As Published in Common Ground Oct 2017
Healthy boundaries. I’ve yet to meet a woman who isn’t on some learning curve with this one, myself included.
Mind you, I am much better than I used to be. My young adult years were a haze of smoke, resentments, and staying in relationships well past their expiration dates. While I can’t say that I’m currently sporting exquisite boundaries 24/7, I’m happy to report that my days of giving unemployed boyfriends cringe-worthy sums of money are well past me.
Nowadays, eating too many tortilla chips is my most common boundary violation. Telling a man what I am and am not available for, with impressive precision and no regrets, is a task I can reliably trust myself with. The sentence “I’d love to spend this evening with you naked in your room, but I am currently unavailable for penetration” launched one of my most healing, loving, and transformative relationships ever. It also ended really well.
Learning how to do healthy boundaries is something I think we can all use some support around. May I share with you a few of the key lessons that life has taught me over the years?
Inhabiting your body with awareness is vital.
Quitting smoking in my mid-20s was the natural result of my systematic reconnection with my body. Allowing old, painful emotions to be felt was part of that process. Network chiropractic happened to be the vehicle that took me on that journey, though there are many ways to deepen our connections with our bodies.
In that chiropractic office, I uncovered walled-off sections of my interior that I dissociated from somewhere in my childhood. Sensations and emotions began to emerge out of gray numbness. Tears often flowed each time a new section of my body was gently brought back to life.
Eventually, I became so aware of my body that when I smoked I could viscerally feel how I was poisoning myself. I didn’t have to will myself to say no to cigarettes. They simply became disgusting. I dropped the habit with ease.
I’ve found that it’s hard to violate yourself when you are devoted to being in your body. The body reveals palpable yeses and noes when listened to. Healthier boundaries naturally follow.
Repressed anger serves no one, especially not healthy boundaries.
Personally, I think our culture’s limited capacity to honor a woman’s anger is one of the biggest reasons we ladies often struggle with boundaries.
Enrolling in a Somatic Experiencing (SE) Trauma Resolution training 10 years ago and simultaneously being in a relationship with a man that gave me all sorts of valid reasons to be pissed off was a wonderfully catalytic concoction that helped me own my anger in new and profound ways. SE gave me a holding environment to safely liberate the life force that was bound up in my old, unprocessed chunks of anger.
The result? Much healthier boundaries; I graduated myself out of that relationship and stepped into a whole new era of empowered relating.
With support, I learned how to not bury my anger. Rather, I was encouraged to celebrate the potency behind it. I was also given opportunities to explore my anger with curiosity and pleasure. Imagine that! I’m smiling, recalling aggressively playing with a classmate—growling, snarling, and physically asserting my boundaries with my whole body.
That familiar tendency to collapse my boundaries loses its appeal when I connect to my anger’s desires and give it opportunities to be expressed consciously. Certainly there’s value to containing anger and not going on a warpath of mayhem and destruction. That said, I think we can benefit from gifting ourselves with safe spaces to let our anger be heard, felt, and moved.
Now when I find myself in a situation where I’m stuck in an anger loop, I’ll take it to an ally or to the dance floor. I consistently walk away with an increased capacity to advocate for myself.
At the heart of every swell of anger is a potent truth that illuminates some of our most beautiful values. Healthier boundaries emerge when we can harvest the aliveness embedded in our anger and take action on behalf of our deepest desires.
There’s a better way to get love and safety than compromising yourself.
At this point in my life boundary, breaches are much less dramatic and far more subtle. They usually involve me doing something I wasn’t a 100% yes to—going on that third Tinder date, eating that fourth chocolate truffle, squeezing in that fifth client.
Like most humans, I can fall into the habit of trying to get something from someone or some situation in a manner that pulls me outside of myself. When I have my wits about me, I’ll catch myself compromising myself and think, What am I trying to get here? Validation? Sweetness? Money? And if I got that, what would that give me?
I’ve found that basically all my compromising behaviors boil down to misguided attempts to get love or safety or both. Sound familiar?
Here’s my latest aha in my ever-evolving lesson plan for cultivating healthy boundaries: rather than anxiously reaching for people or things to give me a sense of love and safety, I’ll practice directing my longing toward Source (aka Spirit aka God).
I am less likely to compromise myself when I intentionally imbibe the love and support that Source has to offer. As long as I am basking in sensations of love and safety, I inoculate myself from crossing my own boundaries.
Yes, human cuddles and other things are still totally lovely and nourishing. However, there is less of a questionable hustle involved when I am regularly giving myself Source’s love and support. Love and safety are here—why leave myself in pursuit of them?
So there you have it, a few of Lorina’s life lessons on cultivating healthy boundaries: (1) cultivate embodiment, (2) honor your anger, and (3) source love and safety. What’s on your lesson plan?