Recently I was invited to speak to a women’s group on the topic of boundaries (see below). To be honest, at first I was not really excited about this topic. Once I began speaking and hearing the thoughtful reflections from the group, I realized how impactful boundaries are for many of us. Boundaries affect how we see ourselves and how we react to our environment. Boundaries are important for two main reasons. One is for people to be able to “protect” themselves from intrusions from others, and secondly for people to be able to understand how they may be intruding upon other’s boundaries.
There are many types of boundaries, but the four I outlined were 1-physical space, 2-emotional, 3-intellectual, and 4-material.
Emotional boundaries are the area in which most of us have difficulty. This is essentially allowing others to have control over us or to influence us. Yes, this simplified but for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at that. On the flip side, emotional boundaries also include imposing our control or will on another person. Again, simplified, but hang in there with me.
When we allow or give permission to others to “make us” feel a certain way, that is when we are allowing others to encroach upon our boundaries. If you have previously read my blogs, you know that we control our thoughts and feelings, and no one has the ability to “make” us feel a certain way. In order to understand boundaries, this is an essential learning point. It is also the key to having a life free of drama and entanglements! Who doesn’t want that?
Now, when we attempt to control others, we are encroaching upon their boundaries. This is when we try to orchestrate someone’s else’s life. Examples are parents who attempt to manipulate their children’s social circles or try to gain special accommodations or favors for their children in an academic environment. (This is not educational accommodations for LD or ADD). An example is a parent whose child does not meet the qualifications for AP or GT classes or curriculum, but will attempt to convince the administration to accept their child because “she is really smart.”
You might also see this when someone wants to “fix” another person. This doesn’t usually end well because the message conveyed is that the person isn’t capable or smart enough to make their own decisions. Many times this turns into nagging and the relationship is damaged. It is easy to see how this happens. I usually see this in parents who want to control their children’s lives (what classes they take, their friends, their extra-curricular activities, their school choices). In relationships, it shows up as one person trying to tell another how to live their life. Again this is super simplified, but you get the picture.
You can probably see where this is going-or maybe not. Many clients are surprised to learn that when they are trying to “fix” or construct another person’s life, that is a boundary violation. It is also a revelation to them that the message that they are giving the person they are trying to control is “You’re not capable” or “You’re not smart enough.” Furthermore, people don’t want to be told what to do, even if you have great advice. That’s simple human behavior.
It is a joy to work with clients when they realize how their relationships became troubled. Before coaching, they were not in tune with how their behaviors were affecting their loved ones. Once they finally let go of control, two wonderful things happen. 1-the relationship improves, and 2-they feel so much better! Why? because once a person stops trying to control another person or situation, their stress and anxiety are decreased.
Does this sound familiar? Think about how you can begin to let go of control of people or situations in your life. How are these relationships being affected and what effect is it having on you? Or, perhaps you are feeling that you have allowed your emotional space to be breached a bit?
As a way to get started, take some time to think about:
1- What boundaries you may want to put into place and how you plan to do so. Write it down in a journal.
2-How might you be intruding on someone else’s space? Jot this down, as well. How do you want to begin to let go?
It takes courage and patience to set boundaries and back them up, but we are all totally capable of doing so. Would you like support in exploring this issue? I’d love to work with you!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org