Boundaries of steel?

Leah by lindsey

I sat in a counseling session some time ago, working on a relationship that matters a great deal to me, and I asked, “So, I’ve finally set these boundaries, but why do I still feel so angry and resentful?”

Can you relate? You’ve done all this work to finally clarify what does and doesn’t work for you, in order to stay in your integrity and have generous assumptions about the other person (living BIG acronym from July’s newsletter), only to discover that the residual impact of the time without boundaries has left you raw with resentment.

If you were with me a couple months ago, I shared some about this season of parenting and boundaries, and my shame guru, Brene Brown’s brilliant words: “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

Many of you have asked questions about boundaries since this newsletter, so I thought I’d do a “Part two” on the topic.

Often, by the time we set much-needed boundaries we are weary within the relationship. We hadn’t imagined it could look any different, but it was obviously not working. And so, once we come up for air and set some new parameters of how we’re willing to show up, the impact of the season without boundaries begins to unfold more clearly. Enter anger, residual resentment, and your version of this cocktail.

For me, I was frustrated because the impact of the months years without the right boundaries felt so insurmountable. I had hoped that once we set new boundaries the anger (errr… pain) would melt away simultaneously.

But it won’t. It didn’t.

So, the work is to understand that although the intent from the person(s) on the other side of the boundary was not to cause harm or pain, the impact was such. And, the impact is what needed tending to, now that I was setting up a new way of being in the relationship.

For me, this looks like:

  • Befriending the emotions that come up (they’re trying to protect me, after all).
  • Getting curious in the new, boundaried moments when my protective emotions show up… “Oh hey there fear, you’re trying to keep me safe. Thank you. What feels unsafe to you? Is it indeed unsafe?”
  • Writing out letters (that I won’t send*) outlining the depth of pain, sadness, loneliness, etc. that I have felt in the boundary-less season.
  • More physical activity to move the emotions through my body
  • Double down on my mindfulness practice, breathing techniques, etc. when I’m feeling a boundary being pushed. The goal in this one is to stay in my integrity and stay present to the boundary I have named. Awareness of the present moment and my breathe helps me tremendously to stay present in situations that otherwise hijack me.

Another footnote on this delineation is that moving forward, as with any new relationship, when the person on the other side of the boundaries does not follow suit, remember that their intent is not likely to cause harm or pain.

However, in this case, I still need to acknowledge to myself (self-trust) that the pain is there; it is valid, and it is worth tending to in order to move toward health within the newly boundaried reality.

And I might need to circle back to some of the coping work (letters, physical activity, etc.).

Does this make sense?

My hope for you is that you believe that this is worthy work; that the other side may not be swift and full of ease, but it does hold promise of more moments lived in integrity and compassion.

And, slowly but surely, I believe my resentment (and yours too if that’s where you’re at in your boundary journey) will melt away as we diligently do the work we’re each so capable of doing.

* The reason I’m not sending them, is that I know, genuinely know, that their intent was not to cause this pain. It was a result of their actions, matched with my lack of boundaries. And the latter part is the work I’m responsible for and can control.

What emotion rises up for you when you re-enter a relationship with boundaries? How can you tend to that emotion with curiosity and gratitude?
Experiment with this practice and let me know what you think!

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