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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 is it?

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?


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