This next piece is meant to be experienced rather than just read, as it is much more impactful that way. It may seem a bit different to you — but you will likely be glad if you try it, as have many of the folks I have explored it with. Boundaries are extremely important in life and relationships. Lack of healthy boundaries causes a lot of grief. So let’s get started!
To begin: it may seem strange, but interesting, to extend your arms out around you and get a sense of how strongly you sense that there is an imaginary line at your fingertips. On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being not at all and 10 being strongly, to what extent do you sense this line?
This sense of separation between you and the rest of the world was developed by you when you were very young. And in all likelihood, you learned about it the hard way. All children get their boundaries violated, because they are young, small, relatively powerless, and do not live in a perfect world with perfect parents, teachers, and others. So when a child has no choice but to have his boundaries violated again and again, he can’t help but feel (not necessarily all consciously) powerless, helpless, hopeless, hurt, angry, worthless, trapped, and like a victim. As these are felt again and again, they become a habitual way of feeling when boundaries are being violated, even many years later. Do you recognize some of those unpleasant feelings at those times in yourself?
The good news is that they are from the past, and you can shift into the empowered, calm and confident part of you. You can develop a stronger sense of separation between yourself and the world.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to have people feel that they have two options when faced with a boundary violation: keep quiet to have peace, or confront the other aggressively, and then be faced with conflict. Fortunately, there is a much better alternative to these two undesirable options. From a strong, empowered, calm and confident place, one can handle things skillfully, often being assertive, not aggressive. Exactly how it would look varies depending on the circumstances, but from the desired state of being empowered, it is not hard to figure out how to handle things.
Next, imagine God, the universe, life, a known or imagined other with divine qualities (whatever works for you) tell you: “You are very important. Your feelings are important. Your needs are important. Your well-being is important. And you have a very important job: to look after yourself. Remember that this job is not being given to anybody else. You are the only one in your body, and the only one that can take on this responsibility. Taking good care of yourself is NOT SELFISH; IT IS VERY HEALTHY.” How does it feel to have been given this important job, and to feel that you are important?
Often things that we do with our bodies affect how we feel emotionally. For example, crossing our arms invites a feeling of being more closed while uncrossing the arms invites a feeling of being more open. We are going to use this to shift into our empowered state.
Find a wall that is going to represent boundary violations. It can represent all boundary violations, past and future. To make it very concrete, imagine that you are trying to push a door closed, because on the other side of it is a strong disturbed guy who is trying to push it open so that he can come in and hurt you. There in NO way you are going to let that happen. Just like a mom motivated by love and need can pick up a car to save her baby, feel yourself strengthened the same way. Push with all your might against the wall until you feel a sense of pleasure at closing and locking it. Feel free to rest if you need to if you tire before feeling the pleasure.
Now repeat the sensing of how strong the sense of an imaginary line at your fingertips is. If it is not yet a 10, keep pushing the wall until it is a 10. Notice how within the space surrounding you, you may feel safe instead of vulnerable.
Next, study your experience after having just “protected yourself”. You may notice that you are more aware of your strength than before. You may notice that you feel very calm, relaxed and safe. You may notice that none of the unpleasant feelings listed before (hurt, anger, helpless, hopeless and others) remain. You may notice that your posture has changed to one with an erect spine, head up, and shoulders back. You may notice that you feel empowered, and confident.
From this state, you become aware of your inner calmness and clarity. This is a great place from which to wonder how to handle a given situation. You will find that you have access to wisdom, good problem solving skills, and good ideas. From here, you might realize how the other person – the one trying to violate your boundaries – might actually need some reassurance or empathy. You sense you are able to more clearly and simply express your feelings, needs, and requests. Upon reflection it might feel wisest right to ignore a given situation, or to be more direct: give a look, say “please stop”, have a conversation, or something even more drastic. The wisdom that you have access to when you wonder from your empowered state will guide you.
Best of all is to use this newly found skill – take it for a test drive and get to know how it can best work for you. If you notice that youy are no longer feeling empowered and have slipped back into the old negative state, re-empower yourself by re-living the above with some more “wall pushing”. Enjoy your enhanced or new-found empowerment!