Reading time: 14 minutes | Written by Eirini on 30 May 2020 in Athens, Greece.
When people think of boundaries they tend to perceive them as a “balance” between two people, as if they were a measure against violation and over-giving.
But boundaries don’t actually have anything to do with how other people treat us; rather they are about who we are.
The reason why we relate boundaries with other people to begin with is because in our original relationships -with our parents- we got trained around what we are supposed to be and aren’t allowed to be in order to be emotionally safe from them and also achieve intimacy with them.
So this is simply what happened: We got misdirected towards having to find an absolutely non-existent “balance” between being ourselves -having boundaries- and being with them.
And that of course is the exact opposite of being loved.
So, in the present, it isn’t other people that violate our boundaries anymore.
It is only our subconscious setup that follows an old system of misinformation that makes us believe we must ignore our true boundaries in order to not to be harmed or lose precious connection to those we are attached with.
Boundaries do not really require others’ permission.
Even the communication of boundaries can be misused if applied as a coping mechanism of covertly blaming or asking others to allow us to be true to ourselves before we honor our boundaries.
If we feel we need to negotiate about our boundaries, it means we’re trying to assess whether we will suffer unwanted consequences in our relationship by being ourselves.
It is important to realise that our subconscious is designed to be attracted to people and situations that mirror our parents. This is how our now adult minds gain access to the pieces of information that have been lost or distorted, thus restoring our personal truths (reclaiming our true boundaries).
So, the path to discovering and re-owning boundaries is indeed life-long.
To assist with this, it is useful to understand the patterns that lead us to dropping our boundaries:
The intimidation or manipulation techniques that we may have suffered in childhood seed fear in us that stays with us in adulthood and that is the real culprit for us giving up our boundaries in the present.
In fact, this fear may have become so ingrained that we can’t even recognise that it’s now us who are letting go of our boundaries.
So if we are used to this dysfunctional relating, we are going to be very sensitive to both intimidation and manipulation, being triggered into self-doubt, confusion and guilt precisely because these have been the tools originally used to falsely convince us to drop our boundaries.
This may also be leading us into the trap of feeling like we need to fight with others in order to prove the rightness of or earn the right to our boundaries.
But real boundaries don’t actually need violence/dominance. Fighting does not result in having boundaries, rather it is the result of not having them. The more we own our boundaries the less we feel the need to enter debates or conflicts with others about them.
What needs to be done instead is for us to become experts at spotting others’ intimidation or manipulation techniques and explore and listen to the emotions that come up inside us when we are the recipients of these, instead of bypassing or perceiving the feelings as proof that we shouldn’t or don’t deserve to have our boundaries.
In addition to this, if we have grown up in particularly dysfunctional environments, we will have learned to live only within the limited field of our parents’ energies. This means that our subconscious will be monitoring others’ emotional states and when our filters pick up on something that could register as a veiled request or even a threat, we will automatically feel “obliged” to acquiesce, regardless of what our conscious minds are aware of. And again, we will be experiencing this as if we objectively don’t have a choice.
Lastly, we may also be losing energy by seeking to predict others’ needs. And this of course will be making us feel drained and used, not realising that it is still us who are investing energy in doing that.
What is usually going on when we think we’re putting up boundaries is that we have simply reached a point at which we cannot tolerate any more self-sacrifice or abuse from others.
That is a “stop-boundary”, not a true one.
Since we subconsciously believe we cannot avoid self-violation altogether within our relationships, we revert to trying to regulate the level of that violation instead.
What makes recognising and reclaiming our real boundaries even more confusing is that we have been further conditioned against them by our caretakers’ false interpretation of what those boundaries were:
Because our parents were raised to view self-violation as “love” towards others, they then felt our boundaries as violations towards them even though they were not.
So, the reality is that our parents believed that they were required to self-violate for relationships but attributed their self-committed crimes to us.
So we experienced the perception of our boundaries as a right we were not supposed to or did not deserve to own, and that in turn put us in a position of having to settle for fake, “stop-boundaries”.
But “stop-boundaries” simply do not work in love-based relationships.
In fact, “stop-boundaries” result in two dangerous side-effects.
One: We don’t actually communicate who we are. We just give the other a “no” to something undefined, unknown, which drives our real communication into a sharp dead-end.
The emotional story behind each boundary is needed if we want intimate connection.
It is important to mention at this point that both our and others’ ability to love may not yet be complete, but that’s not required for anyone to be able to offer the intimate space in which one can safely discover and unfold themselves.
This is a delicate and needed distinction because people can be dishonest and unaware regarding their desire to create a loving space with others, so we are the ones that have to be able to recognise the authenticity of others’ intentions and not excuse them if that’s missing. This is the primary pillar of relationships.
What makes all the difference in relationships is whether each person genuinely desires to love.
In order to become able to perceive this accurately, we have to accept first that parents never withdraw their love because of anything that their children do or are.
And second, the belief that we need to heal from all of our pain before we have access to love is a remnant of parental rejection. Our “negative” emotions were considered as the problem when they were merely the objective response to our parents’ unconscious, damaging behaviours.
It is not the absence of pain, but rather how we allow for our partner’s and our own pain that supports the unfolding of our love.
Two: The second side-effect of “stop-boundaries” is that using them gives us an illusion of exercising true boundaries when we haven’t actually honored them.
This binds us to a disempowered perception of our current environments, when they might very well be currently holding the possibility for love.
Furthermore, because we are already in pain from the accumulated violations we’ve had to suffer from, this side-effect of using “stop-boundaries” roots us strongly in the belief that we need to fight others for our boundaries, instead of honoring our truth and peacefully expressing it to them.
The source of conflict is always an interpretation of others’ behaviours as hostile. This is what makes us ready to fight, regardless of whether others are actually against us or not.
So, “stop-boundaries” block us from being exposed to present reality where we can potentially co-operate and support one another and keeps us stuck to struggling and hurting each other, instead of peacefully embodying what we are.
Growing up under a codependent parent is confusing and torturing, because while their behaviour screams total giving, the actual effects are a deep emotional poverty.
A codependent parent is an obsessively engaged yet emotionally absent parent.
It is not how parents see themselves, but the results of how children feel that proves the quality of parenting they objectively experience.
In fact, identifying with being a “good person” is a strong indication of not giving, but of sacrificing one’s boundaries.
If we get conditioned about what is supposedly good or bad in us, we learn to exile elements of ourselves, exclude them from compassion and understanding. Yet we are expected to extend those energies towards others, without realising that we reject those traits in others spreading this in the name of “love”, like a virus, making others equally guilt-ridden, dissatisfied and immobilised. And that results in a double loss where both people in a relationship are blocked from evolving into their fullness.
On the contrary, if we were raised to allow everything in us as innocent and normal, compassion would be the base towards all aspects of ourselves and it would also naturally extend towards others by default.
Codependency imagines and projects an impossible personality where one is supposedly constantly and completely attuned to others’ needs only and paints this as “unconditional compassion/love”, when it is actually only pure fear of others.
Yet, others simply assume that we are doing the best for ourselves at all times and that we take responsibility for who we want to be. Nobody can be inside another’s mind all the time, nor is it their job.
Other people do not know what we do to ourselves nor can they fully know who we are supposed to be.
Codependency works on the assumption that its purpose is compassion towards others, but real compassion only happens as a result of understanding and honouring oneself and then naturally extends to others.
Instead of its ideals of support and unconditionality, codependency is only loyalty to remaining small together. As soon as a person dares to expand, codependent traits will seek to diminish and chastise them back into pious “belonging”.
Keeping ourselves small is not support or love for others.
Narcissists aren’t “bad people”. They are just stuck in a perception of reality that feels unsolvable:
While they feel profoundly unloved and alone, they are still loyal to their parents’ projected, false ideas about having been the recipients of “love”.
That in turn puts them in a position where they feel they need to take from others the energy that they need, perhaps even punish them for the lack they feel and at the same time block their giving towards them as much as possible, all in an effort to deal with their intense wounds of missing actual love.
Narcissists perceive others antagonistically, so their way to feel safe is to ensure absolute control in their relationships. If they aren’t in complete control, they perceive it as a lack of love or loyalty towards them.
Narcissists demand that others give up their power entirely (=be totally boundary-less) in order for them to feel “loved”, because they are boundary-less themselves.
This is why it looks like narcissists have very strong and absolute boundaries and why one might think that strong boundaries are the problem, but narcissists are really only passionately resisting against others’ boundaries instead of claiming any of their real boundaries.
So, you see, the common thread between narcissism and codependency -which really is a spectrum, not merely opposing polarities- is that both parties have no boundaries:
Codependency and narcissism are drawn to each other because in their relating they both seek to replace having their boundaries, which would have given them a feeling of fulfillment and connection, with either fake giving (betraying their boundaries for “love”) or drug-like hits of fake worthiness, earned through comparison against others.
Anyone gravitating towards narcissism has never experienced being bonded to by others.
This is why narcissists desire to feel like they’re special. This feeling of being irreplaceably important to someone is literally the definition of a secure and loving bond. But we are only special for those who truly see us and love us for who we are. So, narcissism has this truth reversed.
But when someone is trapped in a narcissistic state, they are still desperately starving for love yet they cannot trust anyone to give it to them, even if someone is available for love.
In conclusion, for a more secure, awakened and purposeful life, we need to accept the purpose of our emotions, which is to reflect our own truths back to us.
So, getting accustomed to connecting to our emotions and becoming fluent in them is the natural way towards finding and owning our unique boundaries.
Boundaries are in essence who we are. This means that we will have different emotional responses than other people and those differences will be exactly what show us what is important to our own soul; what kind of being we are specifically here to be.
We discover our boundaries directly through our precise, detailed, unique emotions.
Because being true to our boundaries is the ever-expanding result of developing and mastering the art of understanding our own emotional language.
None of our lost or distorted boundaries were ever our “fault”, our “weakness” or our “lack of character”.
So, in your quest towards finding and owning your boundaries, be armed with the understanding that your boundaries never got confused for anything less than your desire and need to belong with your original family and culture and their inherited, limited ideas of what “love” was.
We all start from the same line, in that we are at the mercy of our environments, regarding the “love” that we have available to us. There, we learn which boundaries are approvable, which boundaries are rejectable and which are not even conceivable.
And no matter how hard we may want to not be dependent on other people – which is pure evidence of how badly they have expected us to trample on our boundaries- we are indeed completely interdependent and our health and happiness depends on it.
Thus, in the journey of redefining yourself-only now according to your unmistakable emotional truths, instead of others’ personal perceptions of you- tread lovingly, compassionately and patiently.
So is feeling your power as “over” another.
And so is “freedom” that’s experienced only outside bonded relationships – this kind of “freedom” becomes a desire only in the absence of our boundaries.
You always experience your own freedom when you arrive at a true boundary.
Boundaries do not keep others out. They only create your real self. So, the more available you are to your emotions (boundaries), the more secure you will be able to feel inside your relationships.
When you truly come to your boundary through your feelings, it is known, reclaimed and there is no more need to fight for it, because it is simply a non-negotiable.
There is no shame around it, no confusion about it, no debate, no requesting, no threatening.
It’s just you.
So, when you feel your boundaries are being violated, you are actually voluntarily -usually subconsciously- dropping them yourself, in order to either honor or keep a relationship with someone. You may be doing so based on an accurate expectation of theirs or simply an old understanding of how “all people” are, or because you are convinced you do not deserve or are allowed or should desire to have those boundaries in question.