What a controversial subject in the world of recovery and personal development.
Most approach this as “what we allow others to do”. Yet – that is the epitome of “co dependence” i.e. the idea that we can control others behavior. And telling someone who has never experienced healthy relationships based on mutual respect this was like telling me that the only way I could have “boundaries” was if those in my life were willing to “respect” what I was asking for. It also left me feeling hopeless, helpless and powerless when they didnt. It was also free license to be rigidly dogmatic about keeping score. This often resulted in the addition of more guilt, shame, resentment and self blame because I was “doing what I was told” and it still wasn’t working and they weren’t trying. My relationships were STILL full of conflict and I was still full of anger.
It was only when I changed my perspective from “what I allow others to do” to “boundaries are about what I allow in my life/space and are about what I will or won’t do” that my relationships – and I – started to find some serious mojo.
When it’s not working
Many of us really, really struggle with “boundaries” because of this. We tell people we are “setting a boundary”. Then we complain that others “don’t respect our boundaries”.
And we do this over and over and over – not understanding why it isn’t working. We still feel disrespected, dismissed and demeaned in our relationships.
We feel like we have to fight for everything.
Healthy Relationships are different
In healthy relationships i.e. relationships these strategies of asking for what we want and being able to expect to engage in some sort of respectful communication and negotiation that leaves everyone feeling safe, loved and respected can be and are effective.
Unhealthy relationships – relationships with those who come from backgrounds based on power, control, drama, trauma and dysfunctional patterns of survival behaviors we learned as the only way to get our physical and emotional needs met….
In the world of survivorship where relationships are still a source of pain – asking someone to do anything often is the fastest path to more heartbreak, pain, and power struggles.
Changing how we view “boundaries” can often be helpful to help us feel empowered and in control of our lives.
Try this on….
Boundaries are what I am willing to allow into my physical, mental, spiritual and emotional space NOT what I “allow” others to do or not do.
The next time someone crosses a line with you instead of telling them you are “setting a boundary” (which to anyone with trauma issues is like drawing a line in the sand, daring them to cross it)…. instead of trying to change their behavior we can make it about changing OUR OWN behavior.
This one is a scenario I’ve had to address in my own “family of origin” on different occasions. When I made it about what I would “allow” them to do – well, as you can imagine all hell broke loose. But when I stopped trying to get them to “respect my boundary”…..things changed for me quickly and they changed without ever having to raise my voice or insist they “respect” my boundary.
If someone in your life has a habit of cutting you off when you speak instead of telling them “You can’t do that – don’t cut me off when I’m speaking” (because of course they can….) choose to not say anything to them and choose to excuse yourself as soon as they cut you off.
It doesn’t have to be nasty or rude.
Simply excuse yourself.
It can sometimes be helpful to tell them why you are leaving…
“I’m not ok with the way you keep cutting me off so when you do that I am going to leave the room. I am taking a break but we can talk later again if you like”.
And please expect that you’ll have to do this repeatedly – often over an extended period of time. This is not a one shot deal or something we “try” once or twice.
Eventually they will learn that for you to not leave – they will need to adjust their own behavior. ((((Note: see how this makes them and us responsible for our/their own stuff instead of fighting about whose stuff is more important? ))))
And if they don’t get it?
It might be time to decide if you are willing to continue to deal with this or if it’s time to consider creating physical distance from this person . You – we all – deserve to be in relationships where we feel safe, loved and respected. By staying when we should be leaving we are teaching others they can treat us however they want. Yet we get angry when they do what they have always done…. See how the cycle perpetuates itself?
(((((Note: please keep in mind creating distance be it physical or emotional – is for us not to punish or “show them”. And creating distance is NOT the same as “cutting off” although in time you may well decide that cutting off is viable option if this person is abusive)))
Perhaps some food for thought….
We often struggle in our journey because we don’t know what to do differently to get different results in our lives and relationships.
Empowering Solutions are the things we can do for ourselves, by ourselves without need for anyone or anything to change or do anything for us to feel better and live a better life.
The Practice is choosing to engage in the process of applying those solutions and coming back to them when we realize we’ve returned to our old patterns. This is the the doing things differently so that we can have those different results.
And always, always come from a place of love instead of anger….we are ALL doing the best we can at any given moment with what we’ve got to work with. Just because you/we are willing to do the work to learn to do things differently doesn’t mean they are ready to do the same. Unconditional love is loving them as they are – not putting up with being abused to avoid abandoning them or avoid dealing with our own issues.