This afternoon I was running home from the gym, and it began to rain heavily. I saw a bus across the street that I could take a few feet from the stop, stopped at a red light. I waved to the driver, asking if he could let me on . He waved for me to hurry, and I ran across the street and got on . Even when I was walking up the steps, he kept telling me to “hurry up” since this was not the stop and he “wasn’t supposed to do this.” He continued complaining even when I paid, and was going to sit down, and finally I said, “you could have said no.” He stopped complaining. I assume he realized that, yes, I asked to cross a boundary of a transit rule due to the rain, but he had the option to say NO. In other words, my asking for permission to cross a boundary triggered in him what may be a conditioned response he does not like- fawning.
I have been thinking of boundaries a lot lately, which is why this interaction stood out to me. In the past, I was unable to make my needs known and found myself in a dance with others who were either testing me to see how far they could go, or completely oblivious that I even had needs that they me be crossing. And of course, other times I found myself testing others to see how far I could go to get my needs met, and sometimes unaware that I wasn’t paying attention to subtle signs of a person saying no, or wanting to say no. My needs superseded theirs. Both instances were toxic to me, and of course others.
Poor boundaries came about like all people as a result of conditioning in childhood. My needs were placed behind the needs of others, so I didn’t upset them. My needs often disappeared to accommodate the emotional regulation of caregivers as well as the comfort of others. If safe enough in a relationship, such as my father, who was more “giving”, I would bend and twist his boundaries to suit my needs, and often felt guilty for it. The pattern of giving too much often resulted in anger, and taking too much from those who allowed me often resulted in guilt.
As children, we learn this dance of boundary setting, and give and take from caregivers , and if not changed we can bring poor boundaries into our adulthood. I did.
I was often frustrated with others who took from me what I did not want to give and could not tell them so or enforce it with those who had boundaries just as poor as mine. For example, in my 30’s I stayed in a relationship with someone who I was not happy with. I was constantly in distress by my boundaries being crossed by him, as I had told him how I felt many times. At the same time, I loved him as my best friend, but not as a partner and did not want to hurt him. I could not enforce this and continued to stay feeling completely trapped. He could not accept the way I wanted him in my life. Often I took advantage of the situation for relief. He worked tirelessly to make me happy with him, and I exploited this, resulting in guilt. Of course, my resentment also came out. I ended up hurting him anyway, and vice versa. It was a perfect co-dependent relationship and one that caused both of us a lot of suffering. The inability to enforce my needs and respect others needs was a theme that led to much confusion and suffering throughout my life. I lost the ability to hear my inner voice due to all the noise around me of people wanting me to think, and accept reality as they saw it. I became confused with what I wanted and who I was amidst all the noise. When we can’t enforce our boundaries and lose track of what we need as children, the same continues into adulthood and the inner voice that knows exactly what it needs and wants gets silenced. I lost communication with that inner voice. This of course contributed to my dis-ease in my body and mind.
When I retrained out of this dis-ease, I was astounded by the stillness. In that stillness, I became acquainted with my inner voice and intuition. Listening and following it was natural and I saw the hands of others clawing at me to listen to them or to follow their lead fall away. I witnessed them try to “interfere” with the now very “clear” and “pure” energy I had, but I stayed on this path of ease I had met again and their attempts failed. Often I felt their energy just bounce off of me and fall away, given back to them. I met it with kindness, but did not accept their ideas, thoughts, words as my own. It did not belong to me. I became acutely aware of this inner voice , this “intuition” of “not feeling right”, and honored it above all. Without the “noise” of others trying to impose how they feel onto me , my decisions, feelings and path became mine again.
Of course, as one who has people all around me (family) with poor boundaries, I work to maintain connection to my inner voice. Sometimes, I can lose it for a few moments, under the guise of “helping”or wanting to be “helped” and compassion and forgiveness, and centering practices help to change this. Each time I do lose it, I can see the lack of ease in my body and mind, like an invader has blocked the energy from flowing correctly. The shift back into a state of ease is remarkable- everything gains a luminous clarity. I am met with discoveries of how, why where and when my energy began to wilt and the answers to regain it’s purity. For example, I have a struggle at times with my mother’s dim energy of “needing” to control to regain a sense of security. It is how she was able to navigate her early childhood environment. But, when I make my boundaries clearly known and follow through on the consequences if they are not respected, she will sulk for a bit, bit has no choice but to change her own expectations.
I have had a few friends “test” what they can access from me lately as well, and rather than taking action to articulate what I will and will not accept, I gave in a few times, consciously. It left me feeling again a state of unease, as it did not end, they continued to try to access resources from me, so I had to make it known in a firmer way what I felt. The second I did , I felt the release of energy from their grips and my voice, inner guidance, intuition begin to emerge again. It is quite an experience to enter into tat clarity and ease. It is like pulling out weeds to allow the roses to bloom. I am not implying that my friends or family are weeds, but the dysfunctional ways of trying to get their own needs met, do put a shadow on mine, and in the end, the negative emotions we both will feel won’t be worth it.
So, if at some time, you find yourself in a confused state, incapable of hearing your inner voice, it is worthwhile to explore what voices may be covering it up and the origin, and work to release yourself from it.
Here are some suggestions on how to set boundaries.