pbp1Boundaries are important. I’m not just talking psychic or magical boundaries, here; I’m talking about physical boundaries, social boundaries, mental boundaries, etc.

One of my ongoing projects right now is to find out what my boundaries are and how to articulate them. I’ve spent my entire life being socialized into believing that my boundaries aren’t important and I should just suck it up, so this is tough going.

Another thing I’m doing is informing people when they’re violating boundaries, or when their attitude is not respectful of others’ boundaries. Obviously, everyone’s boundaries are different, but there is a level of common courtesy here that shouldn’t need to be explained: don’t touch people without permission; if someone is obviously engaged in a solitary activity such as reading or listening to music, don’t disturb them unless it’s an emergency, etc.

If in doubt, just ask yourself: does my need for this person’s attention trump whatever they’re doing right now?

Chances are the answer is no. That’s the quickest way to tell if you’re about to violate boundaries. 

There was a thread a while ago on TC that ended up talking about this stuff, with at least one person continually insisting that boundaries don’t matter that much. By the end of the thread I wanted to set fire to some people things, but regardless — it gave me food for thought.

Recently I had to re-affirm my boundaries with my sister when she tried to get me to reconcile with my bio-sire (her father). It wasn’t easy; it was hard and it sucked and I spent a good week and a half having constant anxiety over it.

But I did it, and once I did she respected it and we’ve still got a relationship even though I’ve cut out of my life the main family member we have in common.

Then around New Year’s I was looking at my “Facebook best of 2012!” thing and I saw that my bio-sire had posted a comment on my public cover photo. Then, the other day, he sent me a message about the student loans fiasco in Canada currently, telling me to keep my fingers crossed. These events were like lances through my heart; there’s still a huge part of me that whispers in the night make up with him, let him back into your life, you’ve hurt him enough, doesn’t he deserve to have his daughter back?

When the answer is no, he doesn’t, because even if the shit he does is just because of clumsiness, it’s toxic to me and he’s never shown any willingness to stop being clumsy. 26 years is more than enough time to give to someone to try and make a relationship work.

Also there’s the point about him nearly killing me many times, and my numerous psychological problems either being caused or, most certainly, exacerbated by his shoddy job at parenting. So there’s really no reason for me to let him back into my life except that I’ve been conditioned by his abuse for so long my brain can’t help but suggest that as a good idea.

My point here is that these boundaries — the “mundane” ones — are every bit as important as psychic or magical boundaries. Not much point in putting up guards around your house to prevent unwanted intruders if you’re going to leave for vacation with all the doors and windows wide open.

Obviously, magic boundaries can help cover up those days when you forget, or when you slip — they can act as a sandbag against the flood. (That’s a correct metaphor, right?) But relying on them above all else is foolhardy at best.

Take stock of your boundaries. What makes you uncomfortable? Where are your lines in the sand?

Once you take stock of your boundaries, then you can better express what they are to people and keep them firm.*


*Please note, I am by no means saying that you are responsible for people not violating your boundaries. That’s victim-blaming, and it’s bullshit. What I am saying is that figuring out what your boundaries are and being able to articulate them can lead to better relationships with your loved ones (this is why I work on it myself — so I can better articulate these things to Ogre, and reduce the chances of boundary violations and fights) as well as making you feel stronger in your sense of self and more empowered.

People are going to violate your boundaries, because many folks are brought up with the notion that that’s their right. Learning what your boundaries are and how to articulate them can help you tell people when they’ve crossed your boundaries, and maybe — just maybe — it’ll make them think before they do it again.

Or they’ll get a swift kick to the nards.

6 replies on “Boundaries”

  1. If in doubt, just ask yourself: does my need for this person’s attention trump whatever they’re doing right now?

    Oh, man, I wish more people would follow that advice! If I’m waiting for the bus, or on the bus, and I have my face stuck in a book, I do NOT want to talk to you! Chances are I brought the book to KEEP people from trying to talk to me. And then there’s the people that get mad because I continue reading my book and ignoring them. It’s not my fault you decided you wanted to talk to me!

    1. *nodnodnod* It’s really unfortunate that more people aren’t taught this. Book means occupied. I’m lucky; I was raised by a fellow bookworm so I learned it well. It was a bit of a rude shock to me that others didn’t respect the sacred space a book should create around oneself.

  2. For a little over two thirds of a year I am with young people who are just learning about some kinds of boundaries. And with each new batch of kids, I have to learn their boundaries. Intellectual and physical boundaries as well as emotional come in to play and progress is often recorded. But I do not get to think much of my own. During the other third of the year, I tend to be alone so boundary issues tend to come up mostly online. And it is with great relief when I read someone being honest about hir boundaries. It appreciate knowing them so I can make an effort to be respectful of them. But I forget too and need to be reminded. I actually have charts of these for my kids because there are too many to remember all the time!

    I think you make a good point and encouraging people to figure out boundaries and express them, IMO, would allow for more understanding and compassionate environments. I think some may view this kind of ownership of self as a luxury or something one must be worthy of according to some impossible standard. And when that happens and things go unsaid, complications and hurt feelings can arise. Can’t make everyone feel worthy but it can be encouraged as you’ve done here. Nice post!

  3. “*Please note, I am by no means saying that you are responsible for people not violating your boundaries. That’s victim-blaming, and it’s bullshit. What I am saying is that figuring out what your boundaries are and being able to articulate them can lead to better relationships with your loved ones”

    Absolutely! We are not responsible for other peoples behaviour. We are however responsible for making sure people are aware of our boundaries in the first place.

    It always strikes me as odd that many pagans will wax lyrical for hours about psychic and magical boundaries but fail to consider the more mundane ones. It is something I am just as guilty of and, like you, I am working on figuring it out.

    Great post by the way.

  4. Boundaries are such an important part of *everything*; spiritual practise, mental health, physical relationships of all kinds. During our last Esbat I had to explain to the Gods that they have violated a certain set of boundaries and upset our circle. It was awkward, to say the least, but They got the message and an apology was given.
    When it comes to my family, I’ve had to explain to Gabe a few times about my personal boundaries and privacy and things like that. I hope by doing so he learns to tell other people about his own and can protect himself a bit.

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