Daily Archives: March 15, 2012

Shedding a Little Light on Boundaries

I had Juno on the Netflix queue this week. I saw it when it came out in the theaters and I remember being smitten with it. Maybe it was the fact that Corey and I were on what seemed to be an actual date back when our relationship was in a grey area, or the fact that we ended the night by riding the carousel downtown in the rain. I wanted to see the movie again because I knew there had to be more to it than that.

With a lot of things weighing somewhat heavily on my mind, I was excited to watch something a little goofy, but for a second it became too real.

There is a scene where Juno has returned home from dropping in on the prospective parents for the adoption of her child, and her step mom goes on a long rant about how she can’t just drop in and “hang out” with married men. Why? “Because there are boundaries.” Juno shrugs and walks away unfazed.

I feel like I’ve been on something of a moral magical mystery tour lately. In the words of The Dude, 

Some shit has come to light here, man!

It is interesting, growing up, and the more time passes the more I start to think that maybe there is something a little off about my behavior. And I mean, aside from, you know, being somewhat crazy.

Boundaries, what does that even mean? My therapist has brought it up, but I have a tendency to confuse boundaries with the idea of assertiveness.

Personal Boundaries are an established group of rules or guidelines that shape what a person will or wont do, establish safe ways for interaction with others, and how one will respond when someone steps beyond what is safe or reasonable. Some people believe it is personal boundaries that define each of us.

The lens is slowly shifting. I would say that as a 26 year old adult, I’m finally starting to see what Juno’s step mom is getting at. I do see something inappropriate there, and to some degree I see myself in Juno.

When my therapist asked me to describe any trouble I was having with boundaries, I couldn’t come up with one example. Honestly, I don’t think I really understood the concept, just that something was wrong.

Apparently one can have soft boundaries, where the issue becomes being manipulated by others, or losing a sense of self around other people (basically, letting that sense of self merge with whoever is around so that one believes the other is just an extension of themselves).

People can also have rigid boundaries, that act as a wall and wont let anyone get too close emotionally or physically. This is apparently really common for people who have been subject to (any kind of) abuse.

There is also something in between called spongy boundaries (I think this is the kind Spongebob has…) where the person kind of bounces back and forth between soft and rigid boundaries, typically unsure of what to let in and what to keep out.

Your normal, healthy kind would be flexible boundaries, where people can choose (what a concept) what to let in, and what to keep out.

Lately that general feeling of wrongness has started evolving.

I feel like I have a realistic set of guidelines about what I will or wont talk about in this blog, but every once in a while I get a real shock to my system and can really begin second guessing myself when I get negative responses after discussing certain topics.

Some of the things I have to say can appear very unfiltered, but they still are. You can be sure that I’m not trying to add some kind of shock value, or create debates, or instigate fear. I genuinely think that many of these topics can be of use to people, can help others identify what is going on in their own lives, and can start a dialogue that could help others solidify their own beliefs and treatment plans.

When it comes to general human interaction though, I am at something of a loss for knowing where appropriate ends and inappropriate starts. Usually I just don’t open my mouth unless I feel like I have something worthwhile to say, and I only delve as deeply as what someone will ask about. Beyond that, I become the spongy person described above, and my interest in intimate conversation vs. being at a distance from others alternates probably as frequently as my moods do.

I can readily identify that there is a big issue for me though, in regard to boundaries, and when I read about people who believe that people they’ve been emotionally intimate with are just an extension of themselves or that they lose their sense of “self” around others… for those of you who know me it may sound a little surprising but I feel that way a lot.

It seems like in life I can be trucking along, doing my own thing, when everything suddenly gets turned on its head. It isn’t until everything I know (and am used to) becomes shattered that I’m able to sweep it away and figure out what to build there instead. That moment, watching Juno the other night, was one of those shattering moments.

I’ve been mulling over the concept of boundaries for a few months, but it wasn’t until I saw something that appeared to be reflecting my own actions that I recognized the problem.

I think it can be very easy not to notice issues (like this one) that could be potentially causing big problems in life, especially when they have to do with a behavior you’ve had your whole life. This one has caused some enormous problems for me, and it still took this long to recognize. It took a few months, but I can walk into my therapist’s office with some genuine examples of problems I’m having with boundaries next week. Hopefully she can provide some healthy advice in reply.