I never knew good boundaries growing up, and I continually struggle with what healthy boundaries are. This includes my personal life, my professional life, my married life, my religious life, my social media life...all of life.
We were taught that we were to respect all adults, our "elders." And, as females, we were taught to be subservient to all men, but mostly our father until we were married, then our husband, once married. It's easy to reject those two rules now (respect all elders and males, no questions asked), but at the same time, the overall concept of boundaries has been difficult for me. Do I allow my parents to stay in my home when each time they do, they directly violate our "rules" and cause conflict? Do I keep up a facade of contact with a person who has not been respectful of my beliefs, no matter what the context, in order to keep the greater peace within my family? Do I forge relationships with people at work, even though their topics of discussion make me uncomfortable?
One thing I've learned over the past several years is that I am a sensitive person. Highly sensitive, even. I am emotional, and those emotions are valid. I am deeply affected by certain things, and, in order to maintain my own health (mostly mental health) and sanity, I have to avoid certain activities. I was told all my childhood that feelings were not valid, that I was not a "feeler," (more of a "thinker"), and that boundaries were "silly" or being "hyper-sensitive." My boundaries were continuously, constantly violated - my parents went through our trash, my parents read all mail sent to us, my parents read our diaries, my parents listened to our phone calls with friends. No joke. It sounds extreme, but that's just how it was. A closed door was never greeted with a knock, just barged in. If you were a child, or a female (lucky me, I was both), when you spoke it might be ignored, disregarded, spoken over, laughed at, or shushed...never respected.
Some rules that work for me... I do not watch the news. I am aware of current events via printed media or the radio, and I pray for our world, but I do not watch the news. I also do not watch/listen to/read anything violent. I hate violence. I hate the images that promote it or advertise it or glorify it. They stay with me for years and bother me. I can't take it. I do not ingest any form of "celebrity gossip" or news. I don't care about that stuff. I don't have TV (not cable, not bunny ear, not Hulu...no TV). I am only vaguely aware of the latest of those stories, and I don't follow the fashions. I wear what works for me, and I don't care what celebrities are up to. These rules work for me.
Lately, I've realized I need to add another limit to my boundaries list. I used to follow, read, and listen to Protestants as a way of promoting ecumenicism, as a way of knowing what the pulse of the Christian world thought, and as a way of engaging in religious discussions. I have found that I basically need to stop that all together.
I do not have the time or the energy to devote to lots of Protestant thought anymore. We start most discussions from very different viewpoints. I end up feeling either preached to (as sort of a "you are going to hell, you Mary-worshipping-Catholic" or, conversely, "you are so closed minded, you not-contracepting, not LGBT-affirming-Catholic"), sometimes ridiculed, and often misunderstood. While I do believe that religious liberty is increasingly under attack in our culture (something people of all faiths should address), I think that the process of relating to Protestants is largely unhealthy for me, these days. I often find it easier to relate to people with no belief, who are at least respectful, or people of vastly different beliefs, but whose spiritual approach is similar (i.e., value silence, see God in nature, respect others, etc.) I find the underlying premise of Sola Scriptura doesn't work, doesn't make sense to me, and isn't a good way of "discussing" issues with someone else. God bless Protestants. I learned a lot from them. I just don't get anything out of our dialogue anymore. The more dogmatic, theological debates are hard for me to take because I feel like I'm being brainwashed and back in childhood. The random sprinkling of out-of-context Bible verses is enough to make me run screaming. I would rather close my mind with intention, as our priest explained once. For me, that means limiting my spiritual intake to what works for me. That is...Catholic authors and sources. There is a huge variety in the Catholic category. I'm not saying I get something out of everything, nor do I agree with it all. But, I don't have to worry about the basic premise being one of disagreement. It won't trigger me to horrible childhood memories, and I don't feel like I am doing battle against people I should be in some sort of agreement with.
Another category that I need to avoid all together is the perpetually negative. Fighting negative thoughts is something I need to do for my own mental health. I have enough on my plate without having to address the negative thoughts and words of others. This mainly comes into play with a particular family member and with coworkers. I want relationships with them, but when the majority of their conversation is negative, complaining, criticisms, situations out of their control, I know I need to keep my distance. It is exhausting to be the "Devil's advocate" in that situation...even if the "Devil" is the positive viewpoint. I know people need to express themselves, but it is unhealthy and draining for me to be in close relationship with Negative Nellies.
Elizabeth Esther posted about healthy boundaries recently. It was a rebuttal/rewrite of someone that said she thought leaving the church because of being hurt by those in the church was an invalid reason. Elizabeth's response was very balanced, and reminded me of the healthy boundaries that I have learned to set in my life.
"I've been hurt by the Church" is one of the most UNDERSTANDABLE reasons I've heard for not going to church.
I've been hurt by advertising—so I choose to spend my money with more ethical companies.
I've been hurt by colleagues—so I go to HR departments to make sure my work place is a safe place for myself and others.
I've been hurt by friends—so I choose my friends wisely and no longer associate with people who disrespect my boundaries.
I've been hurt by social media—so I block unsafe people, delete harmful comments and create email filters that prevent strangers on social media from contacting me directly.
I've been hurt by family—so I set and enforce boundaries because forgiving someone doesn't mean I have to let them hurt me again.
I've been hurt by entertainment—so I avoid consuming entertainment that compromises my mental, emotional or spiritual health.I build my life and make my choices based on my real, lived experiences and the wisdom I've learned from them. I've been hurt but I don't hurt people and that begins by not hurting MYSELF—which sometimes means not attending church. God is big enough to find me anywhere. Love always. xo. EE.
For those of us who come from abusive or controlling environments, I think our boundaries and ways of healing can vary. It may look different for different people. I am of the WW philosophy - Whatever Works.