This is the perfect time of year to talk about emotional boundaries. With each crazy, Holiday Season comes a sense of entitlement from our family and friends, and even our jobs/coworkers over our emotions, home and our checkbook.
I was thinking over the last couple of days how many of my personal boundaries have been breached lately. The answer is many, which might explain my general state of anxiety and agitation. So I thought I would go back and look at some of my handouts on Codependency and Healthy Personal Relationships.
Guess what I found? I am definitely allowing some new relationships in my life to breach the walls of my personal boundaries. So, I thought that especially during this Christmas Season, it would be a great time to remind myself why these boundaries are important.
So What Are Emotional Boundaries?
As Women we have been taught that it is not okay to say “No”. Think of how many people you feel you have to buy presents for; how extravagant you have to be when decorating your home; how many commitments you’ve made to cook or bake; and how many gatherings you have agreed to attend. It can be so overwhelming and cause a great deal of stress. What would happen if you just said “No”? Wouldn’t it be great to renegotiate and set some boundaries for yourself?
There are many different types of boundaries. In general terms I am talking about the balanced emotional and physical limits that we establish for interacting with people in our lives. Without boundaries it is likely that you will lose your personal identity, uniqueness, and autonomy in a relationship and become Codependent.
Over the years the term Codependent has gained a negative connotation – mostly because Codependency is associated with drug and alcohol abuse. That is a different article for a different time. What I’m talking about here is our tendency to allow significant people in our lives to have control over our basic everyday functions. As a result we create an atmosphere of stress, anxiety and even depression for ourselves.
Codependency in everyday life has some favorable characteristics of healthy, emotional functioning. I believe that to some extent, we are all Codependent somewhere, with someone in our lives – most likely a parent. However, if you find yourself having a problem saying “No” in every important relationship in your life, then it is likely that you have lost your own identity. It is even more likely that you have a tendency to give over your power in your relationships. Basically, this is a healthy personality trait taken to excess.
The fundamental purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. We “teach people how to treat us,” says Dr. Phil McGraw in his Life Law #8. I learned this a long time ago and I honestly and completely believe that this is true.
Take a look at any relationship in your life in which you are feeling angry, violated, ignored or generally unhappy. I will bet that you are accepting behavior from that person that is not okay. You have in essence taught them that they can treat you without respect and to ignore your boundaries. If you are not getting what you need from a relationship, then you have to learn to renegotiate to get what you want.
When you find that your expectations are constantly being violated, then learn to say “No”. Learn to ask for what you want. If you do not, then you are responsible for your own unhappiness, not the other way around.
That’s a tuff thing for us to accept, but again, I believe that it is absolutely true. We are responsible for our own happiness. People do not “do” things to us, we allow people to “do” things to us because we can’t say “No”. And if we don’t renegotiate what we will allow, then the onus is on us for being unhappy.
So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed this Holiday Season, or at any other time of the year for that matter – take a hard look at your relationships. It’s possible that you are accepting negative behavior from a significant person in your life. Give yourself permission to say “NO!” - it’s time to renegotiate.