Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Boundary Betty - Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

So I'm slogging through various books right now: self-help, spiritual, and so forth, because I know the biggest thing I need to do right now is GET MY HEAD ON STRAIGHT.

So I'm reading Charles Whitfield's Boundaries and Relationships, because everybody said I should, and everybody is right, and it's a really good book, and yuck, do my boundaries still need major work!

Some of my boundaries are just fine - for instance, no danger I'm gonna send all my money to some TV preacher.  Partly, because I don't have any money, but mostly, because I have healthy, if not perfect boundaries when it comes to money, personal possessions, and spiritual beliefs.  But when it comes to "going with the flow" (rather than asking for what I want) and doing things for other people and absorbing other people's feelings and moods as if they were my own... I couldn't be more accommodating if I wore a green plastic shirt with the word WELCOME in raised letters across my back.

Here's the test, if you want to assess your own boundaries.

Each question should be answered:
Never – Seldom – Occasionally – Often – Usually

I found it illuminating to answer them all honestly (sure, I could have cheated, you can pretty easily figure out what the “right” answer should be most of the time.  But like cheating at solitaire, what’s the point?)

1)      I can’t make up my mind.
2)      I have difficulty saying no to people.
3)      I feel as if my happiness depends on other people.
4)      It’s hard for me to look a person in the eyes.
5)      I find myself getting involved with people who end up hurting me.
6)      I trust others.
7)      I would rather attend to others than attend to myself.
8)      Others’ opinions are more important than mine.
9)      People take or use my things without asking me.
10)  I have difficulty asking for what I want or need.
11)  I lend people money and don’t seem to get it back on time.
12)  Some people I loan money to don’t ever pay me back.
13)  I feel ashamed.
14)  I would rather go along with another person or people than express what I’d really like to do.
15)  I feel bad for being so different from other people.
16)  I feel anxious, scared or afraid.
17)  I spend my own time and energy helping others so much I neglect my own wants and needs.
18)  It’s hard for me to know what I believe and what I think.
19)  I feel as if my happiness depends on circumstances outside of myself.
20)   I feel good.
21)  I have a hard time knowing what I really feel.
22)  I find myself getting involved with people who end up being bad for me.
23)  It’s hard for me to make decisions.
24)  I get angry.
25)  I don’t get much time alone.
26)  I tend to take on the moods of people close to me.
27)  I have a hard time keeping a confidence or a secret.
28)  I am overly sensitive to criticism.
29)  I feel hurt.
30)  I tend to stay in relationships that are hurting me.
31)  I feel an emptiness, as if something is missing in my life.
32)   I tend to get caught up “in the middle” of other people’s problems.
33)  When someone I’m with acts up in public, I tend to feel embarrassed.
34)  I feel sad.
35)  It’s not easy for me to really know in my heart about my relationship with a Higher Power/God.
36)  I prefer to rely on what others say about what I should believe and do about religious or spiritual matters.
37)  I tend to take on or feel what others are feeling.
38)  I put more into relationships than I get out of them.
39)  I feel responsible for other people’s feelings.
40)  My friends or acquaintances have a hard time keeping secrets or confidences which I tell them.

For most of these, an “Often” or “Usually” means too loose boundaries, while a “Seldom” or “Never” answer may mean boundaries which are too rigid.  Question 6 is kind of reversed – if you seldom or never trust others, you’ve probably been hurt in the past and now are keeping your boundaries too rigid.  (This is a very, very abbreviated version of what Whitfield goes into great detail in, in the actual book.  So if you, too, have boundary issues, get the book for more info on your particular weaknesses.)

The point with boundaries is not to barricade myself behind a WALL – but to have a permeable barrier that keeps outside thoughts/feelings/energies out.  Until I decide, mindfully, to invite them in.  To not be so awash with outside energies that I lose awareness of what I think or feel, for myself.

For myself, I found my own boundaries tend to be weak around people-pleasing things, and in specific situations.   For example, on question 30 – definitely an "Often" there for me, when it comes to romantic interests, and once, with a job – but not when it comes to regular friendships.  I do tend to take on the moods of people close to me (question 26) - but again, mostly for romantic interests, for certain members of my family, but not usually when it comes to my close friends.  So, if I can set healthy boundaries with some people, in some circumstances, surely I can learn to do it in all circumstances, right?

Theory, meet Practice. 
My, what big eyes and flabby muscles you have!

Are you a people-pleaser, too?  Let me know where your boundaries are strong & mighty, and where they are soft & squishy.