How do you refine your capacity to clarify and communicate your boundaries?
Without healthy and clearly expressed boundaries that we know we will maintain, life can be an overwhelm of resentment, unexpressed rage that is toxic to the body and those close to us.
The natural, instinctive, healthy response to an invasion of a boundary is a clear, unequivocal ‘No’ or ‘Stop’. This is a spontaneous, in the moment reclaiming of the natural space needed to thrive. However, many people have difficulty expressing a clean ‘No’. For many, ‘No’ means anger and conflict. Therefore, it is assumed that ‘No’ must be unsafe or unloving. Actually a ‘No’ is simply No. Remember this. It is very simple, really.
Boundaries create holding, they don’t block connection. They mean everyone, work colleagues, children, a couple, or a family, is clear where they are. This means if appropriate the holding for deep transformative work or significant change can happen. They allow everyone to relax into the held space of conscious relating.
Our human beingness includes animal, child, infant, boundless space. Our psychological and emotional health depends upon an integration of these aspects of aspects of being. The body has wisdom about the need for boundaries. A healthy body works effectively to keep clear of toxins, moulds, viruses and bacteria. A good parent sets clear boundaries for his or her children. A dog growls as a warning that its boundaries are being nudged.
However, if your family background was dysfunctional, you were perhaps never taught how to set and communicate and uphold boundaries. Go to PART 1 of this guide at https://secretgarden.co.uk/boundaries-made-up-yet-vital-for-a-happy-story/ to read about the problems this can create in your life, sometimes without you even realising it.
Being human involves at times betrayals, broken promises and the shattering of illusion. In being Joy, there has been a seeing of the magnificence of all, the endless capacity for love and truth, of someone’s potential, their beautiful soul, their loving heart. I have seen this as who clients, colleagues and participants truly were, not noticing all the rest. There has been the pain of coming to see that in those who do not tell the truth, they would not take care in the way I naturally would. I have to watch the tendency of assuming that everyone else is just as eager to live with consciousness as I have been. Yet there is still the seeing of potential and innocence in all. There have been many learnings in this body about a passionate seeing of everyone’s magnificence, and at the same time an absolute tender care for my own well-being. We do not have to join people in or put up with the impact of their smallness, limits or cruelties. We simply need to take care of our own needs while engaging with the world in the way we choose, which for Joy happens to be in service to the illumination of best potentials, the dismantling of limiting conditioning and the awakening into freedom of all beings.
For most human beings, it is not helpful and can be dangerous to assume that one should aim to be completely open at all times and with all people. This mistake is quite common amongst those who are starting to seek out deep connection in new age environments which can promote sensation and excitement at the cost of deep authenticity. Sometimes in circles or sessions, I am asked ‘Is it judgemental to set a boundary?’ My response to this is that it is essential to living life with consciousness and grace! And it is generous.
In moving from unconscious relating and living to consciousness, awakeness, we may find ourselves having to set new boundaries with past or continuing relationships. This can be very challenging to say the least. It is a beautiful teaching that all things and all situations as essentially devoid of substance. What appears to be very real at the moment becomes only a memory. The apparent solidity of things and the seriousness of a situation is actually a dream, an illusion.
Sometimes clients and those in circles can be confused also about what forgiveness means. This is a very vast subject but it is important to say that we can forgive and still maintain a boundary different than the one we may have had before someone did something that felt harmful. If someone breaks our trust, there is a whole process that must be lived, with clear stages, none of which can be glossed over if we wish to heal completely. You can do the online Let Go, Live Light Forgiveness Webinars to learn how to make this conscious and speed up your healing. To avoid these stages is to diminish the immense learning potential in what has been painful or challenging. Repeating patterns of abuse are unhealthy for everyone involved.
Effective healthy protections and ‘guidelines’ allow openings to happen where that is appropriate and desirable. The healthy body allows oxygen and nutrition to travel freely in the areas designed for it. We can open to that which enhances life, and protect ourselves from what is toxic –if we have the discrimination and sensitivity to recognise that and are able to communicate and take actions accordingly.
It is crucial to come to know the difference between judgement and discrimination. Discrimination is a capacity to observe life and others clearly, without emotion, assess the relative apparent truth of a situation and our own response-ability to it. Judgement is an emotional response and a labelling of something as “good” or “bad.”
Discrimination is simply recognising a reality. There is no blame, pride or judgement in this, simply observation. It is ok to conclude that we cannot trust someone with particular skills or future capacity. Just be sure that there is no harbouring of grudge in you. And also ensure that your future actions with regard to that person take account of your new learnings.
Sometimes others may not realise how they have impacted you. It is part of their learning to tell them, if we are in any kind of ongoing connection with them.
If the person or situation is not healthy for you, remove yourself. Let go of any tendency towards judgement (do forgiveness healing work where necessary). Even though you might not understand his or her motives, and even though you might feel hurt by the situation, you give the one who hurt or disappointed you the gift of spaciousness to do what they need to do — while maintaining a clear boundary so that it does not impinge on you. This is your spaciousness and freedom too.
True emotional and psychological maturity requires that we can distinguish between what is healthy and unhealthy (and safe arenas for lots of exploration helps to hone discernment) It also requires that we act and communicate in ways that separate ourselves from that which might damage us, or has already been toxic for us. How we separate ourselves is a matter of personal choice.
When clients get stuck in conflict, I sometimes have them imagine going into the future, maybe a hundred years and look back at the situation. Usually, the emotional charge is dissolved because the transient nature of the tangle is seen. The light that is, that all human beings are, is clearly seen from a wider perspective. There is no such thing as victim and perpetrator. Seeing another’s innocence frees you.
The discipline of doing the best to remain harmless to oneself and others and not indulging thoughts and feelings of judgement or revenge builds power and soul. Our feelings only lie, and acting on them makes for a complicated and stressful life where we cannot trust ourselves. What I mean by this is that for some of us, it may be a challenge to let someone ‘go free and innocent’ who has harmed us in some way and there are strong feelings. Denial of feelings and the desire for revenge or retribution on another is toxic. This may be easily said. Your unconscious must be on board and deeper healing is invited. Go to Let Go, Live Light Forgiveness Webinars
Love does not mean you should be a door mat for someone to walk all over you. Compassion is telling of truth, it does not mean that we let others intrude into our emotional and physical space in ways that are a disservice to us (and therefore to them). As you grow in psychological and spiritual strength, you may find that we are no longer comfortable with certain people or situations in relating or work that used to feel ok or perhaps their behaviour becomes abusive in ways it wasn’t before. What seemed to be nourishing or at least neutral, is now revealed to be toxic.
To say ’no’ to ourselves or another can sometimes be the most courageous and powerful act. And sometimes, saying “no” to someone is more loving than saying “yes.” Truth is always helpful, for all involved.
Finding the deepest relative truth and acting on it without concern for others reactions is mastery. Such action requires the ability to create and hold boundaries.
Couples often mistakenly assume that they shouldn’t set boundaries because ‘love should just work’. I will very briefly say to couples that actually, developing your clarity and confidence about a no in the moment allows the celebration of yes to be much clearer and more alive. Practice this with very small things so that you can hone your skill and fluidity in the more intimate areas of your connection. In sexual intimacy, play with communicating yeses and no’s every few moments – it can deepen your presence with each other remarkably.
Boundaries can be made about any aspect of life. If you are sensitive to energy, then there may be a need to reduce exposure to news. Heightened empathy can mean that news stories or crowds can easily overwhelm
It doesn’t mean you don’t care if you don’t read harrowing news stories every day. If you are wide open, sometimes you need to consciously close down in another situation. Some people try to take or grasp energy, don’t be a sponge or allow your energy to leak. Create a pink bubble around you so that others can’t invade your energetic space. You can be loving, kind and generous, yet protect your energy field, staying clear in your own space, by creating loving boundaries.
We need to create boundaries with ourselves, too. From my experience, much of the stress most people feel comes not from too much to do, or from what is done, but from broken agreements with themselves. When you tell yourself you ought to or will do something, and you don’t do it, you suffer self-doubt, frustration, depression, and the fatigue of overwhelm. You can’t pretend to yourself for a moment without having a constant energy drain.
When you give yourself to an important work project, or relationship, realise you are also committing to saying No to other potentials, projects, relationships and distractions. Otherwise, burnout or failure can happen. So hone your powers of discrimination about what really matters.
How do you choose to spend your energy, your life force? If you don’t choose and boundary, then you will constantly feel that the choices belong to others.
You don’t have to do everything. You can only do one thing at a time. You can either feel good about what you’re doing, or awful about all the things you’re not doing, and it’s your choice.
In life, we can be offered 30 things or opportunities a day and only time and energy for 3, so it is intelligent to learn to say ‘No’ quickly now! In order to have clear boundaries, we do need to be conscious of what truly matters to us.
Learning better boundaries can help you then with focus, clarifying values, and living purposefully. The more present, the more grateful, the more embodied, the better the magnetic energy you put out there.
The new age marketplace can offer one size fits all such as ‘trust the universe’. What if we are the universe? We are existence itself and how we care for our own being is how we care or don’t for everything else around.
Trust isn’t really anything but a feeling. We can place our trust in whom or what we choose. Nothing can compel you to do so. It just feels good to trust. But it is not a vague, by chance happening. It is a decision, that you make, not a mystery.
We are ALL making up reality every moment. Whether we know that or not. So there is no set future. Just zillions of future potentials we don’t need to know about.
So be fully present with your fear that you or life isn’t trustworthy, love it, let it go. Then put one foot in front of the other and get clear about your boundaries in each new relationship situation that presents itself.
And never expect anyone to mind-read your boundaries.
- Show up with full honesty, perhaps just to yourself or communicating with others, to who you are and what you need in any give moment in this specific situation or relationship or friendship.
- Get clear inside of emotional reactivity before speaking or acting. Use the Essence letting go processes and the Aliveness Moving, Stillness Listening meditation to facilitate this.
- Check that you are being ecological with all the other commitments – including previously consciously agreed boundaries- which you may have already made.
- Be willing to stay present with the responses you get while staying clear about what you really need.
- Be open to the necessity to re-negotiate when and where appropriate -ensuring you include all four of these phases in that process.
If you wish to explore this theme more deeply alongside others who value true and authentic communication, Secret Garden circles are the richest way to do that. In circles, I invite participation in a boundary exploration structure where you sit opposite different partners and in each meeting feel into how your boundaries and responses change each moment and learn to dare to express what is there often – every 10 seconds or so.
This practice can give a direct felt sense of how the emotional body’s wanting can cloud clarity, create dilemma and a fear of choosing and loss. And these in turn diminish our pleasure in being, in the moment. This is a practice in telling what is true in that moment, without considering the other’s response, trusting they can take care of themselves and will also respond to you too, as they need to. In principle, if ordinary life is lived this way, aliveness can flourish and most things can be fully resolved.
In circles, you can feel how much support there is for you as you learn to act and speak in new ways in many different respects, which can affect your relating, your work, your health, your energy levels and more, boundaries being one of them.
Living the experiment -how do you develop your ‘boundary setting and communicating’ muscle
A woman says in a forum, (edited version to protect privacy)
‘I am in such a mess with my family – my (adult) daughters have both landed on me and I am not coping well. One has been living at home with me for several months while she looks for a job after uni. She’s close to her dad and talks on the phone to him often several times a day . I can often hear (my ex’es) voice on the phone and as she talks about home and me, it feels like he is constantly here as a presence in my house. (She) seems to see the four of us (daughters and both parents) as one entity without boundaries and gets really upset if anything goes on in any of the individual relationships that she doesn’t know about. She feels that we should all be responsible for each other rather than each of us for ourselves (which is my feeling).
The other daughter…. is suffering so badly from anxiety that I am afraid she is going to have to drop out. (She) is in bed most of the time sleeping or crying. When I talk to her she goes on and on about her dad, I have heard all this for several years and it doesn’t change.
I am beginning to unravel with one daughter wanting me to talk deep emotional stuff late into the night (my natural sleep pattern is 9pm to 5am while hers is 3am to 11am), the other daughter staying in bed half the day, going on about her dad and refusing to talk about practicalities, I am trying to keep up with my own work and studies and other commitments (I had expected to be alone at this point). They both say I am very self-absorbed and don’t pay enough attention to other people, especially each of themselves (they are by no means first to say this to me). I just hate being caught up in these father-daughter tangles. .. some of this is truly important feedback and good to get out in the open. But I just can’t do late-night intense sessions and I do struggle to understand other people’s internal reality; I try hard, but I know that I am very little use at all this stuff. My strength is coming up with logical and practical solutions to problems, but that is not what is needed here and now.
I love them both devotedly; I long for their success and happiness and wish so much I could be a better mother but right now I just wish the hell they would GO AWAY along with their dad. Inside, I am longing to celebrate my new figure, dress up in my new clothes, go out and find love with somebody new and have some extraordinary adventures but this seems all at odds with being a mum to my daughters right now.’
Here is a shorter, edited version of Joy’s response
‘Let yourself be you – as long as you do not hurt yourself or another in the process. (And no, walking out of a relationship or social arrangement of bondage and submission does not count as ´hurting another´ in this context).
I so love your vibrant expression of the deep longing at the end of your post. YES!!!!! AND, what I feel is that this current scenario is asking you to grow. Potentially you can grow in ways that will allow you to relate to the ‘somebody new’-who will come if you make the energetic space-in healthy and happy ways for you both.
Situations which have been built on messy and unclear boundaries are hard to be in. You can do the Aliveness Moving, Stillness Listening meditation. Move with the way life is challenging you and move all the thoughts, feelings, conflicts your circumstances touch in you. It will help you transmute all the feelings this situation stirs and come to clarity about what is needed for the future.
The Aliveness Moving, Stillness Listening meditation can bring direct, bodily realisation that when choice, limits and boundaries (your own or others) is embraced, the heart opens and brings full connection with life and -if we are not alone-with those around us.
The energy is transmuted at the heart which allows us to feel what we feel and say a full yes to that energy, rather than become stuck in old shame, blame and unworthiness
Families and intimate relating can be made dull or even toxic because people don’t look deeply into what is needed to be learned to live life more happily, and then take action on it.
There can be a resistance to (fear of) telling the truth in the moment (ideally in a heartful way that is easy to receive). This truth telling heals the past in you.
If too much compromise is happening.that isn’t good for you, it certainly isn’t good for your children.
In such messes, the intelligent, simple question to ask yourself is ‘What clear, simple boundaries can be put in place which help you live this in a way healthier for you?’
eg setting boundaries around when and in which room your daughter talks with you and talks to her father.
Talking is not always the best solution, certainly not when it becomes a compulsive need.
And always tell your children of your deep love and devotion for them. every day maybe. they cant mind-read.
People often resist setting boundaries or fail to apply them consistently because they don’t want to lose love. But love cannot be lost. There is only love. The natural order of things is that parents allow love to flow through them to their children and beyond. This is not possible if that love is tangled up with pacts, unconscious resistances, resentments and so on. Parents must earn the respect of their children through calm, unemotional communication and consistent, clear setting of boundaries. This creates safe holding for all.
Practice makes perfect. Old conditioned habits can feel as though they are set in stone, but with enough loving support in your life, new more life-enhancing habits can be made. Remember the boundary exercises you have explored in circles and apply them every day.
Assume you can have what you choose if you act in alignment with it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise because they are simply talking about their own fears. Don’t go against your natural boundaries because you want to maintain your illusion that someone will change if you wait and compromise. Be happy here and now, don’t wait for the ‘promise’ you anticipate to be fulfilled. And if the boundary issue involves someone who will always be in your life, a spouse or family member, then fall in love with who they are, not who you think they can become. And apply consistent boundaries.
You don´t have to stop being a mother, a nurturer, a partner, a public servant, a home-maker, if you wish – but you don’t have to be defined or limited by those roles either. The flames of your spirit can keep burning. Let others judge you if they do. Let them walk away if your spirit is too bright for them and your clarity too much. Visualise and feel into you being relaxed, at ease, totally knowing the validity of the boundaries you need to thrive. Show those in your life that you cannot be manipulated and controlled. This helps everyone in your field. And is so much more the way of joy.’
Benefits of complete fluidity and clarity with your boundaries
I do not wish to imply that clarifying, communicating and maintaining boundaries is always easy! It is an art of living well and it asks for awakeness, courage and sensitivity to the river of life flowing in us. It requires a harmony between the feminine realm of flow and feelings and the masculine which –as the strong river bank holds the waters of our depths, which sometimes run strong, safely.
Some benefits many don’t realise about developing your own ability to know when you need to get clear about boundaries and maintaining them are
- Creating and maintaining boundaries forces us to get clear about what we value and love, and what isn’t important.
- Clear boundaries are empowering. They create more energy.
- Even though we may appear to have been “hurt” by a situation or person, we can return to the truth of spaciousness. This allows us to let others be without the need to judge, spoil, manipulate or look for revenge.
- We must also know – What is the treasure we are looking after? You do need to know everything you’re not doing, and be fine with that, before you’re really free to be fully anywhere, fully available, at all.
- We cannot prosper, flower and delight in life without boundaries. We cannot play safely or explore deeply or love tenderly without having a well developed capcity for setting boundaries.
- Boundaries and forgiveness work mean we get more and more clear about what actions, situations and relationships are truly reflecting you in any given moment.
Mistakes may happen, but they won’t if you are fully awake and present. And an apology can quickly resolve a simple misrtake. It is rich learning to learn how we can recover in a moment from a mistake! the unconscious has mysterious ways of working.
- A renegotiated agreement is not a broken agreement—it’s going back to correct your course when your priorities, experiences, interests, and commitments have changed.
- You trust that others have this capacity to hold boundaries which means youcan dare to ask for what need, giving the responsibility for the response to them
- You can receive another’s ‘no’ or guideline as a simple clarity, not a personal snub, and respect it without collapsing into hurt or blame
- You are no longer a prisoner of fear – you are able to feel fear and let it go, making changes and taking new inspiring actions appropriate to the situation you are in.
- To live awake and with clear boundaries is living in the present, with current reality, engaging with what is.
- When you come to realise that no aspect of your energetic expression is unsafe or unacceptable, there is no need to lose energy defending against these energies, the shadows loosen and are released into light. You don’t need to deny the bad stuff but you can make life work for everyone by creating self-loving boundaries.
- Life can be good whatever we are feeling Collapse or drama or defeat or doubt cannot survive in awakeness.
- You are giving your lover, your spouse, your children, your ex, your employer, the gift of clarity and certainty
- Boundary setting with care and consciousness can be an amazing re-learning, and indeed a healing opportunity.
May all of us find ways to be kind and clear and compassionate in our boundary making. And may we find the strength to open and say yes, when we mean yes, and the courage to say no, when we mean no.
Respect for others’ boundaries and looking after one’s own boundaries takes great care and consciousness, until it doesn’t. Pack animals who are not traumatised have an instinctive sense of clean, kind boundaries. It is your birthright.
Here is a link to a short video (taken from a talk in Cheltenham) which discusses other aspects of boundaries https://secretgarden.co.uk/cheltenham-talk-2-boundaries/
There is powerful material and experiential exercises in the profoundly free-ing Essence Online Webinar Series to help you increase clarity and emotional mastery and better boundary setting will naturally emerge from this enquiry.
I hope this blog post helps you find this challenge easier. Still, you shouldn’t have to tackle this crucial arena of life and awakening all alone. Email me to set up a consulting session with me so you can begin, with support and clear reflection, to build an action plan especially for your situation