Boundaries

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There are a few ways to define the words boundary or boundaries. I am partial to the definition of boundary as ” a point or limit that indicates where two things become different.” Relational boundaries help set the limits of where we end and another person begins. Without this clear delineation, chaos and attempts to control ensue and that’s never pretty.

Boundaries among people (whether between romantic partners or just two strangers walking past each other in a grocery store) are often the source of confusion and misunderstanding. There have been well known books written about boundaries and many jokes have been told at boundary’s expense.

Why has the concept of people having boundaries received such a bad rap? I think it’s because far too many people fall on either end of the spectrum and exhibit no boundaries and weirdness follows or too rigid execution of their boundaries and weirdness follows. We have all met people who sit on the different ends of the teeter-totter and for us it’s usually not a very pleasant experience. I can honestly say that during the years of my own journey in getting healthier in life,  I have been both lacking in boundaries and uber rigid in keeping mine. It is through trial and error that we hopefully come to something of a gray area where boundaries are present and done so in a way that doesn’t immediately put people off to our message of self-care.

With that said though,  not all people are going to be happy when we exhibit boundaries; even if our delivery of the boundary is centered and not extreme. Why do people dislike it when we state how we are feeling and what we need? Many people like to operate in a spirit of control and domination. They want what they want and just how they want it. Our opinions (aka boundaries) are a nuisance to their agenda. That doesn’t mean we stop taking care of ourselves though. If we are going to be emotionally balanced people in life, we must get a little more comfortable with not pleasing other people at times.  We don’t  have a license to intentionally hurt other people or disregard what they need in life and there should be an ebb and flow among people that allows for each person to be recognized, heard and valued as an equal participant.

If you find yourself  lacking boundaries or you can see that your delivery of boundaries might be a tad harsh, forgive yourself and start over today. With each opportunity to share openly and honestly how you feel and what your expectations are for any given situation, let balance be your goal and keep working at finding the healthy middle ground. It takes time, practice but most of all a desire to not be on either extreme regarding your boundaries with people.

Five Things I’ve Learned This Week – 10/09/13

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 Five Things I’ve Learned This Week or Was Reminded Of:

1) We can never discount the connection between physical symptoms and a possible emotional cause. I was talking to a friend of mine and she shared that her stomach had been bothering her for a few days: heart burn, constant slight nausea and a general feeling of illness. The longer we talked, it came out that she had been shoving down feelings lately and hadn’t really allowed herself to fully experience the feelings of sadness and disappointment. With this realization, tears began to well up in her eyes and after a decent amount of girl-talk and some more tears, we parted ways for the day. A few hours later she called to tell me that much to her surprise, her stomach had felt really good and was back to normal for the rest of the day. I strongly believe that the tears and talking helped let out the emotions that were metaphorically sitting in her stomach and causing the discomfort.

2) It’s an incredible blessing to meet a new friend and have an instant rapport based on a similar sense of humor, life experiences and attitudes. We need to treasure those moments and see them for the gifts they are to us.

3) Let’s make sure we have honest and open conversations with our kids while they are young so when they get older the habit of having heart-to-heart talks is a well established routine. Our kids should be learning about life and all its complexities from us, their wise old parents, and not from the dudes or dudettes at school.

4) It’s amazing how autumn Texas weather can make everything in life seem brighter and sunnier. Loving the current climate we are experiencing and soaking it all up before our first freeze hits. This is great camping weather!

5) Everyone, including kids, should learn to play a musical instrument of their choosing. I add “of their choosing” because Mom or Dad picking say, piano, doesn’t count in my book. If you’re an adult, think about an instrument you’ve always wanted to tinker with and go rent it on a monthly basis. Get a beginners workbook while at the music store picking up your rented instrument and learn the basics from the workbook. If you decide to keep going in your musical development, then you can think about lessons down the road. Use the same process with your kids and find what instrument they would like to learn.

What’s on your list?

A Lumpy Rug

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We have all heard and probably have used the idiom of “sweeping something under the rug”. Sometimes we reference it in literal cleaning terms; we may not have had time to do a full cleaning so we just moved some dirt around in such a way that it is unseen.  Most  of the time, I think we use it in reference to something we don’t want to deal with or face so we ignore it  and put it “under the rug” and move on. This pattern of relating to people is highly problematic though. Issues are rarely addressed and resentments can build and build until someone stomps on the bulge in the carpet and out comes all the suppressed issues that were never dealt with previously. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when people let gripes built up until it’s an onslaught of complaints that could have been dealt with one at a time and much early in the relationship.

Why do people sweep things under the rug rather than deal with them at the time? I think fear is the root of this behavior. Fear of rejection, fear of conflict, fear of becoming angry and not being able to manage it, fear of not pleasing someone, fear of being manipulated by the other person and so on. If both people in the relationship had better communication skills, more issues could be immediately dealt with and not suppressed until they all come tumbling out in one emotionally messy pile.

I am a fan of self-help author Dr. Susan Forward. She has written several books that I think are excellent and her book “Emotional Blackmail” is wonderful as well. It is my opinion that EVERYONE should read this book because it clearly defines the difference between speaking up in a healthy manner vs being an emotional manipulator. Believe me when I say that sometimes it’s a fine line between the two. Dr. Forward gives scenario examples in the book of what emotional manipulation looks like and what it doesn’t look like. She also gives concrete tools of how to deal with a manipulator in your life. I think it’s an important read because we want to recognize emotional manipulation in others and especially in ourselves.

If we and those we are in relationship with have a clear understanding of the difference between talking openly about concerns and feelings and falling into emotional blackmail, the rug wouldn’t be needed to cover the topics we are afraid to deal with in an authentic upfront manner.

Has the pile under the rug in your life grown too big and now there is a bulge that everyone quietly walks around and tries to pretend isn’t there? It may be time to start pulling out the issues and dealing with them, rather than adapt to having a lumpy rug.

Five Things I’ve Learned This Week – 10/02/13

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 Five Things I’ve Learned This Week or Was Reminded Of:

1) To really understand people, we have to be willing to let go of what we think we know about them so that we can have the ability to see something new. For example: that person who really grates on your nerves? There is a reason for their behaviors and just to annoy you probably isn’t it. Interpreting behaviors correctly is the foundation of being in relationships with all different types of folks.

2) We need to observe how we feel around certain people. Are we relaxed or tense? Do we feel positive about ourselves or does our self-esteem take a hit? Are we hopeful or gloomy? Don’t just assume you feel the same no matter who you are around because that simply isn’t true. People bring out different things in us.

3) Physical pain greatly affects the quality of our lives. If you deal with chronic pain or a temporary situation, be gentle with yourself and set realistic goals for each day. Without the pain, life would feel very different but there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had even while in physical pain.

4) Giving in to a demand in order to get a controlling person to stop harassing you might be a good band-aid for the moment but only teaches controlling people that their behaviors work and will go unchallenged. Learning to be direct, firm and respectful is a better approach when faced with someone who wants to dominate you and the situation.

5) Our scars, both physical and emotional, make us who we are today; for better or for worse. It’s very true that through adversity we either become better or bitter. Hopefully we have learned life lessons that have grown wisdom and empathy in us. If we are more bitter than we would like to be, there are steps that can be taken to make our life experiences more enriching to us.

What’s on your list?

Five Things I’ve Learned This Week – 09/11/13

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Five Things I’ve Learned This Week or Was Reminded Of:

1) I am not a doctor but I have personally found that caffeine (via too much coffee) caused all over muscle aches and soreness. Crazy I know! But it’s true. So maybe this will serve as a PSA to other achy people: cut down on the caffeine and see if the body aches go away or are at least better. I did actually do some research into this weirdness and there seems to be a scientifically based correlation so I am not just making it up or some placebo effect.

2) Making big changes in life is super scary and causes us to doubt ourselves at almost every turn. Making a list of why we need the changes we do helps us stay focused on the goal(s) and also is a balancing weight to the fears that can be crippling.

3) Great quote that I absolutely love: “Your flaws are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you.” I wish this type of  love for everyone who currently does not have it.

4) As someone else said “Divorce is not a four letter word” It’s true; it is not and yet so often it is treated as such in many religious circles. Is divorce the first option that any married person wishes for? Absolutely not.  It is the sad outcome of a relationship dying and one or both people standing by while life left the body.  I strongly believe that God hates divorce because the marriage failed to reflect His love and the marriage was or became a legal entity, not a spiritual one.

5) I think the Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is brilliant. I recommend it all the time for people that come in to visit with me; whether married or single. We can be thinking we are acting loving towards our partner but he/she might not see our actions as special because what we are doing is not their love language, but probably ours. I think everyone should do the online quiz at Five Love Languages Quiz and see which one you are.

For the record, my primary love language is Words of Affirmation so speaking nicely to me is how I hear love the best but taking my car for a wash doesn’t really do much for me in the way of expressing love (Acts of Service is another of the five languages). See why this is such a great test?! We could be spinning our wheels thinking we are being loving to our partners but not in the way that means the most to him/her.

What’s on your list?