Boundaries are the invisible yet much needed lines between you and others. Acting as your very own personal electric fence, boundaries alert you to discomfort and when you pay attention to and have an active response about this information (as opposed to dismissing it or responding passively), you filter out and protect you from what doesn’t work for you. You choose how you want to feel and have an opportunity to mindfully choose your next actions. You take responsibility, care for and protect you.
Feeling discomfort from your boundaries doesn’t mean that the other party is ‘bad’ but that feeling does alert you to where you need to be more boundaried.
It could be that you’re being asked (or expected) to do something that’s unworkable, or that you’re being asked (or expected) to be or do something that’s over the line, or that you need more information; it could be that someone else’s behaviour bothers you, or that you’ve gone off track, or that you’re not being responsible for you.
In an ‘ideal world’, everybody would behave themselves, especially our family, as well as have no baggage, no issues, no anything that gets in the way of having boundaries, but that’s not how life works.
So, why don’t certain people respect boundaries?
Habit. They don’t know the line and haven’t been experiencing natural consequences and so have convinced themselves that they’re hunky-dory. That and they may be so entrenched in their habit that they’ve convinced themselves that it’s the norm, not because it is but because they’re afraid of the responsibility that comes with change. Unboundaried people who specifically have an issue with respecting other people’s boundaries are over the line with themselves as a habit and so are over the line with others as a habit too. I’ve gotten away with all this time so you shouldn’t have a problem with it either.
Power. They regard having to respect other people’s boundaries as being taken advantage of. They see it as that person having something over them. They might also have an eat or be eaten mentality. Sometimes this seeing respecting other people’s boundaries as who holds power is about feeling overpowered in the past and vowing never to be in that place again and then treating all situations similarly. You’re not the boss of me. No one says no to me!
Control. They don’t trust that they can have their needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions acknowledged without obligating people through guilt or coercion, which is a vicious cycle because they become wedded to the pattern so even if they contemplate being more straight up and collaborative in their relationships, that fear of uncertainty propels them into the control cycle. I wouldn’t have to do this/be like this if people would just do what I wanted and make me happy.
Rebellion. They mistake someone who was authoritative and had bad boundaries with them as being the epitome of boundaries and so have decided that they’ve had too much boundaries in the past and will not be kowtowing to anyone again. I’ll get you back mom!
To feel worthy. I know! They actually feel more noticed, more valid, more ‘seen’, when they’re overriding other people’s boundaries or even not respecting their own. All attention is treated equally. It’s as if they cannot be sure that they’d have a spot in your life if they ‘just’ behaved decently. If I respect his/her boundaries, am I being seen? Nobody puts baby in the corner.
Fear. They’re afraid that they won’t be able to do what has been asked or expected of them which opens them up to being vulnerable, which they shut down with inappropriate behaviour that leaves them in the comfort zone of their self-fulfilling prophecy. But what if I can’t [do what they expect]? I’m going to look stupid and I don’t want to risk that. What if I do it and then things go wrong and I end up being made a fool of again? What if I respect their boundaries and then I’m abandoned by someone else?
Hierarchy. Always wanting to be seen as more important. If I respect your boundaries, that would make me inferior.
Dodging The Past. Not wanting to consider another person’s feelings because then they have to be vulnerable and potentially acknowledge previously inappropriate behaviour. They see respecting boundaries in the present as being a concession to people from the past. If I respect your boundaries, you’re opening me up to having to see previously crappy behaviour in a more truthful light.
When you look at these reasons and then consider the 7 tricky types – Absentees, Followers, Obligers, Power Players, Rebels, Upholders, and Users – you can clearly see one or more reasons why you are encountering boundary issues with that person.
An Absentee is likely to be habit, dodging the past and fear.
Followers, to feel worthy and fear.
Obligers, control, fear and habit.
Power Players, power, hierarchy and dodging the past.
Rebels, rebellion, to feel worthy, habit, and fear (rebel to bat off expectations).
Upholders, habit, control, and to feel worthy.
Users, hierarchy, to feel worthy, control, and power.
Note – All of what they’re doing is habit but some people are very entrenched in doing things in a certain way, even if it’s to their detriment or that of others.
If you think about the TFM you’re dealing with and think of their TFM type and what you know of their past experiences, you will see some of these 8 reasons playing out and it becomes all too clear that this really isn’t about you. And actually – if you’ve experienced boundary issues elsewhere, you can also see why for instance, a romantic partner who kept saying that they’d address a boundary would soon slide back into their status quo – fear- or why someone behaved in a shady way where they tried to crush you to feel powerful (obsessed with hierarchy and control).
Sometimes people are not in a place to recognise or accept your boundaries because while they certainly have walls that they carry on as if they’re boundaries, they cannot even respect their own boundaries. They feel threatened, not because of you but because of their own tape and issues.
But, don’t let that stop you.
All of those faux obligations you’ve identified and maybe even semi-obligations and yes, some real ones, will, if you don’t get conscious, aware and present, cause you to feather the nest of their uncomfortable comfort zone while also doing variations of the same thing (making special exceptions to your boundaries) and expecting different results.
When you on some level recognise that a TFM has boundary issues, it’s easy to fear that because they can’t do what you’re asking, that it renders you powerless, or you might wonder what the point is, or fear that you will lose them and feel bad about stepping up or the possibility of it.
You’re going to discover over the next few lessons that you can be boundaried with somebody even if they’re boundary intolerant.
- Even if you’re family, you still need those invisible lines between you – boundaries.
- Your TFM situation is uncomfortable, as in, you are experiencing discomfort due to a boundary problem.
- There are a number of reasons why you feel uncomfortable and it doesn’t have to be about anyone being ‘bad’.
- You’ve got eight reasons why some people don’t respect boundaries – none of them have anything to do with you or your worth or the validity of your boundaries.
- The seven tricky types are likely to have a few key reasons.
- Recognising these reasons opens up empathy – recognition of their position – as opposed to over-empathy, thinking that you’re recognising their position, rationalising them and then deciding that the best thing to do is to be unboundaried. E.g. If like me, you have an embarrassing family member, it would be easy to think that they’re trying to destroy you, but you see the element of rebellion and trying to feel worthy with negative attention.
- You can be boundaried with a TFM.
JOURNALING: How do you feel about boundaries? Do you know what they are? Did you know what the discomfort boundaries points to? Write about whether you have positive or negative associations with boundaries and particularly if it’s the latter, think of some of the reasons why – you might find the Releasing Exercise in the Resources section useful. What do you think are the reasons for your TFM’s boundary issues? How does it feel now that you have seen the possible reasons for a person disrespecting other people’s boundaries?