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Boundaries part 4

The final instalment of the overview of Henry Cloud and John Townsend's book boundaries.

I would like to remind everyone that the below is not my work but extracts from the book with the occasional paragraph paraphrased. If you have found any section of my overview helpful please read the full book. this is written by two Christians and has lots of biblical references. If you would prefer to read a book without these then these two books have a similar message. Boundaries where you end and I begin by Anne Katherine. Set Boundaries find peace by Neda Glover Tawwab.

Developing Healthy Boundaries

This last part of the book opens up with the following.

I have written about the necessity of boundaries and their value. But establishing and maintaining boundaries takes a lot of work, discipline and most of all desire.

The driving force behind boundaries has to be desire. We usually know what is the right thing to do in life, but we are rarely motivated to do it unless there is a good reason. E need to see that what is right is also good for us. We usually only see these good reasons when we are in pain. Pain is a good motivator for us to take action.

Even with the desire for a better life, we can be reluctant to do the work on our boundaries for another reason. It will be a war. There will be battles and skirmishes. There will be disputes and there will be losses!

The battles fall into two categories: Outside and inside resistance. Others will fight hard against some of the limits we set, we need to plan how to fight back, for it is the firming up of boundaries that bring change not just to us but to others and the way they respond to us.

The most common resistance from outside when setting new boundaries is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self – centeredness. They think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as an extension of themselves. They feel that No is a deprovision and that the person who deprives them is bad. They haven’t learnt to delay gratification, or to respect others freedom. If a character problem is re-enforced then it becomes deeper and keeps returning until challenged. Their anger is their problem it is not yours. They need to feel it, to experience it. If you back down, rescue them from their anger or take it on yourself, the other person will not alter their perception and the relationship will be in bondage. Do not be cajoled into reacting to anger. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue to change your course. Allow them to be angry and decide your own action. Ensure you have a support system around you – if you are going to set limits on someone who has controlled you with anger, talk to your support system first and make a plan, know what you will say and anticipate what they will say. You can even Role play the situation with your group to give you the encouragement to proceed. Ensure your support group is available after the confrontation. Lastly be prepared to put physical distance between you. “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk to me without verbally attacking me and raising your voice. When you can do that, I will talk to you”

Being able to lovingly empathise in situations enables you to stay in control and not be controlled. “I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?” As you keep your boundary then the other person will need to learn self-control. When they learn they can’t control you they will learn other ways to relate. Healthy ways. Some people will choose not to change their relational style and walk away – it is a risk but it’s worth it for the freedom it brings.

The next is Guilt messages. No weapon in the arsenal of a controlling person is as strong as the guilt message. People with poor boundaries almost always internalise guilt messages levelled at them: they obey guilt-inducing statements that try to make them feel bad. Consider these:

· “How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?”

· “It seems that you could think about someone other than yourself for once.”

· “If you really loved me, you would ……… for me.”

· “I would think you care about this family enough to do this one thing!”

· “How could you abandon the family like that.”

· “you know have it turned out in the past when you didn’t listen to me”

· “You know that if I had it, I would give it to you”

· “You have no idea how much we sacrificed for you”

· Maybe after I’m dead and gone, you’ll be sorry.”

People who say these things are trying to make you feel guilty for your choices. They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your time, resources, about growing up and separating from relationships whether that be family or friends or leaders. We are in control of our giving and of how much.

Here are some tips with dealing with these external messages.

· Recognise the guilt message – sometimes we accept them without seeing how controlling they are. Be open to rebuke and feedback, we need to know when we are being self-centred. but know when you are being manipulated and controlled.

· Guilt messages are really anger in disguise. The person if failing to admit their anger at you. They would rather focus on you and your behaviour rather than how they feel. Recognising how they feel takes them too close to responsibility.

· Guilt messages hid sadness and hurt. Instead of expressing and owning their feelings, people try and steer the focus onto you and what you are doing.

· If Guilt works on you then recognise this is your problem, not theirs. Realise where the real problem is: Inside. You will then be able to deal with the outside correctly. With Love and limits.

· Do not explain or justify – only guilty children do that. If you explain you are playing into their trap. Advise you have made the decision, if you want to help them understand then tell them why.

· Be assertive and interpret the message as being about their feelings.

The main principle is to empathise with the distress people are feeling, but make it clear it is their distress. Remember love and limits are the only clear boundaries. If you react, you have lost your boundaries. Be a listener, give empathy show that you understand the feelings behind the comments. but don’t let them break down your walls, give them control let them break down your boundaries.

Unfortunately, Physical resistance is also a reaction to boundaries being implemented, where one partner physically overpowers the other. People in this situation need help. Often being too afraid to tell someone, not just of fear of further abuse but of the family’s reputation or because they don’t want people to know it happens to them. The seriousness of this situation means they can’t put boundaries up by themselves. They need external help, for the situation is serious and will not just go away. Find someone you can talk to who has experience with violent relationships. Do not allow this to go on seek help. Speak to the police and a solicitor – get a restraining order if the person will not respect any other limits. Have people you can call should the individual become violent – make sure you are safe. One of the things you can do if you are in this situation is ensure you have a safe place to stay overnight if you feel threatened no matter what hour. You and everyone else in the house deserves to be safe in their home.

Pain of others is something we will encounter when setting our boundaries because we our now accepting responsibility for ourselves alone we are no-longer taking responsibility for the other and they will feel the pain of that loss – if you love them it will be difficult to watch but it’s important to keep that boundary because it’s necessary for you and important for them – it’s especially helpful for children to witness the boundary being held as this will help them in establishing their own.

Another reaction you may encounter is the blamers – those who make you feel that their misery is your fault – statements like “How can you do this to me?” – they are demanding whit is yours rather than humbly requesting it out of need. Listen to others complaints, if they are trying to blame you for something they should take responsibility for, confront them.

You may need to set boundaries on people with real needs. In these cases, it may break your heart to say no to someone in real need. But there are limits to what you can and can’t give. You need to say no appropriately. These are not cases of giving reluctantly or under compulsion. These instances in which you desire to give, but you would burn out if you did.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is a common boundary that people struggle with, if you forgive and must go back to the person who has hut you – to be hurt all over again – forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation, certainly not on the same terms which enabled the hurt to begin with. Forgiveness is something done in the heart – it releases someone from the debt owed, whether that be an apology or return of funds or retribution. They no longer owe anything. The only person needed for forgiveness is the person forgiven. – reconciliation can only be achieved if the other has accepted and owned the actions that have caused pain, an are willing to re-enter the relationship with a different perception, acceptance of boundaries. Trust once lost then needs to be rebuilt. Only time can do this. If acceptance of their role in a situation is not obtained with a view of change then re-entering the relationship will cause more pain.

Internal boundaries are just as important as external boundaries.

We are designed with specific needs that need to be met by our families of origin. If they have not been met, we look elsewhere. These unmet developmental needs are responsible for much or our resistance to setting boundaries.

Many times, to set boundaries with someone is to risk losing the love that you have craved for a long time. To start to say no to a controlling parent is to get in touch with the sadness of what you do not have with them instead of still working hard to get it. This working hard keeps you away from the grief and keeps you stuck. But accepting the reality of who they are and letting go of the wish for them to be different is the essence of grief. And that is sad indeed. Giving up boundaries to get love postpones the inevitability: the realization of the truth about a person, the embracing of the sadness of that truth and the letting go and moving on with life.

Steps needed to face this internal fear.

1. Own your lack of boundary

2. Realize the resistance

3. Seek support – if setting the boundary was easy you would have already done it.

4. Identify the wish – what are you seeking, and what are you having to do that you don’t want to, to get it.

5. Let go – if the person doesn’t accept your boundary, it’s time to let the relationship go.

6. Move on – the last step in grieving has to do with finding what you want.

Internal fears of Anger. – If anger has been used to control a family, then fear of anger is a contributing factor when making discission – and a need to appease a person arises rather than being able to state – you either control the anger or I go else whare. If angry people make you loos your boundaries you probably have an angry person in your head that you still fear. – you will need to work through the hurt you experienced.

Below are some steps that will help.

1. Realise there is a problem.

2. Talk to someone about the hurt

3. In your support relationship find the source of your hurt, and talk it trough

4. Practice the boundary setting skills

5. Don’t go into automatic pilot.

6. When you are ready respond.

7. Go back to support group to say how it went

8. Keep practicing.

Fear of the unknown can be a big factor in not setting boundaries – knowing where you are and the predictability of a situation no matter how painful is reassuring. Whereas stepping into the unknown and becoming more independent can be terrifying. It may help to know that if you are afraid, you are probably on the right track. The road to change is growth. Boundaries separate you from what you have known and what you do not want. They open up all sorts of new options to you. Look at those steps already taken – First steps to explore the world, school, hobbies, college/university, jobs, living on your own. Although being scary, they stretched you and gave new possibilities.

Here are some things you can do.

1. Develop your gifts – Boundaries create independence of functioning. We cannot feel good about our independence if we are not developing skills and competencies. Get more training and education. Practice and keep practicing, as your skills develop you will have less to fear of the future.

2. 2. Lean on your support group, they will help comfort you in the changes you are experiencing. Gain strength from them.

3. Listen to others who have similar experiences and struggles – learn from their experiences, and how they have come through them

4. Have confidence in your ability to learn. – there is nothing you are currently doing that you did not have to learn. This is the nature of life.

5. Re-work past separations – often when you have to make a change or go through a loss, you find that your fear or sadness seems greater than the situation warrants. Some of these heightened emotions may come from past experiences or memories of change. Revisit the past and reconcile it. - Do not let it become the future.

6. Structure – life changes can sometimes seem unobtainable because of the loss of structure.

7. Things we used to depend on inside and out are no-longer there, and people, places and schedules that make us secure on the outside have disappeared. This can lead us in a state of chaos. Creating internal as well as external structure will help in these times of reorganization. Internal structure will come from creating boundaries, Gaining new values and beliefs. Having new disciplines and plans and sticking to them, and having others listen to your pain are all structure building. While doing this you may also need tome strong external structure. – Set certain times of a day to call a friend, schedule weekly meeting times with your support group. As you grow and the change is not overwhelming you will be able to reduce some of the structure.

8. Hope is rooted in memory. We remember getting help in the past and that gives us help for the future. Sometimes we feel helpless because we have no memory of being helped in the past.


The Poet Alexander Pope said” To err is human: to forgive divine.”

But not to forgive is the most self-destructive thing we can do! Forgiveness is very hard. It means letting go of something that someone “owes” you. Forgiveness is freedom from the past; it is freedom from the abusive person who hurt you. The wrong can never be undone, but it can be forgiven. Thereby rendering it powerless. To forgive means to write it off. Let it go. Tear up the account. It is to render the account “cancelled”. To forgive means acknowledging we will never get from that person what was owed to us. And that is what we don’t like, because that involves grieving for what will never be: the past will not be different. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Reconciliation and boundaries have to do with the future. Unforgiveness destroys boundaries. Forgiveness creates them, for it gets bad debt off your property.

External focus – people tend to look outside of themselves for the problem – the external focus keeps you a victim. Face squarely the resistance to looking at yourself as the one who has to change. It is crucial that you face yourself, for that is the beginning of boundaries. Responsibility begins with an internal focus of confession and repentance. You must confess the truth about the ways you are keeping your boundarylessness going, and you must turn from those ways. You must look at yourself and face the internal resistance of wanting the problem to be on the outside of you.

We need to treasure our treasures – We learn to love because we are loved. Grace must come from the outside for us to be able to develop it on the inside. The opposite side of this truth is that we can’t love when we aren’t loved, and taking the thinking further we can’t value or treasure our souls when they haven’t been treasured or valued. We may struggle to implement our boundaries therefore it’s good to spend time with people who have a mature understanding of healthy boundaries and learn from their modelling. Begin a list of your “treasures”. Your time, Money, feelings and beliefs. How do you want others to trat them? How do you want others not to treat them?

Practice baby no’s boundaries must always be created at a rate that takes into account your past injuries. Otherwise, you can fail majorly before you have solid enough boundaries which will make it harder to re-establish them.

Boundary setting is a large part of maturing. We can’t really love until we have boundaries – Otherwise we love out of compliance or guilt. We can’t really be productive at work without boundaries; otherwise, we’re too busy following other’s agendas they we are double minded and unstable. The goal is to have a character structure that has boundaries and can set limits on self and others at the appropriate times. Having internal boundaries result in having boundaries in the world.

Sometimes a large no will precipitate a crisis. Someone important to you will be angry. Or hurt. Or abusive. The truth will expose the divisions in relationships. The conflicts and the disagreements already exist. Boundaries simply bring them to the surface. Rejoice in the guilty feelings because it means you are doing it right as you begin to put your boundaries in the right place, because it often gives us a sense of self condemnation – you have a sense that you have transgressed some sort of important rules in your limit setting. When the truth is shares as to what is and isn’t your responsibility it can cause some critical self-judgement. But as your boundaries grow and your confidence in them also, rejoice in the absence of those guilty feelings.

It's important to respect others boundaries – loving others boundaries increases our capacity to care about others. It also shows them the respect we expect to get for our own.

We need to free out no’s and yes’ People with underdeveloped limit setting abilities say yes when they are unsure. Then when they have committed themselves to someone else’s schedule, they realise that they don’t want to be in that particular situation anymore and it’s either too late or they let the person down. Willingly give and if you’re not sure say no.

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