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Anger, Shame and Boundaries

I’ve been extra aware of boundaries lately.  When I refer to boundaries, what I mean are the differences between you and me.  So much of life is interacting with other people and our relationships with everything else.  It is so easy to feel like we have to save, rescue, and help other people.  It’s so common to get focused on taking care of everyone and everything else.  When we have poorly defined boundaries in place, we can end up using most of our energy for concerns outside ourselves, which is a huge drain on our own energy.

Tell me who to be.

We often look to other people to define who we are and in the process lose connection with ourselves.  We are so busy meeting other people’s needs that our own needs don’t get met and we find ourselves depleted, sick or in chronic pain.  This happens when we don’t realize we are spending our energy on over doing for other people.  We also get into trouble when we spend our energy doing what we think other people expect of us.  Our energy level gets drained so that our bodies can’t rejuvenate properly.  We also drain our energy by worrying about other people when in reality we can’t heal other people’s emotional pain by feeling it for them.  We can’t learn other people’s lessons for them.

I have been guilty of letting other people set my boundaries for me when I felt their disapproval of how I show up.  I reacted by backing off and hiding parts of myself.  Now I am letting more of myself be seen in new ways in social settings.  Recently, my anger alerted me to someone getting into my business and attempting to set a boundary for me.  In the moment, I didn’t agree to that boundary.  I didn’t understand it and I felt invalidated by it.  Later, when I explored this interaction with the other person and the motivation behind it, shame alerted me to a social boundary the other person perceived that my behavior may have crossed over.

Anger and shame restore boundaries.

Once I became aware of this boundary issue I consciously used a combination of anger and shame to restore my healthy boundary and to honor other people’s boundaries.  Anger asks us what must be protected or restored.  Shame asks us who has been hurt and what must be made right.  By exploring the interaction in this situation I was able to understand the other person’s perspective and to set some intentions for future similar situations to be sensitive so that I honor both my own boundaries and other people’s boundaries.  Being clear about what I agree to and what I don’t agree to helps me stay in  my boundaries and not violate other people’s boundaries.  Anger and shame help to define boundaries and helps me realize who I am, separate from others.  Anger helps to protect my personal space and shame keeps me from getting into other people’s space.

The problem with heavy protection. 

When people don’t know how to use anger and shame to set their boundaries, they can end up with heavy energetic protection which doesn’t allow them to be seen at all for who they really are.  They are often in a pattern of  allowing too much of themselves to be seen, feeling exposed and vulnerable, and then shutting down emotionally in order to protect themselves.  All of this is invalidating to the individual.  It just reinforces the spin cycle of sharing too much of self, being invalidated (judged and criticized), and then going into hiding and not allowing the self to be seen at all.

Other ways people violate their own boundaries is doing too much for other people.  An example is being too available to other people for helping them problem solve, in order to feel better ourselves.  It can be uncomfortable being around people who are stressed, especially when we make ourselves responsible for their well-being.  We want to feel better and we think we will feel better by helping them solve their problems so that they feel better, when it’s really ourselves that need our attention.  This happens because we don’t have a good sense of what is ours and what is theirs.

Let go of what isn’t yours. 

Once we set a boundary with letting other people have their own problems and letting go of the responsibility that we have to them fix them, we are  less affected by what they are experiencing.  We own our own issues and we let them have theirs.  This frees up lots of energy for ourselves.  We get the validation we so desire from ourselves to be more ourselves by being okay within our own personal space with who we are and not letting other people define who we are.  We are aware of what we agree to and what we don’t agree to.  Creating healthy boundaries means being conscious of what is our business and what is other people’s business.   Once  we get clear on that there can be a tremendous sense of relief.

We are empathetic with other people, we can sense their pain and we feel it with them.  When we have good boundaries we don’t have to feel other people’s emotional pain and we don’t have to fix it for them.  When we can be aware of where we begin and end, we know what is ours in terms of thought, emotions,  and responsibilities, and what is not ours.  We often get into boundary violations when we do other people’s jobs without their permission.  We think we are being helpful without realizing that we can take other people’s power and lessons away from them by being overly helpful.

Be aware of your agreements. 

Next time your energy is drained or your pain starts up again.  Notice where your energy might be getting drained.  Take a look at your agreements and whether they are still working for you.  Is someone asking something of you that drains you?  Are you doing something you really don’t want to do, but you are doing it anyway?  Are you letting someone else dictate how you live your life?  Are you worrying about other people’s problems?  You  can learn to let other people have their emotional pain without having to fix it for them.  Many times just being heard is all they want or need.  When you are conscious of your own boundaries and you honor other people’s boundaries, you know what is yours and what is theirs, and you are conscious of what you agree to and what you don’t agree to, you free up your energy to be who you really are and to take the best care of yourself.

Photo credit:  Anankkml
10 comments… add one
  • Loved the message!!!! Actually I posted this today on facebook: “If we dont take care of ourselves, we dont have anything to give anyone else. “I am learning to set boundaries and in doing this I am learning who I am and what I desire, and I am learning to accept ME, just by being ME!!!!!!

  • Fernanda – It’s really amazing to realize how much of our energy is wasted on other people and how much better we feel once we reclaim our own space by setting good boundaries and taking care of ourselves. I’m so glad this makes sense to you and you are on it!

  • Yes, Gail, thank you for this post. Came just as I needed it too. I feel guilty when I allow my boundaries to be crossed, & then I self-criticize, but then I just have to accept that it’s a learning curve, and I will respond differently next time.

  • Francesca – It is definitely a learning curve to honor ours and other people’s boundaries at the same time.

  • Gail, I appreciate this post because I do think boundaries are so important to recognize and honor. I haven’t thought of shame in exactly this way, but I had an experience recently where, looking back, shame directed me to what needed to be made right. I had to get still and honest enough to admit what I had done and the amends I had to make. Letting myself experience shame and honor it instead of run from it was empowering.

  • Alice – Learning that shame can be welcomed and channeled in healthy ways has been a huge opening for me. I continue to explore it. Up until a few months ago I couldn’t even identify what shame felt like. I’m recognizing it now and learning how to use it. I’m intending to explore it even more. I’m aware that we use shame to control other people’s behavior and now I want to explore the difference between how my own shame and other people shaming me feels and whether I agree to it or not.

  • Your posts have the uncanny ability to come right when I need them. I am in coach training currently and the last two times I’ve been coached have been on these issues. I have always dropped what I was doing to run to someone’s rescue. I’ve always thought I was selfish if I didn’t. Now I’m making that transformation where being selfish is good and holy cow that’s a hard habit to break. With that being said, no part of this journey has really been easy, but it certainly is worth every ounce of effort. Have you thought of doing a telecourse on this subject? I know I’d be interested. I read Karla’s book often but talking about it brings it to a new level of understanding. Thanks for sharing.

  • Donna: Boundaries are a huge deal and most of us don’t know how to set healthy boundaries. It can be such an energy drain and result in chronic pain. I will be teaching a beginning intuitive development in the near future which will cover this topic. I’m keeping a list of interested people for the class.

  • I am interested gail!!! Im learning so much those days and keeping in mind that i will not rescue oe save anyone and all i can do ia take care of me!!! Also i am not the good girl anymore and it is ok to be selfish somwtimes!!!

  • Fernanda – I just put you on the list for the intuitive development class. I taught a class this morning for Martha Beck coaches on boundaries and protection and got to share several methods of defining boundaries including using emotions to define them as I shared in the post above.


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