Setting boundaries – “Relationships are one of the trickiest aspects of being human” as quoted by Counsellor Simone da Costa in our morning community meeting this week here at New Life Portugal…and yet we all need them. As humans we are naturally social beings, even if we tend to be more introverted, most of us can’t avoid having some kind of human interactions in daily life.
We hear sweeping statements like “relationships are the most important thing in life” or “relationships are the key to happiness”. Being of such high value and importance to us, it’s no wonder then that they are one of our biggest sources of stress and suffering.
From our most intimate relationships with our partners, family, friends, colleagues, to the more fleeting interactions with a customer service assistant on the phone, so often our experiences with others can somehow leave us feeling frustrated, unsatisfied, and even seriously stressed and depressed. So how can we demystify the art of successful relationships?
Here at New Life Portugal, our programme is tailored each week to focus on a particular theme, and the qualities of mindfulness that can contribute to improving the quality of your life in that area. It goes without saying that one of our regular themes, is that of Relationships and Boundaries.
So why do we pair the topic of relationships together with boundaries?
A great starting point to navigate the mangled highways of our many human interactions, is to have a good ‘Relationship GPS’, and that’s where boundaries come in, they are one of the most useful tools at our disposal to develop a much better relationship with relationships. By bringing awareness and intention to your boundaries, you step into the driving seat and start to direct your life experience towards what it is you really want.
Here are some different types of boundaries you could think about setting, and how they might be useful.
We cannot always control the circumstances in our lives, or the behavior of others. What we do have autonomy over however, is how we act and respond, both externally and internally. When we bring our awareness to the thoughts and feelings we want to have, it helps us to pinpoint where our inner boundaries are. For example:
Practice: Write a list of qualities you want to experience in your inner world to use as your inner GPS. It can be anything that feels important to you, something you want to experience or feel.
Having these positive inner boundaries, means you can encounter any situation, already knowing the direction you want to go. They help you to navigate from veering off into unwanted thoughts and feelings, back into your own lane.
Try it out, any time you notice you have gone off course and are feeling something uncomfortable, bring your attention back to your inner boundaries and notice how they bring you back into alignment.
Sometimes knowing your inner boundaries, can also help to define your external boundaries. These can be anything from choosing how much time to spend with someone, or on a particular activity, to identifying behaviours in relationships that you will or will not accept.
Practice: List of 5 external boundaries you could set right now, to help bring you back into alignment with your inner sat nav.
Here’s some examples:
There are many possibilities of external boundaries that might feel good for you. That’s just it, notice how good it actually feels good to set them! There is relief and freedom in knowing and defining what you do and do not want.
When we identify and articulate our boundaries, not only are we saying a loving yes to ourselves, but we are also clearly letting others know how they can relate to us, and where our yes is! ….It’s unlikely anyone is going to complain about crumpled bed sheets when they get to do fun things with you instead. It’s more likely that they will feel happy you set that boundary for yourself, and them.
Notice how this enquiry into your own boundaries makes you more curious about getting to know what boundaries other people in your life may have, and how understanding them, might make relating with them much less of a mystery!
Practice the art of saying ‘No’
So by now you understand that the value of saying ‘no’ is that on the flip side, is always a loving yes and an invitation to something else we value. However, saying no can bring up all sorts of uncomfortable feelings like, guilt or fear, which makes it really tricky to do, so here’s some tips for mastering the art of saying no.
Practice: Prepare for one of the ‘No’ conversations you would like to have using these tips. Notice how you already feel more relaxed and confident in yourself.
Join us on Boundaries and Relationships week at New Life Portugal to like to experience putting healthy boundary setting into practice.
Liz Slingsby, Programme Manager New Life Portugal.