Inspirational Articles

The Box

The Box

By Gord Riddell & Kathy Ryndak

A few years ago a client asked if he could get a couple of the rules book. When asked what he was referring too, he replied that everyone seemed to know the rules as to how things were supposed to be and he felt out in left field because he had no idea what the rules were. He was becoming quite convinced that there had to be a rule book. While the story is true and humourous the fact is we all operate from a set of internal rules that we may or may not be aware of. These rules, until they become conscious, dictate our behaviour, feelings and expectations of our self and others.

While rules can be important on a larger scale to help maintain some order in the society at large, rules can get in the way of our personal lives if the rules were imposed by others and then assimilated into our psyches. In order to be clear, the rules we are referring to are not what are considered laws of the land but personal rules that tell us how to be and how others are supposed to be. We began to receive these rules from our parents as very young children, they can be as harmless as having to be tidy and pick up our things, always clean your plate when eating, to more rigid rules such as boys don't cry or nice girls don't show their anger.

The Box

The rules we have taken on are like bricks in a house. One by one they are placed upon the other until there is a structure. Unlike a house though, our bricks are made up of rules. One rule after another built this box, often with very high walls and the sad thing is, there is no door. Often the rules keep us trapped inside this box without the freedom to come and go as we please. In essence we loose our freedom of choice and remain trapped within the box.

Whenever we do attempt to jump the walls and break free we often end up feeling guilty, ashamed or have a lot of anxiety. These rules which we have been acquiring throughout our life from parents, teachers, other authority figures, even Miss Manners, are imbedded with a strong emotional element within us. It is more the emotional reaction to the rules than the actual rule which keep us from transgressing and trapped within the box. Even if no one knows that we stepped outside of our box, our feelings can be strong enough to drive us right back into it.

The box can also be a safe comfortable place to live. The human psyche loves to be safe and maintain the status quo. The more we strive to stay within our comfort zone however the more we rob our self of the chance to grow and learn new possibilities. We cannot grow from what we already know and we do not learn from what are unwilling to experience. So the walls of this box become the shield that robs of new choices and new, more exciting ways to experience our life.


Now, not only is our life controlled by the rules but we extend these rules to everyone else we know and assume that they are on the same page as we are from the imaginary rule book. We expect people to act, think, feel and behave just like us. Why? Because those are the rules! We find it incredulous when someone acts contrary to our rules. The rules we have destroy individuality by assuming we are all the same. Our assumption becomes an expectation and that is the doorway every time to disappointment.

When we are disappointed in someone or an event, it is because we expected them to act in a certain way. We expected the outcome of an event to be a certain way. We are consistently disappointed throughout our life because we expected one thing and got something else. It definitely challenges our control issues as we attempt to make our expectation a reality. But disappointment is the universe's way of forcing us to look at something differently and hopefully learn from it. Disappointment when understood allows us to remove a brick or two from the wall of our box and let some more light in. It also lets us see more of who we are and more of who other people are. No two people are alike and no two people are on the same path as we are. We may share a path for a period of time but ultimately the paths diverge as we actualize our individual natures.

To avoid disappointment in our live we must put less energy into outcomes and expectations. When we open our self to whatever the outcome we are more open to embrace possibilities and thus there is a lot more gratitude in our life that there is disappointment. It allows you to feel much freer and gives others in your life the same choice of being who they are. The less expectations you have, the more often you will be pleasantly surprised.

To free yourself from the box you must be willing to challenge the rules and expectations you have of your self and others. Some of the rules you will want to keep. They can form the basis of our value system. An example may be, to never hit someone. This is a good rule and a strong value to have. The difference between rules and values are, rules are unconscious. Values on the other hand are arrived at through being conscious and making choices about how you choose to live your life. Breaking through your rules and challenging them will make you uncomfortable and perhaps somewhat anxious but that is always the way with human growth. The more uncomfortable we become the greater the chances of really making some changes in our life. The trick though is too keep pushing through the discomfort and not let it force you back into the box. Often if we feel uncomfortable enough we retreat back behind the walls of the box so we can once again feel safe and comfortable.

We all have the choice of feeling free in our life to experience our own dreams, visions and fantasies. We must though make an effort to tear down the walls of the box and live from our inner voice and not the voice and rules of others. In turn we allow others in our life the same freedom to be who they are and need to be. It is time to stop decorating your box to make it more palatable and risk tearing it down to see how much space there really is for you to live in.