In the previous post in this series, Boundaries, I wrote about the necessity of consolidating our emotional boundaries by stepping out of our comfort zone and saying ‘no’ to any situation where we give away our power.
In theory this is easy but in practice it’s very hard—and at times it seems almost impossible. Let’s say you have a situation with an overbearing family member.
Remember, Jesus told us the path to the Kingdom of Heaven would mean difficulties with our next-of-kin. “Brothers and sisters will betray one another and have each other put to death. Parents will betray their own children, and children will turn against their parents and have them killed.” (Matthew 10:21)
First, you might avoid the issue on the basis that “if I ignore it it’ll go away.” When you have an emotionally uncomfortable situation in your life that places you under growing pressure, nothing goes away by being ignored. It just becomes more pressing.
You finally decide to confront the family member who is imposing on you. An opportunity arises. This is the magic of intent. Once you commit to challenging an issue, you magnetize an opportunity to do so.
You know what you need to say or do. Yet—at the crucial moment—something inside you gives. Certainty turns to doubt. You lose traction. You back off.
You’re back at square one. Actually, it’s worse than square one. Not only do you still have the pressing situation to deal with, but you also have to contend with the guilt of failure and the fear that it’ll happen again.
Deep down, you know that next time you try to resolve this, the same thing will happen—a dispiriting and disempowering slide back into your shell.
Check your permission
Check your permissions.
Most of us are familiar with the word ‘permission’ as it relates to access rights on computers. In some instances we have ‘edit’ rights that allow us to change things. Sometimes we have ‘read’ rights that allow us to view things. In some situations we have no permission whatsoever. When we have no access rights we don’t even know what can be accessed.
Most of us are familiar with the word ‘permission’ as it relates to access rights on computers. The same concept applies psychologically.
The same concept applies psychologically.
Everything inside our comfort zone is what we typically have ‘edit’ rights to. We can stand up for ourselves. We can make changes. The further we go outside our comfort zone, the less permission we have. That’s why, even when we want to right an imbalanced situation, it feels like we’re violating some kind of taboo.
Authority has various levels—family elders, schoolteachers, authoritarian managers, business leaders, military officers, politicians, etc.—anyone who throws their emotional weight around.
All uses of the word ‘permission’ in the Bible refer to this deference to external authority.
The earliest reference is in Genesis 41:44, the story of Joseph and his coat of many colours. “The king told Joseph, ‘Although I’m king, no one in Egypt is to do anything without your permission.’”
2 Samuel 14:22 shows how deeply ingrained our belief in external permission is. “Joab bowed very low and said, ‘Your Majesty, I thank you for giving your permission. It shows that you approve of me.’”
You have no permission to do anything that violates this age-old pecking order. You are supposed to live out your squiddly little life doing what you’re told and not rocking the boat.
So, next time you have an issue you need to resolve, start by giving yourself the permission to do so. Take whatever mindful or spiritual practice works for you and consciously use it to grant yourself permission.
As the critical moment that calls for you to step outside your comfort zone nears, be aware that you’re violating a taboo and this will destabilise you. Also be aware that what you are doing is appropriate and you have ‘edit’ level permission.
Breathe. Then step into your power and do whatever needs to be done.
Every time you do, you evolve the new, emotionally healthy and empowered you.