Something shifts gears once you begin to foster healthy boundaries… and it’s one of the transitions I love witnessing with my clients. In particular you can see the change in their relationships which were perhaps quite codependent and unhealthy in their patterns. How the person talks about their needs starts to change from focussed on what they need to do to please the other person to what the other person needs to do to please them. It’s this change in language patterns that I look out for each and every therapy and coaching session.
Boundaries naturally strengthen when self compassion grows. Firstly connecting with your inner child and recognising their behaviours in the past evolved to keep you safe can really help you distinguish between your own triggered childlike behaviour and desired adult behaviour. When we’re triggered or activated from a perceived threat we play out very set patterns due to long term ‘procedural memory’ this is stored physiological sequence memory from repeated behaviour ie like riding a bike.
Take this example:
You had a critical dismissive father and when you showed him some artwork he laughed and said he didn’t even know what it was meant to be and walked off. He always dismissed your work or interests because he was too busy doing important work. You immediately had a felt sense of disconnect and fear (our nervous system has evolved to use social cues through eye contact, warm mmelodic voice tone and softened features to soothe) You feel embarrassed and shame that nothing you do can make your dad happy or proud (children are egocentric so attribute cause to thrmselves) this pattern is repeated so you stop showing him your work as there’s no point. You become apathetic (there’s no point anyone seeing what I do) but you crave connection. Sound familiar?
This pattern will present to me in its language patterns.
“I never do anything right”
“I’m useless at making decisions”
“My partner makes the decisions”
“I’m trying really hard to keep the house tidy”
Ok so what other pattern is likely to have occurred?! The partner is likely to be similar to the father because it feels familiar. So we repeat these behaviours because they’re what kept us safe initially; we don’t show off our skill or even lack of it “Taaa daaaaa! Check out my burnt cupcakes!!” or have value in our work as it will be rejected. We don’t believe in our ability as we had no autonomy in childhood – our differences and ability were never celebrated.
As self compassion grows for this wounded inner child so does our protector of her (or him). Coaching boundaries also requires understanding the other persons inner struggle and that their behaviour is often not anything to do with you. This will give you distance and perspective on the other persons actions rather than taking it personally. The inner child is activated or triggered far less easily so belief in the adult self grows… and the language patterns shift too. I love feeling the joy radiate from a client when they start calling the shots in theit life. What does it sound like?
“I was really proud of myself today! I actually told my partner if he didn’t pick up his crap it wouldn’t get washed”
“Guess what?! Ive booked that dance class! And… he’s coming too!!”
The way I look at it is this; It’s good to want to be the best possible person you can be for someone else and to make them smile… but you deserve to have a person who wants to be all that for you too.
(Important note: if the active relationship is violent and the person is in danger we have safety plans and build strategies to keep safe and avoid the danger not provoke more danger. It’s actually rare a person leaves this situation so we build those innate safety skills and do work to soothe the nervous system so the person has full cognitive functioning)