Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Boundaries"....A "Good Thing"

If you're joining us for the first time in this series on personal boundaries you can read more in "Sharing meant no boundaries" and here in "No boundaries meant don't rock the boat"...

As I began to separate myself from these toxic relationships I started looking back at how I had learned to interact with the world from the toxic and unsupportive relationships of my family.

I grew up understanding that "love" and "family"...relationships in general meant to be completely open and disclosing everything about myself - with no limits - or risk some sort of lambasting that typically included some form of shaming or guilt for daring to even attempt to have a thought, a feeling or a choice of my own.

I began to understand how I had become dependent on external validation that I was doing things "right" enough or being "good enough". I had a chronic deep-seated feeling of being "less than" and somehow "wrong".

I also became very defensive when I was asked questions. In "therapy" this was called being "resistant" as I had an unconscious need and drive to "figure things out" and not be "told what to do".

"Authority complex" to the max for sure and very justified having come from a background where being told what to do and refraining from acting under my own volition was appropriated to being "good enough" and doing things "good enough".

And once again this stems from being raised in an environment where I had no sense of autonomy, self or independence but had been conditioned to believe that anyone had a right to reach into my personal space and take what they wanted....and force me to "give it up" if I resisted.

I was reminded to "share" and "play nice" even with the kids who were bullying me, the siblings who would call me names, and the adults who would touch where they weren't supposed to touch - were touching.

Because nothing was "mine"; I had no personal boundaries and was taught that to want them was a bad thing.

So today I have found that it is ok to share, but I have learned to share what I choose to share when I choose to share it and that there are layers to relationships vs. being an open book to the entire world.

Personal boundaries.

A “Good Thing”. :)


Q: What has your experience been with learning to establish health boundaries in relationships?

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14 comments:

Lisa said...

you just described me...my childhood and how i react in therapy...omg

thanks for the insight!!!!
xoxo
-Lisa

Susan said...

Hi Lisa.....thanks for your comment! Yes - for a long time I thought I was just a "bad patient" until I realized that the attempts of others to shape me into compliant wasn't as helpful as the understanding of why I reacted this way to those efforts. Then -- I was able to choose to listen because it was a choice rather than someone else telling me what to think, feel or do.

Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

I was raised in a similar environment.
As an adult, my response to physical abuse was hyperarousal - fight - protest. I carried those reactions into my therapy thinking that I NEED to protect and defend myself!
I feel you totally described a common step towards healing. Once we can break past those resistant internal barriers then we can learn healthier ways react to unhealthy environments. Boundaries - my word of the year! A very good thing!
Mel

Susan said...

Hi Mel! Great point you make..."a common step toward healing"...yes; I'd have to agree with you. It's often something that survivors get stuck in I think. We know something itsn't working but we don't know what it is....can't put our finger on it. But when we figure this one thing out it seems as though there is nothing that can stop us:)

Anonymous said...

I totally get what you're saying Susan! Being 'stuck' could be a reason why some are often labeled as 'resistant' in therapy. As adults, knowing the abuser is at fault for their abuse but it's challenging to see that we are also responsible for our actions (setting healthy boundaries) and our reactions to abuse. My reaction can be to fight back or defend myself. I realize that there is really nothing to win in this fight - abuse is not a fair fight and if i react to it, I can display equal signs of abuse and partake in the crazy making. As a child i remember hearing to walk away from a fight or confrontation, take the high road. Even though they are in the wrong, I feel this is an important way to begin to understand the dynamics of setting healthy boundaries where you don't enable unhealthy interactions.
Hugs, Mel

Susan said...

I so hear you, Mel. I think for me the "light" went on when I recognized that when I was either fighting back in that knee jerk reaction I was trying to "make" this other person meet my emotional needs very often. When I turned the other cheek and stayed in these relationships, tolerating the abuse or neglect it was the same thing - I felt powerless to change the situation. The thought never occurred to me that I could choose to not be in an abusive/neglectful relationship or that any other kind of relationship existed as it was all I'd ever known.

I found a sense of ownership over my life when I realized there is a balance and a sense of self empowerment to change my life and world when I no longer fought to get my needs met by others nor did I tolerate abuse by others and instead learned to put myself in healthy relationships that naturally met my emotional needs instead of tolerating abuse - or neglect.

thesoulsalon said...

If I may say so myself, I was brilliant to subscribe to your blog. Even though many of our life experiences have been very different you write about universal truths. I love how you put words to things even difficult to think about.

Thank you for your valuable insights because they truly are relevant to all of us.

Susan said...

@soulsalon - thank you for your comment and your encouraging words! I'm grateful to know that that others can relate and find their own "nugget" of insight!

Oneperson said...

Another awesome post Susan.

Oddly, I was raised without rules, so to speak. That is, I craved direction and for someone to tell me what to do. I even made my own chore list when I was around 6 years old and became frustrated because my parents would not enforce it.

I think I wanted to be noticed, to know I was worth some sort of recognition.

I was a latch-key kid and had all the "freedom" I wanted. Even to the point of becoming sexually active at age 13 in my parent's home. My mother used to ring the doorbell when she knew I was alone with my boyfriend. She would wait a minute or three, giving my lover and I time to dress, before she would come in.

That began when I was 13. It was never discussed. Nor was my overdose on a psychedelic at the age 15. Nor (at 15) the times I came home so drunk, I'd have to use the hallway walls to walk to the bathroom so I could throw up. My mother would help me.

But these things were never discussed. At the time I thought my parents were "cool." I was independent of their rule.

Actually I was independent of a vital part of parental love.

I don't hold bitterness toward them; I think they were doing the best they knew at the time with the challenges (their own demons which I began to learn about in my 30s) that they themselves battled.

Anyway, my point is, that I wasn't given direction, like how to share, etc. Yet I ended up with the same symptoms of believing I was damaged, of giving my all in relationships in order to feel worthwhile (or something like that), among other 'symptoms.'

I'm still challenged in those areas, but less so than I once was. I don't know if I will ever "be free" from them. But maybe some day.

Maybe some day. There was a time I thought I'd never be free from my many physical illnesses that I developed in my 20s. But I am now healthier that I'm in my 50s. Many people go on medications as they age; I have been able to go off many of them...simply because I'm healthier. So maybe the same or similar will happen in my inner life.

Hoping some of that makes sense and is relevant....

Thanks again.

To life and hope,
~carol (@1person)

Oneperson said...

Another awesome post Susan.

Oddly, I was raised without rules, so to speak. That is, I craved direction and for someone to tell me what to do. I even made my own chore list when I was around 6 years old and became frustrated because my parents would not enforce it.

I think I wanted to be noticed, to know I was worth some sort of recognition.

I was a latch-key kid and had all the "freedom" I wanted. Even to the point of becoming sexually active at age 13 in my parent's home. My mother used to ring the doorbell when she knew I was alone with my boyfriend. She would wait a minute or three, giving my lover and I time to dress, before she would come in.

That began when I was 13. It was never discussed. Nor was my overdose on a psychedelic at the age 15. Nor (at 15) the times I came home so drunk, I'd have to use the hallway walls to walk to the bathroom so I could throw up. My mother would help me.

But these things were never discussed. At the time I thought my parents were "cool." I was independent of their rule.

Actually I was independent of a vital part of parental love.

I don't hold bitterness toward them; I think they were doing the best they knew at the time with the challenges (their own demons which I began to learn about in my 30s) that they themselves battled.

Anyway, my point is, that I wasn't given direction, like how to share, etc. Yet I ended up with the same symptoms of believing I was damaged, of giving my all in relationships in order to feel worthwhile (or something like that), among other 'symptoms.'

I'm still challenged in those areas, but less so than I once was. I don't know if I will ever "be free" from them. But maybe some day.

Maybe some day. There was a time I thought I'd never be free from my many physical illnesses that I developed in my 20s. But I am now healthier that I'm in my 50s. Many people go on medications as they age; I have been able to go off many of them...simply because I'm healthier. So maybe the same or similar will happen in my inner life.

Hoping some of that makes sense and is relevant....

Thanks again.

To life and hope,
~carol (@1person)

Oneperson said...

Oops!!

Sorry about that!!

I kept getting an error message so I would redo and click submit reply.

*redface*

I wasn't aware my comment had even posted until I went to try to figure out why I was getting the error message.

So sorry!!

Blunderingly human,
~carol

Susan said...

Not to worry Carol! And of course what you shared is relavent and makes complete sense. There are extremes that take place in parenting that can leave us lacking in even the most basic of life skills and self worth I believe.

Your story is not uncommon - sadly too often children are not protected and cherished as we should be. I'm sorry that your parents didn't protect and guide you through your youth, Carol. Many of us come to realize that they did the best they could with what they had to work with but that doesn't erase the pain we suffered at their hands whether it was blatant abuse or subtle abuse through neglect.

There are some basic things we learned in these experiences and it comes down to denying our reality and the abuse by not talking about it and certainly not feeling anything connected to it other than perhaps the shame that many survivors live live with very often.

It is good to hear that you have found physical health and it is true that we can also find the intrinsic health and make peace with those demons that have caused us such distress.

Thank you for sharing your truth with us here Carol; you are not alone and we can live our potential and best lives today in spite of the past we've had that sometimes left us ill equipped.

Hugs:)

~Kyla~ said...

This post is wonderful thank you for posting this, I especially liked how you posted a link that talks about dysfunctional families. This to me makes perfect sense on how of some of the behaviors I have had,and from my background I came from a dysfunctional family so I feel like this to me just really hits me strongly, in a good way! of course. while reading this, I was shaking my head in agreement, because it explains thing's so well, it's weird in a good way to understand something that once didn't to kind of piece that together, great post!

Susan said...

Thanks Kyla! I'm a firm believer that new knowledge is the source of the seed of new insight:) It was when I started learning about both the dysfunctional aspects of my life, where they came from and what the healthier aspects might look like - that I actually had a choice to begin to make the changes that would change my life:)

Good to see you!