfortable for a short while, than miserable for a whole lifetime.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton