Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 8, 2010

Border Crossings and Other Boundary Issues

      I have been reading Boundary Issues by Dr, Jane Adams and am finding out a lot about my boundaries–good and bad.

      It’s wonderful to know that I have found a mostly healthy balance in my closest relationship with my husband. I am finding, however, that my boundaries with my parents are nearly completely permeable, to the point I am relationship-averse with them. With my siblings, I have very impermeable boundaries–they really aren’t part of my life. I am not sure if it’s fallout from walking away and learning to live without them. Sometimes I move toward a closer relationship; more often it’s “out of sight, out of mind” with them. The worst of it has to do with acquaintances and the people in the world I potentially would get to know if I wasn’t so anxious about betrayal and rejection.
      A lifetime of betrayal and rejection, founded in the relationship with my parents, really has taken its toll. However, just because a house is on a faulty foundation doesn’t mean it can’t be re-poured to stabilize what is there. This is difficult work, to repair the foundation under a home. It’s expensive, labor-intensive, and it won’t be as good as if the foundation had been poured correctly the first time. However, to lament something already done (the initial creation of a faulty foundation) will not repair the original foundation. It is what it is, and I can either choose to whine about it and live in a tilting home which is getting worse as time passes, or I can simply accept it and choose an improvement. Or I can raze the house and start over. Well, I actually can’t raze my life and start over, since that’s not how life works. I have this one life, like I have this one house. Therefore, I am keeping the house (my life) and re-pouring the foundation. I will accept that what will come is not the same, but it will make my life more balanced. Part of that initial foundation will always be there in my mind. There will be a lot of residual repairs for the rest of my life. But I won’t have to spend the rest of my existence waiting for the day that my life is deemed uninhabitable.
      Well, on to social boundaries in the real world. It turns out I am too permeable, too open. Instead of going low-permeability, I actually seem to put up defensive battlements, an active means (reactive, perhaps?) of defending myself from being hurt. This means the safe people cannot get in, but those sappers certainly can. My walls can still easily be brought down, and that bothers me. I am the relationship, and that bothers me, too, to be out in the world so unprotected. Instead of finding the balance of having a table between me and another person, I do the interpersonal equivalent of sitting in the other person’s lap and acting as if I am not noticing or caring that I am crossing their boundaries. I acknowledged recently that I am currently an unsafe person, and I am finally aware precisely how I am an unsafe person.
      Now comes the work. Using what I’ve learned and practiced in the 12 Step program, I am initially using my awareness to spot where I am breaking boundaries. This is good, to me, because instead of being external, this is internal. Anything internal means I can work on it, make real changes to it on my own. It’s a relief to know that I am not a lost cause, relying on external opinion and influence to make those changes. This is my Higher Power’s and my own work to do in concert. This, as I said, is good.
      A second part of what I call awareness is what Dr. Adams calls insight. When I work awareness, I take the initial recognition of boundary breaking and extrapolate what I am doing to cause harm–in other words, to be an unsafe person. My intrigue addiction causes much of this as I process my emotions and logical understanding of my lack of control when it comes to “acting out” impulsive behaviors and “acting in” fantasies. Reaction, reaction, reaction. I am reacting to things that may or may not be real in order to achieve a sense of interpersonal connection through feelings which manifest as manic obsession, not patient love.
      In other words, my manic obsessions are a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem; patient love is an emotionally and logially intelligent action taken to make changes with the understanding the relationship or potential relationship may not survive those changes. I think perhaps a relationship that does not survive those changes is probably an unsafe one. After all, if someone would rather have me manically obsessed and subserviently all-tolerant (in order to curry favor) than patiently loving and truly forgiving yet able to point out where theirs and my personal boundaries were crossed (in order to create a healthy intimacy), then I accept that I must acknowledge that it’s not in the best interest of my sanity and serenity to maintain a relationship with that person.
      Dr. Adams goes on to discuss intention, which I will go ahead and consider as belief (and surrender to my Higher Power in this instance). If I can believe that most people can be safe, and if I can believe that being disliked by people who do not share my opinions (instead of pretending to change my opinions to suit them) is not the end of the world, and if I can believe that I can make real and healthy changes in myself, then I can change my intent. This is going to be the hard work of SLAA, surrendering the intrigue-induced mania and its correlative overreaction of social isolation and emotional defense-building to my Higher Power. Instead of being a fortress on the plains, constantly exhausted by war and defense, I want to be more like the monastic fortress of Mont Saint Michel. Nature defends that fortress, as my Higher Power defends me. It can afford to be a welcoming place because no offensive army can encamp outside its walls and not be obliterated by the incoming tide. It honestly does not have much of value for armies, save for a place of meditative separation at the end of the world. In essence, the fact that nature often divides it from the rest of the world makes it highly defensible and not terribly desirable. It is an island, not a capitol or the hub of a trade route. It controls nothing but the rock outcropping upon which it sits. And the cost to take it isn’t really worth the prize of ownership. So, in essence, having it a monastery is actually good because invaders don’t see it as a desirable place to overtake. March on to Carcassonne, people, where a good fight will gain an advantageous position on a trade route, already.
      The final step is the action step (for me, choice)–the choice to use the inner change to create an outer action. With knowledge in hand, I have the choice to live in the addiction or practice a new way of living. Of course it will be imperfect, because I have decades of coping mechanisms which have bulked up my character defects and weakened their related assets. But with conscious practice (and forgiveness to myself when I blunder), those assets can become stronger until the base character attributes which spawn the defects and the assets can be placed in powerful balance.
      So, it’s down to awareness (Have I overstepped my boundaries or someone else’s? Has someone stepped on mine? What, precisely, happened? Can I change it? Do I want to change it?), belief (I can change this if I want to), and choice (Do I want the easy high or do I want to do the real work toward serenity?).
      Now what I get to do is actually be willing to open myself enough to start observing instead of keeping my aggressive defenses up all of the time. While in a state of permanent counterattack, I am left exhausted. That said, leaving the gates open and unguarded is equally ill-considered. It’s a fantasy delirium to think that if I am able to be rolled over, no one will get harmed. An oppressor is an oppressor, period. While I know those counterattack defenses will pop up seemingly from nowhere a lot when I start this process of observation, just the act of being observant will start inroads into real change.
      I’m thinking about that dark self, embracing the understanding that I have needs and wants just like anyone else. I’ve spent so much time twisting myself into what others want that I am tired and honestly pissed off. What’s ironic is that I am pissed off at them, not me. They made me do it! I accuse. They did this to me! I lament. Yet when I have taken time to consider it, I realize that it is me who did it. No one ever twisted my arm, no one imprisoned me until I changed my opinion, no one even attempted to break my will. From the beginning of my first memories, I sought an unachievable dream–to be loved by everyone. Of course I would be disappointed. And as I held to that dream instead of learning the lesson that it is impossible, I learned to mentally shape-change to dishonestly gain favor (and confuse myself in the process).
      Currently, I don’t know many of my likes and dislikes. I don’t have a dream or a goal job or even a direction in my life. That’s pretty hard to admit. I feel like a ghost walking through the world sometimes. I can be malevolent (Do you think I don’t know that going manically obsessive scares people? It scares me when others do it.) and I can be simply a shadow among other shadows (I am entirely aware that my social anorexia is based in irrational fear of being rejected, betrayed, and sometimes even loved–which takes a lot more work than I often want to invest because becoming a relationship–as opposed to being in a relationship–is exhausting). The most important thing about being a ghost walking through the world is that I am permeable and impotent. I am dismissible, and I can hide more readily.
      But I’m not a ghost, and I know it. In fact, I consider that I do have meaningful qualities that would benefit from a healthy approach to interpersonal relationships. I enjoy being generous, despite the worry I will become gullible and subservient to make others happy. I like seeing the beauty in the world, despite the worry that what I find beautiful will be criticized by others as being immature or simply stupid. I enjoy seeking knowledge, despite the fear that people will find me unattractive for being “too smart” (that’s a classic one that I have heard from so many women . . . and one that I have used as a means to put a boundary up: “I am better because I am smarter, so your opinion is crap and mine is reasonable.”). I like conversations, despite my fear of treating a person I barely know like a therapist–opening the flood gates and overwhelming them with far too much information I will regret blurting out later on. I like being empathetic, despite the fear of being sucked into the person’s emotional tempest and experiencing it, myself. I like a great many things about me, despite the fear that I will lose myself in others when I engage those social aspects.
      I guess that’s the real secret I have kept from myself all along, making myself busy with everything but finding out where I’ve hidden myself away to. And right now, even thinking this is triggering a full retreat. I am wanting to isolate, to prepare defenses for an onslaught that honestly is not coming. Having a wall between me and myself is the worst part of it. If I know me, then I know all of me–good and bad. And if I see the bad, I cannot ever be perfect. And if I cannot ever be perfect, what’s the point, right?
      The point is to embrace the imperfect human being that is me. To embrace the joy gained from the heights I can achieve and to embrace the knowledge gained from the depths I can fail. There is nothing in this world that cannot be turned into a victory if seen from the correct angle. Every failure is a lesson which leads to a choice. Every success is a lesson which leads to a choice. Every moment of inspiration or apathy, every dark night of the soul or path of enlightenment, everything I am and do brings me closer to meaning and purpose.
      It isn’t the ocean’s surface that makes it so amazing, but its unseen depths. It isn’t the bright blue sky that makes it so amazing, but the infinite Universe behind it. Life is an opportunity, a series of experiences which can broaden human existence beyond the brain and body.
      Besides, most people are like me and rarely see past their noses and beyond their own wants and needs. Most people seem to be locked in their internal infinite space, not crossing the boundaries of their own body because it’s comfortable there. I have a choice every day: Do I live within my comfort zone and repeat every behavior I have known, accepting that it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t? Or do I challenge myself and try on new behaviors and new ways of thinking, giving myself permission to discard things *I* do not like instead of stopping myself because I worry that others don’t like it?
      I heard somewhere once that the best wines are made from grapes that have to struggle. Grapes that have good soil and pristine weather make middling wine, where the grapes that have to fight to get nutrients from harsh soil and weather the elements make superior wine. Whether or not that’s true about grapes, I have a strong feeling it’s true about at least this soul.
      My name is Jess, and I am an addict of food, intrigue, isolation, cigarettes, and avoidance. Though I did get an Eighth Step letter done, one that brought tears to my eyes but did not get them rolling down my face. Working on that letter allowed me to work a deeper Step Four Inventory for SLAA. For this, I have a plan of action–I am working Step Eight for OA, letting it expand my SLAA Step Four (since the food addiction seems to really be a symptom of what appears to be a love addiction, anorexic). When I have done the letters and expanded my Step Four, I will find a person to do Step Five with, then re-enter my OA Steps Six and Seven with a mind toward the SLAA stuff.
      In other words, I plan to work Step Nine of both programs at the same time, considering that most of my OA stuff seems to be rooted in the SLAA issues. The eating’s source, as I learned in my OA Step Four, is the emotional turmoil. For some reason, I avoided stealing food (and money for food) from people I didn’t know. Weird morality, but I suppose deep in my mind I had a concept that if they did not hurt me, why hurt them? The people who I felt the most betrayed by got the brunt of my addictive acting out.
      Ugh, I wish there was a logotherapist in my area. I could really use a professional who’s less interested in medicating me into apathy (been there, done that, bought the 12-Step Literature) and more interested in actively listening as I excavate my history until I find the treasure I seek: That little girl who had hopes and dreams and goals and the drive to achieve them. I did, once. I remember having goals. I just don’t remember what they were–probably because someone I gave complete authority over me told me they were stupid or foolish or unrealistic.
      I actually feel bad for the kid I used to be. That really sucks to know that a child went through that. I can rationalize to myself that at least I was spared really awful abuses (ones my friends were not spared from, ones my naive mind could not accept even into my late teens for the simple horror of that kind of monstrous inhumanity). But no kid should have had her dreams crushed to the point she stopped existing as an independent and often happy human being. That is really sad, especially since I’m realizing that I’m not angry any more at T.A. for Tots for teaching me that being nice is good and being mean is bad. It resonated with my soul, that desire to love. While it set up unrealistic expectations that people in the world would also want to enjoy the benefits of being loving and kind and not greedy scrabbling douchebags (yeah, me included once I was finally exhausted by the self-admonishment that I wasn’t being nice enough to change others’ bad attitudes with my good one), the basic lesson I took was that I personally find peace when I contribute to the well-being of others.
      The difference is that I am not going to blame myself if my warm fuzzies aren’t the salvation from others’ cold pricklies. In fact, I’m not going to worry if my warm fuzzies even get through. My purpose is to live the life I have left, and I want to live it as a generous, giving, loving, patient, and forgiving person. And at the top of the list really does need to be me, because if I can’t honestly do that for myself, how can I go out and do that with complete honesty for others?

      The hardest part is overcoming that broken thinking that being generous, giving, loving, patient, and forgiving to myself first is egotistical and evil. That others have to come first in all cases. That loving myself first is a fallacy, because I need others to love me to validate me–since loving myself is egotistical and evil and vain and shallow and . . . and . . . and . . .
      And get off the cross, Jess. Someone needs the wood.

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