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Boundaries: Learning where You end and Others start by Scott Carroll Men’s Counsellor

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Boundaries: Learning where You end and Others start by Scott Carroll Men’s Counsellor
• Is your happiness often distracted by how the significant others in your life are feeling ?
• Do you find sometimes you are easily triggered into anger by other people’s action ?
If you are looking for other people to be different towards you and / or to say something to you in order for you to be happy, then maybe looking at your boundaries might help. If you think you are too sensitive and react too easily to other people’s words or behaviour then having stronger boundaries might make life more manageable. As a parent how you respond and react to others becomes even more important as children are vulnerable to our behaviour and equally they model their behaviour from our own.
In my own journey, and from what others have told me of theirs, knowing where I start and end, and where others start and end, enables me to healthily participate in many deep, nurturing and safe relationships, the most important of which is with myself.
So what exactly are boundaries ?
The concept of boundaries is built around the three key ideas.
1) I am responsible for how I think, feel and act
2) Equally, those I interact with have the same freedom and responsibility for how they think feel and act
3) It is worthwhile to look at how others respond to my words and action as this is invaluable feedback for how others perceive me
I appreciate this is a big concept so let’s look at an example below of a sequence of events .
A) You are a friend of mine and you don’t return my phone call within what I consider a reasonable period of time.
B) I imagine you are doing this on purpose to annoy me
C) I get annoyed
D) I start ignoring you when I see you in social situations
So what if the reality is you didn’t ring me because a family member was sick. In this case I have crossed my boundaries and decided that YOUR THOUGHTS are you don’t like me, YOUR FEELINGS are you are annoyed by me and YOUR ACTIONS are to ignore me intentionally.
If instead I am looking after my boundaries, I would notice you hadn’t called me and make a follow up call.
Then you would tell me about the family member who is sick which would more than likely change steps B-D above.
Another common example is if I have a family member who decides they just want to criticise me all the time. Without boundaries, I would just take that criticism on. I would possibly almost automatically start thinking about the things I don’t like about myself to validate this criticism, and start feeling bad about myself. My actions might me to withdraw or isolate.
With boundaries I can decide how I will process their criticism, and then how I will feel and act. I could decide that some of what they say is useful as feedback on how I can improve, but overall it is inaccurate and / or they have misinterpreted my actions (they may have NO boundaries) . In truth I am ok and there is a lot of good things about me. I can choose not to feel bad about myself and hence not withdraw or isolate.
Applying this concept allows others to think, feel and act as they wish because how I interpret this is up to me. This allows me to look inwards, listen to myself, nurture myself and/or gain assistance from others when needed. Once I have done this I am then available to listen to and take in others around me, but to do so in a way that allows them to be them. I can then offer support unconditionally without looking to them to fill my tank. I can also better manage my feelings of fear and anger and only use them when it appropriate to do so.
As a father boundaries have been even more critical. I can be, and am, impacted by my children emotionally. Without boundaries they are responsible for making me feel better. With boundaries I can manage this impact, and then as an adult, consider their behaviour and set appropriate consequences. I know my own inner child is easily impacted by others and that this child is mine to look after. The gift of boundaries to them is they are free to express their emotions and this is something they will carry into adulthood. The gift to me is that I experience them fully and am present for them. This equally applies to an intimate relationship with a partner as boundaries allow a safe place for the relationship to develop, without either party feeling resentful about having unrealistic and/or unspoken expectations of the other.
Some tips to practicing boundaries:
• Check in with yourself – are you feeling sad or angry about old stuff and is this colouring your worldview ?
• Develop self-awareness – what is going on in your internal world, are you tired, hungry etc etc.
• Challenge your thinking – do you really know the intent of the other person. Could there be another reason for their behaviour.
• Put in speed bumps – exercising the previous three tips are some ways you can slow down your internal processes, which trigger your anger for example, and develop better responses.
For most people, myself included, developing healthy boundaries is a life-long process, so be kind to yourself and do not expect overnight change.
Scott Carroll is a qualified and accredited Counsellor focussing on working with men and on male related issues. He is practicing in the Central Coast . He is available for telephone consults and appointments on week nights and Saturday mornings. Please call 0433 119 103 or e-mail to make a time if there are aspects of your life on which you would like his support to work on.

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