A friend of mine gave a training on boundaries to a group of paraprofessionals in the mental health field. Much needed! I don’t think that ethics and boundary issues are taught widely, and they should be. She also sent me her slides from the workshop and gave me permission to use her ideas.
Now this isn’t about client/therapist boundaries, it’s about boundaries in general, so the ideas are applicable in all situations. I found that I already knew all of the, material but I didn’t think about it. For me, it really helps to put words to the concepts. It’s like a little cloud is floating through my mind, and I meet it and say, “Oh, there you are. Now that I look at you closely I can see you are made of water vapor and bits of ash and some bacteria and lots of other things, too.” And then I feel I know clouds a little better. Make any sense?
So boundaries between people are made by saying “yes” and “no.” It’s so simple! But for folks like us, who often freeze up and stutter, it is hard to know whether we want to say “yes” or “no,” whether we dare to, what consequences might occur if we say one or the other. Without a “yes” or a “no” there is no boundary and the other person can do what they want.
My family often answered questions by talking around the topic. Say I asked for seconds of dessert. Instead of saying I could have seconds or I couldn’t, my mother would talk around the subject for ten minutes. If I kept asking, she continued talking and still didn’t give me a clear answer. At some point, I would give up and go away, which was what she wanted all along. As an adult, I caught myself talking in circles when I didn’t know the answer and was embarrassed to admit it. It was hard to break the habit!
It is believed that everybody knows what they want or don’t want, and they simply have to learn to be clear. But what about people like us, with parts? Chances are, different parts will have different desires. If there is an internal disagreement, you might not know what “you” want. Or if the parts switch, one might say “yes” and the “other “no,” and no boundary gets set. So please remember that it isn’t quite as simple as it sounds for multiples.
Here are some different types of boundaries.
Personal space – how close somebody can come to you. Touch – who can touch you, where, and under what circumstances.
Respect for ideas and opinions. Listening without putting somebody down, not stealing ideas or plagiarizing, not mocking somebody’s opinion.
How much you are willing to share with another. You might express anger at your partner but not at a police officer. Who you share which parts of your past with.
“Sex” includes physical sex, sexual feelings, and thoughts about sex. You might fantasize about somebody but never even kiss them, you might get turned on but never act on it, or you might be cold and disconnected while you have physical sex. (I had always known I had different boundaries with different people but, until I saw this slide, I did not have words for the different aspects of sexuality.)
Money and possessions – who you will give or lend them to, how much, how long. What is mine, yours, or ours.
How you spend your time. How long do you allot for work, self-care, socializing, and play.
How available you are to others. Who do you willingly turn your attention to, and for how long.
How much responsibility – work, friends, or family – do you take on for other people or projects.
What personal or professional information are you willing to share with whom, and what is private.
One last distinction – personal and professional boundaries are quite different. Employers or licensing boards make the rules for professional boundaries, not you. They are generally more constrictive and more rigid than personal boundaries. It’s important for all concerned not to break a professional boundary even if the desire exists on both sides. Whereas with personal boundaries, you are entitled to move from one set of boundaries to another if it is consensual.
Take the example of dating a friend and dating a client. The first is fine as long as both people want to change the relationship, whereas the second is forbidden and unethical.
A little about the development of heathy and unhealthy boundaries –
Personal boundaries protect you, keeping you safe and in charge of your life. There are people out there who will, if given the chance, take advantage of you. Some are motivated by greed, lust, or desire for power over another person. Others are socially clueless or in such pain and need that they will cling to anybody who will let them. Regardless of where they are coming from, if you let them take more of you than you are willing to give, you will find that you become frightened, angry, and resentful. What is happening is not good for you.
Ideally, a child is born to parents who take care of the newborn baby and slowly shift control for decision making to the child. The older the child gets, the more he/she is allowed to make decisions and to act out of a sense of self-control and autonomy. The six-year-old doesn’t get to drive the car but is trusted to get a learner’s permit ten years later.
Abused children are not allowed to set their own boundaries. They are not seen as individuals with their own need for safety and their own desires and ideas. They are treated as objects, and the abusive adults feel they can take what they want from them and then toss them aside. They are made to obey at all times because they are seen as being there to fill the adults’ needs and indulge their desires. The adults set the rules, which are often inconsistent, even contradictory.
Under these circumstances, children grow up without the skills needed to protect themselves and set boundaries. They may not even know what boundaries are, let alone how to form and maintain them. Survivors must learn about boundaries as adults, slowly and painfully.
Like all learning, learning to set healthy boundaries involves trial and error. Try not to be too hard on yourself – it isn’t your fault that you don’t know where to start, how to tell whether you are making progress – everything that goes into becoming proficient at protecting yourself at all times and in all situations. Think of it this way – You can’t hop on a bicycle and ride 100 miles without falling off if this is the very first time you have gotten on a bicycle. So expect to fall off, and be kind to yourself when you do and proud of yourself when you get back on your bike.
I feel that’s enough to absorb. I plan to keep talking about boundaries next time.
Sundays of Advent: 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19
12/18 Full Moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve
1/1 New Year’s Day
1/2 New Moon
1/6 Epiphany/Three Kings’ Day
1/7 St Winebald’s Day
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Full Moon
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/17 (?) Martin Luther King Jr. Day
1/20 St. Agnes’ Eve
1/31 New Moon
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc/Satanic Revels
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/12 (?) Lincoln’s Birthday
2/16 Full Moon
2/21 (?) Presidents’ Day/Washington’s birthday
2/25 Walpurgis Day
Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
11/29 -12/16 Chanukah/Hanukkah (Jewish Festival of Lights)
1/16 – 1/17 (sundown to sundown) Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat (Jewish celebration of spring)
1/12 Birth of both Rosenberg and Goering, Nazi Leaders in WWII
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
2/26 Purim (Deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman in Persia)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)
You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Yule/Winter Solstice – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/
Valentine’s Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: personal – (for background, see Spring Equinox) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Summer Solstice (corrected text) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Halloween (personal) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/