In my first blog on vulnerability I said that I might write about boundaries at some stage. So here we are (and by the way, the test I had that day when I was feeling so vulnerable worked out just fine. I don’t have the calcium build-up in my arteries after all so I can stop taking the dreaded statins. My mood improved almost immediately).
So anyway, boundaries. I really didn’t even know there was such a thing until relatively recently; say in the last 10 years. I heard the word bandied about the place and wasn’t sure what I knew about boundaries until one day a woman I was working with stopped doing a task for me that she’d been doing for a while. I mentioned this to one of my colleagues who said straight off, ‘Oh, yes, Jane has good boundaries.’ Just because Jane had offered to help with this task one day, she did encourage me to watch her do it so I could learn to do it myself. And then she stopped. THAT was Jane putting her boundary in place so that when I asked her to do the task again, she insisted that I should know how to do it myself, and the upshot was that I simply had to take responsibility for the task myself.
I’m still learning about boundaries, so the following is partially taken from the website of Codependents Anonymous, a fellowship for men and women whose lives have been negatively affected by their codependence.
In co-dependent families, where we learn our codependence, boundaries are never the same from one day to the next. Sometimes there are no boundaries at all. Doors are left open when they should be closed and people wander around naked. In the process we lose the innate sense of what is rightfully ours – our personal integrity – sometimes mistaking a lack of boundaries for love or caring behaviour.
People whose boundaries are lacking often can’t say no because they don’t have a sense of who they are; they become people pleasers and don’t have a clear sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.
One of the main ways a person can have a boundary violated is when they have their feelings violated. (Actually, even knowing what a feeling is in the first place can be part of the problem.) Emotional boundary violation happens when someone ‘puts down’ or discounts our emotions or feelings, indicating they’re unimportant, unnecessary or wrong. ‘Stop crying!’ or ‘Pull yourself together!’ or that great New Zealand expression ‘Harden up!’ And in the process of ignoring how we are feeling, that other person is often trying to spare us from feeling our own anger, pain, fear, guilt, joy, sadness or shame. Emotions are not wrong or bad – they just are. We need to experience our full range of feelings otherwise they can come out sideways and that can be painful. For everyone.
As I learn more about boundaries, I’ll write more on this subject. I remember one of our journalism tutors, the late great Michael King, saying the best way to learn is to teach. I became a jack of many trades as a journalist, researching subjects and then writing about them. So, in a way, I’m still doing that. Investigating new subjects that interest me and writing them out. It’s a cathartic process.