What happens when boundaries are crossed

Special Bonus! What happens when Boundaries are Crossed!.

Came across this blog post, which illustrates how to use Somatic Experiencing when one’s boundaries have been crossed. There’s a lot of noticing sensations, emotions, reactivity, and new tools to facilitate healing.

It’s good to see how to use SE. It develops “the witness”.

 

Boundaries checklist for healthy relationships

Relationships : A Checklist on Boundaries in a Relationship.

I believe I have posted this before, but if I haven’t, here it is now. It contrasts relationships where you give up your boundaries and when your boundaries are intact. I’ve found it helpful and bookmarked it.

It includes skills like being clear about your preferences and acting on them (I heard Byron Katie say she’s constantly asking herself what she wants), doing more when it gets results, trusting your own intuition, and only being satisfied when you are thriving (rather than coping and surviving).

Some items that I’m resonating with now:

  • Having a personal standard, albeit flexible, that applies to everyone and asks for accountability.
  • Are strongly affected by your partner’s behavior and take it as information.
  • Let yourself feel anger, say “ouch” and embark upon a program of change.
  • Honor intuitions and distinguish them from wishes.
  • Mostly feel secure and clear.
  • Are living a life that mostly approximates what you always wanted for yourself.
  • Decide how, to what extent, and how long you will be committed.

About the last one, I’m liking the new law in Mexico City that allows time-limited marriages. The couple agrees how long they want to be married. The minimum is two years. When the time is up, they either go their separate ways without divorcing or remarry for another period of time.

Love that idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have no more expensive, difficult, embittered divorces? To have a built-in time to reassess how well a relationship is going and together decide whether and for how long to continue it without getting involved with lawyers and courts?

That’s civilized, in my opinion.

~~~

Aug. 20, 2013

I’m adding another resource to this post, which continues to get views long after its original posting. It’s an article about toxic relationship habits that most people think are normal.

The article points out:

…part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify the relationships they’re in. Thus our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.

A lot of the self help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are notfrom different planets, you over-generalizing prick.) And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow.

Here’s the link: 6 Toxic Relationship Habits that Most People Think Are Normal. 

 

My trauma recovery manifesto: the deepest compassion, the strongest boundary

I originally posted this earlier this year. Yesterday I received this comment:

Well said! I’m a clergy person with PTSD who can handle almost any trauma while in the collar thanks to good training and very clear boundaries, but when traumatized people insinuate themselves into my personal life, it sends me into a tailspin even after decades of hard therapeutic work. Caring does not involve being receptacles for others’ misery. Setting limits and sending them for the help they need is the very best thing any of us can do.

It inspired me to repost the original. I feel the same way as the commenter: Tell me up front you’re traumatized, and our relationship will be good. I will set the boundaries I need to keep it healthy.

If you fail to disclose your trauma, we’re probably not going to have a healthy, trusting relationship, and when I find out, it could send me back to a place I worked really, really hard to get out of. I don’t take kindly to that. It’s irresponsible and very unfriendly on your part.

Traumatic symptoms have a way of showing up in behaviors beyond your control until you face and heal the trauma, and specialized professional help (Somatic Experiencing and the like) is almost always required. I guessed you had been emotionally abused from your behavior because you were so weird. I just didn’t know the extent of it until I had that clairvoyant experience after seeing you be triggered that sent me into major fight-or-flight mode. The truth will come out.

I empathize with where you are. If you ever want to be a real friend to me, and not an unhealthy co-dependent, I need you to actively work on your recovery and “get on the other side of it”. I know it probably seems harsh, but I know whereof I’m speaking, having been there myself. You getting well is the best thing you can do for yourself and the quality of your future relationships. I wish you well.

~

Occasionally people who have been traumatized have gravitated to me because I’m open about having experienced a serious trauma and (mostly) recovered, but they don’t seem to realize how deeply their past still affects them. They haven’t done any trauma recovery work, and they show up in my life.

I believe they show up because their unconscious is seeking healing. Or perhaps angels bring these people to me so they can see for themselves that recovery is possible. You know, I don’t mind being a role model for recovery from trauma. I’ve come a long way in 10 years. I’ve worked at it.

It’s not like traumatized people wear signs stating that. The sudden discovery that a friend or love interest has been traumatized can create a huge amount of distress for me. Even though in hindsight, their craziness now makes more sense (“oh, of course, that weird behavior was a trauma response”), it can still really be a shock.

So I just want to put this message out there:

If you’ve been traumatized and feel attracted to me because I’m open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on my recovery, first of all, please tell me clearly and up front (or as soon as you realize) that you’ve been traumatized, emotionally abused, get triggered, have flashbacks or nightmares, are shell-shocked, or whatever history or symptoms are affecting you.

There’s no shame in it — you didn’t ask for it. I’d rather know than not, and I just might be able to proceed with appropriate boundaries. I will help you find good help and support you emotionally — in a way that is healthy and not co-dependent.

If that’s what draws you to me, just own it. Do not be asking me out on dates and withholding information about your untreated trauma. That’s creepy. You may naively think you can hide it, but it seriously disregulates your autonomic nervous system, which means it’s beyond your control. Your trauma-related weird behavior will show up in your most intimate relationships sooner or later.

Having untreated trauma is like ignoring an elephant in your living room whose shit is piling up. It will stay there until you see what it’s doing to your life and determine to get it out of your house. Which takes help.

Secondly, if you’re not getting professional help, please do that — get professional help. And let me know that too, because I’m going to worry about you if you don’t, and I’d rather be happy than worried.

Please do not look to me to help you beyond being a cheerleader for your recovery work. I am a blogger who’s open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on recovery. This blog (read About me, and do a search on PTSD or trauma to find related posts) describes some of my recovery experiences. Please feel free to ask me about them or try them yourself.

There is absolutely no need for you to just show me your wounds without any verbal warning. Seeing you suddenly be triggered by your past trauma triggered painful memories of my long struggle of not knowing I had PTSD and finding out, and then spending months processing, healing, and putting my life back together in a new, healthier way.

Your behavior freaked me out badly. It took acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic assistance to start to get over it (at my expense, I might add, which you have ignored, which also makes me think less of you), and I really don’t trust you now.

Recovery from trauma doesn’t mean being bulletproof. It means being more embodied, emotionally present, and energetically open than before recovery, while still being an ordinary person who cannot read minds. I have more compassion now and am more of a whole person, and I need to set clear boundaries to take care of myself. I do know the difference between friendship and co-dependence.

It breaks my heart more than you can imagine that the innocent gesture I made triggered fear in you. It’s not anything I take casually or lightly. It’s emotionally disturbing to witness someone with their wires crossed, whose body mind mistakes someone who has never emotionally abused them with someone who did.

With help, you can heal your poor damaged nervous system and experience peace and stability and aliveness in your life. I am recommending Somatic Experiencing to people these days.

Please find your way to help. I wish you well.

So this is for everyone: if you know that I have had PTSD and you have had untreated trauma in your life, and you come around seeking a relationship, please tell me up front, do your own recovery work (I’ll be rooting for you), and get yourself in decent emotional and relational shape before you seek friendship or dating from me, for both our sakes.

I look forward to talking with the healthy you.

How to have good boundaries: the third energy

In the energy of being grounded, you learned that you have a space, a position on this planet. You fully connected your energy with the earth’s energy and felt the strength and power of that.

Then you learned about being centered in your own energy, further strengthening your felt sense of yourself.

Having boundaries involves knowing where you end and not-you begins, and knowing when and how to protect and defend that space and give others their space. This is the third energy.

Have you ever experienced someone’s bad boundaries? Perhaps they stood too close when they were talking to you. Perhaps they got in your face or stepped on your toes. Or someone touched you inappropriately, or worse. Connect that to how you felt in your body. Uncomfortable, crowded, resistant, fearful, violated, powerless, worthless, what else might someone feel whose boundaries have been crossed?

We’re often not really aware of our boundaries until someone violates them. This can distort our boundaries. Think of all the incest, physical abuse, emotional abuse, rape, molestation, sexual abuse, child abuse, and more-power taking advantage of less-power stories that you’ve heard, seen on TV, or read about. There’s a lot of suffering in this world because of this type of behavior.

When someone’s boundaries have been violated, their sense of their own boundaries can easily become distorted, or maybe it wasn’t that strong to begin with. Part of recovery is restoring those boundaries and strengthening them by learning how to better protect and defend your space. Without doing this, people can suffer for years, by being distant and isolated, by violating others’ boundaries, or both. Having a good sense of boundaries has a positive impact on social and intimate relationships and your trustworthiness in general.

This energy is important for feeling like you can be yourself in the world and be safe, for trusting life. This is a huge component of well-being, and most of us have no real training in it.

Here’s how you begin to experience your boundaries:

The first boundary is your skin. Everything inside is you; everything outside is not you. Stand up and get centered and grounded. With your hands, pat yourself from head to toe and back up again. Feel your skin with your hands, your hands with your skin. Take your time and really notice. Appreciate your skin.

Did your skin notice the rhythm of your hands patting? Did you notice changes in sensation as you patted different areas of your body? What does your skin do for you?

Close your eyes and imagine the distance where you feel comfortable when talking to another person. Imagine them walking up to you. How far away do you want them to stop? (Or if you’re with someone, talk to them and notice the distance.) Notice if the distance is different with different people. Imagine your mother, your best friend, a lover, a stranger.

Next: If a growling wild animal were to slowly walk toward you, and you couldn’t run, how would you set a boundary? Think of the length of your leg. You could kick the animal if you had to. (But hopefully you can avoid hurting any animal.) So the length of your legs creates a boundary.

The length of your arms forms another boundary. You can use your arms to push someone out of your space. If they got even closer, you could bite them to get them out of your space.

This next experiment requires a partner. Stand several feet apart, grounded and centered.  Extend your arms and notice that boundary. You may feel that arm’s-length space as a column that extends from the ground to over your head. This is an important boundary.

Now face your partner and slowly walk toward them, arms extended. Stop with your palms against your partner’s. Notice how you feel. Determine who is Partner A and who is B.

With palms still together, A steps into B’s space and tries to get closer. B pushes A back to the comfort zone. A: Really push! B: Tell A “This is my space. Get out of my space!” as you push them back. Feel the effort.

This is going to feel uncomfortable at first. It’s not so hard for children, so pretend you’re on the playground if that makes it easier. I hope you’re breathless from the effort and laughing when you’ve each done it!

Boundaries are a lot more complex than centering and grounding because they’re relational and situational. Maintaining good boundaries requires your attention, especially in new relationships, when someone’s behavior changes toward you (or yours toward them), in new situations, when meeting people from other cultures.

Being able to say “no” without alienating someone is also part of the art of setting good boundaries. Have you ever been roped into doing something you didn’t want to do? That could be a whole blog post or maybe even a book!

Quickly, here’s how I like to do it: I appreciate the other person’s intent, and then tell them no. I may tell them why, but I don’t have to.

Other person: MaryAnn, we’d love to have you on that committee.

MaryAnn: I appreciate you thinking of me, but I cannot take that on at this time. I have too much on my plate already, and I doubt I could do the job as well as someone with more time. Have you thought of asking Lucy?

You get the idea! That’s the nice way. If someone is persistent, don’t hesitate to get tougher. “Absolutely not!”

Good luck with sensing your boundaries and making them real. Thanks to Brian D. Mahan, SEP, for inspiring me!

My PTSD manifesto

Occasionally people who have been traumatized have gravitated to me because I’m open about having experienced a serious trauma and (mostly) recovered, but they don’t seem to realize how deeply their past still affects them. They haven’t done any trauma recovery work, and they show up in my life.

I believe they show up because their unconscious is seeking healing. Or perhaps angels bring these people to me so they can see for themselves that recovery is possible. You know, I don’t mind being a role model for recovery from trauma. I’ve come a long way in 10 years. I’ve worked at it.

It’s not like traumatized people wear signs stating that. The sudden discovery that a new friend or love interest has been traumatized can create a huge amount of distress for me. Even though in hindsight, their craziness now makes more sense (“oh, of course that weird behavior was a trauma response”), it can still really be a shock.

So I just want to put this message out there:

If you’ve been traumatized and feel attracted to me because I’m open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on my recovery, first of all, please tell me clearly and up front (or as soon as you realize) that you’ve been traumatized, emotionally abused, get triggered, have flashbacks or nightmares, are shell-shocked, or whatever history or symptoms are affecting you. There’s no shame in it — you didn’t ask for it. I’d rather know than not, and I just might be able to prevent you from making a big mess when your judgment isn’t very good. I will help you find help and support you emotionally — in a way that is healthy and not co-dependent.

If that’s what draws you to me, just own it. Do not be asking me out on dates and withholding information about your untreated trauma. That’s creepy, and the thing is, you can’t really hide a trauma in your history until you are healed. You may naively think you can, but it seriously disregulates your nervous system and makes it stuck in either dissociation or hyperarousal, sometimes both. Your trauma-related weird behavior will show up in your most intimate relationships sooner or later. Having untreated trauma is like having an elephant in your living room whose shit is piling up.

Secondly, if you’re not getting professional help, please do that — get professional help. And let me know that too, because I’m going to worry about you if you don’t, and I’d rather be happy than worried.

Please do not look to me to help you beyond being a friend and a cheerleader for your recovery work. I am a blogger who’s open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on recovery. This blog (read About me, and do a search on PTSD or trauma to find related posts) describes some of my recovery experiences. Please feel free to ask me about them or try them yourself.

There is absolutely no need for you to just show me your wounds without any warning. Seeing you suddenly be triggered by your past trauma triggered painful memories of my long struggle of not knowing I had PTSD and then finding out, and then spending long months doing some intense processing, healing, and putting my life back together in a new, healthier way.

Your behavior freaked me out badly. It took acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic assistance to start to get over it (at my expense, I might add, which you have ignored, which also makes me think less of you), and I really don’t trust you now.

After I witnessed your triggering and saw empathically how damaging your experience had been, it hit me hard. I emotionally dropped, rolled, and came up ready for combat. I was so ready to protect … someone … from something! And you had something to do with it.

Recovery from trauma doesn’t mean being bulletproof. It means being more embodied, emotionally present, and energetically open than before recovery, while still being an ordinary person who cannot read your mind. I have more compassion now and am more of a whole person, and I need to set clear boundaries to take care of myself.

It breaks my heart more than you can imagine that the innocent gesture I made triggered fear in you. It’s not anything I take casually or lightly. It’s emotionally disturbing to witness someone with their wires crossed, whose mind mistakes the present for the past, whose mind mistakes someone who has never traumatized them with someone who did.

I wish you’d told me as soon as you knew instead of showing me like that. That would have been important communication. You scared me, once again.

With help, you can heal your poor damaged nervous system and experience more peace and stability and aliveness in your life. I am recommending Somatic Experiencing Practitioners to people these days.

Please find your way to help. I wish you well.

So this is for everyone: if you know that I have had PTSD and you have had untreated trauma in your life, and you come around seeking a relationship, please tell me up front, do your own recovery work (I’ll be rooting for you), and get yourself in decent emotional and relational shape before you expect any intimacy from me, for both our sakes.

I look forward to talking with the healthy you.

“I am only satisfied when I am thriving”

Part of learning to be a good massage therapist is learning about setting professional boundaries. When the therapist is clothed and upright and the client is naked and prone, obviously there’s a power differential, and good trust-building boundaries are essential.

My training packet included a one-page checklist for relationship boundaries. I liked it and hadn’t seen it before. You might like reading it too. One column is the unhealthy, co-dependent, lack-of-appropriate-boundary way of doing things. The second column describes what a person whose healthy boundaries are intact would behave.

I see areas where I can improve. I really took this one to heart:

When your boundaries are intact in a relationship, you are only satisfied if you are thriving.

I love that. Instead of being satisfied by merely coping and surviving, I can upgrade my standards for myself in relationship. I now include the core question, “What might it take for me to thrive?” into my relationships and new partnerships, ventures, collaborations, agreements, negotiations, and so on.

And of course, others I relate to may have the same standard! In fact, I hope they do!

Here’s a link to the whole list. It just might make a good daily checklist.

The source is The Center for Human Potential. Check out their other great resources too.

Water falling from the sky, Mexican food, and saying no

I am grateful for rainy days, specifically for today’s drizzle and forecast of rain for the rest of today and into tomorrow. After I post this, I’m going back to bed with a cup of tea and the wonderful novel I’m reading.

Isn’t it somewhat miraculous that we live on a planet where water falls out of the sky from shape-shifting beings called clouds? And that water soaks into the earth to nourish plant life, which feeds all the animals, including us, and also — by seeking the lowest place — that it runs off into streams and rivers and seas? And that water evaporates back into clouds to start the cycle over again?

(If it’s flooding now where you live, I hope you feel grateful for the evaporation and the gaps between rains.)

I feel gratitude for Mexican food. I just made myself some migas for breakfast. If you’re not familiar with migas, they’re scrambled eggs with salsa, grated cheese, and crumbled corn chips mixed in. Very popular in Texas!

I love the mouth-feel (the soft warm cage-free farm eggs and cheddar cheese contrasted with the crunch of the corn chips), the flavors (bland eggs, piquant salsa, sharp cheddar, salty chips), and the colors (especially if you use the baked blue corn chips). Migas made with high-quality, healthy, fresh ingredients are quite appetizing, and it’s a fun, creative way to gussy up scrambled eggs. (Try some smoked goat gouda sometimes in place of the cheddar. Yum!)

I feel gratitude for being able to say “no”. My friend Katie just called about meeting up with her and other dear friends today for an attractive adventure.

I declined, telling her of my plan to read in bed today.

She liked that I was doing that for myself, and I liked that she and Glenda and Vee were doing something they wanted to do. We left off agreeing that either I’ll call her when I’m ready for something else, or she’ll call me when they’re ready to do something else. Everyone is happy and fulfilled and flexible.

Easy peasy, huh? Not always, for me. I’ve learned how to say no without feeling like I need to apologize, and for that I feel very, very grateful.