Two weekends ago, I attended a two day workshop entitled "Relationship Bootcamp". In case anyone was wondering what mediators do for fun on the weekends, now you know! This intensive retreat taught relational living as the ultimate goal for all human beings. That we seek connection as a fundamental aspect of our nature. We all want intimacy, but not many of us come by it very easily.

Terry Real (Institute for Relational Living) who facilitated the workshop has been a teacher of mine for several years. Someone who has applied as much tough love to me, as I am touched by his deep ability to see me, know me, and connect to me. A living example of what he teaches, no doubt. Terry tells me, “Elizabeth, you are grandiose and boundary-less!” Hurtful? Shocking? Untrue? No. Unfortunately, that is pretty much right on the money and he says it with love!

He has a theory that most people deal with their inability to connect to others by either going “one up” on them, or going “one down”. When we interact or come into contact with someone that we don’t want to connect to, we either decide we are better than they are or worse than they are. We refuse to see the humanity in that person, or in ourself. We all tend in one direction or the other, although I am quite capable of both, I’ll have you know.

But that isn’t the end. According to Terry, I am also boundary-less. Ouch! Boundary-less people invade other people’s space, by talking too much, getting inappropriately angry, accusatory, pointing fingers, picking on, nagging, being overly controlling, having to be right and insisting on having it their way. They love to start sentences with “YOU….” Sound familiar to anyone?

The opposite of Boundary-less is Walled off. Those that shut down, disappear, get profoundly distracted, unavailable – even if just internally. Heavy drinkers are walling off. Busy people can be walled off. They won’t engage in an emotional conversation with anything real. They explain it away. They distance themselves when connection is required. They can leave you, even while they remaining standing right there. I hate to admit that I am quite capable of this one too!

So, that leaves us with four types of folks: 1) one up and boundary-less, 2) one up and walled off. 3) One down and boundary-less and 4) one down and walled off. These would be the barriers to having the connection we all crave. These tendencies are in all of us. They are what keeps us from having the close friendship, the intimate partner we feel we can count on, the harmony in our community, or enjoyment in our extended family. We teach our children how to not to connect, as we role model it for them.

The goal is the center. Isn’t that so often true! If you tend to go one up on people, correct yourself. Come back to seeing others as equally valuable in the world as you are. If you tend to go one down on people, pull yourself back up with an affirmation that you are as good as anyone. If you blow through people’s boundaries, work to contain yourself. If you disappear on others, turn back to them, and try to open the door again.

Thank you Terry for that amazing teaching and something I continue to strive for – a minute-to-minute practice, as you say.


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