How I Learned Healthy Boundaries (the hard way!)

Beautiful Woman;

“Healthy Boundaries” has become something of a catch phrase in recent years, where you know that you’re “supposed” to have them…but do you really have them?? Do you REALLY even know what they are???

If you’re anything like me (for the majority of my life), as well as most of my clients…not so much.

Here’s the deal: If you have ANY relationships in your life that are continually: conflictual, draining, imbalanced, unsupportive, overly-needy, depressing, anxiety-producing, intrusive, disrespectful, mean, undermining, bullying or leave you feeling just plain BAD…your boundaries are less than stellar.

You may be thinking, “REALLY?!?” But all relationships have issues, right?!? And all I can control is my side of things, right?!?.

Well…there’s more to the story. This shit is SO tricky, because relationships are the stuff of LIFE — you can’t just give them up. Becoming a hermit just isn’t a viable option, if you want a happy, fulfilled life. The tricky part is that relationship dynamics are so unconscious, because the template is set when you’re still pre-verbal. And these same patterns are the dynamics that you bring into ALL of your relationships throughout your whole life. To be able to see the patterns that you’re bringing into your relationships, and how YOU are in fact shaping them, is like looking at your own face without the luxury of a mirror.

So for instance, if you learned to be an emotional caretaker to a needy or unstable parent, this set the stage for a life time of forgoing your own needs in order to receive love. Ouch!!!

This is no small thing ladies..this is a f*cking twisted conundrum to untangle! Let me tell you because I’ve done it, and lived to tell. But just barely…

My story is this: I got into psychology and self-help books in my teens (to help relieve the constant suffering and confusion), then therapy in college, and by the time I was in my early thirties, worked hard on painful relationship patterns –letting of friendships and romantic partners that felt unhealthy and unsupportive.

One relationship after the next, I shed and shed what felt to be unhealthy, and some were more painful than others. But the truth is, it took me two more decades to understand that those closest to me were in fact, the most toxic of all (ie, my husband – who was essentially, an energetic carbon-copy of a toxic parent, whose undermining behavior was extremely covert.)

What I learned was that my relationship patterns were basically the paradigm of this: ‘I give/You take’, and this felt to be the only way that love was available to me. Of course, this was all completely unconscious. So when family-life became challenging, I dug in my heels and worked harder and harder, ie, I simply GAVE more and more.

But what I’ve learned on the other side is PRICELESS and has ushered me into a whole new way of life. What I now know is that a toxic, unhealthy relationship WILL eventually show up in your body as ill health. So if you’re having any chronic or lingering health issues, it’s imperative to consider the relationships in your life at this time, and whether or not they are serving you. It takes great courage to do this exploration, but there’s also no greater satisfaction.

Because on the flip side of the coin, I’m now learning that a healthy relationship feels enlivening, an energizing GIVE-GIVE. In a healthy relationship, it actually feels good and life-enhancing to give, because the other person gives bountifully to you as well. It’s a win-win right now, at this moment in time — rather than waiting for the promise of future that will probably never come.

Here are the 5 pieces of wisdom that I’ve learned about HEALTHY BOUNDARIES:
🌹 Listen to Your Body: it always lets you know when something feels off. If you’re having continual pain, mystery symptoms or lack of energy, think about the relationships in your life, and how they may be negatively impacting you. Consider how you feel in your body when you’re around this person. If something in your body feels off, rest assured that there’s a boundary that needs to be erected.
🌹 HEALTHY BOUNDARY = NO.
Plain and simple. No means that you will NOT tolerate a given behavior. It doesn’t mean that you tell the person what your needs are, they ignore you, and you let it go. That’s NOT erecting healthy boundaries. That’s letting the other person trample your boundaries.
🌹 After you state your ‘NO’ let the chips fall where they will. This is the part that takes courage, because it involves RISK. You don’t know how the other person will react, and at the very least, there’s bound to be discord as the relationship settles into a new normal. But this is part of growth, and what leads to healthy expansion.
🌹 Commit to AUTHENTICITY: this is about learning to express your needs, scary as this may be. You see, it’s possible to change the terms of your relationship, if the other person is motivated as well, and capable of change. The risk is whether the other person will be able to meet you, and there are no guarantees.
🌹 YOU TRAIN THE UNIVERSE: in other words, you’re the ONLY person that can change the patterns that you bring to relationships. Yes, it’s hard work, but is there really any alternative?
Can you relate to any of this? Where do you tend to get stuck in difficult relationship patterns? I’d love to hear, if you’d like to write back. I’ll respond to any questions you have.

With Love and Healing 🌹

Carla


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