When I first started hearing and reading about boundaries, it didn’t make much sense to me . . . because I didn’t have good boundaries. I didn’t understand then how boundaries were a way of loving ourselves. Good boundaries are another way of taking loving care of ourselves. So how does this work?
In this wonderful human life of ours, we generally learn what isn’t loving by doing something that doesn’t feel good. At least, that is how I learned along the way. I’m a very visceral, tactile person, so I experience something and then I get it. I learned about good boundaries by having my boundaries violated, by transgressing my own boundaries, ignoring what was most loving for me, and not taking loving care of myself. I didn’t always know how to take care of myself. I didn’t know what was loving. Mostly, I just wasn’t taught what good boundaries looked like or felt like. If we grow up with abuse or being molested, we aren’t taught or allowed to think about what feels loving. So I learned not to think about it.
I often say I didn’t know how to think for a lot of my life. I didn’t know how to think things through. I was very reactive. This is why metaphysics created such a hunger in me . . . it taught me how to think and reason . . . and allow myself to feel. My studies and practice taught me how to assess how my behavior or others’ behavior felt, and think about what was going on, so I could make a choice. With awareness, we can make a choice.
One way to check if we are crossing a boundary is to ask: does this feel loving to me? Is this for my highest good and the highest good of all concerned? Is this coming out of love – truly? With practice, we can tell what the truth is. This applies to our behavior or others. I’ve had others tell me, this is for your own good. I’m doing this because I love you. I’m doing this because I want to be loved. This is okay, don’t worry about what you feel, that’s not true, not real. None of this feels loving to me. It feels controlling, I feel a boundary being crossed.
In Patricia Evans’s books Controlling People and The Verbally Abusive Relationship, she talks about keeping good boundaries. I was introduced to these books by my friend Lisa Fields, who is a wonderful therapist. Lisa has a great phrase that I like when someone is trying to transgress my boundaries, telling me something that is not really true for me. She says: I am not confused about my reality. What this means to me is, I am not confused about what is loving or unloving to me and what is happening right now, no matter what story you are trying to tell me.
In reading these books I recognized some of the behaviors Evans talks about in myself as well as others. I was taught and did the same behaviors being perpetrated on me.
We may already be aware of how others try to violate our boundaries in big or small ways. We also cross our own boundaries when we do something that is not loving to us. We tell ourselves, I can spend time or money I don’t have because it’s the right thing to do for someone else, I can do this one thing, it’s no big deal, or even (if you grew up when I did) I can sleep with this person this one time. Or we might think, I know what’s best for this person, I should intervene in this situation, I can justify getting off my path and onto someone else’s. None of this is really loving. We don’t like it when someone meddles in our life. We can tell if someone is coming from a loving, caring place or from a false sense of righteousness that they think allows them to jump on our path and in our lives. And we can tell if we’re doing that to others too, if we really check in with whether we’re trying to overpower someone, of if we’re wanting to empower them.
Another way I know when I’m being manipulated, someone is attempting to control me, or I’m doing that to someone else, is how I feel in the pit of my stomach, or my gut. I know when I’m transgressing my own boundaries, doing something unloving to me, or someone else. I can feel it when I cross boundaries. Our bodies give us good signals.
When I think of good boundaries, I often think of my kitty, Little Bear. He has great boundaries. He lets me know immediately, in no uncertain terms, when I do something he doesn’t like. He just wants me to stop what I’m doing. He’ll make a sound that makes his displeasure very clear, or run away or put out a paw or maybe a claw. He knows how to take care of himself. And then it’s over, he doesn’t hold it against me, he doesn’t punish me. Just very matter of fact. And then he’s back to his loving self, because ultimately, he trusts that I’ll pay attention when he lets me know how he feels. And I make every effort to honor that trust and be respectful of what feels good and doesn’t feel good to him. Humans could take a page from kitties . . without the claws.
There are so many ways to take loving care of ourselves. Our Higher Self is always the most loving part of our Being. When we come from a place of love, we are connecting with the loving part of ourselves, our Higher Self, our soul, our spirit. The more we are aware of the Love we truly are, the more centered and aware we can be. And that wisest part of ourselves will help us have good loving boundaries, when our human self might give ourselves away.