I find it hard to choose between the books that had such a profound influence on my life, but “Boundaries” by Dr John Townsend and Dr Henry Cloud is definitely top 5! I call it my Boundaries Bible with good reason.
Say we actually have good, healthy boundaries – which many of us do not have – what happens if we are in a relationship that is important to us, and the person who receives a “No” from us has a (hectic) reaction to our boundary?
Reaction could be all sorts of reactivity: name calling, blaming, victimhood, manipulation, finger wagging, anger, or the most effective one – withdrawing!
And people are very quick to figure out what works with you and will continue using the most effective method to get you to “toe the compliance line”, so our loved ones will subconsciously keep doing what they need to do in order not to experience our “no”.
You see, injured people perceive “no” as a rejection of self, as proof that they are inherently unacceptable.
A bit of a bugger up if you want to be self respecting and self caring, with healthy boundaries. Sometimes the reaction is so severe that you just cave under the barrage and comply. Sometimes you will end up just locking that person out of your life, as it is just easier than having to face the drama over and over and over.
What we really have to do is explain that we want to be loved for our “No’s” as well as our “Yes’es”. Loved for our self respect, not for our compliance. It is our job as self respecting adults to find a way to say it. And if we cannot, to find help in the form of someone who can help us improve our communication skills, or find a good couples counsellor whose job it is to help both parties feel heard. Main thing is to become aware of how you participate in the cycle and take responsibility for changing what does not work for you.
Now what if we have by now figured out that it is actually something we are guilty of ourselves?
Let’s face it, most of us much prefer getting a “yes” rather than a “no”.
But are we accepting and respecting another adult’s, or are we so hurt and feeling rejected that we handle it less than gracefully? Will we bully someone into submission, or cow them into compliance with a huge outburst? Will we pile on the guilt and “poor me’s”?
And are we ready to crawl under a rock feeling completely shamed and humiliated by someone’s “No”?
Here is the thing – if any of these reactions are true for us, it is a great indicator that we need to work on improving our self esteem, on processing unresolved childhood hurts and on re-framing shame.
Now we know what to work on!
It is completely fixable. I am forever grateful that I have gone from doing and experiencing many of these things to now being able to rejoice when someone puts a boundary on me. Make no mistake, I often do not like it!!! After all, we all like getting our own way. But what it means to me when someone owns their boundaries is this: I am in the company of an adult! And that is worth getting a “no” for.
Those are the people who are worthy of my time, my affection, my trust and my energy.
If you love me enough, you will love my “No”, not my compliance.
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Looking forward to hearing from you.