In the previous Boundaries post, I talked about sausages and picket fences. Those are the metaphors Gayle and I developed to help us understand the function of our personal boundaries. Both have as their principle metaphorical function the free, but managed flow of ideas, actions, beliefs, etc. into and out of our personal space.
We don't always manage to protect that flow and sometimes find our boundaries have been breached before we even know it. We must first know how that happens before we can correct it. In this post I want to take the topic further by listing various types of boundaries and posing some questions below each one. Hopefully these will help you identify actions or beliefs that prevent you from properly protecting the integrity of your sausages and picket fences.
Emotional Boundaries - Do you...
- Minimize or withhold your feelings to avoid conflict? I've found I usually feel even worse if I do this. After all, I can't avoid the conflict inside me.
- Feel you have the right to hurt someone back when they hurt you rather than dealing with the pain directly? This approach doesn't work to get me what I need to feel better. Instead I usually end up feeling even more pain because I don't like myself for being so dishonest.
- Believe your happiness depends on others? For argument's sake let's say this is true. Doesn't that mean you can be only as happy as they are? That's a risk I don't want to take.
- Pick people who hurt you emotionally? You may find yourself going from one emotionally distant or unavailable relationship to another. This is a boundary many of my clients have failed to protect.
- Feel ashamed of who you are? We are responsible for our own feelings of worthiness. I can feel shame for something I might have done and still protect my good feelings about who I am.
- Let other people's actions, words, and attitudes determine your behaviors, words, and or attitudes? What better example can I use than the current presidential campaign? The hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent to get our vote are shameless, but often work.
- Have difficulty making up your mind? I'm surprised at how easy it is for me to make the big decisions, like on cars or houses, and how difficult it is to make a decision about where to eat dinner. That may sound a little silly but patterns of poor decision making often become huge problems in relationships.
- Find it easier to go along with others than to disagree? When your friends want to do A and you want to do B, who wins? You do if you make your decision based on your needs and beliefs. "Going along" for the sake of not making waves is not the same as going after making a purposeful decision.
- Trust others' beliefs and knowledge more than yours? I may know something that you don't. I probably have beliefs that differ from yours in some way. That does not make me your expert. Only you know what you know. Sound silly? It isn't. We all need to get feedback sometimes, but ultimately we need to trust ourselves.
- Ever tell yourself "I am not sure what I know? When I feel unsure of myself I first take the time to look within to see if I can determine the source of my self-doubt. If this isn't enough, I go outside of myself to study and/or seek help to find the knowledge I am missing.
- Have difficulty knowing your spiritual nature and beliefs? Surrounded by so many religious organizations our challenge is to search within for our spirituality and to know it for ourselves. I learned what I now know in a secular workshop. You will learn what you know in your own way if you refuse to give up the search.
- Find it easier to go along with the beliefs of your family than to disagree? As a child I was taught what to believe. As an adult I had to learn what I believe. Disagreeing with the family was never easy, but it was certainly necessary for me.
- Are you afraid if you believe differently than your family they will no longer love you? You may have to take that chance when you make your own spiritual decision. I believe love will win out if it was real before you made your decision.
- What if your beliefs are wrong? Only you and your higher power know if you are right. Allowing fear to keep you from believing will only make your search more difficult. After all, only your "faith" can prove your "beliefs" and even then, only to you.
- Do you think it's not OK to have your own beliefs? Whether surrounded by love or not we are on this spiritual journey alone. When it comes to spirituality and other beliefs you are very fortunate - only you can know what's right for you.
- Believe other peoples' needs are more important than yours? I knew a man in my home town who placed his mother's needs before his until she died. At the age of 45 he finally started dating and eventually married. By the way, his mother was never ill, just demanding.
- Allow others to violate your privacy? I believe many people are naturally inquisitive and don't recognize boundaries. Intruding on your private thoughts, writings or areas just seem to come naturally. If you don't protect your privacy, they will certainly continue to intrude.
- Pick people who hurt you physically? How many times have we heard "he didn't mean to, he loves me" as the partner explains away the behavior of his or her abuser? Both of them need to learn how to deal with their pathology. Most don't. This is a pattern you can break with help.
- Feel ashamed of your physical self? Your physical appearance is rarely the issue here. You see what you feel, not what is real. Getting to know yourself is much more important than the right clothes, losing weight, applying makeup, or getting the perfect haircut.
- Have difficulty saying either "no" or "yes" in sexual situations? Saying "yes" in the appropriate situations can be as meaningful as a well-placed "no!" To most of us our sexuality is the ultimate boundary and deserves to be both protected and enjoyed.
- Feel if only _______would happen it would change your life and you would finally be happy? And what if it doesn't? In most cases the changes never happen or aren't sufficient to "make you happy." On the other hand, you changing that belief can work wonders with your happiness.
- Accept limitations with "this is just the way I am?" Then that's just the way you will stay - limited. "I can be more" is so easy to say. Try it on and see what happens.
- Get your feelings hurt easily? I normally don't have to look too deeply inside to learn why my feelings are hurting. With that knowledge I can begin to deal with the pain. Without it I just hurt.
- Feel different? Well, rejoice! You are! Seriously though, you are! Sometimes I'm told I enjoy my difference too much. Most times I just love knowing I am completely unique in this world. So are you. It's all perception.
- Feel generally fearful? Fear is always about the future. Since it is in the future you still have choices. As long as there are choices you still have hope.
Read Part One