Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Doggy Doo and Boundaries

Meet my girl, Brindle!

Learning about personal boundaries was a huge thing for me, having come from a background where the mantra "whats yours is mine" prevailed.

So I'm always on the lookout for ways to talk about how to recognize and learn to establish clear boundaries. Today's post gives a good example of how when we don't have clear boundaries, we may feel as though something is being done "to" us and the "knee jerk" reactions we can get into.

First - a quick review about what I've come to understand "boundaries" are.

Boundaries are about what I will allow INto my personal space as well as what I choose to share from my personal space.

In other words - it's about what is good for me, not what I'm going to "let" others do or "make" others do.

In simple terms - I accept that others can be and do what they choose - and my job is to decide if I want this person's behaviors in my personal space or not. My job is NOT to try to bully, manipulate or convince others to be or do things differently in order to make me feel ok.

This is where mutual respect and caring comes into play vs the power and control dance we often get into when we feel as though we have to "fight" for everything to get our needs met in our relationships.

On to today's story about boundaries...

I live in a downtown loft apartment where much effort and expense has been put into providing a lush, landscaped, green environment. This is not a luxury building by any means; but it's a pleasant environment filled with greenery.

Over the past year, new tenants have moved in, bringing along their dogs - and their need to utilize the "outhouse" :) .

So - what happens is the landlord/management company starts to let folks have dogs. But - they don't draft up any pet guidelines for protecting the property from the four footed angels from leaving their acidic marks on the property grounds that result in brown spots as the grass dies.

This is an example of VERY loose "boundaries". So the result is that other tenants start complaining about the waste left behind from these 4 footed friends.

Then owners of the pets start receiving not so nice notes from the Office Manager about taking their dogs across the street to the provided "potty" area that is not landscaped - but fails to provide any consequences for ignoring this new boundary.

The person in charge of maintaining the grounds starts to grumble and complain as they are left trying to maintain the landscaping that is starting to look as though it's a checkerboard, the unsightly brown spots starting to eat up the lush lawn that was there before....

And eventually every dog is looked at as "The Problem" and the "Solution" is to again ban the dogs from the building. (this has not happened although could be the "knee jerk" reaction if the problem doesn't resolve itself)

And this - is a very good example of "loose" boundaries and how when we don't establish clear boundaries of what we will allow IN our personal space (in this case the grounds of this apartment building) we can get into that frame of mind where the solution is to exert control to force a correction that meets our needs.

So - had the Property Manager established some clear guidelines or boundaries about what was acceptable use of the grounds to pet owners, along with some respectful and appropriate consequences and consistent enforcement of them....the little doggies could live in peace with everyone else in the building while those who chose to disregard the established boundaries may have eventually found themselves looking for a new home when they consistently broke the established limits.

See the recent post "12 Things...Part 3" to read about boundaries and other ideas that can support you in your own journey to wellness!

Q: Have you struggled with boundaries in some way? Do you have your own example to share about how you learned to establish boundaries or perhaps a question?



Kristin said...

Perfect post to copy and send to a friend who is questioning her role in a relationship. "Where are your boundaries!?" I asked her just a couple of hours ago.
Your example with the dogs is great, easy to understand and translatable to how we let a "loose understanding" slide into messy terrain.
xx kris

Susan said...

I'm wondering if that last sentence was intentional or came about coincidentally? lol!

Thanks Kris:) With no understanding or experience of boundaries in my past - this was a hard concept to grasp ahold of but has become a key indicator when I might be feeling irritable at what others do or say - it often leads me back to having "loose boundaries" or unclear boundaries for myself.

Kristin said...

I sent my friend your thoughts and she wrote back that she thinks that "the root tendency in me comes from abusive parents. when you're a child, there is no choice but to let these damaging forces in, b/c we are dependent on them".
My friend was raised an Orthodox Jew and I came from a wasp-y background - yet, we were raised in exactly the same manner. Same kind of abuse and same kind of reaction to it as adults.
You are never too old to learn to set boundaries.

Susan said...

"the root tendency in me comes from abusive parents. when you're a child, there is no choice but to let these damaging forces in, b/c we are dependent on them".

Yes; this is the core premise of Trauma Model" that I adopted in my own journey. I did not have to go back and rehash every abusive incident. I simply learned to recognize the effect of this (locus of control SHIFT ei where the parents make it the child's job to keep themselves safe by conforming to the needs of the parent) along with the ambivalence/doubt/dissension we feel in ourselves from these "love hate" relationships" with those whom we attached to in order to survive.

These are the main issues to learn about then recognize then practice/do for me. But - there is also a place for grieving each abuse incident as it comes up via triggered ....and entering the emotional healing process to reach acceptance and integrate it into our today life vs the avoidance that the mh system taught me.

Healing is not rocket science; unfortunately if the "professionals" taught us to do this - mh would not be the multi billion $ drug cartel it has become.

My irritation is showing today - no offense intended.

Thank you for your comment Kristin

Mark p.s.2 said...

re: dog doo
"Oh its not my dog! Really it isnt!"

Someone has to be the "bad" guy and take photos of the dog in action, and the owners who don`t pick up.

If they continue to refuse. (they usually forget in a week or two after a confrontation, old ways/habits3behaviour die hard) you get them evicted for damaging the property- ruining the enjoyment of the property.
and you use the photos as evidence in court.

Susan said...

Mark - thanks for your comment! I appreciate you sharing your insights:)