Boundaries: Recognizing where they should be and establishing them..

My most recent post, “The Crazys”, was about feeling disjointed in public/social situations. I thought it was because I was afraid of any closeness with people or being put into a possible bad situation. Judy over at made a comment that really hit the real issue. I really love others’ input in my posts. I spend so much time trying to figure everything out, that I get lost. Sometimes I don’t hit the actual issues. For whatever reason, I either can’t see them or I don’t want to see those hard areas. Judy brought out an eye-opener…one that I most definitely needed. I hope you don’t mind, Judy, but I’ve decided to paste it here. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs your wisdom 😀

Something else to add to the pot: Work has automatic boundaries you don’t have to establish. You mentioned it yourself: You’re behind a counter. It’s there without any work on your part. You didn’t have to decide if it was too much or too little. It’s there; you work with it. When you’re not at work, you have to establish every single boundary and decide with whom to expand or contract your boundaries. I’m much more myself online than anywhere else because there are automatic boundaries I don’t have to establish; they’re already there. In the work place, you know pretty much what to expect, even up to and including understanding monsters still show up. However, you have the awareness that should monsters show up, you have back up to protect you, other workers, work rules, etc. I think I hate that the most: My NM taught me to doubt myself, taught me I wasn’t capable, taught me no one would accept me, taught me I couldn’t trust myself : the person I must trust the most because I cannot escape myself.”

Judy is such a wise soul!

First, where do we learn about boundaries? In normal families (I assume this to be the case, and where the initial learning should come from) the parents are the teachers, whether that be in word or in deed. Our parents are supposed to be our protectors. They are also supposed to lead by example. What was my example?? (Please don’t misunderstand..I love my Mom and Dad. They did the best they could with what they had. Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, especially if one parent is already one that was damaged. You can’t teach what you don’t know, yourself) My Mom is like me. I learned her views, why she does the things she does, and so on. She was brought up in a very dysfunctional family. She was the first Mother that didn’t cart her children to someone else to raise. However, my Grandmother did do that with my Mom and Aunt. They were raised in foster homes, enduring all manner of abuse, so my Grandmother could pursue her life the way she wanted. She didn’t have time for them. At least that’s the gist I get from it all. My Mom’s method of dealing with difficult things or situations, “minimize, ignore, devalue”. I learned to do the same thing. She is dealing with life from a co-dependent view point. I’m not saying that she is necessarily co-dependent, but she does have some traits…as do I.

So…growing up, I would see her battle with my Dad. Instead of really standing her ground (unless she was completely pissed off, then she used such skill at getting the point across, it was amazing! I didn’t hear her yell…EVER.) she would stay quiet, while he cussed at her or threw things. You get the picture. She would stay quiet. Then if someone would mention it, she would push it aside completely…”Oh, it was nothing” or change the subject with a shake of her head. Translation? “That’s too hard to think about right now. It’s hurtful to recount. It’s over, now.” Not to mention the age-old ideal of “don’t air your dirty laundry for others to see” “It’s no one’s business what happens at home” and so-on.

She didn’t demand that he respect her boundaries. I don’t remember hearing her bark back, “Don’t you talk to me like THAT”. Nope, she stayed quiet during all of it. My lesson during times like this? “When someone is cruel or angry with you, don’t stand up for yourself…be quiet.” When my Dad and I argued when I was a teen, she would pull me aside and tell me, “If you would just stay quiet, it’ll be over faster.” I remember her and I talking when I was little. She was enforcing the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Respect for others. There was always more emphasis on respecting others, than teaching me how to respect myself. Growing up I learned that everyone’s feelings mattered. Mine didn’t. I set out to protect everyone around me from the potential that I might hurt their feelings. I did everything I could to ensure that I was respectful, caring and never losing sight of how another might feel, or how I was causing that person to feel. I avoided negative emotion like a plague. AvoidED? I STILL do!

Of course, seeds grow. Even bad ones.

This one has completely festered into a near impossible type of bacteria…algae. Whatever. This one I have to kill at the root. This is also the reason there has been so much abuse in my own life. I didn’t respect the boundaries that I SHOULD HAVE HAD AND SHOULD HAVE DEMANDED!! If I had a healthy view of my own boundaries, my experience with a Psychopath may not have ever happened. At least not to the degree it did.

I never learned to establish personal boundaries. If I had ever spoken out when someone violated ME, it would “hurt their feelings” or “cause them to be hurt or angry with me”. I couldn’t tolerate that. I always wanted others to respect MY feelings and MY boundaries, but since I never let anyone know I actually had them and deserved for people to respect me, they saw that I had no boundaries, which caused EVERYONE to see me as a door-mat.

I’m tired of being a door-mat.

They deserved boundaries. I did not. At least, that’s they way I have always lived my life. Devalue, discount and ignore.

What boundaries do I need to establish, and then stand behind?

  • If I’m uncomfortable with a request, or invitation… “No, thank you” should be as easy for me to say as, “I would like to, but can’t today…maybe another time”, In that case, I feel obligated to follow through with it. What happens as a result? I’m uncomfortable. I stay uncomfortable and that person thinks everything is ok. When I finally become brave enough to be honest, they are bewildered and shocked.  Then I feel guilty for not being open and honest in the first place. I need to be honest and upfront in the beginning. Stop assuming a person will become hurt, angry, or anything. If I don’t feel comfortable with the request, my needs matter the most. Not their’s. (this is the base rule, though there are situational acceptions, as with family and close friends.)
    • In respecting my own personal wants and wishes…saying “No”, I also respect them, recognizing that the person doesn’t want to be given a false idea. They want to be validated, too.
  • Anger: People are notorious for being hurtful and cruel when they are angry. I’ve also learned that people are COMPLETELY honest during their most heated times. People can become verbally and psychologically abusive during this, too. If someone is angry with me, that in and of itself is ok if I did something that deserves at least their discontent. HOWEVER it is NOT ok for someone to be demeaning toward me. If that happens the LAST THING I need to be is silent! I don’t have to be the outright bitch, but definitely need to say something if that person stepped out of bounds. If they still don’t respect my boundaries, then it’s ok for me to become more demanding. It’s ok, and I need to recognize that the fact I’m a viable person, makes me worthy to have someone respect MY feelings for a change!

These are a good start… Baby steps…wish my feet were smaller at times.


14 thoughts on “Boundaries: Recognizing where they should be and establishing them..

  1. Even if you start out with boundaries, Narcs and Psychopaths work very hard to break them down in the name of “intimacy” and “getting to know the Real You.” After you’re vulnerable, that’s when they strike and you don’t even realize that you let down your boundaries until they are already inside. Re-establishing your boundaries after such an experience is very hard. Kudos to you for seeing what needs to be done and sharing with your readers 🙂

    1. If it wasn’t for Judy drawing my attention to it, I wouldn’t have realized it. This one is HUGE! The boundaries I did have, my X destroyed. He emphasized in his own twisted way that I didn’t matter. He did. Thanks 😀

      1. My Narc insisted that I would be “safe” with him, that he had my best interests at heart in ways that no one ever had, that I had no need for boundaries with him – we would be one heart in two bodies. What a load of crap! Glad you’re away from him now!

        1. Me too! It’ll never cease to amaze me the piles of crap they feed us…and that we FALL FOR, initially. The things he was able to cause in me are nothing short of shocking…especially since he did this, and I never lived with him. I hate to think what would have or could have been if we DID live together! Small blessings…

          1. They are VERY good at what they do – they spend their whole lives honing their skills and people who are kind and loving don’t stand a chance. Living with them only makes everything worse – we spent years on and off living separately and that’s the only reason I am still with him now – I didn’t have his bullshit on a daily basis so I was able to explain many horrible things away. Now that I’m well and truly trapped, I can see him for what he really is all day every day, but I will soon be free!

          2. I am soo excited for you!! We are so good at falling into the trap of minimizing and discounting abuse. The abusers count on this, in order to continue. It’s also part of the equation in brainwashing. They ARE good at what they do. One thing I kept saying is my X was “good at his game”. It’s a beautiful thing when we finally allow ourselves to see the real picture. The next step is freedom!! Woo-Hoo!

  2. Something else I noticed as I started making friends online. My healthy friends don’t violate boundaries. It wouldn’t even occur to them. When I have to establish a boundary with someone I consider it an early warning. It may have been an accidental violation, but because I’m more aware I’m more alert to possible problems a lot sooner. Easier to correct a little violation than trying pull back from critical mass. 🙂 So glad I could help.

    1. That’s a good point, too. The friends I have don’t violate those boundaries either. They actually tell me hard things without being demeaning or hurtful (intentionally), and I feel better for spending time with them…not worse. They encourage, not berate. If someone sets out to be hurtful, they are in violation. I’m looking forward to getting stronger in this area. I’m not looking forward to the work and implementation, but the end result is one I need.

      you know your post about being at the store the other day, and that guy (Chris?) told you how beautiful you are? How he looks forward to your smile? How he was there at just the right time, saying what you needed to hear? That was you for me, today. Thank you!

  3. weareonebyruth

    I could have written this post. I still remember the day my counselor asked me what I wanted and I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know. Recently I learned the power of saying in a soft voice, “You may not talk to me that way.” I asked my counselor what to do if they continued shouting or berating me…he suggested that I remind them again in the same soft voice that they may not talk to me like that and then leave the room. I actually tried it and with the person that it happened it worked. The second time I started saying you can’t talk and that was a far as I got and they changed their voice. This does not work for everyone. The people that it doesn’t work for – the walking away is sometimes the only choice. Hugs.

    1. You actually just reminded me of a question my counselor asked me…”What are YOUR values?” This was pretty early on, in our counselor/client relationship. I remember looking at her dumbfounded. I didn’t really have an answer, so I pulled out a coined “Miss America” pageant-type speech, but it wasn’t the right answer…even for myself. I have never been able to answer that question. It was a deeper question than coined “family” values or “treat others the way you want to be treated”, “do unto others”, “don’t cheat and steal” and the like were meant to answer. Those are politically correct, but good values non-the-less. Personal values? Ones that have nothing to do with the status-quotes values? I still don’t have a clue.

  4. Pingback: The Importance of Boundaries « Reflections on Life Thus Far

  5. Pingback: Protecting Yourself When Becoming Vulnerable and Authentic | Roots to Blossom

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