Do you have an Upper Limit Problem?

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Have you ever even heard of the Upper Limit Problem? I had not until a few months ago when my friendship with my partner-in-crime-and-podcasting, Debbie Jo, told me about it. The Upper Limit Problem is a concept first written about by Gay Hendricks, in his book The Big Leap. The Upper Limit Problem, in a nutshell, is the ways in which we sabotage ourselves when we've reached success -- or a rung of success on our personal life achievement ladder.

Whenever the stakes get high(er) or we reach a level of success that is higher than what we've experienced before, enter the sabotage.

So, say for instance, you get a huge raise at work or switch to a new, better, shinier job, with a huge increase in salary... Then you get into a car accident and total your car, creating financial hardship for yourself all over again.

Or, you get sick before an important event or whenever some big moment is coming. I used to get rampant sinus infections before every fundraising event at a former nonprofit job, at which I was really fucking good at writing grants and raising money.

It happens in personal relationships too.

I had a lot of trauma in my adolescence and I have some abandonment issues. So every time I've had a relationship get serious, like say when my current partner asked me to move in with him, I start doing things to push people away and test the relationship. It's kind of the same shit I would see kids in therapeutic foster care do. And I think now, looking back, it was part of my Upper Limit Problem.

My own recent Upper Limit Problem

So, my personal Upper Limit Problem, and this may be because I am a chronic pain and invisible illness Spoonie, seems to manifest physically. FUN, right? No.

I'll give you some examples of what I've been noticing lately.

  • The day I got all kinds of cool shit done for my Podcast and book (you can follow along for more about that, HERE.)

The Monday after July 4th, I spent all day working on awesome things for my life and these new ventures I'm embarking on. Debbie Jo and I had spent all day testing our recording equipment and mics, logging on to various websites and registering for our recording platform and our hosting platform, buying a domain for a future website, etc. I also purchased ISBN codes for my pending book publication and was communicating with the designer that would design the layout of the book in its entirety and the designer who is designing my cover art illustration. All GREAT stuff to get done and accomplish, right?

Tuesday, I woke up in agonizing pain. It was like someone lit my arthritis in my spine on fire. And my anxiety was paralyzing. I couldn't think clearly about any of the items on my To-Do list or planner for the day. I worked out with my trainer that day and it helped some, but the whole day felt really disorienting and the pain was a beast. Upper Limit Problem.

  • The day after we launched the Podcast.

This past Sunday we released the first episode of our Podcast. We had recorded it the previous Wednesday and had been working on figuring out all the editing and publication stuff over the weekend. My partner had spent 12 hours on Saturday learning a new audio production suite and doing all the post-production stuff for us so that we could release the episode and I knew when I went to bed (late) Saturday night that the next day, we should be good to release. We went ahead and released it

I woke up Sunday morning and the entire right side set of gluteal muscles had frozen in spasm and it was painful. Like, I couldn't take a deep breath without sharp pain taking my breath away... that kind of painful. I was laid out all day Sunday, and Monday I was in no better shape. I tried rubbing on CBD salve, then the extra strength CBD salve, I took the really strong muscle relaxers... nothing was helping. (It had also been two full weeks since I'd been to the chiropractor for an adjustment, as he was closed during the holiday week to move to a new location. I'll never do that again.)

Thank goodness I got an adjustment on Monday and my back let go and I could breathe again. But dudes, that was some serious Upper Limit Problem action happening.

How do you deal with the Upper Limit Problem?

It's gotta be different for everyone, depending on how your Upper Limit Problem manifests itself, and Lord knows I'm still figuring my shit out. But, I think knowing is half the battle, and once you know what's happening and can recognize it, it can be easier to combat.

It doesn't make the symptoms or the circumstances any less real. Knowing why I'm suddenly having an excruciating pain flare-up doesn't make it easier. But it does make it more manageable/approachable.

My trainer and I talked about it and he said from where he was standing, I was so used to change being a bad thing (health crisis, fighting with insurance companies, etc.) that it stood to reason, to him, that I would have a lot of fear about the change that was taking place currently in my life.

The thing is though, not all change is bad. And fear is bullshit. It's a liar. The best way I've found to get over fear and anxiety is to face it head on, over and over again, until I hardly notice. Easier said than done, I know, but it's not fucking impossible. You can do it, you just need some determination.

I'm not saying you don't have a right to feel fear, that's a natural human thing. But the brain is a blob of jelly built largely on survival instincts that go back to the days of yore, when language didn't exist.

Fear was a primal instinct we needed to survive, if say, we were being chased by a wooly mammoth. Our brain doesn't know the difference between that fear and the fear of success or failure.

See what I'm saying?

We have to teach our brain that our fear of success and failure is not the same as our fear of being killed by a wooly mammoth, and the only way to do that is to practice good self talk and face the shit head on.

Final thoughts on the Upper Limit Problem:

My business coach and I were talking about this, and her mind was blown by the idea of the Upper Limit Problem manifesting in physical symptoms, because usually it's a bit more subtle than that. She thought it was so cool that I had recognized this pattern within myself, and she made a pretty profound statement:

What if you can change the relationship you have with your body and your physical health problems, because you start to see it as a good thing, knowing that big things and successes are on the horizon?!

What if, indeed.

Thanks for indulging me.