Developing healthy boundaries is a significant component of next-level problem solving. Many of our psychological issues arise from poor, missing or over-extended boundaries. In this context, what are boundaries?

If we own a property, that property has a boundary. It delineates what is part of the property and what is not. Energetic boundaries are similar. They demarcate what energies are yours and what aren’t; what issues are yours and what aren’t.

There are two potential problems with boundaries: us imposing on others and others imposing on us. For most people the latter is by far the biggest issue, so let’s focus on that.

Attachment

In patriarchal-based societies such as ours, energetic boundaries are weak. This is because we’ve abdicated individual responsibility in favour of an authoritarian system with externally imposed boundaries.

In patriarchal-based societies such as ours, energetic boundaries are weak. This is because we’ve abdicated individual responsibility in favour of an authoritarian system with externally imposed boundaries.

Because we do not develop healthy individual boundaries during adolescence, our energies merge with those of surrounding individuals and groups. As a result, we may develop unhealthy attachments to:

  • Family members, significant others or friends
  • Sports teams
  • Artists
  • Tribes, clans or communities
  • Political parties
  • Nations
  • Religions
  • Ideals or causes

Typically, we have varying degrees of attachment to multiple of these. Because of our poor boundaries we merge into their energy fields and feel like we belong to them. We revel in their successes and ache at their failures. This makes us both dependent on outside events for our wellbeing and liable to manipulation.

These attachments may be multi-levelled. While many people may identify with a singer’s music, some will go further and fixate on the singer, possibly including an element of emotional or sexual obsession to compensate for some kind of lack in their lives.

Shame

Historically, our poor boundaries have allowed us to be manipulated into giving up our lives to save the abstract notion of our country. In Britain in World War I, this was done using a poster of an authoritarian man pointing an accusing finger at you, with the caption ‘Your country needs you’.

Now it may be that fighting a war to save democracy is the right thing to do. What I want you to notice is how shame is used to manipulate people into doing what society’s authoritarian establishment wants done, healthy or not. In World War II, the Nazis used similar shame-based techniques to radicalise an entire nation into committing atrocities.

Watch the mainstream news and you’ll see that same shame-based manipulation in constant overdrive today.

When we have healthy emotional boundaries, we become our own authority. Obsessive behaviour ceases. Instead, we become emotionally centred and stable, immune to manipulation by others.

Creating boundaries

Creating healthy boundaries can be a painful process, particularly when it involves our ‘nearest and dearest’ emotionally infringing upon us.

Perhaps there’s someone in your family causing problems for you, but you’re dodging the issue because you don’t want to cause any fallout? Get over it. Say no. Do whatever it takes to stop that person in their tracks. Why? Because that’s what it takes to consolidate your boundaries. When you have sound energetic boundaries, people don’t mess with you.

What about the fallout? If someone is imposing on you, you have every right to erect a boundary. You are not responsible for how they feel or how they react.

So go ahead. Create that boundary. If it helps, imagine a ball of light or low wall that surrounds and protects you. Step inside it. Do whatever you have to do. Yes, you will be tested—perhaps even two or three times.

You will win through: poor emotional boundaries always give way to strong ones. Remember, you’re the one evolving to the next level, empowering yourself and creating the potential for others to do likewise.

Imposing on others

That brings us to the second issue with boundaries: imposing on others. As well as being responsible for not letting others infringe upon you, you’re responsible for not infringing upon others.

This is where we often tend to have blind spots—our own wounded, obsessive behaviour is invisible to us. The trick here is to develop our own ‘inner observer’, i.e. the capacity to recognise when we are infringing on others. I wish I could say I’ve never infringed on others; boundaries can be a source of painful lessons.

As you develop your inner observer, you also become increasingly aware of the ways others harm or sabotage themselves. The temptation to try to step in and ‘fix’ things can be strong. Don’t, unless they ask. Respect others’ boundaries as much as you respect your own.

Photo: DSC_0967 by chriscom on Flickr