In part one of this two-part series (below), I explained what happens at a subtle energetic level when we draw boundaries (such as saying no or asking for what we need.) The crucial corollary to drawing boundaries is your preparation for the other person’s response, which includes the development of consequences.
Here’s the rub when it comes to drawing boundaries: it is your responsibility to ask for what you need and it is nobody’s responsibility to comply.
Sucks, I know. But in exercising our free will as humans, just because you set a boundary it doesn’t mean the other person has to agree! It is a hard truth and one I recommend you to accept as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might as well forget about consistent boundary drawing and enforcing.
As I shared previously, it is human nature to put each other in boxes, because it is instinctive to try and quantify our surroundings. This is part of our psyche’s mechanism of creating safety.
Whatever we can do to generate consistency, reliability, dependability, and predictability helps us feel secure.
So when you draw boundaries, especially significant ones, you are acting outside of your expected or predicted set of standards. You’ve left the bounds of “your” box. It is natural then for the other person to initially be confused or have a resistant reaction, which can range from mild to wildly irrational to frighteningly violent depending on the matter at hand.
I am an empath – a highly sensitive person – so if it’s possible to have negative skin (as opposed to thick skin), I had it. It took me a long time to develop the skills to endure even the mildest disappointment from another person. Depending on the other person’s level of consciousness, you might receive a full-out onslaught, designed to get you to go back to the old way and renege on your boundary. If you aren’t prepared to hold your ground, then all of your effort will be for naught. (I can’t tell you how many times I caved in or doubted myself.)
In part one I gave an example of enforcing a bedtime boundary with a child. One of the most important – but often overlooked – steps in setting boundaries is having consequences for disobedience or lack of respect for boundaries. Not punishment, but consequences.
Consequences are matter-of-fact eventualities and can be spoken along with the boundary.
For example: “When your friends come over to play, we have asked you to put everything away afterwards and straighten up the game room, which you have refused to do. If you don’t start picking up after yourself, we will confiscate all of your games and toys.”
Another example: “You have been coming into work at least 15 minutes late several times a week for the last two weeks. We have discussed this before and your behavior has continued. I expect you to be on time from this day forward and the first time you are late, even by one minute, you will be fired.”
And finally: “I love you, but your addiction to pain killers for the last five years has ruined our relationship and broken my heart. I want to support you in getting well, but if you don’t agree to go to rehab or Narcotics Anonymous in the next month, I will move out and file for divorce.”
Whatever the circumstances, however dire or minor, the key piece in voicing the consequence is…you have to be willing to follow through! If you say you’re going to take the games and toys away, then you have to be willing to do it, while your child is crying, saying they hate you or locking himself in his room. If you give your spouse an ultimatum, it better not be an idle threat or used as manipulation. If you tell your boss you want a car allowance for all the errands you are expected to run for the company and she says no, you better know what Plan B is.
I know…adulting blows sometimes. But honestly, drawing conscious boundaries, preparing for the other person’s response, determining the consequences or Plan B, and then being willing to follow through on your consequences take maturity and practice. And doing it in an angry rage doesn’t count.
What I haven’t yet said in all of this is that boundary setting is empowering. For whatever reasons you might not be good at drawing boundaries, when you start practicing them, enforcing them and – holy cow! – people start listening?!…something inside changes. Saying no, asking for what we need, and standing up for ourselves are all forms of advocation. When we advocate for ourselves, our inner children lift their lowered heads, take thumbs from mouths, and say “Wow, is she doing that for me?” “Maybe I can trust him.” “She loves me.” “He cares about me.” “I matter.”
The energetic impact of setting boundaries certainly affects the other person, but in the end, it affects us too, by restoring the sovereignty of our own energetic kingdom. We can only tolerate our own inauthenticity for so long before it starts disrupting our health, relationships, finances, and happiness. Setting conscious and thoughtful boundaries as actually one of the highest forms of self-love.
No matter the size, significance or impact of your boundary, the “shock waves” extend outward and the other person or people involved will need some time to adjust.