When Boundaries Become Barriers

When boundaries become barriers, we cut ourselves off from connection and intimacy.

Every time my mother had to make a decision, especially one that involved the gods, she had to call her mother.

Is Friday a more auspicious day than Wednesday?

Should I go to this temple or that?

How many times should I chant to clear the bad karma?

This meant that a lot of my mother’s relatives enjoyed the immense pleasure of telling her what to do, when to do and how to do it. They took advantage of her niceness, guilted her into doing them favors, and gossiped about her.

My mother didn’t know the meaning of the word “Boundaries.”

Watching her as a little girl, I swore never to let that happen to me. No one will ever take advantage of me, became my mantra.

Unfortunately my hyper-vigilance sent me all the way over to the other end of the spectrum. I guarded my boundaries like a ferocious bloodhound and became defensive at the smallest transgression. I did not know the difference between boundaries and barriers.

In my experience, my mother is not the only one who struggled with boundary-setting. I see it in my clients, friends, and peers. It’s a pervasive illness — virtually everyone seems to be affected by it.

New Age spirituality complicates the issue even more. We’ve bought into the idea that we are Love (as we are). But we’ve also bought into the idea that Love is forgiving and kind and tolerant of everything — even the jerk who disrespects you, violates your trust time and again, and never asks you how you feel about something.

“We’re wired to strive for Love. Feminine creatures are particularly inclined to give of themselves as life support. We bleed quite willingly because that’s what you do when people you care about so deeply are emotionally anemic or have been injured by life — you give them your blood and your Love. Here, take some of mine. I can always make more.” ~ Danielle LaPorte

Boundaries are beautiful.

Boundaries help you breathe.

Boundaries protect you.

A boundary is a sacred circle you choose to live in so that you can safeguard your heart with fierce tenderness. When that happens, you love more deeply, and from a place of fullness.

How are Boundaries different from Barriers?

Within a boundary, you have the space to move and breathe and grow and love. When you erect a barrier You’re always on guard and ready to attack. It puts you in combat mode. With boundaries, you experience more peace in your life; with barriers, you’re unable to relax, always waiting for the next strike.

I had to learn to rewire my thinking. Not everyone was out to get me. I could afford to let down my guard. All it required was learning how to say some polite and firm NO’s.

“I think of boundaries as being the natural outcome of a person who has grown into a mature, actualized being. Imagine coming to the edge of a river. If the river is full and flowing as you stand there on the riverbank, you are going to think twice about crossing it. The flowing presence is in itself a natural boundary. Now imagine that the same river has dried right up, the riverbed is dry and walkable — you might walk across without even hesitating. It is the same with people. When they are present and full of themselves in the best possible way, there is no question of invading them, crossing them, or walking over them.” ~ Lianne Raymond

Here are three tips to protect your boundaries when you’re grieving:

  1. Say YES only to the non-negotiables. Create space in your life only for those tasks that absolutely need to get done. Everything else must wait, or go.
  2. Say NO to people who don’t understand your grief. It doesn’t matter whether they are family or friends from your pre-loss life. Politely but firmly, let them know that you need time (as much time as it takes) to focus on your healing. If they find it hard to deal with that, they need to stay away.
  3. YOU come first in your life now. You’re the one whose heart is broken. You need to put yourself first and tend to your self-care. Self-care is NOT selfish. Your taking care of you means you will heal and there will be more of you to go around. Like the full river, you will flow and fill others up.

My masterclass on Boundaries is a great place to dive deeper into how to set, communicate, and maintain boundaries.

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