Updated: May 8, 2022
How to set boundaries where there weren't any before
"Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom" - Henry Cloud
We all have experienced it. There are always people who seem to completely ignore your needs, interests, desires, preferences. In other words, people who simply ignore your boundaries. Or is it really that simple?
Is it that they ignore them or that you haven't really set them or are very inconsistent about maintaining them?
Ouch! That is a hard thing to accept. But the truth is, no one can trespass in your space with out your permission. So why don't we set and protect health boundaries? The answer is always the same... we fear losing something.
There are always three things going on in a relationship:
There are conscious and unconscious expectations
There are conscious and (mostly) unconscious agreements
There is a conditioned energy pattern
Every relationship is an energy system. Just like our nervous systems get conditioned into automatic behaviors, so do our relationships. And those conditioned patterns, which are now manifested in our relational experience, reflect the same conditioning that has governed the majority of our behaviors to date.
So if the parents were constantly violating your space, you will accept, and even seek out, the same behavior in all your partners, whether they be romantic, platonic, business or social. In short, we will be afraid of saying no for fear of losing the love and protection of our parents (in other words, we are going to die). That deep unconscious association is now being projected onto a relationship.
Of course, there are plenty of people on the opposite side of that coin. They are the ones who learned that, by violating others boundaries, they could control them and get from them what they want. They don't know how to be in relationship at all. They can only take. You all know people just like that.
Ok, now that we know how it works, how do we stop it? Well, the good news is that it is entirely in your hands. You don't have to get the other to change their behavior. Fact is, they won't. You have to. But how? Well, we will be talking about that in the show for an hour but let me give you a few tips.
First off we have to come to understand and then feel in our bodies, that the danger of losing is no longer real. When we were children, getting our parents's disdain was the most terrifying thing there was. To the child it really is a feeling of desperation. Because the truth is, if we really did lose it, we would die. We can't survive on our own for a very long time.
That feeling of desperation, while no longer as intense and on the surface, is still the active influence on behavior. Fact is, you have never learned how to set a boundary, to say "yes" when you mean "yes" and "no" when you mean "no." So doing so now feels very uncomfortable.
Seeing that the feeling of losing something is totally illusory we can then begin to gain the skill of energetic boundary making. That starts with introspection:
What do I want from this relationship?
How do I want to be treated?
What priority do I want to be for them?
What do I expect from someone else?
Now it's time to practice actually asserting it.
Imagine yourself actually saying to someone. "No, that is not acceptable to me." See what kind of emotional and even physical reaction happens in your body when you picture that in your mind.
Then comes the practice I call the Yoga of Allowing. Let yourself be present with the uncomfortable feelings that will almost certainly arise.
Don't fight those feelings but also don't stop picturing yourself maintaining strong boundaries. You are learning to sit between two conflicting yet powerful feelings, without taking sides. If you continue to both allow and assert, a few things will start happening;
The nervous system will begin to harmonize those two positions
The intensity of resistance will get weaker
The sense of possibility will get stronger
You will begin to notice the ways in which you compromise your boundaries
Opportunities will arise for you to actually say "no" when that is what you truly want
When those opportunities do arise, you may fail to assert yourself, but don't worry. Your very awareness of that, and the continued practice of inquiry and allowing will eventually take over and you will find yourself very naturally, even surprisingly, maintain a boundary that you would have conceded before.
It is then that people will begin to show up who want to honor those boundaries and that is when relationship become truly satisfying and mutually beneficial.
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