Wouldn’t it be nice if you reached a point in life when you could hit cruise and coast along in all of your relationships? You could just sit back, listen to the music and trust that everything will work out fine.
Most relationships don’t work that way—not the ones we have with our loved ones, God, or with ourselves. There are always pitfalls and detours, not to mention changing traffic patterns. It’s important to stay nimble and aware as you navigate inevitable challenges.
The good news is that there are tools that can help you navigate well. As we continue discussing emotional and spiritual wholeness in this community, I want to share one helpful tool from my book, Boundaries for Your Soul. It’s a roadmap to you, and following this roadmap as a daily practice helps you stay connected to yourself and aligned with God’s Spirit.
A Roadmap to You
The key to emotional and spiritual health is to become more aware of how you show up in your work and relationships and bring that growing awareness to God.
To get started, take a moment at the end of the day and think about yourself in terms of the following categories:
1.) “Managers“— The “manager” side of you wants to perform, produce, please, control, or secure your well-being in the eyes of others. This isn’t a bad thing! We all need to show up for work, hold it together to take care of our kids, and create a sense of security or accomplishment.
To understand the ways in which your “managers” are operating, ask yourself this question at the end of the day:
What are the ways I was pushing myself or striving today?
—I pushed myself to please everyone.
—My task manager was on overdrive.
—I needed to make that thing perfect.
2.) “Firefighters“—These are the ways you escape, numb out or shut down when you are overwhelmed, exhausted, or hurting. We all do this from time to time; don’t be harsh with yourself. You might binge watch your favorite show, shop, overeat, or drink. You might do this a little, or you might do this a lot. Again, these activities aren’t problematic in moderation! We all need to comfort ourselves or take a break from time to time.
To understand the ways in which your “firefighters” are operating, ask yourself this question:
How did I avoid pain or conflict today?
—Turning on a good multi-hour binge watch.
—Numbing out with food, alcohol or social media.
—Venting to friends or lashing out.
As you become more aware of your manager and firefighter activities, get curious. Don’t judge yourself. These are patterns, and the goal is understanding at this point. Everyone manages or escapes pain from time to time. This is how we protect ourselves.
Most people vacillate between “managing” and “escaping.” We work hard, then we shut ourselves down.
But, if you never face the harder things you are feeling, you miss out on opportunities to receive the care you need. That’s why it’s so important to become more aware of the painful or uncomfortable parts of you that need your attention—and God’s love—the most.
3.) “Exiles“—These are the vulnerable parts of your soul that carry the emotions and burdens you’d rather not face. These parts of you might feel sad, lonely, weary, or unseen. They often linger at the edge of who you are, sometimes beyond your conscious awareness. When you over-function or numb yourself out, you keep these important parts of you from getting the care that they need.
To understand the ways in which your “exiles” are operating, ask yourself this question:
What is an uncomfortable feeling I didn’t want to face today?
The key is to stay curious and compassionate as you take your personal inventory. Notice one thing that surfaces in each category and pray through that awareness with God’s help. To go even deeper, check out the Exercise in the back of my book, Boundaries for Your Soul, or listen to the free audio guide, Boundaries with Emotions, available for download on my website.
Becoming whole is all about increasing your awareness of the ways in which you show up in the world, the ways you check out, AND the areas of vulnerability in your life. Using this roadmap helps you grow in self-awareness, compassion, and increases your intimacy with others and with God.
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.—Proverbs 18:15
**This blog post is adapted from material in Chapter 3 of Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies.