Professional Boundaries Tainted: Where do I Begin & End?

Via on Apr 10, 2013

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

~ C. JoyBell C.

“I’ve canceled all of your appointments. Wiped them from my schedule, indefinitely. It’s what you wanted.” Her voice was stern, piercing, cold and angry.

A cannon went off in my head and shattered my heart.

I kept walking next to her, questioning myself, is this the talk, I waited a week for? It was on the way to her car.

“No, that’s not what I meant. This isn’t the end!” My voice wasn’t solid. The panic was rising and I started to separate from my body.

“That’s what you wrote to me last week? That’s what you meant.” Her words sliced through my panic and an avalanche began.

My mind became distorted as I pieced her words together.

I asserted, “Yes, I did write but not to end our work together. I want to define where you and I begin and end. It’s about boundaries. Your stuff is coming up in my sessions. I can listen to you outside of my sessions.”

I was clinging for hope, a spark, the connection and friendship I thought we had.

I could taste betrayal.

In my mind, I scanned the introduction to my letter sent a week ago. I questioned if she really read it. If she noticed how carefully I put it together with humility and above all vulnerability. I wondered if she understand what I truly meant. I sincerely cared for her and would listen to her issues outside of my session. As delicately as I could, I wrote I can no longer balance your stuff while my own are brimming to the surface during my session.

In a nanosecond, my final analysis had been assimilated: she didn’t comprehend how difficult it was to write a letter about professional boundaries. She was considered the professional in this situation and I touched a raw, dangling nerve.

Our footsteps quickened over the unsteady bricks. There were pieces of me trailing behind like breadcrumbs.

Maybe the birds will gather them and bring them to me as soon as this dreamlike-nightmare ends.

Yet my heart spoke louder, I knew this conversation wasn’t getting better but worse. This was a battle of hurt and embarrassment. The semi-professional had crossed the line into a dark void. Her black cape swarmed and buzzed in my ears like cicadas.

Between two parked cars the berating conversation continued. I retreated further and further away from the scene. I disassociated into the tread on my tire. I kept most of the tears at the tip of an already full glass. Surface tension allowed for some spillage.

I don’t remember at least 98% of what she said, except it was mixed with poisonous darts and an occasional positive phrases: this is good….we need a break….you’ll be fine but the tone was confusingly suffused with anger and tainted with flames as her words hit my watery existence.

Minutes were suspended and then it was over as she purposefully walked away muttering something about tending to horse shit.

I vaguely remember getting into my car believing my foundation had been removed. I cried for the decades of no boundaries. I cried for subjecting myself to this sort of abuse. I cried because I trusted someone so full of potential and yet so damaging, calculating and readily able to dismiss me like refuse.

I was sabotaged.

In this therapeutic relationship, the boundaries began as a stable rock. The sun, wind, rain and storms eroded the rock. Her stuff, innocuous at first, seeped into our sessions. Her stories and thoughts took a little longer to share. Gently, I mentioned my concerns. Are you okay? Take care. Get some rest. You are dissolving from this space in time. My words were vaguely acknowledged.

In the past, a no-show session was conveniently attributed to Mercury retrograded and miscommunication—a phrase I later learned she abhorrently didn’t like others to use. Another time, my session was double booked: It was meant to be this way. Don’t take it personally. Come back in an hour or two.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t drive home if I wanted to I was breathing through a panic attack. She wasn’t trained to deal with this but pretended to be a therapist. (The unethical implications are a separate article to pursue.)

In our time together, we navigated a delicate dance and her steps were far more precise than mine. She lived in the shadows and knew how to dodge most bullets. Her expertise in most areas were focused and refined…yet she would come out occasionally a confused, hurt and angry child. It baffled me and brought out my empathy.

In hindsight, it was a mirror of me.

I symbolically took a pebble from the parking lot as a reminder this is where it began a year ago and where it ended.

That’s how I felt a few weeks ago—but now I see it as new opportunities because more doors are being opened to the next chapters ahead. I understand I have the tools to continue my yoga practice and meditation. I’m seeking help using several modalities of professional healing. Each person specifically trained to do what they say—I’m not relying on one person to be everything.

My story continues. My old patterns are changing. I’m no longer the person I was but I am finding who I am. My boundaries are becoming clear. I am compassionate, empathetic, caring, and loving.

I do know where I begin and end.

I will not be mistreated or abused. I will listen to my intuition. It’s my choice this time to walk away.

Do no harm but take no shit!

I’m letting go of giving and caring for anyone who can’t be cared for and it’s okay. It’s more than okay. I am done protecting, promoting, rationalizing, defending and coaxing a person who is masquerading as powerful but is a bully in disguise—the trajectory was set in motion from the time we had met.

There are lessons to be learned from all who cross our path.

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”

~ C. JoyBell C.

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

Source: Uploaded by user via Helga on Pinterest

 

About Carolyn Riker

Carolyn is an elementary teacher, a former mental health counselor, writer and a poet who finds comfort and balance in her kids, nature, music and her sweet cat Copper. She can be seen sipping soy lattes, nibbling on dark chocolate or savoring a full-bodied red wine. Introspective, forthright, kind and compassionate, she intertwines life with yoga, meditating and studying Vedic Astrology. She also writes for Journey of the Heart and Rebelle Society. Carolyn can be reached at Facebook.

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7 Responses to “Professional Boundaries Tainted: Where do I Begin & End?”

  1. Freya Watson says:

    Really interesting, Carolyn. Thank you for posting this. It is a subject that I've been exploring myself. I'm not sure we can ever really set boundaries with others, even in a therapeutic situation. I think, as a therapist, I always have to be as aware as I can of my own 'stuff' and understand when I may be seeing it reflected in front of me. But my background is as shamanic therapist so my underlying framework is that we are all connected and that boundaries are artificial structures that we put in place to negotiate life and situations – and, sometimes, to hide behind. This is such a deep subject, woven into other issues such as integrity and intention. I'd love to pick it up and write some more on it, if I can find the words. And I'd love to hear you write more about it too!

    • Carolyn Riker says:

      Hi Freya, thanks for your perspective. I do appreciate it and it's got me thinking even more! I believe in a therapeutic setting the professional needs to maintain a safe environment for the client. If the exchange of personal information is used to pullout, highlight, reflect what is transpiring in the client and therefore turned back over to the client that reframing is ideal and powerful. In my article this was not always the situation it was about oversharing. I was the paying client. There is also the issue of integrity and intention. What I was trying to write was this was a year long process and a dismissal (betrayal) in a parking lot was far from ideal. It felt abusive. There was an issue of power and control and blame by turning the oversharing into my issue. I am not to blame. The friendship that I thought we had was not really a friendship therefore it wasn't an issue to her to dismiss our year's worth of work together. I have more to say. This was my first article on it. I would love to read what you have to say about being a Shaman Therapist. That would be very interesting indeed!

  2. edieyoga says:

    Lovely….I have to comment on above….I don't think boudaries are artificial, unless we say all life is Maya….boundaries are real, like banks to a river, and serve a purpose…whether as patient or healier, parent or child, teacher or student…
    I believe we are all more alike than different. But I believe recognizing difference is important….we can be connected and still have boundaries….
    Great Job Carolyn.

    • Carolyn Riker says:

      Thanks Edie…love the image of rivers have boundaries. Perfect example that even nature reflects the need for boundaries. xxoo.

  3. Tracy says:

    For what it's worth, I think that you did the right thing by liberating yourself. We can only give our best with an open heart, protect ourselves when it's called for…and people will take it how they will. Wishing you love during your healing.

    • Carolyn Riker says:

      I so agree with you Tracy! I also believe now that I'm on this side of the 'viewing' I see a multitude of patterns that needed to be changed in me. The universe provides exactly what we need at the right time. It's all good. It's all surreal. Some day I'll look back on this and will laugh at how much I needed it to happen. Thanks again for your feedback!

  4. When we step into the role of nurturing and care-giving, and guidance, we must work from a place of impeccable integrity. Whether we are working as therapists, spiritual guides, yoga teachers, etc, we must be very careful to separate our own work from our students'/client's work. Yes, there are times when we move from teacher to friend and back again, but always, the provider should remain clear about their own role. If any of us as providers are unclear about what role we are inhabiting, then we should step down and take a look at our work.
    The situation you describe here is one manifesting a deep transgression on the part of the practitioner. It seems as if you are on the road to recovery, but I am so terribly sorry that anyone in our profession has inflicted this pain upon you, and on behalf of our community of healers, I offer my deepest apologies.

    Shalom & Namaste

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