Transforming Caregiver Stress into Compassion Resilience

Embodying Boundaries

Stressed? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Feeling discomfort, and unease?

You’ve probably got a case of ‘crappy boundary’ syndrome!

I’ve learned the messy way, that if we  want to stay in our power, and perform at our best under pressure, then we have to get clear on where we draw the boundaries and where we walk the line.

Boundaries are vital for keeping us safe and secure. They allow us to keep what harms and disturbs us at arms length, so we don’t become destabilised. And they allow us to let in the stuff that nourishes and strengthens us, which feeds our resilience.  Boundaries are intimately connected with your right to claim your existence, and your right  to take a stand for yourself, and what matters to you.

And our capacity to hold relaxed but strong boundaries allows our clients, our families, and our children, to experience  more support, containment and security for themselves. So everyone benefits.

We negotiate boundaries in all areas of our lives; we have emotional, relational, physical, sexual, social, financial, intellectual and spiritual boundaries. But rarely do we bring conscious attention to what our personal limits are, and where our defenses are  too permeable or too rigid.

If the people in your life don’t know your limits, they’ll assume they have permission to keep doing what they are doing until you say stop.  The problem is,  if you don’t know what your limits are either, they’ll keep doing it until you reach overwhelm or breakdown.  At the very least, you will feel taken advantage of.

The first step is to become aware of the boundaries you need to strengthen (or loosen), in order to nourish you and meet your needs better.

But that’s not enough.

As I’m sure you have experienced, being aware that you need to say ‘NO’ to a request, and knowing both the words to say and the reason to say them, doesn’t make it any easier to say ‘NO’ in the moment, when you are in contact with the other person.

Instead we become dis-abled by the feelings, sensations, histories and experiences that are imprinted in our bodies.  We are physically unable to communicate our intention.

We may create other ‘defenses’ to maintain a superficial sense of safety. We say yes, but then sabotage the agreement. We may act out knee-jerk responses, or otherwise react inappropriately, but they only every provide short-term relief.

That’s because  boundaries are an embodied experience; it is at the edges and the spaces of our physical organism that we meet, communicate, and differentiate what we call ‘me’ from the ‘other’. So we need to bring the experience of the body into any conversation about boundaries.

As Jaimen McMillen, founder of Spacial Dynamics explains, “…Burn-out happens when the world approaches us too close, too directly, it becomes in our face,  it gets under our skin, it gets on our nerves.'”

I am still on a healing path myself, but I’ve learnt some good stuff along the way, that I’ll share with you in future posts. It’s a huge subject, but that doesn’t mean the solutions have to be complicated (though they do take practice).  The good news is, “You  can select where you want to meet the world.” 

Several of my clients have found Jaimen’s beautifully simple ‘Garden Gate’ metaphor, an effective starting point…

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