Wishy Washy Boundaries: Click here for my Video
Most people have tremendous difficulties in setting boundaries. The reason being is that they don’t really know what they feel, want and need, so they collapse or attack rather than express their truth. How does one know what is a healthy boundary? How does one know what they feel? Feelings are inside of our bodies, in our hearts and guts. They are not in our head. So many go to their thinking mind to find a feeling, but one has to breathe and go within. This is where it gets tricky to find a feeling. Feelings have names: fear, hurt, anger, grief, sadness, happiness, joy, excitement, aliveness, to name a few. But when I ask a person what do they feel they usually start off with a story about the other person or, say “I feel that…” When someone starts off that way, then you know they are in their head. Along with a feeling is a need. Most people don’t believe they deserve what they need or they think it is wrong or silly. It is vulnerable to have a feeling and need. It allows the other person to see your rawness, your direct truth.
Boundaries are unique to each individual. They are not a one size fit all. Of course, in extremes if a person is being physically or emotionally abused then it is obvious what boundaries need to be set…leaving is the only option. However, many stay in abusive situations out of fear. These individuals need support, education and therapy to understand why they stay in such a situation. Emotional abuse is more subtle. It happens slow and careful by the perpetrator. First, there are the undercuts to self esteem, mild criticisms, rejection of friends and making the person wrong for disagreements.
Below is an example of a client waking up to emotional abuse:
Client’s Journal entry: I am feeling powerful today… I feel like I have this new strength and light on inside me. After having this powerful, really raw and messy connection with L and M last night, I feel like have found this new sense of worth inside of me….almost as if something has clicked…my rage is real. And I trust it. What is happening in my personal life and the relationship I have with my family is EXACTLY the same in my work environment. And my work environment has pushed me to the point of such exhaust that I was becoming shut down and feeling powerless over EVERY aspect of my life… I got to this place of such chaos internally and externally, things people and saying and doing to me, with no boundaries (because as lara pointed out last night I have none of and so I am continually letting that abusive treatment happen). I AM SO ANGRY that these people in my work and life (Sister, my dad and mum, other people in my life) keep SHITTING on me… but what really infuriates me and sickens me and has given me this new courage is the fact that I AM ALLOWING this abues, this shit. I am tired of it, but now I REFUSE REFUSE REFUSE to wallow in it. I am too valuable and want to be happy and I am willing to fight for myself now. I want happiness. I seserve to be happy. And I refuse to let this cycle to absue seep into and flourish in EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE. I am angry and enraged. I am NOT a horribel person and will not die and fall apart… my foundation and the love and support I have around me is too strong and my spirit and will to live is too strong for me to fall apart. I am DONE playing this game. I can love people and love MYSELF and still be ANGRY and fight for myself. It is NOT wrong for me to save myself.
When you are not sure what your boundary is stop, breathe, go within: Ask what do I feel?… what do I need and want? I feel sad and need you to listen without any comments. I feel lonely and I need you to sit with me. It can be as simple as that. It takes courage to ask for a need to be fulfilled. Sometimes we are afraid to ask because we have been rejected or criticized for our needs and feelings. Remember when you set a boundary it is for your growth, not the other persons approval. We might not get what we need from another, but we will build our self esteem when we set the boundary.
However, boundaries can be subtle, such as the situation below:
Client: As far as why I want to keep him around, that’s not tricky at all. I have so much work to do. It’s so overwhelming. I need help and I have very few people who actually show up to help me. I also have very little money to hire help. I know that I can’t get this stuff done alone. I understand about the wishy washy boundary. And I totally agree. As far as spending time with him as a friend, I do enjoy his company. I just don’t want to date him. And now that he has helped me, I don’t want to feel as if I just used him. I guess I’m offering my friendship in return for him helping me out. I know that’s not really fair on his end because he wants more than friendship, but it’s not my job to take care of him, right?
Marta: It is not healthy to keep this man around you. Why would you? If he does not want to take money for his services then it is a wishy washy boundary. Why would you want him to be your friend? You are using him. You can’t offer payment through an unhealthy friendship. That leads him on. You are leaking and getting back into victim and caretaker. By giving him an unclean message, being friends for services rendered, you are caretaking him. If you want to attract a healthier man, then you can’t use or be friends with a man who is blocked and sucking. It will clog up your energy. You learned the lesson, let go. How does that feel what I just said?
Client: So I think I’m starting to get it. The universe gave me a mirror to help me see what you were so desperately trying to make me understand during the last group. I met a man a couple months ago and went out with him one time. He was easy to talk to, and really opened up the first time we went out. Maybe a little too much. I found myself listening to him and finally being able to do what you have always advised. I listened and let him tell me all about himself so I could decide if he was what I wanted or not. And I decided that he was not what I wanted. He had a very sad and heavy energy. He was a very hard worker and had a really difficult life and was explaining how hard he was struggling in life. He is a recovering addict and had a serious problem in the past with a hardcore drug. He expressed that he really needed a relationship because that is what made him happy. He doesn’t take care of himself. He’s out of shape. He smokes. He’s covered in tattoos. He is a musician that gave up on trying to make a career out of his talents. And on and on and on. I left the evening off by saying that I wanted to be friends, but I pretty much blew him off and never saw him again even though he called and tried to see me again for a few weeks.
During my search to try and find help fixing up my new studio I thought of him. I thought he might need some work and I could pay him to help out on the weekends. He happily agreed and came to help me today. His energy is just as dark and dismal as I remembered. When we first started painting, he told me that he agreed to help me out because he thinks I’m really nice and really pretty and he wanted the opportunity to spend time together. He has a steady job now and is in a little better place than the last time I saw him. He then expressed that all he needed now is a girlfriend. And it just hit me. He is such a mirror for me. So much so that I have trouble even looking him in the eyes. I just kept thinking that I don’t want this guy. I want someone who is healthy and stable and takes care of himself and is happy with his life without “needing” a girlfriend. But I’m closer in my life to where this guy is than that “ideal” guy that I want. I can’t ever expect to attract the man I want when I am in this place. You can just feel the need dripping off him. Like he has a ten foot straw waiting to suck you dry, to try and make himself happy because he’s so miserable in his own life. It’s a little terrifying for me to even be in his presence. I realize now that the only time I’m going to attract what I want, is when I am what I want.
When I met B had just returned from the biggest adventure of my life. I was in denial about how hard I would have to work to make my business a success. I wanted to avoid all responsibility and pretend I was on permanent vacation. And that is exactly what he offered me. With love comes pain.
With life comes pain. With growth comes pain. I can’t just give up. I can’t just be a victim and never let go of the pain that this relationship brought me. All I can do is learn the lesson and work towards living in the present moment and enjoying it.
So I get it. This guy was so intense. So emotional. So …. ME, but exaggerated. I had a huge reaction to him and after a little exploration, it just all clicked.
Article: Are you a Toxic Magnet? – By Maria Mar ***
Are you an unwilling, unconscious magnet for toxic people? If you often find yourself dealing with toxic people or if the effects of toxic encounters affect you more and for a longer time than they affect others, then you may be a Toxic Magnet.
Just because you have a couple of toxic relationships that need addressing or because you know some toxic people does not mean that you are a Toxic Magnet. Toxic people are everywhere. You are bound to meet a couple of every month, at least. Whether you hook up with them or not is another matter.
But if you often suffer from the anxiety, emotional torture, and negative drama that toxic people generate, then you may want to examine if you are a Toxic Magnet.
Establishing your Primary Emotional Pattern
In the list below, check any feelings that arise from your toxic encounter.
___I keep thinking that I’ve done something wrong and try to come up with another way of responding, but everything fails.
___I feel guilty when I tell the person how I feel or when I set limits.
___I feel hurt and sad. I want the person to tell me that she loves me and accept me as I am.
___I want to win. I want her to apologize and accept that she is wrong. I keep bringing up evidence and arguments, but she won’t give in.
___I feel trapped and frustrated. I can’t find a way to get a win-win solution. Everything I say is misinterpreted and I am at the end of my wit.
___I wrap myself in patience and try to address each complaint. But the complaints never seize and it’s frustrating.
___I feel that I am more mature and healthy than this person and should be able to address the situation in an effective way.
___I allow the person to rant and rave or do her acting out. I feel like a mother waiting for a kid to finish a tantrum.
___I speak to her as to a child, softly and calmly. I listen attentively and then ask questions.
___I feel exhausted and drained. I feel unable to continue with this dynamic, yet I am scared of what she might do if I do not continue.
___My overwhelming feeling is fear. Fear that I may be fired, judged, exposed or hurt. I feel intimidated.
___I can’t find my voice. I want to scream or confront the person, but I get a lump in my throat.
___I want to go away and avoid the whole thing because it causes too much anxiety.
___I go away emotionally. I feel frozen or simply disappear and show up when it’s all over.
___I am shocked. I can’t believe it. It all becomes a blur.
To establish your Primary Emotional Response Patterns, count the checks for each section. Then look at the section that has the most checks. That’s your Primary Emotional Response Pattern.
The types that are presented in this self-assessment barely scratch the surface of your Toxic Magnet behaviors and beliefs. Furthermore, you will rarely fit only in one Toxic Magnet Type.
However, recognizing your Primary Emotional Responses allows you to spot how a specific toxic person or situation triggers a specific type of Toxic Magnet response in you. Since you cannot change the other, but you can change your responses, this information empowers you to change the responses that keep you hooked in the Toxic Dance.
Section A: The Defectives
If you checked a majority of items in Section A, you may respond to the Toxic Magnet Type called Defectives. The Defectives secretly feel defective, damaged, less than others or insufficient. They seek to gain value by giving, being good, serving others, placating or appeasing or by playing second best.
If you fit this profile, this does not mean that you ARE defective. It means that the Ugly Duckling is alive somewhere in your psyche, stealing the majestic Swan you truly are. This hooks you up with toxic people, who are big blamers and trigger your secret feelings of not being enough.
Section B: The Fixers
You may respond to the Toxic Magnet Type called Fixers. The Fixers need something or someone to fix in order to distract themselves from their own issues. They have inherited an emotional belief that they cannot be loved unless they give others what they want and are needed, in control or perfect.
If you fit this profile, this does not automatically mean that you ARE a control freak and want to fix everyone. It means that when a toxic person complains or blames others for their actions, you get hooked trying to solve the problem.
Section C: The Followers
You may respond to the Toxic Magnet Type called Followers. The Followers learned to blend with the wall paper in order to avoid conflict or abuse. They focus on others to gain their support and avoid decisions, risks or responsibility. They are afraid to assume their power or leadership or to speak their truth.
If you fit this profile, this does not automatically mean that you ARE a coward who is easily bullied. It means that when a toxic person displays intimidating behavior, you may be unable to stand up to this person. You may freeze, lose your voice or give in to avoid conflicts.
Section D: The Saints
You may respond to the Toxic Magnet Type called Saints. The Saints believe that they have to sacrifice in order to deserve a place in the world.
If you fit this profile, this does not automatically mean that you ARE a goody-two-shoes who can’t stand up for yourself. It means that when a toxic person trespasses your personal boundaries, you are going to use inappropriate compassion to enable their inappropriate behavior and sacrifice your personal needs.
Section E: The Sleep-Walkers
You may respond to the Toxic Magnet Type called Sleep-Walker. The Sleep-Walkers “go away” at the least sign of danger or confrontation by disconnecting emotionally or mentally from the situation, literally leaving, “switching off” or using an addictive behavior or substance.
If you fit this profile, this does not automatically mean that you ARE Sleeping Beauty personified. It means that when a toxic person discharges their toxic energy or creates conflicts, you will not be able to take effective action because you will fall into the sleeping trance.
I hope that in recognizing the role you may play in attracting, hooking up with or allowing the toxic behavior, you have realized to what measure you may be a Toxic Magnet.
In the measure in which you avoid your responsibility and are afraid of assuming your Personal Power, you become a Toxic Magnet.
In the measure in which you avoid the truth and try to change or others to avoid confrontation, you become a Toxic Magnet.
In the measure in which you see what you see, take responsibility for your choices, and assume your Personal Power, you signal to toxic people that you are not prey.
In the measure in which you honor your truth, release control over others and stand as your self-authority, you are free from the hooks and attachments that keep people in the Toxic Dance.
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About the Author:
Maria Mar is a writer, inspirational speaker and poet, a spiritual teacher and an internationally known shaman. Maria helps people understand and release toxic relationships in the Toxic Relationships: Love them, but LEAVE Them Digital Self-help Kit and Home Study Course.