In my four-decades-and-some-change on this planet, I’ve developed a little practice that makes my life easier. I call it Impossibility Spotting (IS), and whenever I’m feeling stuck, cranky AF, resentful, or some other swirl of angsty unpleasantness, I try to engage in a little IS.

Basically, IS asks you to name the rules you’re operating by instead of letting them run in the background, yanking at your puppet strings until you’re a frazzled mess. When I’m in a funk, it often becomes apparent, very quickly, that I’ve been trying to navigate with thoroughly contradictory, utterly impossible rules.

There are a couple of ways I practice IS, which we’ll get to shortly, but first, I want to look at some impossible rules in action. Here’s a big one that has taken me a long time to shift (still a process, but it gets easier by the day!).

The rules are as follows:

  1. I have to get out there and do all sorts of impressive things. No resting! Only doing!
  2. I must never ever make a mistake.

Now, adding the second rule to any situation automatically generates an impossibility, so there’s that, but expecting myself to do and create and take risks and put myself out there…while never ever making a mistake? I mean, where do we even begin with how impossible that is??

Other examples:

You can never directly express your needs, but you must find a way to feel deeply seen and heard in your relationships.

External validation is required in order to be/feel worthy, but if you seek external validation you’re needy and unworthy.

Good people don’t feel resentful, but you’re never allowed to say no to requests.

All of these are real head scratchers, aren’t they? And I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to succeed (unsuccessfully) at every one!

It’s also been illuminating to reflect on how these wonky constraints have played out in my family of origin. When the unceasing pressure to flawlessly deliver becomes, understandably, too much to bear, this exacerbates:

– addiction, particularly alcoholism, workaholism, and love addiction

– deep-seated cynicism (the world is out to get you, and anyone who succeeds has obviously sold out, is an idiot, greedy, etc.)*

– isolation stemming from said cynicism (everybody else is more or less an idiot, so don’t waste your time opening up–or they’re better than you and thus a threat–again, better not open up)

*Wait, so I absolutely MUST succeed, but I’m also horrible if I do?? Um…

Perhaps most limiting, though, is the rock solidness of these beliefs, the absolute conviction that this POV is just how things are, full stop. I can’t recall a single conversation, growing up, where someone was reflecting on these beliefs in a curious manner, perhaps wondering if, hey, maybe shitty past experiences have smudged the windshield, but is that really how the landscape looks in every direction? How do we know for sure? Maybe could we grab a rag and wipe some of this smadge off?

Instead, people would argue for their limitations and try to convince others to believe them, too.

If someone suggested things might be different from this dismal view, they were dismissed as naive, floating with their head in the clouds, with the unspoken assumption that reality would soon show them the error of their dreaming ways.

Underneath, what I’ve come to find in myself is fear, plain and simple.

Fear of trying (I might fail).

Fear of other people seeing me trying (I might fail).

Fear of others knowing that I care, that I’m invested, the vulnerability this entails (I might fail).

Fear that I’ll know I care, I’ll know that I’m invested (I might fail).

Instead of learning how to take really good care of myself when fear arose, I saw fear as further proof that I wasn’t perfect (other, perfect people didn’t feel this way), proof that I really, truly couldn’t make a mistake. Fear became the “proof” that I should be fearful, a circular argument if ever there was one.

From this headspace, the “rules” are fixed: you must do amazing things, and you must never ever make a mistake.

If you’re not out there doing amazing things, you “have to” beat yourself up for being lazy.

If you’re out there doing things and they’re not amazing, then you “have to” beat yourself for not being perfect.

Basically, I was trying to play the game of life on the beat-up board handed to me in childhood, but let’s be real–who wants to play this game? Not me! It totally sucks. No fun! Zero stars given!

What if, instead, you get to choose a different game with different rules? (You totally get to have wolves in your movie, dammit!)

Why not play a game that honors your skills, your interests, your passions, instead of one that requires you to always be something else, something “more,” something “better”?

This is how I see psychology and magic, both: tools for choosing a different game, one that you are joyfully, exuberantly good at, just by being you.

All right, so how do you Impossibility Spot?

My two favorite ways are:

  • Talking to inner parts. I start with whatever situation feels super stressful, and I go inward to meet the parts who have me locked in no-win constraints. Helping those parts feel connected to Self works wonders in releasing nonsense “rules.” (It’s easy to learn how!)
  • Journaling about the situation until I can name the inner and/or outer expectations I’m trying to meet. For instance, maybe I’m stressed about an upcoming family trip, and I see on the page that I need a hermit-cave-on-the-go (aka my own hotel room) in order to stay centered and actually enjoy people’s company, but this is juxtaposed with a “rule”/fear that says this isn’t allowed, maybe because it’s rude, standoffish, [fill in the blank with untrue adjectives of choice]. Guess what? I’m totally allowed! Isn’t that great? Change the game, meet your needs, and set yourself up to actually enjoy your life.

If you grew up in a wounded family system, “winning” your childhood game will not make you happy.

It’s also impossible, so thank heavens it’s not at all a requirement for happiness, amiright?

Giving yourself permission to play a different game, far from being irresponsible or selfish, is a profound act of self-responsibility, an act of choosing your values and living in accordance with them to the best of your beautifully fallible human ability.

There’s nothing more adult–and more magical–than that.

Happy Full Moon!

Do you use sigils in your magical practice?

They’re one of my favorite spellcasting tools for a very simple reason: they work eerily well.

This month in the Portal, we’re taking it step-by-step, learning how to craft strong intentions, create potent sigils with magical scripts, and choose the ideal astrological timing for their activation.

If you sign up today, the first sigil email will have already gone out, but never fear! Just click on the Portal Archives link in your welcome email, and you’ll have access to all back issues. 🙂

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