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Healthy Boundaries

In 1999, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after ten months of unrelenting pain visiting doctor after doctor. I gave up my career as a professional court reporter. I gave up my household responsibilities of cooking and caring and I was fiddling with suicidal ideation. It was a very difficult time.

Fibromyalgia was a curve ball, a wakeup call, a time for major regrouping and redefining, and a time to learn about healthy boundaries. I used to overtell, overshow and reveal my cards to those in need, giving myself away without awareness of what I needed.

I would have done anything to help my daughter, demonstrating the unending hunt for a cure, driving at 2am to help her in pain, anything and everything because it eased the pain in my heart. Her doctor took me aside when she was about 12 years old, noticing how weathered and worn I was, and talked to me about acceptance, encouraging me to ease up my hunt for a cure because there wasn’t one. I was so angry. I heard him though and the conversation brought in awareness and a reality check.

I gave myself away in relationships granting other’s wishes to please them ignoring my needs.

I gave myself away with my children granting their every request to ease my guilt for divorce, for not being emotionally together and for my need to make up for terrible childhood.

Understanding my boundaries was another lesson hidden among layers of living. As a woman in the legal field, boundaries were talked about amongst women because women were often objectified instead of respected. I could spot the patronizing gestures and hear the sexual innuendos a mile away. Women stick together. I learned about boundaries from them.

I had no boundaries otherwise. I had to learn them with pain, with heartache, with fear and struggle. Through every difficulty there is learning. It may take time, real time to sift through the rubble but there is learning in every tragedy, trauma and struggle.

I love to demonstrate what a boundary feels like when I’m teaching, especially in front of a large crowd. I’m remembering the court reporter’s conference with over 500 men and women watching as I stood on stage with a woman willing to be part of the demonstration. I asked her to be aware of what she feels, besides being a little nervous of course. I was ten feet away and stepped closer, continuing to talk to the crowd and her about what healthy boundaries are. As I chatted, I took one step closer. I checked in with her. “How are you feeling now?” “Everything feeling okay?” I continued one step slowly after another until I came within three feet of her. Her eyes shifted to me briefly. I asked, “How are you feeling now?” “Everything feeling okay?” She responded she was fine. Everyone was watching. Great! One more step. Then another.

I could feel her physical boundary before she did. Her weight shifted and fear came into her eyes. I had hit the limit and was too close. She felt it. The feeling of her physical boundary was what I was demonstrating. The visceral alarm point became a real boundary now registered in her head as enough.

Emotional boundaries are important to pay attention to. Melody Beattie writes about “Drain Pain” in the excerpts below. I encourage you to read the full blog as it offers a lot of insights.

“Drain Pain occurs so slowly and subtly, we may not see it happening.” Following you’ll find a list of symptoms and the remedy for each: We leave our bodies – disconnect from ourselves. We’re experts at fleeing the body. We hover around ourselves doing everything except feeling what we feel and valuing ourselves. When this happens, we often feel numb, confused and afraid. We may also feel emotional (generalized) pain. The thoughts that accompany this condition include: I CAN’T STAND THIS ANYMORE. IT, HE, SHE OR THEY IS OR ARE DRIVING ME INSANE. This means it’s boundary-setting time again.
We complain about the same thing, behavior or person or problem for days, weeks, months or years but nobody hears us. The cure for this means listening to ourselves.
We know that something’s wrong but we aren’t sure what it is (because we’re not listening to ourselves). When we mention the problem to the Drainer(s) — the people or institutions in the first symptom above — they look at us askance and reassure us that nothing is wrong except us – who we are, how we feel and what we think is going on just isn’t occurring, they insist.”

Understanding and enforcing my boundaries has helped me feel safer in my body and in my world. Enforcing my boundaries gives me more energy. Enforcing my boundaries helps in so many other ways. I encourage you to exercise your boundaries and discover your edges. You’ll be safer in this world too.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • I have a picture of a white snowy owl. I am hoping someday I can get inside those wings. When you were talking about boundaries, I’ve learned a lot about boundaries. I had a job for many years and I was forced to work there even though it was vile and I had to deal with an animal abuser. He was a male, much taller than I was and he would stand too close to me, right in my face. I felt clearly what it feels like to have my boundary violated.

  • Thank you, that was a really powerful reading. I think boundaries are so important. I’m really good with setting boundaries. This is important for women. I have to be able to withstand the scorn of people who think I need to open up my boundaries. Women aren’t allowed to set our own boundaries. Someone else’s needs are more important than ours are. It’s a double whammy. I have to decide my boundary and then defend it to people as I receive the opinion of others. There was a person in our friendship circle who I decided I needed a boundary around. It was like a drain pain. I told my friends that I don’t want to be around him and I will decide to not be in places where he is. People were harsh, why are you doing this, you’re unsettling to the group. Fast forward two years later, everyone else had made that decision too because of what he created around him. I didn’t want that energy around me, and then I had to defend it.

  • I call it fierce boundaries. It’s hard. I have all these food issues and I have boundaries around that. It makes everyone uncomfortable because I’m not doing what everyone else is doing.

  • Thank you. The first thing that came to my mind was an event from years ago. My brother used to call me at inappropriate times and would ask me if I have saved any souls. He would often talk to me and try to ask me things that felt uncomfortable. A friend of mine, who was loving and sweet, asked me if I realized I could set a boundary with him. If I don’t want to talk with him about something, I can tell him that. I had to think about that for days. It made me feel like my spine was getting taller and taller the more I thought about it. It was so helpful. This weekend, I’ll be with another family member who disagrees with my politics. I’ve had anxiety about it. Once again, I’m going to say, I’m not going to go there if he brings up politics. Subject boundaries with people are also important.

  • I used to say to my mother on the phone, “I love to talk with you and if you talk about that again, I will hang up.” And she’d talk about it again, and I had to hang up. She’d call back and say, “What happened?” I explained it to her. I call it training someone. They have to experience it and it worked.

  • Thank you, great reading. Something happened to me last night, and this reading helped me. I go next door and watch a movie with a friend. She asks me what I want to watch and I never say because I want to be polite. So she picks the movie and she likes thrillers. I hate thrillers. The last two movies had violence towards women and last night’s movie had a rape scene. All I can remember from that movie is that scene. I have enough trauma in my life I don’t want to add any more. That is retraumatizing. I told her that I don’t want to watch these types of movies anymore. I used an analogy. She doesn’t like comedians who use a particular swear word. I put it like that. During the meditation, I got the question—what’s my part? It’s about honesty. For me to have boundaries, I have to be honest with myself about what’s going on. I set this situation up by not saying what I want. I would be the woman in your demonstration, not realizing my boundary until it is crossed. If I show up and am honest, I can catch it sooner. So I’m going to send her a list of movies that are empowering to women.

  • We have to have the experience to become aware.

  • Thank you for talking about your fibromyalgia. You have come a long way in your physical health. You are demonstrating how recovery is on three different levels: body, mind, and spirit. While Western medications can help with physical healing, healing also occurs when we help our bodies heal themselves. You’ve demonstrated how changing one’s attitude and setting one’s intentions can heal body and mind, and living with a conscious contact with a Higher Power can uplift one into service.

  • Thank you. I have a colleague at work that I am having issues with. I’m having a challenge setting my boundaries and I may have to leave my job. Facing fear came up for me so I like your workshops. I’ve played this role for many years and am being obeisant. I feel like I can’t take it any longer. So thank you.

  • Thank you. I’m pretty good at boundaries and I am grateful for cell phones. When someone calls me, I can see who it is and I can decide if I am ready or not to talk to that person. I can make the choice to not answer the phone. It was a realization. When I am feeling stronger in myself, maybe I’ll call that person back. I talk to people on my terms. I agree, we can train people to honor our boundaries.

  • I set my boundaries so that I reserve this time in the morning. My husband knows that I won’t do something with him during this time. He had to learn this is a boundary for me.

  • During the meditation, what came up for me is having a voice and being clear about having a need. It’s hard to make contact with my family members. I feel like I don’t have enough contact with them. I need to keep saying that I need the contact on an on-going basis. But then, I have a conflict because their lives are busy. It’s one thing to want something, it’s another to expect it. I don’t want to be pushy I say to myself. I want to be a loving person. That’s interesting to me that I need to revisit this and tell them that I need contact every couple of weeks. I know in my heart he wants to be connected. It’s the combination of the pandemic and lack of travel. There’s no way I feel I have control anymore. It is out of my control. I feel like this is a boundary, a voice, a need that I have. I’d love to directly state it in a way that is loving and isn’t off-putting.

  • You are taking care of yourself. If you ignore yourself, you can start resenting your family member. You are taking care of that need. Great awareness. Figuring out what we need takes time. It helps sitting in silence giving ourselves time to sort out the feelings and listen to our inner voice.

  • Because of the interest in the Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway work, I’m offering another webinar free virtual webinar scheduled November 29. The last one was very popular. It will be another webinar-on-demand so if you’re not available, you can tune in at another time. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions about dealing with your fear.

  • Shirley is also being interviewed today, along with 20 other healers, about manifesting a loving relationship in one’s life on the Magnetize Love: Use The Law Of Attraction To Manifest Your Dream Relationship Show

  • I’ll be attending an event by Matt Kahn that starts tonight. He is an incredible spiritual teacher who has a lot to say and has an incredible life. I encourage you to check out his website.

  • Thank you everyone. Thank you for your time and heart and sharing and listening as others share. Thank you for your willingness to have silence.

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