Not everything that surrounds us is significant, nor is everything that comes our way good for us. Applying adequate emotional and psychological filters in our day to day life will prevent certain toxins from getting to us. They will scare away the wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing and the viruses capable of producing overload, stress and bitter experiences.
All these dimensions are important, but they are not known for being equal. However, to better understand what it means to not apply those psychological umbrellas in our day to day life, we will begin by speaking about exhaustion. The most common form of exhaustion, as we know, comes from physical exertion. Yet, and as strange as it may seem, there is another type of exhaustion that is more habitual among the general population and is more chronic.
“Sometimes deceptions can kill, but it is hope that allows us to survive.”
We are talking about the emotional exhaustion that is capable of creating within us a whole psychosomatic cadre, where there is no shortage of neck pain, back pain, headaches, digestive problems…Many simply call it being “burned out.” Carrying around that emotional exhaustion, that transcends the physical to the point of making us cautious, can even lead to concealed depression that is not always easy to diagnose.
The origin of this type of concrete reality is found in being openly permeable to everything that comes our way and all that surrounds us. If we do not put up barriers or limits, and hide behind a shield when something does not please us, harms us or causes us stress, we will be defeated inside, and conquered by apathy, discouragement and frustration.
We learn to focus on reality in a different way: protect ourselves.
Openness: A Very Common Problem
Openness applied to human behavior has a concrete and necessary function: we have to open ourselves to what surrounds us in order to learn, to integrate new knowledge systems and to survive. Filtering what others give to us or provide allows us to grow, and that, without a doubt, is something marvelous.
Sometimes we get exactly what we need. Because of that, maintaining a rigid line of thought or a closed mind will not help us to make progress nor will we benefit from new opportunities to be happy. Therefore, most of the time we have to fight with a brain that is programmed to be receptive, porous like a sponge looking to absorb anything surrounding it.
However, and here is where the problem lies, what the brain does instinctively does not adjust to what our psychological equilibrium needs. Being receptive does not always lead us to personal progress, but on the contrary, leads us to emotional regression. It is interesting to remember what Albert Ellis, in his rational emotive behavioral therapy approach, called “the triad of unhappiness.”
According to Ellis, we apply three types of irrational expectations in our day to day life that would lead us, hopelessly, to classic unhappiness.
Along with irrational thoughts that “we should do everything right” or “everyone will always treat me the way I want to be treated,” there is also that third aspect that we should react to, knowing that “there is no reason for me to confront what bothers me or worries me.” When we are permeable we stop facing what we do not like. We dilute ourselves like water and salt, a mixture not agreeable at all, that we drink every day. That is not the most suitable.
If What Comes Your Way is not Good For You, Protect Yourself
How far are you willing to yield without giving up who you are? Up to what point are you willing to go so as not to allow others to drag you into their personal universe? Not everything that comes your way is good for you, nor worthy of being integrated into your life.
“Everything has limits, only our ingenuity is unlimited.”
It is vital that we learn how to set appropriate personal limits. To learn what this basic strategy implies for our personal growth, visualize, for a moment, a warm luminous circle surrounding us. That space where we find ourselves is the area that protects us from the outside world, and also allows us to connect with others without having to fuse ourselves to them.
In turn, this magical circle has fabulous properties: it is flexible. It allows us to connect without losing our identity and it also will extend when we perceive that something or someone will definitely allow us to grow without causing us any harm.
Now, this circle is wise and relentless. When something tries to harm us it will immediately shrink because that defensive barrier is intimately connected to our values, our self-esteem and our identity. If what comes can cause harm, it will leave it outside, without further ado. These personal limits tend to develop during our early childhood years and adolescence; however, it is common that at certain times in our lives they were damaged, forcibly opened.
It’s okay, that is not the end of matters. There is always time to fix it, to heal the broken parts and to make another perfect circle, strong and powerful. A circle that is sufficiently flexible to know what is good for us and what is best to leave in the lobby of unwanted guests, in the anteroom of fake friends, fake dreams and false hopes.
We must learn to make good use of our defensive barriers.