If you’ve dated people who invaded your boundaries in the past, and would like to avoid dating such people in the future, read on. There’s a reason you’ve let such people slip past your porous boundaries, and that reason lays in your past, where you had incomplete training about boundaries.
Boundaries are essential in virtually every area of life. Great artists—whether they’re sculptors like Michelangelo, composers like Puccini, or basketball stars like Jordan–had to learn their craft. They spent hours alone disciplining themselves, studying and practicing within the boundaries of marble, sheet music and gymnasiums. Working with boundaries freed these geniuses to soar into the boundless, giving us “The Pieta,” “La Boheme,” and 360-degree flying reverse dunks.
It’s imperative to learn boundaries in your relationships, as well. When you were an infant, the universe was one amorphous “yours.” Your parents taught you, when you were ready to learn, the difference between what’s yours and what isn’t; it was all part of the education they gave you on boundaries. That is, if they themselves knew the boundaries. If they were alcoholics–who loved the bottle more than they did you–or emotional vampires–who needed you more than they loved you–they likely did a very poor job of teaching boundaries. How can they teach what they didn’t know, and what wasn’t taught to them by their parents? They couldn’t; so the ground was prepared for you, as their children, to endure a lifetime of potential abuse–emotional, physical, and sometimes sexual–from parents, relatives, bosses, spouses, even ministers. How do you reverse these vicious cycles? The answer is knowledge.
I coach a woman in her ‘30s—let’s call her Sharon–who grew up in a home where boundaries weren’t communicated. What was communicated was rage by her alcoholic father. He dominated the atmosphere of their home. Sharon concluded, as a girl, that her job was to be the family’s peacemaker. (It wasn’t, but she mistakenly thought that it was.) This role that she took on calmed the battle around her for a while, but it robbed her, over time, of her integrity. She wanted everybody to feel okay even though there was something going on in the house that was anything but okay. For the short term she found a strategy that enabled her to cope with the battles going on around her. For the long term, however, she paid a big price for this: She learned to give away her power on a daily basis.
Being a peacemaker also attracted angry people into her life so that, once and for all, she could heal this pattern. If this is your pattern, you’ve been lacking the knowledge that it’s not your responsibility to make everyone in the world happy. Especially since it comes at the high price of your own peace and happiness. Being a people pleaser is a very fatiguing and fruitless way of being. Herbert Swope said it beautifully: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is: Try to please everybody.”
In the same way that adding a vitamin to your diet helps make up for a nutritional deficiency, adding an affirmation to your mental diet helps overcome errors in thinking. Here are three I like for boundary deficiency:
* I am responsible for my feelings and emotions and everyone else is responsible for his.
* I create the pleasure and pain in my life and others do the same in theirs.
* I can support others without taking on their problems.
Stuart is a coaching client of mine, who’s working on improving his marriage. Recently he told me that he’s now committed to making his wife happy in a very big way. So he dreams up great things for them to do, and great things to buy for her. Suffice it to say, his wife is one happy camper. I applauded his dedication, then reminded him that it’s not in his power to make her happy. As the Vedic wisdom of India teaches, “Ignorant is one who thinks he makes others sad or happy. The wise do not reflect thus.”
I encouraged him to stay unattached to the fruits of his efforts, and paraphrased a wise saying: “You can lead a wife to the water of happiness, but you can’t make her drink.”
So if you want to make the world happy, remember, you don’t have that power. But since you are a part of that world, you can make that part of the world happy. And you can start right now.
Until Next Time,
Cary Bayer is a Life Coach who conducts a national private practice from his two offices: by the ocean in south Florida (954-788-3380) and in the mountains of New York State (845-679-5526). He is the author of more than two dozen publications, and leads workshops on various topics of personal growth throughout the country. You can visit him on the web at www.carybayer.com or email him at email@example.com.
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