Are you struggling with an upper limit problem? What IS an upper limit problem?
It’s a term coined by Gay Hendricks in one of my favourite books, The Big Leap. It’s the idea that we all have an upper limit of what we believe we deserve, or is safe to have, so we will unconsciously engineer something happening to bring you back down.
I had my very own one of these last week.
The irony was I was also listening to another of Gay Hendricks’ books and it was talking about upper limit problems WHEN it happened.
We all talk about having an inner voice. We usually know it to be in the form of the inner critic.
That nasty piece of work that thinks to protect you it has to send nasty thoughts of self doubt, the ‘who am I to do this’ or ‘you’re so stupid’…that one.
But do you listen to, or do you even notice, the subtle little inner voice that tells you when things aren’t right, or not to do something? The one that tells you what’s a good idea and what’s not.
It’s quieter but the more you tune into it the more it can help steer you, often in the right direction.
My little voice talked to me and I ignored it because I was tired. The more you do this the more you’ll notice yourself overriding it…whoops!
I was walking to the train station after an amazing 4 days away with my glorious friends and colleagues staying at various 5 star hotels around Manchester because the 3 of us live in different parts of the country.
We had spa treatments, dinners, great conversation and mapped out an incredibly exciting, and what we believe will be game changing programme that will be launching October/November time.
I was tired but I was feeling REALLY good.
Now, I’m aware I have an upper limit when it comes to joy and happiness and it’s something I have to be conscious of.
We all have this to an extent. Whether it’s joy, love, happiness. Mine is linked to a deep trauma from when I was 11 years old and I was away at a new boarding school and my best friend from back home passed away unexpectedly.
I was happy, full of joy, feeling accepted and having a great time. I got the message that my other friend was on the phone for me. Back then we had 2 phone boxes that you used with little cards and a code you could type in to dial. I’m feeling very old now.
I was overjoyed when someone said ‘Frankie, your friend Ellie is on the phone for you’.
I was even more happy and felt loved that my friend had thought of me to call me.
Then my world came crashing around me and I now recognise the deep profound effect this one moment of trauma had over many areas of my life.
I got on the phone, happy, joyful, excited to speak to her, telling her I had just written a letter to Damian. She cut me off and said ‘I don’t think he’s going to get that Frankie.’
I said ‘oh no why, has he moved?’, to which she said no and stayed silent for a moment and then I said something strange because I couldn’t find the words, i’m not religious or anything but I just said ‘Is he up’.
She said yes.
Now, what happened in my young unconscious mind was to connect the dots that if i’m too happy, pain follows. If I’m too happy, the rug will get pulled out from under you. If I’m too happy, something bad will happen.
And it’s only upon doing the deep work I can now see how many times that pattern has played out in my life so it’s something I have to be conscious of and allow myself to sit in the tension that joy and happiness unconsciously creates.
You wonder why I’m always saying awareness is the number one skill you need in life!
The experience doesn’t have to be that dramatic either. It could be you were having a great time riding a bike and then you fell off.
Or playing in a tree and hurting yourself. It could be any number of things but you can see that if you have a deep unconscious belief that it’s unsafe to feel those emotions, your nervous system, your ego, your brain….will step in to protect you from it.
Until you become conscious and aware of it and know how to regulate your emotions and know how to give your nervous system and brain the cues of safety. Then it will expand your comfort zone and window of tolerance. Which is essentially your capacity to deal with life.
It takes practice and you won’t always catch yourself in it. You’re human. I’m a human and I didn’t catch it this time but I still learned a valuable lesson in the process so I won’t beat myself up for it.
So there I was happy as Larry on my way home and excited after these few days. I was about to come to a curb with my wheelie suitcase.
I had the thought of ‘oooh i’m not going to be sensible and let the suitcase stop rolling at the curb and pick it up’ No no, I thought i’d have way more fun, be cocky and try to swing it.
I heard that little ‘don’t do it, that’s not a good idea’ voice and ignored it.
If you’re squeamish or haven’t seen my instagram stories I apologise in advance and you might want to skip forward a few seconds and we’ll just say I caused myself an injury.
In swinging the suitcase It didn’t go where I thought it was going to, I tripped over it and my toes hit the curb and while I turned round on my butt sitting on the floor and thought, oooh that hurt. (thankfully, things like falling over in public doesn’t phase me at all, i’m the first to laugh at myself) but as I looked at my foot I saw a lot of blood and it turned out I had ripped off and out one of my toenails. Along with some skin.
It was a mess.
It bled…a lot. I didn’t know a toe could bleed that much. (Hopefully you’re glad I gave you the warning now!)
I’m now feeling rather sorry for myself and hobbling around everywhere and sad that my beautifully pedicured toe is not going to be wedding ready for our friend’s wedding in a couple of weeks… DOH!
But this was a stark reminder that if you don’t stay aware these unconscious come downs will happen.
This could be around happiness, success, love, money, closeness in relationships, the ability to relax. We may have common behaviours where we sabotage this. That could be drinking, binge eating, avoiding, saying something we don’t really mean and causing an argument. But we can also unconsciously cause illness, or injury. Another great example is lottery winners that blow it all and end up in a worse position than before they won.
It’s our ego’s way of bringing us back down to the baseline. The safety of the familiar, inside our comfort zones.
The more aware of these sabotaging patterns you are the easier it gets to recognise it and do something about it.
The more aware you are and the more you have the ability to regulate your emotions the less this will happen. You’ll be able to see it for what it is rather than feeling like the victim of it.
This is why I’m always saying not to try to go from 0-100 in 60 seconds flat. Allow yourself to take baby steps. Allow yourself to dip your toe in the water and then another and another as your nervous system catches up to the fact that it’s safe for you to take action and it’s safe for you to feel a certain way.
If there’s something you want in your life, think about where your upper limit problem may have come into play.
What might be the experiences and beliefs, whether yours, parents or society that have shaped the notion that it’s not ‘safe’ to have.
The more you recognise it, the less you’ll beat yourself up for it or continue to believe that you’re a flawed individual.
And…don’t wear flip flops with a wheelie suitcase!
Fran Excell, Subconscious Success Mentor – Helping Business Owners Overcome Stress & Self Sabotage at www.franexcell.com
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