Boundaries are not wall. They should be flexible.
Boundaries are not rigid. They should be adjustable.
This doesn't mean they should collapse at the first sign of resistance from yourself or other people. Boundaries, especially when you first set them, will be tested by others who aren't used to them being there, by others who don't like your new boundaries at all, and by yourself to see if you really mean what you say.
Boundaries are not being selfish. They should protect us from the inappropriate behaviors of others. Sometimes, boundaries also protect others from our own inappropriate behaviors. One boundary that I have set for myself is that I cannot try to fix other people. No matter how much I may think that I know better, I cannot tell another person how to live their lives and how to make their choices. I don't have that right. No one does. In codependent relationships, fixing was often something that I tried to do in the past.
When I first heard about boundaries in Adult Children of Alcoholics and Al-Anon, I was confused. I had no idea what they were talking about. I grew up with incest and alcoholism in my family. The two worst alcoholics were also rageaholics so there were no boundaries.
Codependency was rampant in my family because of the alcoholism. Everyone tried to fix everyone else. Rage and silence lived in the same house. Fear was always around waiting and feeding. Everyone tried to placate the alcoholic. No one paid attention to the children. We were fed and clothed and taught to not feel unless it was rage which better not be expressed unless you were the alcoholic. We were taught to live with abuse and inappropriate behaviors because that was normal in our family. I grew up as the oldest of three children. My dad was the third oldest of the 13 kids in his family. I grew up with an extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My grandfather was the violent alcoholic head of the extended family. Every weekend was spent at the house of my grandparents. The only time my grandfather drank was from Friday evening when he got off work until Sunday evening when he ran out of money to buy more beer.
Growing up with the incest and alcoholism, which really is a family disease, I didn't know that living with people who exhibited inappropriate behaviors every day wasn't normal. It was normal in my family. Not knowing what is normal is a characteristic of adult children of alcoholics.
Because of the abuse, I had walls that I hid the real me and the wounded me behind. Walls are not boundaries. Walls are rigid. Walls are solid. They kept you out and also kept me a prisoner trapped in the abuse. In hiding from you and life, I was just existing, getting through each day, just going through the motions of surviving and not really being touched by anyone or anything, a prisoner of my own fears. If I let you get too close, you would hurt me. The walls that protected me also kept me a prisoner of fear and despair.
Someone in Al-Anon recommended that I read two of the books written by Melody Beattie called Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency. I saw so much of myself and my family in those books. I also learned about healthy boundaries and how to use them. I recently recommended these books to my friend who is new to Al-Anon. They are wonderful resources to having healthy relationships with others and with yourself.
The first step, for me, in setting boundaries was to let down my walls. This wasn't a one-time occurence. In learning to do boundaries, it is a back and forth process of letting down the walls, getting scared and putting the walls back up, noticing that the walls are back up and letting them down again going back and forth until you feel safe without the walls. In the beginning, it is like a pendulum swinging back and forth until the swings became less and less until you finally find balance near the center.
You know that you have healthy boundaries when they protect you from abuse and inappropriate behaviors without you hiding behind walls. You know that you have set healthy boundaries for yourself when you recognise that you are no longer abusing others with your own set of inappropriate behaviors. You know that you have healthy boundaries when you are no longer abusing yourself with your own inappropriate behaviors.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the inspiration and the flow of energy to write these words and to share them with others.