By: Anne Carter, LSW, CADC
The process of developing healthy boundaries takes time and practice, but it can open up an individual’s life to recovery from codependency*. Initially, the concept of boundaries can be off-putting. It can be confusing to know what belongs to who. Some of my clients have reported they believe setting boundaries is mean or cold. I believe setting healthy boundaries is a loving act. While being codependent individuals can lose a sense of themselves and merge with others. They take on feelings and energy of those around them. During the process of boundary setting, people can take back what is rightfully theirs, and give back the rest.
*codependency: a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another, being highly involved (and sometimes responsible) in another’s emotions, reactions, decisions, and behaviors. (unhappy, unhealthy relationship)
At first setting these boundaries can seem difficult and stir up uncomfortable emotion. As time goes on, it will feel more natural. Individual therapy, group therapy, and a network of recovering individuals can provide support during the process of discovering and maintaining healthy boundaries.
Below is a meditation from May 13th on property lines from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.
Property Lines: May 13
A helpful tool in our recovery, especially in the behavior we call detachment, is learning to identify who owns what. Then we let each person own and possess his or her rightful property.
If another person has an addiction, a problem, a feeling, or a self-defeating behavior, that is their property, not ours. If someone is a martyr, immersed in negativity, controlling, or manipulative, that is their issue, not ours.
If someone has acted and experienced a particular consequence, both the behavior and the consequence belong to that person.
If someone is in denial or cannot think clearly on a particular issue, that confusion belongs to him or her.
If someone has a limited or impaired ability to love or care, that is his or her property, not ours. If someone has no approval or nurturing to give away, that is that person’s property.
People’s lies, deceptions, tricks, manipulations, abusive behaviors, inappropriate behaviors, cheating behaviors, and tacky behaviors belong to them too. Not us.
People’s hopes and dreams are their property. Their guilt belongs to them too. Their happiness or misery is also theirs. So are their beliefs and messages.
If some people don’t like themselves, that is their choice. Other people’s choices are their property, not ours.
What people choose to say and do is their business.
What is our property? Our property includes our behaviors, problems, feelings, happiness, misery, choices, and messages; our ability to love, care, and nurture; our thoughts, our denial, our hopes and dreams for ourselves. Whether we allow ourselves to be controlled, manipulated, deceived, or mistreated is our business.
In recovery, we learn an appropriate sense of ownership. If something isn’t ours, we don’t take it. If we take it, we learn to give it back. Let other people have their property, and learn to own and take good care of what’s ours.
Today, I will work at developing a clear sense of what belongs to me, and what doesn’t. If it’s not mine, I won’t keep it. I will deal with myself, my issues, and my responsibilities. I will take my hands off what is not mine.