Spiritual communities are a great place to learn about personal boundaries because your boundaries are bound to be challenged. Many people will just walk away from experiences that challenge them while others will stay in an unhealthy relationship that they are not quite comfortable in.
I used to feel guilty when I said “no” because I assumed my loved ones (or strangers for that matter) would feel rejected by my healthy boundary. So I would put up with what others were putting out, effectively over-stepping my own boundary and/or exiting the situation as soon as possible. My fear of other’s judgment stopped me from living in a way that was good for me.
Like attracts like. I have been surrounded by others, mostly women with the same conditioned response around this issue. Often capitulating to a fear of judgement that may not actually be the consequence of boundary setting.
The fear of being loved, rejected, or judged by others stops the use of healthy boundaries.
So there is no clear sense of where you end and another begins. There are only undifferentiated selves.
This is not the same as a feeling the spiritual essence of Oneness with others. The feeling of union with another requires a sense of the Self.
A great teacher used to say: ”When you finally reach a full sense of the Self, you will want to surrender it to God.” This refers to a sense of spiritual Oneness. It does not mean I lose my sense of a personal Self. It allows the experience of both simultaneously.
In fact, my boundaries become strengthened by my sense of Self.
Boundaries and the sense of Self:
Boundaries allow you to become closer rather than more distant from others. When you don’t have healthy boundaries, you avoid those who challenge you. You have no defense so you cannot be open and vulnerable.
When you have boundaries, you have self-value.
A good way to think of your self-value is to use transference for a moment. If you’re questioning whether your boundaries have been crossed; how would you feel if you let someone do whatever the behaviour is to your child?
If you wouldn’t like it to happen to a beloved child, why would you accept it for your Self?
Unless you’ve worked on your boundaries in therapy, your sense of boundary was learned in very early childhood.
When I’ve facilitated boundary work, people are surprised by their relationship to their boundary. Which is actually their relationship to their Selves.
What do healthy boundaries look like?
• Being clear and voiced that the behaviour you are experiencing is unacceptable and disrespectful without fear of the response.
•The more you work with your sense of boundary, the more you will be able to be voiced as a matter of fact without emotiveness behind it. Saying “no” is simple, straitforward and not open to being questioned. It is a clearly defined statement.
• Boundaries are not barriers to protect you; they are the solid undeerstanding of who you are. You are contained by them. It feels safe.
• Boundaries are changing all the time. They are fluid, not fixed.
• Boundaries are not only so you can say “no” but also so you can say “yes.”
How do you learn what your boundaries are?
Boundaries require presence in your body.
Only your body knows– this is the gut/heart/all-over body feeling of your boundaries having been crossed or whether you feel at peace, safe and whole.
You become even more authentic with yourself.
Boundaries are like being connected to the Self all the time.
My teacher Gerry Fewster says:
“Boundaries are essentially energetic expressions of the Self that are sensed somatically.”
This is just a small sample of discussion on this important and vast topic.
I learned to create and facilitate boundary work through I.B.P. – Integrated Body Psychotherapy. I encourage you to find a therapist or workshop in your area if you’ve found this helpful.
I’ll be offering a workshop in Vancouver in 2018 with Gerry Fewster. More details to come…
Fewster, G. (1999). Turning my Self inside out: My theory of Me. Journal of Child & Youth Care, 13(2) 89-108
Rosenberg, J., Rand, M., & Asay, (1985) Body, self & soul: Sustaining integration. Atlanta: