What are my boundaries when I’ve stopped fawning?

I’ve had a revelation this week regarding boundaries. There are outer boundaries, and there are inner boundaries. I’ve worked very hard on my outer boundaries during the past few years, and I have come to see myself as finally quite good at placing outer boundaries in relation to others (barring a few examples, one of them being my children). I now realize I don’t actually know much about my inner ones.

You’ve probably heard of the trauma responses fight-flight-freeze. There is a fourth one, called fawning. This survival response is an attempt to avoid conflict by appeasing people. It is apparently common in neurodivergent people as it is a way for us to hide our neurodivergent behaviours and appear what is deemed to be “normal”.

I realized this week that I fawn all the time. It is so normal to me, that I don’t even think about it. So how can I have boundaries when I don’t know what they are? What would I be doing if I wasn’t fawning by default?

I’ll give you an example. I am very sensitive to being around lots of other people, where the place gets crowded with lots of noises. When I am in such a situation, I am already in a strained relationship with my own senses. I am already uncomfortable, and when I am negotiating my needs vis-à-vis the needs and preferences of another person (for instance, the volume of background music) I don’t know where to place my boundaries – because I am already feeling uncomfortable to start with. Meeting a person “halfway” in compromises are often at my expense and I don’t know whose standards I am comparing mine to. How much are you suffering in comparison with my suffering?

If I were to listen to my inner boundaries that are not in relation to another person, that aren’t relative to something other, I might quit a lot of things, because when I have negotiated my true needs things that I used to put up with won’t pass anymore. Perhaps that is what I will come to experience in the future. I wonder what that will be like, because I truly don’t know yet.

When wellness is bad for you

How do I begin to describe this? I am someone who is in favor of what we call ‘holistic health’, i.e. a view on health that takes the physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a human into consideration. However, I often feel like advice that are branded as ‘holistic’ – and should therefore take more than one of these aspects into account – are instead overly simplistic, does not always take context into consideration and operate from a ‘one size fits all’ kind of world view. This can lead to more harm than the good it is aimed for, especially if it is received by individuals who are internally very complex human beings. Sometimes something is good advice only given that the external conditions that are assumed to be in place are in fact, in place. If not, they can have the reverse effect.

I have witnessed many friends who all share that they have a perfectionist trait, who – depending where they are at in their lives – seem to have suffered more from certain health advice than the health they gained from them, unless they could do it all perfectly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the information in and of itself was wrong, but that the net effect on the person absorbing this information turned out to be negative.

I personally don’t struggle with this particular kind of perfectionism, but for much of my life I’ve had this terrible feeling that there is something wrong with me that needs to be fixed. Coming from this place, and desperately looking for answers, makes one try all kinds of things in order to overcome the thing. I’ve tried so many different therapies, diets, supplements, healing modalities, treatments, classes etc. and I’ve learned a lot and I don’t think I would not recommend any of them. My concern is rather “who I was when I was asking for help” and what I hoped that the therapist or practitioner could do for me, and/or what they said they could do for me. If I think I am broken and ask for a remedy to make me whole, and they say – yes do this thing and you will be – then wellness can become nothing but a rabbit whole. I am not saying that most therapists and practitioners work like this, but sometimes we have hidden questions and this is going to be the answers that we hear, irrespective of what they actually say or intend to mean.

I have booked an appointment with an alternative medicine person on Friday, just like I have so many times. I am a bit lost regarding something and I hope she can help me. Perhaps she will be able to help me, perhaps she won’t, but I am more than willing to seek help both inside and outside of the conventional health care system if I feel that I need it. In this case, I need advice from someone who is able to look at the physical, emotional and spiritual, not just the physical body although that is also important.

But I am no longer trying to fix anything, because I know I am not broken. Knowing that makes me meet any practitioner – whether a physician or psychiatrist in the medical establishment, or in the complementary and alternative sector – on the same wavelength. They probably know something that I don’t, otherwise I wouldn’t seek out their help, but they don’t know what it is like to be me and what really works for me. I do, and I am finding out more from a place of knowing I am worth to live my best life.

I see people go into polarized positions when it comes to health issues, one side vilifying the other, but I don’t think either of those ‘sides’ have the right answers. What I do think though, is that many simplistic answers are not good enough for complex humans.

Is time to be managed?

I am hosting an online course for the first time, Highly Sensitive & Neurodivergent Life, with a group of people who are either hsp or both hsp and also neurodivergent. I have promised to teach them all I know about boundaries, as this is an important skill for people like us to master if want to spend our very precious energy on the right things and to be able to feel good in our lives. Ironically, because I’ve had the guts to claim that I know something about boundaries, I’ve been shown this week that I am absolutely clueless. But in a specific case, with my own kids. I find that having children is what challenges me to look at the areas in my life where I need improvement more than anything else, they are – through their very existence – my best teachers in the school of life, and they are not letting me get away with things.

One could question then, why I would teach something that I seem to really suck at. However, I don’t necessarily think that is how it works. Often the very things we struggle with the most is what we come to know best eventually and what we can then teach to others. Think about a person who is learning a foreign language, who needs to study the grammar and get acquainted with all kinds of things that a native speaker knows instinctively. Who will be able to pass on the tricks and the analyses of the language that another learner of this foreign language will need? You’re right, the one who didn’t know how to do this instinctively!

By the same token, I have said I will teach time management in this course. Which is perhaps true and not true, because is time even something to be managed? Are we to conquer it and be masters of it, or is there another way to engage with time? If we talk about time management in a mainstream kind of way, I totally don’t know how to manage it. I get lost in time all day every day, and I absolutely abhor the feeling of being governed by it. So in that sense it is different from how I know/don’t know boundaries, because I haven’t gotten any better at managing time. If anything, I am probably even worse than I used to be.

What am I here to teach then? I want to say I have come to know a way to dance with time. I am not always in that dancey space – if thrown out of balance I cannot access it – but when I am in alignment I don’t feel stressed about what I am supposed to do with my time, or in my time. Perhaps this is simply an experience of flow. Everything that needs my attention is flowing to me at the right time and place, and if it doesn’t it means it isn’t meant for me to focus upon that thing in that moment, but it might come later. This way of being in the world requires a huge trust in life. I noticed yesterday when I was very out of balance due to both sleep deprivation and difficulties with my children that I was thrown of this trustful flow-state and into a metallic, controlling state when I felt as though had to push through and use force, and how sick this state makes me feel.

I don’t know to what extent this way of being in the world can be taught, or indeed if it is for everyone. We all function differently and have different preferences. But what I can do it to bare witness, and I can also share the outer conditions that seems to me to be necessary to make this work. So here is my recipe for a system of non-management of your time:

~ Don’t mix it up with other systems. Either you go for the trust-flow system, or you try to manage your time the conventional way. Mixing them just creates confusion.

~ Live a decluttered life. Don’t include ingredients in your life that you don’t actually, really really want, and that are based on other peoples expectations and preferences. This may involve quite dramatic life changes such as leaving your current job, ending certain relationships and learning to say no (boundaries).

~ Create a solid container based on your true preferences. If we want something to flow, we need something for it to flow in to give it direction (otherwise it is just all over the place). For me, this can be to dedicate time to nothing. For example, having an empty day when absolutely nothing in particular needs to happen. Some of these days nothing does happen, and other of days these turn out to be the most productive and get-shit-done days ever. With flow, never with force.

~ Know what you really want in life. What is truly important to you, and what is outside of the essential. Cut the crap.

I suppose non of this is a quick fix, and as I said – it may not be a recipe for everyone. I think if this text sparks a longing inside of you, then there might be something there. If not, then this is probably not your medicine.

Next time I offer my course, I will not put “time-management” as one of the features in the course as this is actually false advertising (sorry to anyone who feels misled!). I will call it non-management of time instead.

Taking back the Misnomers

A lot of people are skeptical of the practice of ‘labeling’ that comes with our current view on deficit-based diagnoses of neurodivergent humans. It’s understandable that one would reject a label that describes one personality type when it is described in relation to another personality type, listing what the former lacks in relation to the latter. Fundamentally, this is not respectful of the beautiful diversity that exists – and always has existed – among humans.

The neurodiversity paradigm is an alternative to the medical model of understanding that has been the dominant thinking and largely still is. This alternative view offers a way to talk about the fact that we as humans do function differently from one another – and therefore we need labels that are accurate descriptions of the reality we experience – including how these can be disabling for us in certain situations, while not in others. What it doesn’t say though, is that neurodivergent humans are therefore flawed, broken or somehow out of order.

We are all created differently by Divine design. God doesn’t make any mistakes. I don’t know what your beliefs are, but this is where I am coming from. As well as being autistic – an invisible disability (sometimes, but not always, also a superpower) – I was also born without a left hand. We may interpret this as a mistake, as an unfortunate malformation, and indeed if we look at it from a purely scientific, biologistic perspective – it certainly is! It’s not something I wished for my own kids (it isn’t a genetic thing though) or anyone else, but I believe this is an experience that my soul chose for me in this life journey, as it would strengthen my ability to overcome difficulty. It was the perfect playground for a path towards life mastery, if you will. Other people on a similar life path may be given other types of hardship to overcome, it doesn’t really matter to the soul, the point is to set us up for growth.

I have been working with new labels for us that aren’t coming from the medical model – hence the title “taking back the misnomers”. These are viewed as a theoretical construct, or as archetypes that one can work with, so please don’t come to me asking for any scientific evidence. This doesn’t work like that, and I am not interested in disputing science in any way. I am simply offering a new lens with which we can look upon the world, should we want to. Also, one person can embody more than one of these at the same time, so they aren’t mutually exclusive categories. Although, you’re not going to be all of them, that wouldn’t make any sense. But please understand that this is a theoretical construct that you can use to identify with if it is helpful to you, not a label that I ascribe you with and that you are obliged to be carrying around with you, as if it were a mandatory primary school uniform – ok?

Here we go. The four types are The Farmer, The Fairy, The Hunter and The Shaman.

The Farmer is the typical, neurotypical person. Most people fall under this category. Because most people do, there is naturally a huge variation within this population. This is the type of person who is able to function relatively well in our current society. Even if it may not be the optimal life style for this category of human, a life that is governed by an imposed schedule to follow and hard work in a top down system, it is still manageable. This personality type is able to notice and conform to most social codes in the particular social system they are finding themselves in, whatever that may be.

The Fairy is the highly sensitive, neurotypical person. This is a person who is highly empathic and is able to sense other people, rendering them vulnerable to social situations. They often struggle with the expectations of our current system as it makes them depleted, but they are able to understand most other people’s thinking and ways of being in the world.

The Hunter is the ADHDer who is on a constant discovery of what is behind the next corner of the horizon. They are looking for change, stimulation and excitement and are very reactive to the environment so as to be able to catch the next object of their current interest. This type of person is struggling with making sense of time and is somewhat more prone to addictions compared to the neurotypicals due to having less access to dopamine – by design.

The Shaman is the autistic or bipolar type of human. The have a different sense of space and time and aren’t entirely in this world, but are visiting others spaces as well. This is often experienced as confusing for the person, who has to compensate for their rich – and sometimes chaotic – inner life by striving for control in the outer world. This type of person typically has some kind of disability or something unusual about them that also makes them access something other. This type of person is wired for autonomy and isn’t therefore designed to conform to the ways of the masses, however a society can be set up in ways that are more accommodating of this type of person as well as having a greater appreciation and understanding for the gifts that they bring.

Again – this is just something to play with. I can personally see myself in both the Shaman, Hunter and the Fairy – but not in the Farmer. Others will see themselves in another combination of the types. Take what resonates, and if nothing does, just forgive it and move on with your life.

Devotion of self instead of self-devotion

Devotion of self might sound a little narcissistic in our culture. We are taught that sacrificing ourselves for others is the noble thing to do, right? I am going to suggest a modification here. I do think it is noble and right to sacrifice ourselves for something larger than ourselves, only if we understand that we are also part of that Thing – that which is larger than ourselves.

A few years back I was working with the theme Motherhood & Codependency, deeply frustrated with both my own private situation in regard to these phenomena but also collective norms on Motherhood and love that – I will say boldly now – ain’t real love. We are still sold the idea of sacrificial love – I mean the kind that is at our own expense and to our own detriment – and that this is essentially what it means to be a good person. I want to challenge this view. I am not talking about temporarily putting your own needs aside to care for another, like a mother does when she has a small baby who needs constant care.

I am talking about that toxic, codependent energy that sucks the life out of you. That guilt and shame-ridden bad conscience arising within when I do not cater to another person’s request, even if I don’t have any time and energy to spare. Do you know the one I am talking about? Not everyone knows this feeling, but many of us do. And I do think this is embedded in our collective understanding of the meaning of Motherhood, sadly.

We can change this, if we choose to not agree to previously agreed upon norms. If we challenge it in our own life, we become the agents of change.

A good friend called me yesterday, and we were talking about this topic. She knows I have been working very hard with codependency, people-pleasing and boundaries in my life for many years, and is just embarking on her own journey in this area. For some of us, we have a lot of work to do, while others will find other areas of their lives to be more challenging. But this particular friend of mine is on a similar path to my own, and she described this pain of wanting to be there for this other person in need, but not finding the strength for it due to her own circumstances. And I can so relate to this feeling.

But there is a fallacy here, that I haven’t been able to spot before. The false assumption one makes, is to believe there are just the two of us in this equation, when this isn’t true. It is true – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy so to speak – to the extent that we believe that it is so. “I am in need and you are the only person in the world who can help me”. This ‘truth’ becomes very toxic when the person who is on the receiving end needs to go into self-betrayal and stretch themselves further than they have the capacity for. The reason why a person does this is usually because they themselves need something, unconsciously. They need to be liked and that voice of guilt within is screaming louder than the voice that says you cannot be of service at the moment.

The real truth is, that we live in an abundant universe. There aren’t just the two of us in this equation, but there are always going to be some component out there, another person perhaps, who is a better match. Someone who is available and willing to give from an overflowing cup.

If we devote ourselves to give to ourselves and to each other from this Wellspring – not from an empty reserve – we need to say NO sometimes and we will say YES at other times. We need to remember that we ourselves are part of that larger thing we want to give our devotion to, otherwise we don’t fully honour it.

A container for my texts

I am already a writer in that I am someone who writes, and someone who needs to write to stay sane in this world. I have had a job for the past seven years in which writing has been the main job description and I have the automatic urge to express myself in writing on my pages on social media. But now I want to do this differently.

I am not going to lie to you. I want to become a published author. I received a title for my book about a year ago (I am not going to reveal it to you now), and as soon as I finished my dissertation last year I opened a new document on my computer and started writing on it. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to work very well for me. I need an immediate audience for my text, I need that instant reward when I have finished a text. I was never officially diagnosed ADHD (only autistic) but I sure have many of the traits. I read a post this morning in one of the neurodiversity forums online where I hang out, that it is so difficult for people with ADHD to do things for what feels like a delayed reward, it has to feel instantly rewarding. When I write shorter posts that I get to publish instantaneously, I get that reward. The dopamine floods my system and I can get on with my day.

Another thing that dawned upon me yesterday – when I decided to start this blog – was that I am already writing this book. All the time. The (secret) title for my book is like a code, or an instruction. But I already operate within the book, and the messages that the spirit of this unborn book wants me to birth into the world are already pouring out of me. The majority of my posts revolve around the central them, and many of the things that I do in my lived life are embodied practices of the same message.

I am still not going to tell you the title of the book, but I will tell you roughly what it is about. It is to make us Sacred (again). To honor ourselves as living beings, not resources or empty vessels, and to make sense of our nature as both expansive and finite. I want to write about this using my own life as an example (micro) as well as looking at the bigger picture (macro) and how these two levels relate to each other. Does how I view and treat myself have a bearing on how we treat Mother Earth? Yes it does, will be part of my message.

How will this work then? Well, the idea is that I will write anything that comes through this code here on this blog, in this container. And when the timing is right, I hope to be able to weave the posts together into a coherent book.

Welcome to the Course

https://youtu.be/SKEDDRb41nU

Highly Sensitive & Neurodivergent Life: Infinite possibilities with limited resources

I am so excited to welcome you onboard on this journey that we will embark upon together on Sunday the 30th of January.

Every Sunday I will send you an email with the recorded teaching introducing the theme for the week. You will then have the chance to reflect upon it in the Facebook-group ‘Highly Sensitive & Neurodivergent Life’.

We will journey together for 9 weeks. I do hope that towards the end of this course, you will feel confident in your boundary-setting – whether in relation to yourself or towards others in your life – and that you will continue your life spending your energy wisely, where you truly want to put your focus. Only you know what is precious to you.

I can’t wait to start! See you soon.

With love, Ellinor