Apparently they aren’t just about saying *no*.
I pretty much have that down (despite it making me feel like a jerk sometimes), so I’ve not paid close attention to the topic when it comes up.
The study of boundaries (or rather, the person teaching about them) also suggests that I, like everyone, am continually teaching people how to treat me.
Last week I went off on an unorganized verbal riff with a total stranger (that is, we’d just introduced ourselves to each other as we worked in the same garage). Toward the end I felt embarrassed at her patience and made a joke about how “I’m just thinking with my mouth open, feel free to walk away any time.”
But for real, that’s the worst thing she could have done. That’s the sort of thing that completely burns me, and I only said it because I was trying to absolve my felt-foolishness.
Later that evening, in a different (and more organized) exchange, she did just what I had “taught” her and decided it was time for her to leave (albeit, more graciously than just walking away). I had “taught” her that I didn’t care if she listened (or participated) or not, and that was untrue.
But this also means I need to consider how I want to be treated, and subsequently how to convey that.
For me it means being not-flippant, and treating as serious the things that are serious to me. I often criticize (or redirect) Natasha for using “baby talk” when something is disproportionately important to her, or she’s not sure how I will respond. But I think I do the same thing: trying to hold lightly to something when I’m not sure my listener will equally share the weight of it. I make a joke out of something important to me, then feel wounded to watch it tumble.
This is something I want to work on.
Another angle on boundaries that isn’t just saying no, it’s also not saying anything I’m not comfortable saying, or just don’t want to say. The idea that I am allowed to not-share certain thoughts with anybody. (This in contrast within both Christian and the modern culture’s emphasis on being “real” or “genuine” at any/all costs.)
But it’s my tendency to agree, and not just about social media. I’ve always acted as though it was my purpose (or at least my job) to be transparent as possible.
A healthy sense of boundaries teaches that nothing about me is public property, or available for mistreatment.
An interesting aspect of The Perilous Gard is how the main character, Kate, refuses to push another character for the inner workings of his (obviously troubled) mind. She feels there ought to be one person in his world who lets him choose how much he’s willing to share. But it’s not like she enjoys it.
“Though she honored his privacy, she resented it very much, always to be shut out…”
This story was the first time I’d ever thought of feelings or inner battles as private property.
And I wonder a bit if any of that came from my time working with foster kids. “Use your words” was the cure-all/preventative for most behavior issues, so openness with everything was strongly reinforced.
But these two new ideas have made me curious to pull out my old book (that I’ve started ~ five times and never finished) to see what else I’ve missed.