Moving Easy in the Harness
Imagine what it must have been like to be a working horse
on a farm in the old days. You'd be strapped into a harness and for
hours on end you'd be pulling a load behind you. Some days the load
might be lighter than others, but there was always a load. Some days,
the farmer cinched up your harness so tight it made getting through
the day a nightmare. Loads that were too heavy or harnesses that were
too tight wore you down, so at the end of the day you dreamed of an
easier day tomorrow. At the end of your life, you were broken down.
Like work horses, we all wear harnesses of one kind or another. Some
are role harnesses, where we have obligations to fulfill. If the role
is demanding, the load will be heavy. For example, if you're a care
giver for an elderly relative or friend, the load may be so heavy it
strains you to the limit. You'd love to get free of the harness because
it's so tough, but you know you can't. So, day after day, you toil,
faithful to your duty.
When we're in several demanding roles, the load can get so heavy, we
break from it. Illness may set in for a time, which gives us the chance
to unbuckle the harness and get a bit of rest. People who carry those
heavy loads, and there are a lot of them, must have a fair amount of
misery in their lives. So, what keeps them in harness carrying such
heavy loads? Obligation, social pressure, ambition, reputation, image,
and financial worries are a few of the reasons. Instead of making life
into the heaven it is, it becomes a hellish existence.
There are other kinds of harnesses that form from our beliefs. Someone
who has extreme political or religious beliefs can be restricted by
the harness their beliefs create for them. There are also harnesses
that arise from beliefs we hold about ourselves. When our identities
are too strict, the harness becomes too tight. When the harness is too
tight and the load is too heavy, our beliefs can make us (and others)
miserable. Just like our role obligations, we can't seem to find a way
to loosen the grip of our beliefs. Is there a way to move easier in
our harnesses? Yes, but it takes a bit of awareness and a willingness
to make a change.
What does it mean to "move easy in the harness"? The straps of the harness
are not too tight and the load being pulled is not too heavy. By working
through the following process, you'll have a chance to make changes
in your thinking, beliefs, and behavior so you can move more easily
in your harnesses.
Learning Process: Getting To Know Your Harnesses
On a piece of paper write down all the harnesses you
choose to put on or obligation forces you to wear. You can make a list
or scatter them around the page.
Now circle your most restrictive and demanding harness. It would be
the one where you feel bound too tightly and where the load is heavy.
On a new page, write the name of that harness at the top of the page.
Below, describe the restrictions the harness imposes on you and how
tight it feels. Be as detailed as you can.
Next, write about the load. What exactly are you pulling? How heavy
Sometimes we stay in harnesses because they give us benefits or feelings
of accomplishment and satisfaction. What are you getting from being
in this harness? Describe what you're getting in detail.
If what you are getting is not worth the misery, would you like to take
this harness off? If so, how will you do it? When will you do it?
If you decide to stay in the harness, write about options you see for
loosening it. It might be related to changing your beliefs about the
situation or the story you're telling about it. See if, by changing
your beliefs or your perspective of the situation, you can loosen the
straps of the harness even a little bit. When you do, you'll feel a
greater sense of freedom and less stress.
Let's turn to the load now. Take a few minutes to reflect on ways of
reducing the load you're carrying. With your harness loosened, are you
freer to cut back the size of the load? Where exactly will you cut back?
To lighten your load, can you enlist the help of others to help you
carry it? Who are they, what will you ask them to do, and when will
you contact them?
Close your eyes and imagine being in this harness after the straps are
loosened and the load is reduced. You'll still be in the harness but
moving easy in it.
As a final step, take five minutes to write about how your life will
change, even in little ways, when you are moving easy in this harness.
We can't escape living in harnesses and pulling loads. It"s part of
being human, but we can control how tight our harnesses are clinched
up and how heavy a load we're willing to carry. One of the reasons we
become stressed out and unhappy is that we don't pause to reflect on
our harnesses. Without that reflection, we fall into automatic patterns,
carrying heavy loads in harnesses that are digging into our flesh. Why
would anyone want to live that way? Why would you?