By See The Triumph Guest Blogger Vanessa Stevens
“We teach people how to treat us.”
Dr. Phil McGraw
Boundaries are tools for building cooperation in healthy relationships.
There are physical, mental, psychological and spiritual boundaries, often created out of our personal and societal beliefs.
In my last post, I spoke about the four types of boundaries with the most ideal being the Flexible type. Flexible boundaries enable and require us to be assertive in our communication and to be fully open and aware with what is going on. We might ask for clarification before jumping to conclusions, and take our time responding. We are not falling prey to psychological manipulation or “mind games.”
Survivors of abuse are often slow to trust again and may put up walls to avoid getting hurt, but these walls also keep us from the joys of intimacy. Without healthy boundaries, we become emotionally bankrupt.
When setting boundaries, it’s important to:
· Be assertive, calm, firm, courteous and clear
Use “when (you do this) I feel (how it affects you)….”
Example: “When you talk to me in that tone of voice, I feel talked down to.” OR “When you tell me what I do and don’t like on my pizza, I feel like I feel like you're trying to control me, or that you think I can’t make my own decisions.”
· Set consequences (only if necessary) and be prepared to carry these out. Example: “If you keep talking down to me, I will stop seeing you.”
· Express yourself, know what you want out of an interaction. And finally,
· Let go of the outcome. By stating what you want, you put the ball in the other’s court for them to choose how to respond. The difference between you and someone who is manipulative or a control freak is that you’ve let go of the outcome, and you trust your request will be acknowledged. If it’s not, then this may not be a healthy person or relationship for you.
Top tips to keep in mind when setting and practicing boundaries:
Know yourself. Practice self awareness. Especially after leaving an abusive situation, it’s a good idea to spend some time learning what you like, where your passions lie, exploring hobbies, self-care, etc. Get to know your true self.
Know your feelings. If there is discomfort or resentment in an interaction, chances are your boundaries are being invaded. How does your gut feel after engaging with someone? If you feel resentment, it may be you are being taken advantage of. If you feel discomfort, you may be feeling guilt.
Some discomfort is normal. Setting boundaries will feel uncomfortable the first few, or 200 times. And, you may get it wrong. After years of abusive relationships, I saw “red flags” when I still hadn’t called back Friday night’s date because I was busy, and he called me three times since the date. I was not going to tolerate this harassing behavior and called him to basically tell him how I felt. I stated my consequence: “If you continue to call me and not wait for a reply, I’m not going to date you anymore.” I never heard from him again. I may have overreacted, and maybe I lost out on a great guy, but my self-respect (and respect of my boundaries) was more important to me than our relationship.
Give yourself permission to be wrong. It’s the only way you’ll eventually get it right! Practice setting boundaries even if they seem a little harsh or extreme, or rigid. You can always adjust the boundaries as you go.
Set the intention for protection Author and “spirit junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein says, “First and foremost, set the intention in your mind to be loving, kind and forgiving, but not like a sponge.” Imagine a white light or bubble surrounding you that keeps you protected from negative energies, like being taken advantage of, or manipulated.
I’ve been a public performer for years. Whether on stage, or in doing the work I do to help survivors, I might visualize a protective bubble around me. Like Gabrielle says, I’m still kind and loving, but my energy stores are protected.
Maintaining boundaries allows us to stay whole, and defining our boundaries helps others to define and keep theirs.
The "Purple Song Project: It is possible to thrive" offers survivors of domestic violence hope, healing and awareness… through songs! Vanessa Stevens is on a mission to identify what helps survivors really, truly move on after trauma and explores the ways music and art can help others heal. She also is a freelance article writer (online and off) and continues to produce theme songs for businesses, non-profits and films. Purple song.com, twitter (@Van Stevens) or facebook (purplesongproject)