What do I mean?
Let's take some of our more uncomfortable emotions like resentment, frustration, anger, irritation. I know in my own life, I often hear my own self talk bemoaning the inadequacies of someone else and registering frustration or irritation, even anger. And of course I'm justified. I could present an engaging and convincing case that would persuade the most skeptical jury. Yet, on deeper reflection I come face to face with a rather uncomfortable truth about myself. My own judgemental attitude. My own unforgiveness. My own distinct lack of grace. I am (in effect) giving permission for all and sundry to annoy, cajole and irritate me and then I criticise them for it.
So, how can I (and by association you) manage our permissions more effectively? Here are three principles which I have found to be life giving both personally and professionally as I work with individuals, couples and leaders.
Now this is hard. If we really take this principle on board, we are going to be assuming the best about others and we will be responding to them accordingly -with compassion, understanding and love.
2. Take responsibility for what we need and want and communicate those needs to others.
This is also harder than it seems. In our significant relationships we often assume that our family, friends, partner should just "know" what we need by some form of osmosis which we tell ourselves is tangible evidence of their regard or love for us. Then, when our needs remain un-met instead of examining ourselves or our unhelpful beliefs we can "blame" them for their thoughtlessness. This lets us "off the hook" and enables us to feel justified in our misery! However, If we take responsibility for what we need and let others know, we become a participant in the relational dynamics and co-creators of our own emotional well being.
3. Establish healthy boundaries
There is a fabulous line in one of my favourite Julia Roberts films "Pretty Woman" in which she plays the part of a prostitute hired to be a "companion with benefits" to a wealthy businessman and when speaking of her "profession" she says "I say who, I say when and I say how much". It's a classic line because its about "boundaries". Do we choose who we let speak into our lives? Do we invite feedback at appropriate times? Do we count the cost of not being honest with others about what is okay with us?
When we establish healthy boundaries in our relationships, when we take responsibility for our own needs and communicate them clearly, and when we work from the fundamental premise that people are genuinely doing the best that they can with the resources available to them, maybe we will manage our relational "Permissions" in more life giving ways. Maybe, we will access more compassion and grace than we thought possible. Maybe we will end up denying access to regret, recrimination and revenge and just maybe, we may find ourselves with the "permission" to live a more wholehearted and fulfilled life.