February 19, 2024

8 Ways Therapy helped me Conquer Setting Boundaries.

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I had never gone to therapy nor thought about it—until recently.

I have always kept my issues close to me, occasionally reaching out to a close friend. But there were two problems I had been dealing with for too long and I needed help.

Around two years ago, I decided to go public and wrote about them. Writing helped since kind folks would respond that they too had the same issues. Camaraderie aside though, I was not healing—yet.

It was time for professional help, and I found it online. I signed up, put in my requests, and within 48 hours had the name of a therapist. Although I only met with her three times, she was amazing.

I journal and have since my first white leather diary with gold-rimmed pages and a brass clasp and key at age eight. The journaling helped but it was, for me, the plethora of one-hour group live webinars that brought the magic.

I mentioned my two issues but decided to tackle the first one—helping me set boundaries, which has taken hours of sessions. Through therapy, I found myself understanding why I had refrained in the past. I took the first step years ago, geographical distance, and it helped then and still does. But I had a lot more to learn.

Below are a few of the tips I learned in therapy on setting boundaries:

(This discourse is not for boundary issues in violent or abusive relationships. For that, seek help, call 911, and remove yourself from the situation.)

  1. Move or create geographical distance.
  2. Create emotional distance.
  3. Say no.
  4. State that you are no longer interested in maintaining a relationship (even with family).
  5. Affirm that you will not be talked to in that manner.
  6. Say you have changed your mind.
  7. Do not react.
  8. Remove those who cross your boundaries from your phone and social media.

These are only a handful of ideas. First comes self-awareness—understanding that you have allowed yourself to be treated with manipulation or anger. Take a serious look at your own behavior: do you feel guilty if you do not always say yes? Do you rearrange your plans to accommodate others? Do you feel the need to people please?

Looking back at my past, I see I went from a strong girl and teenager to “boundaries absent” partway through my 20s. A series of abusive experiences left me an insecure woman who let myself be manipulated and treated poorly. Why? I do not know. I was strong in my professional life and close to my family.

When I turned 30, there was a shift in my mental outlook—a complete 180. I joined a fitness center, started strength training four days a week, and doing cardio to add to my daily outdoor walking. I showered, sat in the sauna, and ate a light dinner in the gym’s bistro. I left my hair grow to shoulder length and since it had turned dark blonde, I got it permed. It was as though I created a new me—except I hadn’t.

Instead, I found the old me, the good human with Finnish sisu, tenacity with purpose.

Then one day, it happened, like a brick to the side of my head. Someone in my life turned into a condensing, angry being. The behavior seemed to come out of nowhere, but obviously, it had not. It was not my place to find the reason for their change. After a year, I moved (far) out of state, and the geographical distance helped.

Since then, journalling has been my go-to. Now I journal and draw how I feel, and sometimes I do so with my non-dominant hand, which helps create new neural pathways. Using different colored pens adds humor and sometimes insight to discovering my root causes.

Establishing proper boundaries has allowed me to cherish my sense of maitri—being my own best friend and knowing when to walk away. And it keeps me on my toes to respect the boundaries of friends, family, or strangers. Adding a cat, dog, or both to your home can also bring comfort, kindness, and love. And they are great, nonjudgemental listeners.

Life is too short to be burdened trying to live for others—take control and live your own life. Seek help and move on, knowing that it’s okay to let go of certain people in your life.

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