Saturday, February 01, 2003
HSPs and the problem of "Soft Boundaries"
I believe "boundaries" can be a place where people-- and especially we HSPs and people of a helpful compassionate nature-- easily can end up in "razor's edge" situations. Where does "supportive" end, and "healthy boundaries" begin? I had to learn boundaries from the ground up (At great expense, my therapist thanks me!) because I was raised in a family where having boundaries of any sort was viewed as "inconsiderate."
One of the things I had to learn in setting boundaries was not merely to be willing to clearly state my needs, but also to not "overlay" myself on other people. I had to learn how to be "sorry" without being "causally responsible." Indeed, I was sorry when my girlfriend hit her shin on the park bench-- but I was also not responsible for it. I didn't put the bench down in her way, and I didn't force her to go to the park, against her will. In fact, I was 3 miles away. Although until I was about 32, I made myself responsible for EVERYthing-- maybe I "could" have "made her" not go to the park, had I "known" that there was going to be a bench. As HSPs, and empaths, I think it's easy to take on the troubles of the world-- but there's a big difference between being "supportive of" and "responsible for" someone else's distress. A "boundary" we must learn, as part of not getting overwhelmed. I continue to struggle with it.....
The other thing I had to learn, was how to use the word "no." Again, my childhood/youth model was that saying "no" to someone's request was both self-centered and rude. When I was a young adult, this turned me into an unhealthy person who could only say "no" as part of a final explosion of pent-up rage and frustration. It took me a very long time to learn that "no" is better used as a tool to not reach the "point of explosion," in the first place. Corny as it might sound, I had to practice saying "no" to myself, in the mirror. Eventually I did learn to pose the internal question "Do I want to do this, or am I just feeling obligated?" The biggest problem with not being able to say "no" is that you quickly lose your humanity-- you end up becoming a "human DOING," rather than a "human BEING."
For me, the most difficult thing hasn't really been learning to say "no," or developing healthy boundaries. I has been dealing with the environmental effect of change-- how to deal with other people's reactions. After all, you have friends/acquaintances who are used to a particular paradigm for your behavior-- and suddenly you become like a "different person." Very confusing. And it also has a way of "flushing out" and bringing into question (usuary) relationships that were originally formed on a less than healthy basis.
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