It doesn’t happen often, but when someone willfully violates my boundaries and I am struggling to respond constructively (or just to hold my ground), it takes a heavy toll on me – and my body pays the price.
I’ve learned recently that many of us absorb our feelings deep into our bodies. Rather than resolving issues that may require us to confront people we’d love to avoid, we push the hurt down, away from our thoughts to a place deep in our spirits, and we tell ourselves that we’re handling it well.
But we’re not.
A book I’m reading now makes clear that our health (and fertility) is profoundly affected by our thoughts and feelings. When we feel helpless and hopeless – or when we push our emotions so far from our consciousness, we can’t even say what we feel – negative physical consequences often result.
How? Research has shown that anxious, worried, stressed, frustrated, anguished, hostile thoughts and feelings have the power to alter our immune systems, making it hard to fight off sickness. They can undermine our sleep, making it harder to recover through rest. They can affect our concentration, making it difficult to think clearly and make good choices. And much, much more.
Bottom line, they can become the enemy within.
That was the epiphany for me.
I’ve realized that when I allow negative thoughts and feelings to dwell in my spirit, I open the door to all sorts of bad consequences. The chain reaction starts off simply enough. My skin breaks out, or my shoulders ache. I narrowly avoid an accident or somehow provoke an argument because I’m tired and distracted. I’m not hungry, so I don’t eat. Without the energy to exercise, I skimp on that, too. Soon, good self-care falls by the wayside. And before you know it, I look bad and I feel worse.
Without realizing it, my dark mood – and all the negative thoughts and feelings it procreates — propels me toward poor choices that reinforce my sense that everything’s coming against me. It becomes self-fulfilling: Bad leads to worse, and worse, and even worse…. Then, someone says, “Are you sick? You don’t look good.” The vicious cycle accelerates and within hours – or even minutes — my perception is altered without my realizing it and it affects my ability to see things clearly.
An emotional death spiral begins – and soon, it becomes a spiritual one, too. God feels very far away.
Sound at all familiar?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
The enemy is always seeking a stronghold in our spirits – a place of anger, fear or self-pity that will enable him to set up camp and attack us from within. It is an opportunistic assault launched when we feel vulnerable (helpless, hopeless) and alone.
We opened the door. And we can close it.
How? By asking God to fight our battles.
That’s what I did recently. I affirmed my right to healthy boundaries, backed away from the person who set off my downward spiral, and asked the Lord to work in his spirit – to convinct him, show him the damage he’d done, and free me from the burden of either defending myself or engaging in an unwelcome “battle” over whether he did me wrong.
I’m confident my body will thank me… as soon as my hands stop shaking.