I am “in a complicated relationship” with boundaries.
The reason for this is that I don’t really understand them too well; I definitely don’t love them, but I do use them from time to time.
I know this is controversial, but boundaries for me are a last resort. A final act. They almost never get erected, so when they do, I know that it is for very good reason.
The reason for this is that I believe boundaries with other people are cold and unnecessary barriers. When we put them in place they block others from being able to reach us, and us them, on various levels. While I understand that there are those who may think that this is beneficial and essential, what is often not considered is that it also means that people are shut out, denied, forsaken, rejected, blamed, shamed and mostly, that the opportunity will never arise to be able to resolve things.
“Let go of all blame because it only destroys you, and move forward with hope, love, compassion and kindness.” ~ Báb
I keep doors open. Always. Unless it is a life-threatening or physically violent scenario.
My belief is that when we are adults other people’s behaviour can never emotionally harm us. It can only harm us if we take it in and allow it to affect us. Other people can behave in whatever ways they deem necessary and say whatever they choose to and it is always our choice whether we absorb that information and internalise it, or whether we separate ourselves and see the other person’s actions as entirely their own and something for which they need to take ownership for.
Although this isn’t always as easy to do as it sounds, identifying when other people are projecting on us and by refusing to be influenced by their energetic storm means that we do not need to remove anyone, or any situation, permanently from our lives but instead we can allow them a safe place from which they cannot emotionally harm.
When we cut people from our lives, we miss the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons that all interactions can offer us. When boundaries are placed between other people and ourselves we effectively deny the opportunity to communicate clearly and for issues to one day be resolved. Sometimes people take a while to realise the error of their ways, and we can hold a place for them without expectation, so they are free to return and make peace if they wish to, or we can reach out to them. When we have placed a boundary, especially if we have told the other person about it, reconnecting can be more challenging and difficult.
In my opinion setting a boundary means that we are placing the fact that we cannot reason with our own mind onto someone else, so we decide to remove ourselves from their presence so that we don’t have to control ourselves. We may feel that if that person who triggers us isn’t around us, we will not emotionally react. Instead we can recognise that we can control how we feel and take responsibility for our emotional reactions. Therefore, no one else can affect us so boundaries become entirely irrelevant and redundant.
Often we place boundaries around us to prevent people from contacting us due to what we feel are negative behaviours. The unfortunate thing about this though is that negative behaviours are usually a cry out for love and when we reject and deny them, we also add to the feelings of unworthiness and unimportance that they may already hold. All negative acts stem from a fear, so whenever someone behaves towards us in an unpleasant way, rather than shunning them, we can radiate love and compassion their way, and try to understand and hold them in a safe place so that they can express themselves without judgement. This can all be done without us taking it personally and allowing any destruction to occur in our own lives.
We often judge and condemn people based on our own standards, beliefs, morals and values without fully realising the extent of the other person’s experiences and journey. This alone can cause us to place walls up to prevent other people from getting close to us, and when we aren’t compassionate we can assess people as though they are harmful, when, we always have the ability to allow or prevent any harm.
I have another way of looking at boundaries. Rather than placing limitations on our relationships with others, or having high expectations about other people’s behaviours, we can instead allow people to be their natural selves and it is our choice whether we engage or disengage with them. I don’t believe that it is our responsibility to tell any other adult how they should or shouldn’t behave. If we don’t want to interact, we can step away from it, but we can do this without judging, and while still being compassionate so that other people aren’t left feeling rejected, shamed or blamed.
It is not necessary, or our right to say to any other adult “you should” or “you should not.” Every adult has the ability to reason and rationalise and also to face the consequences of their behaviour. No one else can ever hurt and affect us emotionally, as all of our emotional responses are driven and controlled by ourselves, by our own mind. We choose, we can always choose. We can interact, we can remove ourselves at any time—without telling other people how we feel they should act.
Removing boundaries and instead controlling our responses towards people allows for connection to develop, equality and acceptance for all beings regardless of the stage in life they are at or of their behaviour. It reminds us that we are, mostly, all struggling to navigate this labyrinth of life and that some of the most destructive behaviour actually derives from the people most in pain. Why add more pain to the mix by rejecting them and denying them further? We don’t need to allow anyone a close place in our lives, but neither do we need rock solid boundaries in place to keep people out. How can people approach us in the future to seek resolve if we have bolted and locked the door tightly?
When we do this we will very quickly realise the powerful meaning of cause and effect. We can choose not to be affected by what causes anyone else to display negative behaviour and as soon as we do this we will soon realise that if we don’t react emotionally, the behaviour more often than not dissipates very quickly.
It isn’t an easy task and takes plenty of practice, but instead of closing down, we can open our hearts and minds and allow people to be their unique natural selves, in their darkness, light or whatever shade they show up in.
“If you can’t find it in your own heart to be compassionate look in someone else’s before giving up altogether.” ~ Ashley Young.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Flickr/MCAD Library
Editor: Travis May