For the most part you know where you stop, and where the person next to you begins. There is the physical boundary of skin that is a clear definition. We also tend to like a little space between our skin and the skin of others, about an arm’s length. We allow people we know and care about in to our personal space, and that invisible boundary is starting to get blurred as we place ourselves in crowded places: buses, subways and lines. A line that has started to become even more blurred is the line between your emotions and those close to you.
How often have you found yourself doing something you aren’t interested in, because you know it will please your friend or your partner. How often have you found yourself doing something you didn’t want to because you didn’t want to hurt your partner? Sometimes these actions are little. Going to a movie that you aren’t interested in, eating dinner at a restaurant that you don’t necessarily like or just not criticizing the other’s driving when they forget to use a turn signal. Sometimes instead of something little, we find ourselves biting our tongue instead of talking about something that truly bothers us because we know the other person would be hurt.
When I work with kids I like to use a hula-hoop to demonstrate boundaries. Kids that have touching or hitting problems can now understand the space that is mine, and the space that is yours. With adults I use the same concept to explain being able to define mine and yours. My emotions are anything within my imagined hula-hoop. My fears, my hopes, my desires, and even my anger. Everything I feel fits within the confines of my imaginary hula-hoop, and as much as I would like to ask others to hold some of those feelings, they are all mine. My frustrations that my partner will not capitulate to my desires, or understand my hurts, is still mine. I have to take care of myself and all of the feelings within the little world of my imaginary hula-hoop. On the other hand, I get to say the same thing about you and your feelings. Within the limits of not being an intentional jerk, I am not required to take responsibilities for your feelings, and I need be careful to not take your feelings from you, allowing you to keep them. Or even more, I am allowed to keep from letting you force them on me. I know I have found myself avoiding talking about subjects that were important me, just to keep from hurting my partner. I have also been in relationships where I am expected to keep from hurting or to soothe the hurts I do cause. Where is the limit between maliciously hurting my partner, and causing pain through truth and necessity? At times I will need to say things that will be painful for my partner to hear, and vice versa. If I am keeping my feelings and not requiring my partner to take them for me, I enter a different world that involves self soothing and personal strength. And when I make sure to be clear that I am not required to hold and soothe my partner’s anger, it allows me to be free to communicate clearly.
Physically, you know where you stop and others begin. Sometimes, that line between your emotions and those of the people around you gets a little blurred. It is important to find a way to make a more defined boundary, knowing what emotions are yours, and what emotions are others allows you to begin to draw a boundary. It is incredibly important to create a strong boundary with definition. That boundary is allowed to be permeable, but you have the choice what you give to others and what you take. I thank Dr. David Schnarch for giving me this saying: You have every right to your emotions. You also have the right to keep them.