This was a massive revelation for me discovering what a actual boundary was. I specifically found out what a boundary was when I was 21 (I’m nearly 26 now). I have been aware of the concept for many years but after a hard breakup I realise now the power of practising healthy limit setting actually yields. Without them, we attract & create abusive / exploitative people towards us who take full advantage of us having not developed this skill set yet.
***Important note*** Those who are highly triggered when expressing anger or every time you try and assert yourself, I reccomend first reading my article on ‘dethroning the inner-critics power over the psyche’. This will help cultivate healthier instincts for self-protection & will help to regenerate / recruit your healthy ‘fight’ stress response. The article discussing decreasing emotional flashbacks & using combative self-talk to tame the shaming messages of the inner-critic. The link to which is here below:
Typically ‘narcissistic personality disordered’ individuals love people who are ‘boundless’ because they can easily have there own way with these people and can gain narcissistic supply from them which includes empathy / sympathy / compassion. They can gain physical / material / time centred resources such as money, attention, asking favours without returning them, asking favours too frequently, unnecessary opinions, material possessions or delegating jobs to you they should be doing themselves… Often because the boundless individual has issues setting boundaries because their “NO!” was deleted from their vocabulary within their early stages of childhood…
This typically occurs in childhood around their toddler years of 1-3 years in the development stages of whats called ‘oppositional bonding’. I child will begin to separate from their parents to form their own identity. If their parents are too authoritarian, dominating, too stressed out or needy they will prevent the child from forming its own ‘authentic self’ & as a result the child will miss out on accomplishing specific developmental tasks which will serve to build the foundations of strong self-esteem needed to create self-love + self-protection. The child becomes ‘parentified’ through the process of ‘parentification‘. I call this ‘the old switcheroo’. This is where the child is forced to emotionally care take the parent instead of the parent taking care of the child… The child learns ‘love is conditional’ and ‘if I take care of you, you will take care of me’. The child becomes convinced his / hers worth then is dependent on helpfulness and service… Which is very damaging & not true…
Your self-worth & human intrinsic value is inherent at all times and under all circumstances, regardless of who criticizes you, abuses you, rejects you or abandons you, your intrinsic human value is always inherent & is ever-evolving inside of you.
Origins of disordered assertiveness & having a disable force of will
Disordered assertiveness is something I regularly talk about within my blog post because of how common it is to either have come from a family of origin where by your ability to express your anger & the privilege of saying ‘no!’ was taken from you & viewed as total disobedience… Thus were shamed out of your anger & your ability to say ‘no!’ & by default where forced to comply at all times & under all circumstances. Further more demolishing your self-esteem and destroying your healthy instincts for self-protection. This also normalised the experience of being emotionally or physically abused so your ‘normal’ in a relationship is ‘love = I will welcome emotional / physical abuse & have to show total compliance to my intimate partner or friends without imposing my will, needs, wants or boundaries so that you like me, gain approval, wont leave me’. This forms the dysfunctional personality of ‘codependency’. This personality archetype then turns someones entire lifestyle into ‘an outside reach for inside security’.
This enforces upon a child they have to adhere to the rule of ‘total self-abandonment’ and have to hyper-adapt to what his / hers parents wants them to be, the ‘false self’ & ‘secret identity’ is born. I will discuss the hyper-adaptability of codependency on another blog post soon. I personally call toxic ultra-adaptability & self-abandoning tendencies of codependency as ‘shapeshifter syndrome’. When doing my nutrition degree I found a term within research terminology which describes codependency perfectly called ‘observer bias’. This is defined as in short as ‘when someone conforms to the desires of the observer’ (this is in regards to participants within a study). Within a researcher context the definition could be described as ‘when a researcher selectively looks for a given outcome and tries to influence the behaviours of the subjects within the study to gain the desired result he / she wants’.
In both subject & researcher definitions it reminds me of codependency because it reminds of the chameleon-like tendency of codependency ‘to change oneself excessively to gain the most of approval / avoid conflict from an individual or social circle’ and also the controlling tendencies of codependency to ‘adapt oneself / please another excessively not only to gain the approval of others / avoid conflict but to also change the response of another to reflect back to the codependent & ensure the codependent of external validation (the addictive substance of codependency) and to reflect back they’re ok as a human being’. Codependency for this reason is highly reactive & makes you reactionary…
The unconscious codependent mantra’s go like this “if people like me, I like myself. If people dislike me, I dislike myself” + “if I give you what you want, you will give me what I want.” This isn’t true in both cases because you need to provide your self-esteem to yourself & let others be who they are & actually ask for what you want or don’t want… In Extreme cases of codependency self-esteem is totally dependent upon everyone else & your environment, so codependents have to control the responses of others to ensure feelings of safety & to gain their self-esteem. This is a very hard discipline to adhere to but our self-esteem needs to come primarily from our own self-validation through our thoughts, actions regarding empowered self-care, protecting our wellbeing and doing the things we love. Also as well only allowing people in our lives who are non-toxic / non-controlling.
Confusion around boundaries: “what is boundary?”
By definition a boundary is defined as:
- “A real or imagery line that marks the edge of limit or something.”
- “Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.”
***Disclaimer*** Boundaries aren’t meant to hurt, annihilate or abuse others… Assertive communication involves respecting yourself & the listener while stating what you want & don’t want.
Differences between passive, passive aggressive, assertive & aggressive communication styles:
Examples used from this link: http://www.lotusgroup.biz/blog/passive-assertive-aggressive-how-to-tell-the-difference/
- Passive: “This is a form of communication in which the person does not share his or her wants, needs, desires, or opinions. Here are a few examples of passive communication. A man orders a steak medium well and it arrives at the table medium rare. He cuts into the steak and as it bleeds on the plate and the waitress asks him if everything is to his liking he says, “Yes, things are fine.”
- Aggressive: This is a form of communication opposite on the spectrum in which a person shares his/her wants, needs, desires, or opinions at the expense of someone else’s wants, needs, desires, or opinions or right to be treated humanely. Let’s examine the first example above. The man gets an undercooked steak and the waitress asks him how he likes his meal. He explodes, yelling at the waitress about her inadequacies regarding remembering his order and demanding that he get a free meal because of the horrible service and incompetent wait staff.
- Passive aggressive: This is a combination of the two previously outlined communication styles. It is often characterized by sarcasm or “joking,” but it often has a kernel of truth embedded in it that can sting or cause you to question the real meaning of the comments. It is passive, because the person’s opinion, wants, or needs are not shared directly-they are hidden. It is aggressive because the opinion, wants, and needs are often conveyed through biting sarcasm or flippant comments that can be hurtful to the person on the receiving end. This form of communication can have both hazardous effects of passive and aggressive communication. It can make the person using this communication style feel as if they don’t really have a voice and it can put distance in relationships because people become suspicious about the person’s underlying meaning in their words.
- Assertive: This form of communication is characterised by honesty and a direct approach. Let’s take the example of the man with the undercooked steak. An assertive response to the waitress’ query would be to say, “I’m afraid my steak is undercooked. I asked for it medium well and there is too much pink for me. Would you please take it back and have the chef cook it a bit longer?” The needs and desires are stated, but not at the expense of the feelings or self-worth of the waitress.
Summary of communication styles & which ego state (states of consciousness) they target:
- Passive communication is more the child ego state of communication:
– Responds with pleasing & agreeing
– Responds with silence
- Passive-aggressive communication
– Responds with joking with a thin veneer hidden anger (sarcasm).
- Aggressive communication harnesses more the authoritarian parent or hypercritical parent ego state
– Responds with rage “Don’t you fucking do that to me again!”
– Typically responds with blaming aka “You made me _____ ” statements.
– Responds with explaining without being direct about specifics of feelings or the specifics regarding the other persons troubling behaviour
-Gives interpretations “You’re soft and weak!” this just in the eyes of the beholder and isn’t necessarily truth and is likely to escalate conflict…
- Aggressive communication often triggers conflict because it emulates parent-child dynamics where the aggressive communicator is the authoritarian parent and the listeners they are communicating with is the child… So can be very disrespectful talking like this to someone to get what you want.
“If we don’t have boundaries what happens?”
- We become submissive & yield to those around us & their demands without saying “no” when we don’t want to do something.
- It depletes us mentally, physically, emotional, financially which then effects us taking care of ourselves.
- It obliterates our self-esteem, makes us toxically shamed & amplifies self-hatred.
- People take advantage of us more often
- We typically will attract takers (aka narcissistic type indivduals)
- Increases fear & social anxiety because we don’t protect ourselves from abuse.
How to set boundaries using assertive communication:
Here is a formula / sequence for limiting setting which can aid you in setting boundaries with your friends, family and intimate relationships:
This is a 4 step process which was inspired by Robert Burney blog post on boundaries (author of the book ‘the dance of wounded souls’).
*** This doesn’t involve blaming your friend, partner or family member… This only escalates conflict… Saying “you made me feel like this” is blaming & childish… Remember you have a responsibility to yourself if someone bothers you. The 4 step process below is designed to take self-responsibility by putting a strong emphasis on using “I” statements.
“When you” statement
“I feel” statement
“I want” or “I would prefer you to” statement
“If you continue I will” statement (set a consequence to enforce. This isn’t always necessary.)
“When you call me an idiot I feel angry, hurt & disrespected. I want you to tell me if I have done something wrong in a polite manner without belittling me and calling me names. If you continue to do this to me I will not speak to you anymore.”
So thats the process!
Additional tools for healthy self-assertiveness 1#:
Here is the ‘Human bill of rights: guidelines for fairness & intimacy’ designed by the amazing author Pete Walker (be sure to check out Pete Walkers site for excellent advice on recovery from c-ptsd). These will help give you a better indication of your own boundaries. After the reading the bill of human rights I reccomend writing down between 4 to 6 ‘non-negotiable personal boundaries’ which you will NOT compromise on and are things when crossed could potentially end a given relationship based on your needs / wants / preferences.
Link to the human bill of rights found here: http://pete-walker.com/humanBillofRights.htm
Human bill of rights for fairness, healthy self-expression & intimacy
- I have the right to be treated with respect.
- I have the right to say no.
- I have the right to make mistakes.
- I have the right to reject unsolicited advice or feedback.
- I have the right to negotiate for change.
- I have the right to change my mind or my plans.
- I have a right to change my circumstances or course of action.
- I have the right to have my own feelings, beliefs, opinions, preferences, etc.
- I have the right to protest sarcasm, destructive criticism, or unfair treatment.
- I have a right to feel angry and to express it non-abusively.
- I have a right to refuse to take responsibility for anyone else’s problems.
- I have a right to refuse to take responsibility for anyone’s bad behavior.
- I have a right to feel ambivalent and to occasionally be inconsistent.
- I have a right to play, waste time and not always be productive.
- I have a right to occasionally be childlike and immature.
- I have a right to complain about life’s unfairness and injustices.
- I have a right to occasionally be irrational in safe ways.
- I have a right to seek healthy and mutually supportive relationships.
- I have a right to ask friends for a modicum of help and emotional support.
- I have a right to complain and verbally ventilate in moderation.
- I have a right to grow, evolve and prosper.
Additional tools for healthy self-assertiveness 2#:
The following principles are things to keep in mind when limit setting with others. These next principles are credit of the excellent psychotherapist Darlene Lancer & found in in her book ‘codependency for dummies’ which I highly reccomend for healing from codependency.
Here is a link to her website: http://darlenelancer.com/
The six C’s principles of setting boundaries:
- Congruency: Express honest communication based on how you feel
- Courtesy: Be respectful to engage the listener & get the behaviour you want
- Conciseness: Impact wanes with words… Stick to steps above without over explaining.
- Clarity: Be direct using assertive communication not passive or aggressive.
- Cognizance: Be willing to listen to your partners response & negotiate if necessary. “hear in order to be heard.”
- Claim yourself: Don’t talk about your listener or quote others or give advice. Using ‘I’ statements prevents projecting judgement, interpretations and makes a sentence a statement not a question or indirect passive communication.
Additional tools for healthy self-assertiveness 3#:
The final tip for practicing boundaries is practising vocally saying the word ‘no’ around the house multiple times a day. “No” is an essential boundary word used to decline requests from others you don’t want. This reduces hyper-compliance to others to do what they want rather than what you want. Also can be said to yourself to increase self-discipline and reduce impulse control.
I hope you have found this blog article useful. There is a lot of information here to take in so be sure to reread the article as many times as you need to begin to internalise all the self-assertiveness principles to memory so the boundary setting behaviours become more automatic within your life. Be sure to share this article where you can with someone who you think needs guidance with boundary setting.
Thank you for reading
From your friendly neighbourhood coach
Joshua Leo Stuart