In a collectivist society such as ours, we have grown up seeing or experiencing our parents and even grandparents taking major life decisions about what career we should pursue, whom we should marry, etc. We find it normal because media such as novels and movies have made it look so real and acceptable. So much so that till today it’s considered very normal for in-laws to persuade the couple to have a grandchild.
These are the major red flags that have been continually expressed from across cultures and generations. These red flags are an evidence that how urgently we need to teach ourselves the concept of executing boundaries so as to protect our integrity from being shamed.
We cannot forget that even in a dependent family system who love each other, we all our “separate individuals”.
Check with yourselves, if you find yourself in situations/plans unwillingly or forced? Do you find it hard to say No to anyone? Do you always feel tired and drained out mentally and physically in caring for others? This is because we are living in a codependently programmed society. Executing boundaries is one of the empowering ways to take back our control.
The learning can be done in 3 stages.
i) First stage is AWARENESS
Few of major Signs that show you are in need of putting boundaries
- You experience not feeling heard most of the times
- You feel forced in plans by family and friends
- You feel drained (physically and psychologically) out most of your time
- You feel resentment in your relationships
- You feel responsible for “fixing things” every time
- You feel an inability to assert yourself
Few of major Signs that show your boundaries are unknowingly violated
- Deep feelings of anger, confusion and disorientation
- Feelings of shame/ sense of being exposed
- Exploration of conflicting messages that get in the way of setting boundaries
- You feel the desire to pull away from people
- You have learned to self-sacrifice or be the selfless one every time
One of the most important practises is exploring our (hidden) fears that prevent us from setting healthy boundaries. Common fears around setting boundaries
· Fear of not being loved
· Fear of being judged/misunderstood
· Fear of loss/abandonment
· Fear of hurting someone
· Fear of being controlling
· Feeling of Guilt/ Shame
· Being frozen/paralysed
Boundaries are our own personal limits that defines our potential to participate in anything. They allow us to create a space between ourselves and another person. Having boundaries is an essential element to maintain a healthy and long-lasting relationship.
Many of us don’t have or understand boundaries because we were not modelled clear boundaries by parent figures or our boundaries were consistently violated/ignored if we expressed them.
But we can always learn to put them in order to protect our integrity. Here comes the second stage.
ii) The second stage is ASSERTION
In this stage we begin to stand for boundaries in a strong, firm way. Few things to be kept in mind are:
· You feel powerful with your new self-awareness
· You can build new relationships flexible to your own limits
· It sometimes can be a very messy stage, as assertion can be difficult with co-dependent people
· This stage will keep you more conscious in indulging with safe v/s unsafe people
· Most empowered as we can always use boundaries to REPAIR our old relationships.
After the successful attempts of assertion, we cannot expect everything to go our way. You can always be misunderstood and misjudged for the same. Which brings us to the third stage.
iii) The third stage is NEGOTIATION
This stage allows you to bring flexibility and mutuality to your boundary expression. Few things to take into consideration in this stage are:
· Negotiation can be a smooth doable process once you have some practise in setting boundaries.
· One has to assess where boundaries should be rigid and are being used for control or where they are one-sided.
· This stage can be acted upon once you have healed certain wounds that were protected by boundaries. Now you are ready to negotiate.
· You have to be smart in exploration of non-negotiable v/s negotiable boundaries. Only way to identify this is by checking whether after considering the negotiation, behaviour is not taking you to your old patterns or causing any harm to either party.
I will not visit your parents if no one else is with us.
I am not comfortable you writing/sharing about personal or private details about our relationship on social media. Please we have to find a middle ground to this.
I’m willing to visit your parents as long as it is a group experience, or you reassure me you will stand up for me if someone says something hurtful
You can share things that I have agreed on and feel comfortable and safe with you sharing.
· You can either be weak or be stubborn when it comes to resistance in behaviours. It’s always helpful to be supported by a willing partner/friend during your healing process.
All relationships involve a healthy (and constant) negotiation process. But negotiation involves both sides stretching to find a middle ground that works.
Negotiation is not a one-sided experience.
People have to be working towards a solution that works for BOTH.
This concept may come out as geeky or impractical if we see ourselves stuck in highly enmeshed and co-dependent relationships. Therefore, we have to remember that a boundary as a tool just acts as a filter – it let’s all the positive things through and keep harmful things out. It does not encourage you in breaking any bonds. On the contrary, it helps you convert your relationships from toxic to healthy.
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