July 10, 2017
This is the first in a series exploring terms that seem to create confusion or make people’s hair stand on end, either from shame or in judgment of someone else.
You need to have healthy boundaries!
They have crossed a boundary they shouldn’t have!
You better figure out what your boundaries are!
You don’t have a boundary to your name!
What the hell is a boundary?! It’s like the codependency word – it’s so over-used that it has sort of lost its meaning and people use it to describe pretty much anything they don’t like in the way of their own or someone else’s behavior. (We’ll look at codependency in the next blog.)
Boundary is a euphemism for knowing that there is a place where I end and you begin. In spite of the fact that we’re made up of energy that is constantly being exchanged with the people and things around us, there is a difference between having and experiencing my feelings and you having and experiencing your feelings.
People have physical boundaries — a built-in sense of how much physical space we need between us and them.
We also have emotional boundaries — which dictate our behavior and the behavior we will accept from others.
At times we all, to one degree or another, suffer from poor emotional boundaries.
Sometimes poor boundaries can present debilitating outcomes. We can look at them on a continuum from minimal impact to profoundly harmful. But for our purposes, we’re not necessarily talking about boundary issues that are exceptionally harmful. We’re looking at the kinds of issues that we all struggle with from time to time, but maybe haven’t perceived as boundary problems that might need our attention.
Here are a few examples of common boundary challenges:
- When someone says “No” to you, and you can’t handle it without believing there’s something wrong with them or with you, that’s a poor boundary.
- When you say yes when you want to say no, and end up resenting the hell out of the person or situation you caved to, that’s a poor boundary.
- When you say to someone, “How could you do that to me after all I’ve done for you?”, that’s a poor boundary. Actually, if you even think it, you’ve probably got a bit of an issue.
- When you can’t sleep because someone else is upset with you (if you haven’t done something terrible to them), that’s a poor boundary.
- When you rigidly declare that their feelings aren’t your problem when someone tells you they’ve been hurt by your behavior, that’s also a poor boundary.
Surprised by that last one? If you have lost the ability to feel compassion for someone else’s discomfort, especially when it’s something that you have contributed to, that’s a rigid and impenetrable boundary, rather than a non-existent or porous boundary like the other examples.
Try this! Overlay some of these examples on your current relationships. Do you see any need for adjustments to allow a little more openness and porosity or a little less penetrability and bleed through?
If you’re really up for self-discovery I highly recommend Loving Bravely by Alexandra Solomon.
Let me know what you discover!
In the next Seedlings we’ll look at codependency.