“Boundaries define us. They are what define me. I feel more in control when I know where my boundary ends and the boundaries of others begin. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” ~Henry Cloud
Late last night, I once again found myself unable to sleep, and boy was I angry. To avoid disturbing my partner, who falls asleep as soon as his head touches the pillow (which he is), I moved to the couch. After I was seated in darkness, I tried to listen to the emotion of my other half and ask it for its opinion. Guess what? Boundaries!
Please remember that this is a journey I’ve been on for some time and have also discussed boundaries earlier in my day. So, my inner knowing was loud and clear. For you this may not be the case, and that’s okay.
Practical tip 1: If you are angry, just take a break and start writing down your thoughts. There is no need to feel guilty. Just get out a pen and begin writing. Don’t, and I say DO NOT, vent your anger at the person who caused it.
Where was I then? Boundaries! They are those joyful, challenging rules. They are rules after all.
As a child you were taught that if you break a rule an adult was also affected. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that anger is a messenger for when you have overstepped your boundaries, or you have let someone else break a boundary you consciously or unconsciously set.
Here is where you will find the distinction between external and internal boundaries.
These are your own rules and boundaries. They don’t have to be shared with anyone else, but they are for you to follow. They may sound like:
- When I finish work for the day I will take ten minutes to meditate/for myself.
- Today is not a chocolate or alcohol-free day.
- In order to preserve my mental health and time, I limit the time that I spend scrolling social media at one hour per day.
- To protect my family’s well-being, I will refrain from taking on tasks that make me work late or at weekends.
- In order to help me let go of my ex, and allow myself to move on, every time that I dwell on our split up I will do something for myself.
You set boundaries with the world outside. Unfortunately, these boundaries must be shared and may be difficult to maintain. These are how others will treat you. They may sound like:
- I would love to help you with this project; however, I can only give you one hour a week.
- When I arrive from work, please allow me 10 minutes to get settled before we begin talking or planning dinner.
- I enjoy seeing you, but it’s important to me that you call before coming over.
- It is a topic that I find upsetting, and so I prefer not to discuss it.
- Although I don’t like you fighting, I cannot be your middle man in your arguments.
Practical Tip 2 – Take the page with anger thoughts. Identify any internal and external boundaries that were crossed.
Did you ever let your guard down? Did you allow someone to break a boundary and not gently remind them?
Strong boundaries help us protect our time, our energy, and our physical and mental health, so it makes sense we’d feel angry when they’re violated. But oftentimes our boundaries are unclear or fuzzy, or we negotiate them without conscious awareness because we’re tempted to give in to our impulses or we don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable.
This is why we need to practice self-awareness and recognize which boundaries we’ve allowed to be crossed and why.
Seething on the sofa, there I was, scolding myself for breaking a boundary that I have set and reset many times over the past few years—allowing myself at least thirty minutes of quiet wind down time before bed, with no distractions, no talk of work or anything that might get my highly sensitive nature all stimulated, making it hard to sleep.
Practical Tip #3: Forgiveness is the first step after you’ve understood what boundaries were broken. You are a human being doing the best you can right now, and it’s okay that at times you forget to uphold boundaries with others or yourself.
You can thank the anger for being brought to your attention and forgive yourself. This can be done out loud, if you’re alone.
The first stage of the process is very powerful. I was able to relax enough that my partner could sleep in my bed and then drift off. This isn’t the end, dear reader. In the morning light, sat at my desk, I reviewed the boundary I’d crossed and asked myself a few questions, just like the ones in the next tip.
Practical Tip 4: Time to review your boundaries and ask yourself:
- Is this an internal or external boundary? Was I letting myself down or didn’t I uphold the boundary with another person?
- This is why I didn’t maintain the boundary. Is it possible to neglect this boundary?
- Do I really want this boundary? Do you think it is time for a new boundary? Are there things I can do to improve the maintenance of this boundary?
- What is its purpose if it’s internal? Does it align with my values?
- Have I clearly communicated my boundaries to anyone who is external? How can I remind someone of my boundaries if they cross it?
My evaluation revealed that my goal was to maintain a healthy balance. I like staying up late talking with my partner, or watching TV. But sleep is vital for me. So, Monday through Thursday, I am going to uphold the boundaries. The weekend will be for me to loosen them a bit.
This will be discussed with my partner over dinner. I’ll get his approval and, most importantly, ask him for his help in helping me maintain the boundary throughout the week.
Boundaries are just rules we set ourselves.
You are responsible for maintaining your own boundaries, no matter how they might be external or internally.
Anger can be a powerful tool to communicate that you are not happy with the way others have treated your boundaries.
Tell others why you are unable to cross a line and get their support.
You have complete control over it.
About Sam Curtis
Sam Curtis is a life coach and meditation teacher working out of the UK with a huge range of global clients. Her focus is on helping people with overthinking learn to trust their bodies and minds to do the right thing. One-on-one coaching with Sam is £87 a session. To find out more, you can visit her website: www.sam-curtis.com or follow on Instagram @sam.curtis.coaching. Gravatar email: email@example.com
Get in the conversation! To leave a comment, click here.
Tiny Buddha published the post Why Your Anger IS The Key to Maintaining Your Boundaries.