“I did it again!!!” she sobbed shamefully. “Like an idiot I replied to his texts, and then let him suck me back into his life! It’s like a switch gets flipped, and then I’m under his spell again! I was doing so well! I blocked his texts and voicemails, the text block expired, and in poured a flood of messages. I should have deleted them, but I read them anyway! I am so stupid!” she cried mournfully, gesticulating wildly to the rhythm of her tears. “And then I called him, and my lips said yes when my heart screamed NO!!!” she exclaimed, now growing agitated. “He is abusive, there is no future with him, and I really hurt my boyfriend when I told him what I did! I need help saying no, and then sticking with the boundaries that I make!”
Standing up for ourselves, our relationship, or our family; in the seductive, scary, or ugly face of social, familial, or workplace pressures; can present a challenge, that we can overcome. Fears of rejection, criticism, or harassment can create confusion in the moment; resulting in decisions that we can’t believe we made. Codependent clinging to that lusty fantasy; that idealistic illusion of living happily ever after, when the truth shows shattered dreams and broken hearts; can keep us stuck, confused, and falling back apart. Lifelong conditioning in families can lead to persistent reaction patterns, perceived obligations, and inappropriate priorities that can prevent us from letting go and saying no. Fears of retaliation, being passed up for promotion, or being left out of the favor trading fun; can lead to sexual indiscretion, overwork and underpayment, or selling out to be a dirty hired gun.
Just what are boundaries, anyway? Like the beautiful rock wall surrounding our property, the gates with signs between the different yards, the entry sliders granting people passage to the inside, and the doors to living, bath, and sleeping rooms; boundaries are invisible walls, gates, and doors; under our creation and control; that allow or disallow access to different levels of our lives. If we build them, maintain them, and utilize their purpose; we will realize their benefits and grow. Advantages of such limit setting can include greater safety, more confidence, less anxiety, guilt, and shame; the freedom to live our own lives; and the clarity to firmly say no. Growth arising out of the drawing of proverbial lines in the ethereal sand include increased assertiveness, clearer communication, healthier relationships, breaking free from our family of origin (differentiation), and more effective separation between and among our different parts of life (e.g. self and others, our union with our honey and all other relationships, our personal life and our work).
Building better boundaries is simple, fun, and empowering. When established and maintained they will greatly change our lives. The easiest way to do it is to create a graphic consisting of 7-10 concentric circles, each containing its own title and description. Titles can include things like: Center, BFFs, Close Friends and Family, Casual Friends, Acquaintances, Professional Only Relationships, Nosy Neighbors, and Keep Out (moving outward from the center with each successive level). Corresponding descriptions could include: Share everything; Those I trust with my life; those I trust with most things, but not some personal information; Those I trust with general information and interests; Those I trust to talk about the weather with or ask where the tomatoes are; Strictly Business; Those I would say Hello or Good Morning to but nothing more; and Those I want no contact with at all; respectively. After doing this, begin putting names in each boundary level. For instance: My wife and I; no one; Dad; etc. Consider it carefully, and then practice it in thought, word, and action; practice keeping people at the distance you desire. If they try to push past your boundary, then move them further out, since they are not respecting your choices. People can earn their way closer, or be moved further out; based on our experiences with them over time.
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