I love this term I learned from Dr. Henry Cloud: decathexis. I’d never heard it anywhere before, and have never heard it since, but it’s a powerful concept that is now a part of the way I experience life.
Cathexis is the injection, the investment, of your time, energy, money or other resources into a relationship, a project, or an initiative. Into anything, really.
Decathexis is that recoup, that reclamation, that restoration of that time, energy, money or resources that comes back to you when you withdraw your attention from a project or relationship, when you reprioritize it, or when you flat-out quit it entirely.
I’ve written before about how, when I want to work on a big project or prioritize something in my life, I use decathexis as a tool for finding the energy, time or money I need. I get intentional about what I can stop doing, stop it, feel the swoosh of detaches restoring the resources back to me, then I intentionally apply them to the other things I want to focus on.
But in this season of my life, I’m very aware that detaches is not just for projects and people. It happens with beliefs, too. The beliefs that come from fear are generally very, very energy-depleting. The love-based beliefs, on the other hand, are very energizing. Even when they require you to expend a lot of energy and to take a lot of action, the beliefs and the resulting actions tend to churn up more energy than they require. The energy around love-based beliefs is self-renewing.
Many of our cultural beliefs, family beliefs and even self-talk beliefs are driven by fear. A wise man named don Miguel Ruiz has crafted a set of Four Agreements that help us break fear-based beliefs and, in the process, tap into incredible stores of energy, joy and enthusiasm for each other and for life.
The First Agreement is to be impeccable with your word. That means to do what you say you will do, but much more importantly, it means to respect the power of your words, to create life or death and destruction. Once you realize how powerful your word is, the First Agreement means to only use your words in the direction of love, for yourself and for others.
don Ruiz says this Agreement is the most important one, and the hardest to follow. If you can practice it consistently, though, it has the power to break the spells and dramas that the lies of fear and culture create around our lives.
The Second Agreement is to never make assumptions. I think “never” is extreme, as the Four Agreements are aspirational, and require constant, lifelong practice. So many interpersonal dramas arise from our assumptions about what the other person meant, or what must be going on in their heads or their minds. The Second Agreement is a mandate to practice clear communication, never guessing at what someone else thinks and, instead, asking as many questions as we need to, in every situation, in order to have as clear a communication as possible.
Awhile back, I came to believe that it’s my own job in this life, first and foremost, to attend to and manage my own feelings and life. I can never 100% know what someone else thinks and feels. And vice versa. My job is to manage my own feelings and beliefs, and to get and stay clear on the sort of person I want to be in this life. Then, my job is to act in ways I believe will lift the people in my life up without feeling responsible or trying to control what any other being, human or canine, thinks, feels or does.
The Third Agreement is to take nothing personally; nothing. But the principle here requires first that you understand this: nothing anyone else does is about you. Ever. We are all living our own dreams based on our own history and our own Agreements, internal and external. However, usually when someone expresses a nice opinion of us, we get elated. And when they criticize us, we get upset. A stunning share of human drama arises when we allow others’ opinions of us to determine how we feel.
The final, and Fourth, Agreement is simple: to always do your best. The upshot of this one is that making the commitment to do your best, in every situation, is the single most powerful way to eliminate regret in your life, another fear-based, energy-zapping emotion. It’s also essential to eliminating another source of drama: comparing yourself to others. Key to realizing the benefits of this Agreement is accepting the reality that your best will change from day to day. Your best when you’re sick, for example, is likely to be very different from your best when you’re in fine mettle.
Today is a case in point for me, for the power of the Fourth Agreement. I’ve committed to publishing every day for 30 days, so I am. I haven’t stockpiled any posts or cheated in any other way; every post I’m publishing this 30 days is a post I wrote on the day I published it. But today is the very, very rare day that I’m actually sick. Burn-ey sore throat, doctor’s visit, the whole nine. So this post won’t be the post in which I share my richest examples and insights around the Four Agreements. What I’m doing actually is noticing the contrast between how I feel today and how I feel the vast majority of the time, and being grateful for that contrast. But I am also doing my best for today, and posting this post is that best, for today.
Tomorrow will be a whole new day. And my best then will be a different best.
P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 23 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.