Recently I had a conversation with someone who understood she needed ‘boundaries’, but struggled with creating the necessary boundaries in her relationships because she believed what she really wanted was connection. Wouldn’t boundaries destroy the connection she was seeking? And anyway, aren’t connection and kindness to others spiritual virtues? Won’t boundaries constrain our compassion and kindness to others?
These objections (and resistances) are quite common among those who really want to be compassionate to others and who are very sensitive to the energies and emotions around them. These questions and ones like these get to the heart of our inner objections in creating the kinder relationships and inner states of peacefulness that we yearn for.
In today’s blog, I would like to challenge this notion that boundaries exclude a sense of connection by exploring four different core operating beliefs that are commonly played out in our unconscious:
“I’m Not OK, You’re OK”
In this core belief, we enter into the land of dependency and exclude ourselves from the blessings of life, of love and life-giving relationships. Our sense of shame and unworthiness causes us to ‘do for others’ what we cannot do for ourselves. We will not be able to open to love, nor the blessing of another. If we do not perceive ourselves as being worthy of someone’s blessing, we will not be able to stand and look someone in the eye and tell them what we need.
Here, there is a lack of self-respect, a lack of boundaries and a whole lot of people-pleasing. In this land of dependency, we will find ourselves envious, resentful, exhausted and covet what we perceive others have or we give to them because we cannot give it to ourselves nor receive it from another. We lack kindness towards ourselves, remain disconnected with others and often fall into a state of passivity (-aggressiveness) about our lives.
“I’m OK, You’re Not OK”
In this core belief, we find ourselves in the land of arrogance and pride. Our acts of ‘charity’ are really ‘blessings’ imposed … and for the receiver, not really a blessing at all. In this state of arrogance or superiority, our helping another is often wrought with the assumption ‘I know better’.
Entire cultures and peoples have been destroyed in the blind assumption that ‘our way is better than your way’. Consider the disastrous results of the way we have mistreated, abused and fundamentally disregarded First Nations peoples and tribes. We destroyed connection, community and the life-giving spiritual knowing of our country and our Earth in this genocide. It’s often hard to fathom the depth of our failures toward First Nations people because of all we imposed. We failed to create boundaries of mutual respect and kindness, of common dignity for all people. The repercussions for these lack of boundaries and compassionate connection will be our burden for decades to come. What we did in this cultural example, we also do personally to ourselves and others when we come with an attitude of I know how to ‘fix’ you.
“I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK”
In this core operating belief, we find ourselves in the land of curses. Though we may find ourselves in a state of ‘likeness’ with each other, a state of common experience about what is ‘not okay’ around us or in our environment, our ‘joining together’ in this state is destructive, cynical and riddled with mutual contempt and despair. Though we both may be ‘down in the dumps’, we injure each other to prevent ourselves from being more miserable than the other. All heart connection is lost, annihilated or in perpetual threat.
Again, we have no real healthy boundaries here. Rather, we put energy into creating emotional walls and barriers, leaving us locked away from connection and in the stalemate of our own inner hauntings.
“I’m OK, You’re OK”
Finally, this operating core belief sustains us in the land of blessing. This is the place of joining, of collaboration, of mutuality, equality, respect and appreciation. In this land, we can pray and chant the ‘Namaste’, the light in you is the light in me; the peace in you is the peace in me.
In this land, we can care for each other in dignity and respect for each other. It is not that we are needy of each other; rather, in appreciation for what another values and for what we value, we respect and validate and support the unique worth of ourselves and the other. In the land of blessing, we seek to compassionately appreciate and see the good in all things. Our boundaries here are flexible, clear, growing, strong, consistent and kind, sustaining the vitality of our own core essence. Because we respect and appreciate the goodness in ourselves and in the other, our connections are real, open, compassionate and trustworthy.
As we simplify the equations to see truly the essence of what matters in the heart of connection, we discover that boundaries are a way to sustain healthy and vital connection in “I’m OK, you’re OK.” For women who have been socialized and imprinted upon to care for others first (”you’re OK, I’m not OK”), self-kindness boundaries offer us the potential to choose self-love and joy (trumping self-improvement), to fill our own cup first and offer to others from our inner fullness, and to let our body lead us (rather than denying or denigrating our bodies).
It’s time for a shift in consciousness where self-love and strength, connection and unequivocal kindness in self-regard are the touchstones and daily practices in our relationships and in the joys of our lives. Recognizing and developing awareness and giving ourselves full and complete permission to have boundaries that sustain kindness and connection with ourselves and others is a first major healing of our hearts and psyche.
The next step is to learn HOW to create these kinds of boundaries which support our engagement in creating and living a joyful life, happy relationships and inner vitality. If you are ready to learn the ‘how’ of creating your personal, unique boundaries that fuel your body-mind-spirit connection, happiness and joy, join me at my upcoming The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Joyful Living workshop on October 28-29th, 2016.
If you wish to continue to nurture the boundaries you are already creating, please join us to support your self-kindness in love and strength. And if you already have been practising boundaries for self-empowerment, join us to expand the inner waves of self-kindness and joy in the boundaries you practice. In other words, no matter where you are on this continuum of creating and nurturing boundaries, there is more to do and this workshop will definitely offer the necessary tools to help you.
(ps. Thanks to Rob Voyle and his work with the Appreciative Way in helping me to clarify my own understanding)