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Day 9: About People Who Don’t Experience Consequences & Resist Boundaries…

We couldn’t talk about boundaries without talking about why some people seem to be boundary intolerant.

As children, if we hear and receive what looks and sounds like a lot of no, on some level we decide that when we grow up, we’re never going to say no to ourselves (or take it from others). Throw in the fact that we might receive mixed messages about no and boundaries, so our parents/caregivers apply them inconsistently or nonsensically or tell us to do as they say while doing the very thing they forbid, and a part of us might think, Screw no. What we don’t realise when we do this, though, is that adulthood is a hell of a lot different from childhood and in particular the home that we grew up in, and that ultimately, there are very good, valid reasons for us to say/show no and also to receive it.

Just as you have origins for your habits of thinking and behaviour, so do others. There may even be a crossover in the types of experience, but they express theirs differently. Yes, they might have been abused or had someone micro-managing their every move, or been bullied, or experienced a loss or trauma, but a combination of this plus their values and attitude mean that you’re not on the same page. 

When it comes to anything that we (or others) are doing that isn’t allowing us to come from a place of love, care, trust, respect and presentness, it will be about wanting to be in control of something or someone. We want to control our circumstances to feel safe, or we want to control others so that we are not overpowered or put through an experience that we vowed never to go through again. 

Boundary resistance falls into two distinct camps of people:

Those who actually, when it all boils down to it, they want to have more loving relationships and feel better about themselves but are afraid of saying no, of not being liked, of negative consequences, etc. They actually feel bad if they cross someone’s boundaries. Sound familiar?

Those who are resistant to having boundaries because it will get in the way of them getting what they want. Considering the feelings of others isn’t high on their agenda — they over-consider themselves because somewhere along the way they felt that others got ‘too much’ or they’ve been taught or learned that they’re The Grand Poobah. They tend to think about things in terms of how they see things and what suits them, and they will cross and resist boundaries, often while feeling that they have legitimate cause to do so. They might make noise about being sorry and have an initial flurry of actions appearing to respect a boundary, but then return to the status quo. 

By hook or by crook, they’re doing things their way, even though what they’re doing impacts directly on others. The concept of respecting both them and others cannot connect with the disorder and chaos that they often feel within but have got very good at rationalising or disguising. 

Do you know what else distinguishes these two types of resistance, though?

One tries to influence and even control other people’s feelings and behaviour by being pleasing, even if that comes at the expense of their inner peace and it busts up their own boundaries and the other, also tries to influence and control other people’s feelings and behaviour… but by force. One has empathy, although often spends too much time over-empathising, and the other has too little empathy, either because they don’t employ it or because they quite simply can’t. 

You do not create or cause another person’s behaviour but what you can provide is opportunity through remaining in the dynamic and not creating healthy boundaries. You get so caught up in trying to please them and also taking the blame for their behaviour that it’s fertile ground for them to plant their shady behaviour.

It’s easy to think that it’s you, but here’s a newsflash: Think about someone who is verbally or physically abusive. They can control it. How do I know? Because do you think that they go to work and pull the same stuff with you (or whoever it is) as they do with their boss or coworkers? There are people who they do control themselves with. It doesn’t mean that they’re not up to other mischief (I can guarantee that they will be up to passive-aggressive stuff at best and may display aggression in other ways, plus they will have a history that you won’t be fully aware of) but they recognise what they can and cannot get away with. They’re aware of the consequences, social, familial, financial, legal, professional, status, etc. 

This is why some people struggle outside of the home— everywhere else has boundaries. The person who has got away with being late, irresponsible, palming people off with excuses will struggle to be boundaried at work. They will feel confused, especially when they experience consequences that they haven’t before. They’ll often blame the system or everyone else. They will appear to abide by the rules but then find ways to pay themselves back.

If you are dealing with somebody who is resistant to treating you with love, care, trust and respect and you have not been boundaried for you, they know that they are not experiencing natural consequences so they have what they think is the measure of the relationship with you. 

The one who doesn’t tell, object, or create consequences, will bear the brunt of an abusive person’s behaviour. They will feel safe in letting loose because they know that the boundaries and as a result, the consequences are not there. 

The resistance to boundaries isn’t about you; it’s about their narrative and their habit. They have their own personality, characteristics, circumstances, resources, level of abundance and backstory that explains who they are and why they do what they do. This is their learned and very much practised style of behaviour and communication. 

The TAKEAWAY

  • The very problematic resisters to boundaries will always try to shuffle you into putting up with unfair and unreasonable requests and behaviour. 

  • When people say, “you teach people how to treat you”, what they really need to say is that a person learns what you will and won’t accept through boundaries. Consequences, baby!

  • If you want to ensure that you are never at the mercy of an abusive or abusively-inclined person, two things: Have healthy boundaries and don’t be secretive. The combination of not being boundaried along with shaming and blaming you is isolating but also, if you don’t voice how damn well inappropriate a person’s behaviour is (to people who have relatively decent boundaries), you will start living in an alternate universe where this becomes the new normal and you learn a new language.  

  • Active response every time. If you have a passive response, you will surely drop your boundaries in some way. 

  • Sure, you can empathise and recognise where they’re coming from but be careful of projecting or assuming that because you think that you ‘get’ them, that you can fix them. 

  • The fact that you may have gone through a similar experience to someone forceful and inappropriate does not mean that you are similar. You are not coming from the same place. 

  • Yes, they may have some very compelling reasons that contribute to who they are today and the choices they’re making but it in no way absolves them of the responsibility for their actions.

  • We’re all guilty of passive-aggression at times but people who basically regard boundaries as being an obstacle to knock down, veer between being passive-aggressive, masking their anger and resentment but then showing it through obstructive, flip-flapping, covert behaviour, and being aggressive, bullying, controlling and abusive, in order to have things on their terms. They regard people as a means to an end. 

  • It’s not about you. 

JOURNALING: If you’ve blamed you for other people’s inappropriate behaviour, Unsent Letters are a must. I would also try the Releasing Exercise – look for memories of taking the blame for other people’s behaviour so that you can do some healing work on these and gain clarity. Both are in your Resources.

Write down the rationale and excuses you’ve been using about the people in question – can you take a more honest, self-compassionate view of you? Can you separate you from their actions? If you have been afraid of creating consequences through boundaries, what is it that’s held you back? What were you afraid would happen, and what happened anyway? What didn’t you predict? Are you able to recognise this person’s boundary issues? Try and summarise it into a few lines (30 seconds to a minute – like an elevator pitch) and focus on the top line of their behaviour rather than getting lost in oodles of details. Focus on what the feedback from their behaviour and attitude means about them.

TASK: Craft some shifting focus statements so that instead of rationalising a person’s behaviour, you instead focus on accepting you. Remember that you might not like someone’s behaviour, but there’s no need to reject you for it. Accept what you know about them and then be boundaried.

Even though {something specific that this person does), I deeply and completely accept myself. 

Even though my mother will not respect the fact that I have a job and that I cannot sit on the phone listening to her complaints all day, I still love and respect myself.

Even though this person shoots down what I say, I love, care for, trust and respect myself. 

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