My boundaries are very important to me. Having them respected is important to me. I made them all myself and I had to work hard to understand that they were necessary and what they should be. I consider myself an expert in my boundaries. There are discussions on discerning whether or not your boundaries or healthy or not and how to make them so; here, here, here and here, here, here, here and here. The problem I find is that my family is also an expert in my boundaries-that is to say, they are experts at crossing them. My mother and I get along very well… but even she has some fleas and they include holding onto her opinions formed about specific events during my childhood that were absolutely influenced by my father’s opinions and where this crosses my boundaries is when she tells me about what I did and why I did it… from that abusive father informed perspective.It doesn’t happen often. We have massive fights when she does this and I correct her on what was actually going on for me. It’s damaging to both of
But our healthy boundaries just don’t work with everyone because not everyone has an understanding of what healthy boundaries are and why they are a good thing. For people who have predicated their feelings of being cherished upon having someone relax their boundaries for them… it creates a recipe for disaster and there’s not a lot you can do to avoid it beyond truly waiting to get to know people.
Explosive or highly negative reactions to our healthy boundaries are something that can be just as damaging to us. They give us this direct anecdotal evidence that we will face consequences for attempting to assert healthy boundaries. They give us this direct anecdotal evidence that when we are asserting a healthy boundary that we are wrong to do so. This is anecdotal evidence that is false in the real world outside of codependent and abusive relationships.
This is from one of the previously mentioned articles.
“The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem…Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.
“Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.” (p.248)”
I grew up with a very poor understanding of how to problem solve. If I was having a problem or felt victimized the anecdotal evidence that was in my realm of understanding was that if I tried to make changes that my actions to help myself would always bring me worsening abuse: In school, at home, in baseball, anywhere I went. People pathologically hated me and wanted to destroy me and whatever powers that be would help them do so. This was my understanding of the world.
My only control that I could understand was related to changing my situation entirely. That was the first step in my self help. Turns out moving from job to job rather than ever bringing up any problems you have is rather detrimental. Go figure.
Learned helplessness is something I believe I have been very plagued by. Because I had no idea what healthy boundaries were or that they could be effective I didn’t learn them until I was 24 or even a bit older and I learned them because I was around people with good boundaries and I eventually made the connection that between the people that I had terrible interactions with and the ones I had good interactions with the only different thing was that the good interaction people had healthy boundaries.
And then I started working. I’m still working. I will work the rest of my life at this.
I’ve made a lot of progress. I thought that I could find a way to live in the same house as my younger brother who was forced to move back in with our mother (like me but different, he has to stay there. Reasons. Capital R) and even though he was doing things like taking her phone and refusing to use it’s otterbox and telling her he would buy her a new one if he broke it (but not buying himself a new one) or telling her he was going to take it off what she owed him because she was dumb and desperate enough to trust him about borrowing money. Her situation was thus that there weren’t a lot of other options for her. But I just … knew he would be horrible about it. And he has been.
He demanded to use my phone too. I told him no. He couldn’t make calls on my phone that will be cut off in (ohhhhh… 5 days now) eleven days and I refused when he offered me increasing amounts of money. Eventually he realized he had never loaned me money and wouldn’t be able to destroy my phone and tell me it was my own fault and so he redoubled his efforts on my mom. Threats of suicide. Threats in general. Threats to break her other things. It looks like the healthy boundary worked… but really all he was doing was abusing my mother to try to get me to give him my phone. At least. I understood that if I had given him my phone… he wouldn’t be doing this to my mother.
It isn’t that he moved in and stole her phone… it’s that he moved in and abusively forced her to give him permission to use her phone and then blamed all the harm of HIS actions on the people he was victimizing.
Sometimes. Our healthy boundaries do not work. Sometimes. People fool us.
He and I had what I thought was a wonderful conversation where I talked to him as a friend and we seemed to be on the same page about making this easier on my mother.
The next day he had a meltdown in the car and we ended up leaving him on the side of the road as he told us to. (I doubt he thought my mom would actually drive off). And repeated calling back screaming about how he was going to kill himself and it was all our fault. Later on after more screaming and meltdowns, I was so worried about him hurting my mom I intervened and escalated the situation to violence… he and I got into a screaming fight where he kicked me and I kicked him back but the only thing that stopped him from beating me up was the pepper spray in my hand. I will never again speak to him the way that we did the night prior… never again as a friend.
After the fight, I packed my things and moved out. Because I realized that my mother was safer without me there. And I would not be able to avoid escalating him. Or killing him.
I actively tried. I had my healthy boundaries and I worked on them and they did not work with my brother’s abusiveness. So the running.
When your boundaries aren’t helping you. It’s time to leave that situation.