There is something that has been on my mind non-stop for the past nearly two years…
I teach about boundaries – it is one of the primary focuses of the work that I facilitate. And, what has been simmering in my mind for these past many months is a question that can best be presented as: what are the boundaries of boundaries?
Now, that might not make any sense. Let me back up.
What is the purpose of boundaries?
As I understand and teach, boundaries serve the primary purpose of protection (to keep us safe). Concrete, or physical boundaries (like the walls/ceilings/floors) of our houses protect us from rain, snow, sun, people walking by, etc.
Energetic boundaries serve the same purpose but protect us from the unseen realms – collective energies, emotions of others, other-than-human and/or ancestral beings who might be harmful to us in some way.
It is important to have both concrete and energetic boundaries in place in order to both feel and to actually ‘be’ safe. It is also important to have boundaries in place so we are able to discern what is right/ok for us and for us to know and to speak our ‘yes’ and our ‘no’.
When I’m initially introducing the lifelong practice of boundary work, I guide an exercise where you get to experience how it feels to have energetic boundaries and to be able to choose who or what gets to be inside your ‘circle’ with you.
And, you get to practice asking those who aren’t welcome there to leave… which gives you an experience (perhaps for the first time in your life) of how it is to just be ‘you’ in your circle without constant bombardment from other sources (collective, ancestral, etc).
Once you have an experience of who you are without all the extra noise, it quickly become obvious when there are other-than-your-own energies in your circle with you. At that point, you can again request these not-yourselves to leave. Essentially, the distinction between ‘self’ and ‘other’ begins to develop.
Initially strong, clear boundaries are crucial.
Initially, it is important for boundaries between us and that-which-is-not-us to be strong, fortified, perhaps even impenetrable. The strength of the boundaries creates a sense of safety that allows our nervous systems to relax enough for us to begin to (with support) turn towards our own wounding and deepen into our personal healing or self-discovery journey.
Further, initially, we want only those who fully love and accept us exactly as we are in our circle (inside of our boundaries).
Initially, it is even helpful (crucial perhaps) to have only those who view the world and hold the same beliefs as us in our circles, within our boundaries (or ‘pods’ to root this exploration back into lived experience).
With time and healing, we discover our need for boundaries wanes.
With time and with healing, however, I’ve found that the need for really rigid/strong boundaries begins to wane.
As our internal sense of who we are grows, as we begin to deepen in discernment and in our ability to recognize beneficial from disruptive (people/energies), we become less threatened by the world around us (both seen and unseen).
We begin to trust:
- our abilities to navigate challenges and challenging people from a place of authenticity and without losing our center;
- our abilities to say ‘no’;
- our ability as well to say ‘yes’ (when it is a true for us);
- that if we mess things up, that we’ll be able to make the needed repairs or amends with both ourselves and others.
Also, and perhaps most importantly (these days at least) we trust that as new information becomes available, we will be able to take that in and to even course-correct as needed.
Also (and perhaps most importantly these days X2) we begin to feel less threatened by others who hold different viewpoints, perspectives, or have different life experiences than ourselves.
While initially we may need to be in the echo-chamber of our own silo, as we heal, we find ourselves curious about others, their points of view, and why they make the decisions they do.
We feel safe being around others who are different from us (because our safety comes from within versus from external sources). We no longer need to attempt to make others see the world in the ‘right’ way (our way) or to control them if they don’t.
Boundaries as control.
What I’m seeing so much right now is the throwing up of quite rigid/inflexible/righteous boundaries without the recognition of the need for turning towards our wounds (that which scares us, the pain within us) at the same time.
While I applaud the setting of boundaries – on all sides, in all expressions — so many of the boundaries that I see in place today are what I think of as temporary boundaries that have become concretized, isolating, and that no longer allow in anything other than what is already present.
And, we can’t continue on our journey of self-discovery and healing without new input. We need new and different input (energies, information, support) in order to continue our journey of self-discovery and healing. If our boundaries are too rigid, even goodness, love, and support (that usher in the next level of our healing/whole-ing) can’t enter.
As I look around I see:
Boundaries that are put in place out of fear.
Boundaries as a form of control. And even, at times, as punishment.
Boundaries imposed on others in order to make ourselves feel safe.
Boundaries imposed in the name of ‘love’ and ‘protecting others’ that seem to be, in reality… simply playing out age-old patterns of ‘othering’, of separation, of fear.
As I look around I see:
Boundaries as power over.
Boundaries as authoritarianism.
Boundaries transformed into belief and concretized as fundamentalism.
What are the boundaries of boundaries?
So, again, my initial inquiry… what are the boundaries of boundaries? When are boundaries actually no longer serving their purpose of protection but instead are leading to isolation, loneliness, fear of others and attempts at controlling others (in order to make ourselves feel safe)?
My sense as I look around the world is that we are reaching the boundary of boundaries – where boundaries as they are being enacted (without the willingness to look deeply at our own fear and the reasons the boundaries are in place) are no longer working and no longer serve their true purpose.
And what, again, is the true purpose of boundaries?
To give us a protected respite from the storm, a safe place to gather strength in order to:
- heal our wounds,
- reconnect with our loving guides and higher self,
- deepen into ourselves/gather our resources, and to
- remember that we are not alone, that we are safe (with or without ‘boundaries’ especially those boundaries that attempt to control others in order for us to feel safe).
From there, boundaries allow us to re-enter the storm centered in our bodies, with our guides at our sides, perhaps not unafraid, but willing… with an open heart and open arms.
ps. If you’d like to take this exploration deeper, here are some questions that I’m continuing to ask myself and spend time reflecting upon – not with the intention of finding the ‘right’ answer or capital T Truth… rather, to note how my thoughts and feelings change over time and with continued reflection. I’d love to have you join me.
- Is it possible to feel/be safe AND respect others who think/act/believe differently than us?
- Where to I end and you begin?
- What happens when we look to others to make ourselves feel safe?
ppps. have you read my Healing Fundamentalist ebook yet? If not, you can enter your email to receive it here. In the book, it will become clear that ‘boundaries as a form of control over others in order to make ourselves feel safe’ stems from unresolved trauma – most of which isn’t even ours.