My Map Of Limits: Here Be Monsters

Nov 29

Here Be Monsters! The Map.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.

Giant Miscreant SquidWhat 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.

But no.

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?

Keep Out. We Mean This!

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:

  1. Talking to The Spouse about it.
    (25 years of experience says “does not work”)
  2. Sprinkling him with magic dust & expecting change.
    (Dammit Jim, I’m a monster, not a pixie!)
  3. Trying to predict what will disturb him.
    (Both the monsters & I suck at psychic prediction)
  4. Increasingly lowering expectations
    (Historically, this has helped, but there still will be disturbances to the Force, Luke.)
  5. 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.

All Night Monster Counsel! (sic)

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.

It's another flourish!

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! 😉


  1. Tori-

    You’ve just put your finger on something I’ve experienced so many times: the way the smallest thing (“really?” “Are you sure you want to do that?”) from spouse can blow up my brain and all the assorted plans, projects, that took time, lots of self-talk and perhaps even input from others to pull together. All of it can be gone in a poof of well-intentioned conversation. hmmmm.. will be eagerly awaiting the conclusions here!

  2. Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear) /

    I think I have some Monsters who are 2nd or 3rd cousins to yours.

    I contacted the Nestle elves who graciously agreed we could use our bricks and mortar to expand their treehouse. I can’t say what the gunpowder was for, though. Signed a non-disclosure as part of the agreement with the elves.

    My Do Not Disturb The Spouse Monsters (DNDTSM) are now happily ensconced with the elves and earning their keep as quality control cookie testers. Hey! that makes them Cookie Monsters! I love when a random Sesame Street connections shows up. But, I digress.

    Based on my personal experience, I suggest trying to change things from the Monsters’ point of view. If they can explain to you why they are afraid of a Disturbed Spouse to begin with, you might be able to help them deal with their fear. Perhaps one or two of them had a Big, Super-Scary Run-In with a Daddy Monster during their childhood … or would that be monsterhood?… . If so, it could help to explain to them that Disturbed Spouse will not do whatever Disturbed Daddy Monster did that scared them so much.

    In the hopes of explaining what I mean……

    My DNDTSM grew up in an environment where “no one got angry”. If a parental monster happened to get angry and yell, the parental monster left. Forever. Never to be seen again. Lead to fears of Monster Abandonment and the belief that anger = yelling and yelling = leaving. That fear was transferred to Spouse. Once my furry friends understood that Disturbed Spouse could yell but not leave, they calmed down. Took a bit of time and desensitization. But, they got there. That’s when they moved in with the elves.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Huh.

    So it’s not just me then. Varry inneresting.

  4. OMG a couple years ago this could have been my story ~ seriously ~ the whole thing.
    I’ll tell you what solved my problem… wait for it…

    EFT and an awesome EFT coach. It didn’t take long until I was complaining that I didn’t understand why we kept going over the same old stuff because this really wasn’t the problem anyway… 🙂 EFT is powerful stuff and can reframe stuff in a fast and entirely different way so that you and he (and the monsters) can happily coexist without the fear.

    Really ~ if you’d like info on my awesome EFT coach, just give me a shout ~ I’ll get you two in touch.

    Jackie 🙂

  5. I think my bookshelves and yours are actually the same on some random space time continuum. Perhaps if we use the Six-Dimensional Non-Newtonian Continuum Machine we can send all the DNDTSMs to the Borg home world?

    On a practical note, perhaps its a combination of #5, Kellie’s suggestions above, and an acceptance that if you live with anyone for 20+ years there will be *moments*. Please don’t pelt me with tomatoes – the keebler elves made me say it.

    • Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear) /

      Nicole – Thanks for kindly correcting my elf error. Keebler! Not Nestle!

  6. Tori Deaux /

    It’s so interesting that others have had similar experiences – I had no idea. I guess it’s another of those things we just don’t talk about much, and maybe should!

    More soon. Monster Counsel is still in session. (they like spelling it “counsel”)

  7. Oooooh, that hit the spot!
    We need to step in and join the monster counsel and encourage parties, rest, relaxation and lots of luuuurve!
    The problem is that your (and my!) move in the right direction for US is stirring up the spouse’s control monsters. Invite them in, too, and offer a hot toddie.
    Thanks! x

  8. OOOOH, that hit the spot!
    Seems to me the monsters counsel needs to be organising parties, fun, relaxation and lots of luuuurrrve.
    I reckon by moving in the right direction for US we’re upsetting the spouse’s control monsters (yes, he’s got monsters too) Invite them over, let them know it’s ok, pass them a beer.

  9. Yeah, me too – and I’m relentlessly fearless where every single other person in the world is concerned. Funnier still is my DH is a calm and supportive man with a happy disposition and yet “He must not be inconvenienced or disturbed or messed with in any way!!” (that’s my version)

    I’m glad to see it’s not just me 🙂 Whew!

  10. Me too! It happened today and I’m still not right..

    Loved your post 🙂

  11. Karagush /

    you know i lived an entire 15 years with a spousezilla. We tried all kinds of things to keep from disturbing him until my world got too small for me to live in. He didnt frighten my monster, in some ways i think its felt compassion for him because we could see ourselves in him. But he still made a mess of my world because it made him nervous when i was comfortable and happy.
    I know your situation is different.
    I now live with a PTSD spouse. he tries not to let his issues affect me, but the monster and i are now quite used to the idea of DDTS. Very rarely it doesnt work. Last week being an example which sent everyone into a tailspin.
    If it makes any kind of sense now that we BOTH have PTSD the spouse and i can laugh at how the two of us work around our issues so gingerly, and my monster leading me by the hand thru life. (Since of course the monster is big and scary and toothy She is just the thing for a frightenedish, smallish person who fears everything.)
    HAve you tried recruiting the Giant Squid as a Bodygaurd?
    I think the happiest day of my monsters life was when i put them to work, and gave them a job to do besides scaring me when i got too close to my boundaries. Now they escort me to the edges and keep me safe when im close.

  12. Maureen /

    Hmmm I have Monsters as well. Not up on all this elfin talk though. I don’t think I have any elves at all.
    My monsters have laid signs around that tell me who to float my dream clouds by and who not to. I was made aware, quite early, that there are some people, my monsters tell me,”It’s not worth it to disturb these people with your clouds. They will never change and its too much sparkling energy to lose.”
    However when it comes to Mr Spouse. There are caution signs there and the energy dispersed during contact is renewable. I have a piece of equipment that I use specifically for these dream talks. Its called the Talking Loop Gun. I get to send out my dream clouds to Mr Spouse. IF he starts shooting death rays with his Gun, I get to use the Talking Loop Gun. It only stuns him. The thing is that I have to throw it away after I use it and build a new one each time.
    The good news is that after using it the last 12 years I’ve gotten quicker at rebuilding it and have added modifications.
    I can send you a blueprint if you want.

    • I would be very interested in those blueprints. 🙂

      • Maureen /

        Jackie Lee: Just keep in mind it just stuns him into awareness. It doesn’t “fix or kill” him. And throwing away the gun after just means its all about your own protection and doesn’t change his molecular structure.
        After reading Tori’s post for today I think this could be part of the Habitat protection. But I can send the Blueprint if you want. I can Twitter you my email.

      • Maureen /

        There. You just need to add me as a follower. I am now following you.

    • Tori Deaux /

      And this… this is why I love you, Maureen!

      (Blueprints, please!)