What Is Your Limit?

3 Oct

WRITEOUS CHICKS NEWSLETTER – October 2008

What Is Your Limit?

 

“We are programmed that we cannot feel good for very long without invoking some negative experience to bring us down.  Our programming tells us we must have fun/have a crash, get close/get sick, be close/start a fight.  We have an old association between feeling good and pain, so that when we feel good for a little while we find some way to create pain.  Most of us cannot be close to others for very long without creating a problem to limit the positive energy.  Similarly, we cannot be close and loving with ourselves for more than a few seconds before we find ourselves in pain.”

     -“Conscious Loving” by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. & Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D., pp. 124-125

 

In their book “Conscious Loving,” Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks define the Upper Limits problem in the above excerpt, explaining that we have a limit of how happy we will allow ourselves to feel, and once we meet or surpass that limit, we start doing things to sabotage ourselves and our happiness, and bring ourselves back to our comfort level of lesser happiness.  They further explain that this is why a couple might spend an incredible weekend together, feeling close and happy, and at the end of the weekend, someone will pick a fight or get sick.  He or she reached his or her limit of happiness and does something to create distance, and cut away at that happiness.

 

Last month, my 6-year-old computer got overtaken by viruses.  I had not backed up most of my files, and thought I was going to lose everything I had ever written plus all my documents for my business.  In a panic, I speed-walked across my neighborhood to a computer genius I know’s apartment, and dropped off my computer.  He told me he would call me when he had news, and I proceeded to enter into a downward spiral of increased panic. 

 

Almost a week later I still hadn’t heard from him and I imagined the worst, and the pit of anxiety in my stomach was a constant companion.  I was also experiencing major Internet withdrawal so I headed to Best Buy to check out the computers thinking I could just buy one on the spot, and at least have email access again and maintain contact with the outside world.  When I got there, I was totally overwhelmed and realized I had no idea what any of the technology lingo meant, and that I didn’t know what I wanted or needed in a computer.  My potentially lost files still on my mind, I asked a salesperson what the chances of my computer being rescued were, and explained that I thought it had about 15 viruses.  He responded that he had never heard of a computer having so many viruses and usually they only have one or two, and gave me a sympathetic look as if to say, “Don’t count on it.”

 

Melting down in Best Buy I started to cry and ran outside, where I immediately called my Dad.  He talked me down from my ledge and told me he would take me to J&R Computer World that weekend to get a new computer.  

 

On Sunday, I met my Dad downtown and with his assistance I easily found an amazing computer, which he then helped me set up.  That night I sat at my desk beaming at my gorgeous, fast, state-of-the-art new computer.  It turns out they had made a lot of technological advances since I got my last computer in 2002!  I had been putting off getting a new computer for a long time but this provided me with the kick I needed to make the upgrade.  I was so excited about all the things I would write on my new computer, and all the ways that running my business would now become much easier and more efficient.  And I had spent a great day with my Dad, who had so generously and very last minute dropped his weekend plans to help me pick out a computer and all the necessary accoutrements, set it up for me, and realizing that I needed some levity to take my mind off my still unresolved old computer issues, cheered me up by joking that the secret to happiness was a good anti-virus program.  I was in short, after a week of living in constant anxiety about losing all my files, feeling very, very happy.

 

Then, as I was trying to pull the printer cord out from behind my desk to plug it in, the heavy unwieldy cord smashed against the computer screen and scratched it.  I totally had an “I don’t want to take my Cabbage Patch Kid out of the box” moment.  (When I was 8-years-old and after months of waiting, my sister and I got our first highly in-demand Cabbage Patch Kid, and I did not want to take it out of the box; I wanted to keep Christina Eartha pristine and perfect in her container.  When I did take her out of the box to play, some neighborhood kids threw her up in the air and she landed face-down on the concrete of a parking lot, chipping her nose, which was not cute.  My next Cabbage Patch Kid I kept much closer to home.)  I got angry at myself for damaging my computer on the first day I got it, and soon, all I could focus on was how careless I was and how the screen was now scratched (the scratches, by the way, were minute and only visible if I pressed my face up to the screen, which I don’t often have cause to do).

 

But then I realized what was happening.  I had hit my limit.  After a week of stress and anxiety I was finally feeling great.  But I couldn’t take much of this great feeling and it only lasted for a little while before I found something, anything, to chip away at my happiness and bring it back down.  And, furthermore, this had very little to do with the scratched computer screen/Cabbage Patch Kid situation, and was an ongoing pattern in my life.  Something great will happen and I will feel elated for a few minutes at most, before I start obsessing about something I did wrong in the past, or worrying about something that could go wrong in the future.  By the way, worrying is one of the most effective ways I know of chipping away at happiness.  And this can happen in any number of situations – you get a new job and then worry you won’t be able to handle it; you have a fantastic date and then if you haven’t heard from the guy in a day, obsess about what you did or said wrong and why he is never going to call you again; something wonderful big thing happens and then some small goes wrong, and all you can focus on is that small inconvenience and you forget about the huge fabulous thing.  It is so difficult to feel happy and then allow yourself to revel in this and enjoy it uninterrupted.

 

So why would anyone deliberately not allow themselves to be happy?  There are a couple of reasons.  One is feeling like you don’t deserve beyond a certain level of happiness (or lack of happiness) that you are accustomed to.  Another is the fear that if you let yourself feel happy you will just be a sitting duck for the other shoe to drop and some bad thing to happen.  Happiness, although something that most of us desire and strive for, can feel very very uncomfortable.  So we go back to what we know, even if it is characterized by unhappiness and worry.

 

So what can you do?  Pay attention.  Notice when you feel happy, if it is immediately followed by some kind of negative internal dialogue that brings you right back down.  Recognize your limit, the point of happiness which you will not allow yourself to surpass and start to push your limits, bit by bit.  Call yourself out when you hear those worried thoughts taking you down and tell yourself that this is just a trick to chip away at your own joy.  And maybe this week your limit will be a little higher and you will allow a smidgen more of happiness into your life.  And maybe next month you will revel in a recent accomplishment, and in six months you will let your relationship deepen, and in year, you will have huge spans of uninterrupted contentment and happiness.  Remind yourself daily that you deserve to be happy and that for you, the sky’s the limit!

 

Postscript:  The computer genius saved my old computer and I have since backed up all my files.  Let this serve as a reminder if you have not backed up your files in a while…

 

Wishing you limitless happiness!!!

 

Lots of love!

 

Jen xoxo

 

Have you had any run-ins with your Upper Limit?  Post a comment and share your story! 

 

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

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3 Responses to “What Is Your Limit?”

  1. Christina DEEV October 4, 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    OMG! MY upper limit has come out of the closet like a closet monster at every slumber party –
    it’s here before you know it choking the happiness right out of what is left of my evening or afternoon!
    thank you so much for grasping at this subject, bc I will SAVE your writing to my desktop and the next time I’m in a choke hold, I will read, recognize and withdraw.
    Love you DEEV!
    Will call you tomorrow, family is here today xo

  2. Wade December 1, 2008 at 11:17 pm #

    I believe life is a journey of progressive happiness and you should never, ever put a limit to your purpose in life, that is, to be happy as can be.

  3. Patranila December 22, 2008 at 7:08 pm #

    I have rubbed against my Upper Limit many times and I mostly feel like I’ll simply float away if I’m too happy. My misery grounds me. Ugh!

    And Jen, visit my blog at http://www.patranila.blogspot.com. You’ve been TAGGED!!

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