Thursday, December 29, 2011

Healthy Hula Hoops: How to Have Healthy Boundaries

Imagine that you and all human beings have a hula hoop around them, just floating in space. In this hula hoop resides your rights as a person, your feelings, your needs, your preferences, your desires as well as your dislikes. In essence, the hula hoop is the physical boundary of your personal space.

Every one is happiest and healthiest when their hula hoops are close to one another, but not touching, just like this:

Unfortunately, in many families and romantic relationships, personal boundaries look more like this:
In the overlapping area lies are great source of confusion. In these relationships, we do not know whose rights are whose, whose feeling are whose, and whose responsibilities are whose. In essence, we lose a part of who we are in the relationship because the boundaries are unclear.

And so when you try to separate yourself from unhealthy boundaries in a relationship, it is common for their to be a strong reaction from the other person, as they are still confused about where your boundaries are. 

And so, it is your job to education them. Setting boundaries is not about controlling a situation or another person – it is more about honoring and protecting yourself. When you can keep your awareness in your own hula hoop and not jump into someone else's, then you will get to know your boundaries and needs, and be better able to communicate them to others. 

So pay attention and ask yourself the following questions:
  • What do I want/need right now that I am not acting on because of concerns of how my choices will affect other people?
  • Have I communicated my boundary to the other person in a clear, direct way? (eg. I feel angry when you tell me I can't spend time with my friends because I have a right to have friendships outside of this marriage.)
  • Have I set my boundary and stuck to it? Or have I been bullied/guilted back into doing what other people want me to do instead of what I need to do?
  • Do I need to set a stronger boundary in order to protect myself?
It is also important to keep in mind that boundary setting takes practice and you may be not that skilled at it in the beginning. You may struggle with not knowing exactly what being assertive feels like and you may err on either the side of being too passive or too aggressive. Be patient with yourself. Keep in mind that setting boundaries is not necessaryily about drawing lines in the sand and creating ultimatums. It is about speaking your mind authentically, being mindful of other people's boundaries, and respect yourself and others.