You never know when a person’s hard limit is crossed. You also never know how a person will respond when that hard limit is ignored or crossed. When people feel threatened, hard-wiring kicks in and we go into Survival Mode.
In Survival Mode, you sink deeper and deeper into this black hole where you feel like you’re drowning and the rain won’t stop. Every insecure, unhealthy thought you’ve ever had about yourself comes roaring out.
All because of your circumstances.
So many times in my life I’ve wanted to just say to someone right out loud: Go. Fuck. Yourself. But I didn’t because I didn’t have healthy boundaries. I was trained from an early age to NEVER make a scene in public. I was trained to always be unfailingly polite.
So when I was disrespected or mistreated, particularly by someone who claimed to love me, I took it. Chin up, Buttercup, and all that garbage. In doing so, I let myself down. I allowed myself to be disrespected. I allowed myself to be mistreated.
And what naturally followed is that I began to internally disrespect myself. I began to doubt myself, my instincts and what few boundaries I actually had.
Here’s what happens:
You don’t have good boundaries so you find yourself feeling more and more victimized. You sink lower and lower. Your self-esteem takes a vacation. You probably become depressed. Finally, you sink into Survival Mode. It’s all you can do to put one foot in front the other. Survival Mode can last any length of time – hours can turn into years depending on the circumstances.
You get a wake up call. It can be winding up in the ER with a fractured cheekbone. It can be finding out your beloved is running around on you or lying to you. It can be a family member or friend insulting you or manipulating you one time too many. The voices in your head will say something like, “I’m done. I can’t take any more.”
In the ER that night, the voices in my head said, “One of us is going to wind up dead if this happens again and, quite frankly, I don’t care which one of us it is”. Can you imagine being that low?
Then you rise up. You get pissed. I mean really, really pissed. Angry. Raging. Something in your core shakes loose and the dam breaks. The blocked emotions spew forth. The energy you’ve suppressed shifts. You decide that you matter.
Your pendulum swings all the way to the other side. I mean ALL THE WAY to the other side. You may scream and shout. You may simply cut off all contact. You may let the profanities fly.
And then, you’ll be judged. Yes, you will. By your significant other, your family, your friends, and perhaps even the dreaded “Society”. You’ll be admonished to “turn the other cheek”. You’ll be admonished to be careful burning any bridges. You’ll be admonished to “dial it back”. That’s what I was told last summer – I needed to “dial back” my outrage because “bleeding that way in public makes others feel uncomfortable”. I was told my public anger wasn’t “attractive“.
We humans are so adept at shaming others. What a great idea! Let’s shame people who are in pain because their expressions of pain make us uncomfortable! Yes! Let’s do that!
What if having and enforcing boundaries is the key to maintaining your emotional balance and equilibrium?
What if I had enforced boundaries when I first felt threatened, manipulated, ignored, belittled, etc., etc.? What if I had done less sooner? What if I had confidently maintained my own standards from the start?
My point is that the only way I know to never get to Emotional Survival Mode is to enforce your standards & boundaries each and every step along the way.
Your standards are your choice. No one makes those choices for you. You decide how you’re going to be treated. Once you set your standards, you are tasked with enforcing them. That’s your Job. No one can do it for you.
Sometimes that’s really, really hard. Really, really hard.
Like when your beloved screams in your face that you’re a “f*cking c*nt” then the next morning apologizes and professes undying, eternal love. Really, really hard.
What I know now is that if I had walked away when that particular incident happened, I would have never found myself in Survival Mode in the ER with a fractured cheekbone.
Life happens in the details. Living by your standards doesn’t mean you’re an unkind or mean person. It means you value yourself and you expect others to do the same.
You don’t literally have to say out loud, “Go fuck yourself”. Walking away can say it for you. Refusing to engage can say it for you. You can say “that doesn’t work for me” instead.
But if you want to scream it out loud, be my guest! Go for it! Shout it from the rooftops if it makes you feel empowered.
And if anyone tells you to dial it back, tell them I said: