Sunday, June 26, 2016

boundaries

In my experience, some people naturally have stronger or less permeable boundaries than others. Very empathetic people tend to have a harder time with boundaries, most likely because they feel very invested in other people’s well-being. Merging emotionally with others, or prioritizing the needs of others feels like a good thing, an honorable thing. Learning that there is a negative aspect to this altruism can be jarring. 
Some people struggle with boundaries because of dysfunctional families of origin. There might be significant emotional distress associated with establishing boundaries due to negative experiences in the past, such that avoiding it feels less frightening. Perhaps our parents taught us that we are to do exactly what we are told without question, and so we never learned to express or prioritize our own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The issue then pops up when we are adults and we find we do not agree with or accept our parents’ worldviews or align with their vision for our lives. But, we may feel guilty for not accepting or not wishing to accept our parents’ dictums. 
Still others just have a difficult time asserting themselves, or feeling entitled speaking up when something doesn’t feel good to us. Sometimes this is about low self-esteem or a sense of not being worthy.
Regardless of the origin of the difficulty, what often happens is that in failing to hold others’ needs, desires, and opinions at an appropriate distance from our own, we find ourselves unable to even determine what we think or feel. We routinely fail to adequately attend to our own needs. We begin to (or continue) to habitually back-burner ourselves, and over time we may feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and burdened but not even know why or who to blame for these feelings. 
This is the course intro I wrote for the "Boundaries" mini-workshop I'm teaching recently:  
In other words: 
"Fucked-up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you, and they teach you how to respect yourself.” 
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Next class on BOUNDARIES: Saturday, December 3 from 1-3 p.m. $50 
Email me with questions or use this link to register: PayPal.me/millercounseling/50

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