My Map Of Limits: Here Be Monsters
I’ve thought a lot about limits over the years.
Just lately, I’ve been focused on how limits apply to creative self-employment: financial, psychological, physical, time and energy and focus limits. Limits to push and test, limits best kept surrounded by a “no-fly zone”, limits that keep me from being overwhelmed, limits that, themselves, overwhelm me.
I’ve thought about it so much that there’s a map etched into my skull, revealing estimated locations of limits along with potential bypasses, all clearly marked out with a radioactive green sharpie
It’s pretty cool. Looks a bit like one of those old-fashioned pirate maps, complete with X marks the spot and dire warnings about being eaten by giant squid.
And while I have yet to encounter any actual giant squid in my life, I have spent a lot of time with what folks these days call “Monsters” – personifications of personal defenses and coping mechanisms that I can talk to, bargain with, and sometimes bribe.
Limits and Monsters have a lot to do with each other.
Limits, it turns out, are fertile breeding grounds for Monsters, and they defend their home territories with a certain diligent fierceness.
Curiously enough, I’ve only recently discovered the Monster/Limit connection.
That internal Map of Limits? Yeah.
It didn’t have a single “Here Be Monsters!” label on it. Pretty major oversight, eh? Oopsie.
This weekend, that oversight led to me tumbling head first into a monster-nesting ground. That’ll *definitely* leave a mark, if you know what I mean.
What happened? I’m still not entirely sure.
See, my inner landscape has evolved a bit over the past few weeks, leading to new insights, including a puzzling, frustrating realization that my loudest monsters see their most pressing task as Not-Disturbing-The-Spouse.
In fact, a very significant number of my Monsters are positively terrified of the spouse being disturbed.
This was news to me, since I’d always sorta that assumed outside authority figures were the scary bits, or that maybe internal criticisms, crumbling belief systems, and threats to self-image were what motivated the monsters-of-my-mind.
It’s the spouse they’re afraid of, and therefore? He MUST NOT BE DISTURBED!!
They’re quite serious about this.
Mind you, while the spouse *is* an intimidating individual, and kinda scary to most people, he’s not actually dangerous. Ok, sure, he does get a very *INTENSE* look on his face, and sometimes his voice positively drips daggers for no clear reason, but he’s very unlikely to rip anyone’s arm off and feed it to them for dinner.
Having known him for 25 odd years, I can attest to that.
Yet, in spite of their own exposure to him, my Monsters have revealed that the Spouse is their biggest concern. When the Monsters first spoke up about it, I didn’t grok it, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it, so I just let it be whatever it was.
Then this weekend happened.
It wasn’t anything especially out of the ordinary. Mr.Spouse was tired, cranky, and stressed. He snapped at me over nothing, tried to apologize, made it worse, and snapped again. It was a stupid, normal, married-for-twenty-years style argument, the sort of thing that doesn’t mean a thing in the long run.
And yet, my Monsters were *screaming* at me.
“SEE? SEE?!” they yelled, jumping up and down and pointing. “THAT! THAT’S the problem. THAT’S what you must avoid!”
And I did see.
Because even though the squabble was relatively minor, even though it was triggered totally by accident and wasn’t important, even though it lasted less than 30 minutes?
It totally disrupted my Highly Sensitive Self.
My focus, my priorities, they were suddenly scrambled. The confidence I’d had in my ability to meet the goals I’d set? Crumbled. All my carefully crafted productivity plans for the long weekend were just gone. The neural paths I’d built to bypass a few limits? They looked like they’d been dynamited, and I just couldn’t get there from here anymore.
And the really sucky realization? No amount of self-compassion, care or comfort would restore those pathways in my brain in time to continue with my weekend plans. Maybe not in time for this next week’s plans.
And this is what my Monsters have tried to tell me.
Disturbing-The-Spouse often leads to Blowing-Up-Spouse. The blowing up may happen immediately, or it may happen as much as a week later, after he’s had time to stew over something.
And while a Blowing-Up-Spouse is not such a big deal in itself, exposure to such a thing tends to explode my brain.
And exploding brains? *That* is a real, tangible problem. When you’re trying to start a new business entirely on your own, and with a ton of pre-existing limits already on you? Yeah. Adding a blown-to-bits brain into the equation is not helpful.
So the Monsters have drawn a dashed line around the spouse, with the words “Do Not Disturb” beside it in several languages.
And now, I understand why that warning is there, and why the Monsters are so desperately invested in keeping the spouse undisturbed.
But it’s impossible to live life trying to not-disturb someone who is, frankly, pretty easy to disturb. All the fretting over it creates a heck of a lot of extra stress, and I’d really, really like it to stop.
So where do we go from here? I’ve got no clue.
So far, all I have is a list from the Monsters of Things That Don’t Work, and a lot of DONT GO HERE labels on the map.
Things That Don’t Work:
- Talking to The Spouse about it.
(25 years of experience says “does not work”)
- Sprinkling him with magic dust & expecting change.
(Dammit Jim, I’m a monster, not a pixie!)
- Trying to predict what will disturb him.
(Both the monsters & I suck at psychic prediction)
- Increasingly lowering expectations
(Historically, this has helped, but there still will be disturbances to the Force, Luke.)
- Self-compassion, self-care, blah blah blah. (This keeps any harsh, unmeant and thoughtless words from hurting me, and helps with recovery time, but it’s an afterwards thing. What we need is to *stop* the damage from happening)
Ok, that’s an interesting bit of insight.
What happens if we stop worrying over the Disturbance, stop trying to repairing the damage? What if we find ways to prevent the damage instead?
Can the monsters build guard rails? Reinforce the neural bridges somehow? Create a back up system of bridges and cable cars and alternate routes?
I haven’t gotten a clear answer yet, but the Monsters are happily consulting one another on the topic, pointing at the map, and munching on cookies.
I’ll let you know what they find. So far, the plan seems to involve a lot of bricks, mortar and gunpowder. And I’ve no idea what the gunpowder is for… Oh. And they’re requesting more cookies.
It’s going to be a long night.
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Comments! Yes. You gots ’em.
This is a good place to share thoughts on your own limits and monsters, and how they interact. It’s also a good place to practice unconditional acceptance and not telling me how Monsters, me or Mr.Spouse! are doing it wrong. ’cause it’s my wrongness, dammit! 😉