According to Wikipedia “Colonization is a process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components. The term is derived from the Latin word colere, which means “to inhabit.””
So are you thinking about an interaction with someone and playing it over and over in your head? Are you dreading, yet hoping for that next critical email to land in your inbox just to get receiving it over with? Worse, do you spend an hour of your time trying to answer it perfectly?
Your brain is officially colonized.
Here’s the thing: there are plenty of troubled people who have such a difficult time being with their own pain that they will literally try to implant it in someone else. Think back: if you’re honest, you were that person at some point or other.
In other words, if you find yourself sucked into a swirling vortex of shame and anger, take it from me, its time to seek triage from someone safe before you infect/colonize others with your anguish. Do not try to communicate ‘til you’ve calmed down.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a triggered individual, and you’re a sensitive, intuitive person, you’re the perfect mark for their misplaced blame.
Expanding on our metaphor of colonization: if a country was not shaped or developed by humans, it was considered vacant. Up for grabs. The idea of hunting and gathering and living in sync with nature did not qualify as existing.
To a troubled person, you do not exist. You are vacant. They fill you with their projection.
That’s why it takes training and expertise to help chronically troubled people, (and they must be willing to do the introspective work to recover). If you’re simply a civilian in their life, you must learn how to maintain your borders. Otherwise, these unconscious conquerers experience their behavior as working for them. And in a twisted way, it is. Its a twisted form of connection. It’s toxic to you, and in the long run, it doesn’t work for them either.
We all know these people. Sometimes they’re called “family.” They’re what I like to call “inconvenient to love.”
But it’s not impossible if you learn how to manage them. And you can only do that if you recognize that they’re colonizing your brain, and take responsibility for protecting its borders.
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I once had a coach describe boundaries as great big schooner sails. They catch the wind so you can direct the boat. Without them, you would just get tossed about the sea. And what strikes me is that they are majestically high. And broad at the base. Not easy to topple.
So what do your schooner sales look like? Not having long conversations by email? Sticking within a meeting time whether the issues are resolved or not? One thing I learned from an Imago therapist was to imagine that you’re wearing a bulletproof vest every time you engage with someone who sees you as their problem. Try repeating back what they say, under the guise of checking whether you’ve heard them correctly. It can have a clarifying effect.
And hard as it may be, never step into a power struggle with them by returning critical fire.
Bottom line: when it comes to your mind, this land is your land.