If we grew up in a family or a society (such as this current overculture – industrial civilization and most of its ancestors) that does not have and/or does not accept, acknowledge and respect healthy boundaries then we have no models for what they are, how they work, or how we manage boundaries for ourselves or with others. Although we can feel the consequences, typically boundaries are invisible to us and those around us. As a side note, if we grew up in an abusive family then we are certain to have all kinds of trouble with boundaries. It can take years of inner work to repair that childhood damage.
This issue – boundary failure – is the dividing line between taker-societies driven by domination and power-over versus giver-societies living from consent and respect. First thing to know: if we have trouble with boundaries it’s not our fault. AND: as adults we are responsible for figuring out what boundaries are, how they work and what we need to do to function well. No one else can do this work for us.
Healthy boundaries work in several directions: First, they keep you from taking onto yourself that which does not belong to you – other people’s crap, their judgments and criticisms, their values and beliefs, their agenda for you, the troubles and problems that are rightfully theirs and so on.
Second, healthy boundaries keep you from surrendering to others that which does rightfully belong to you – your power, your autonomy, your own choices, your agenda for yourself, your integrity, your ability to walk your own path and learn your own lessons and etc.
There is a third piece around boundaries – and that is that healthy boundaries allow IN those things others wish to give us that we DO deserve – love, affection, the gifts of generosity and kindness and etc. Healthy boundaries support and encourage these kinds of reciprocal bonding exchanges that allow us to receive and accept what others want to give to us because they love us and wish us well.
Remember also that anger has a significant evolutionary role that has contributed to our survival as individuals and as a species. Anger lets us know when our boundaries are being violated in some way and it helps to keep us safe. There absolutely are times when the full expression of anger really is totally necessary, appropriate and effective. The trick is knowing which is which and then coming from choice and intention in expressing the right emotion to the right person to the right degree at the right time. Women especially get disconnected from their rightful and righteous appropriate anger by the varied oppressions of the overculture.
These emotional intelligence skills are deeply rooted in our biology, as we only have ancestors who could quickly read motive and intention and differentiate between friend and enemy. Those who could not do this well simply did not survive.
There is another source of anger that can be quite difficult, and that is managing our expectations of how we think our life should be turning out. When we believe that someone or something is in the way of what we need or what we want we then argue with reality – we say, “It shouldn’t be like this!” or the reverse, “It should be different!” In either case, I am reminded of the old saying, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” And of course as the brilliant Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.” We only suffer when we believe our thoughts and argue with what is.
If we have not fully integrated our anger then it manifests as aggression. Once we do that inner work on emotional integration, then the emotional energy of anger becomes assertion, and assertion one of the primary gateways through which we create, have and hold healthy boundaries.
Usually, people who have not done that inner work themselves cannot distinguish between assertion and aggression in others, so they tend to see what they themselves hold. So if you are being assertive, they can misinterpret your strength as aggression and will often try to gaslight you into doubting yourself, either your perceptions or your actions.
Boundaries can be very difficult until our emotional body awakens and our attention and consciousness is fully present in the now. Only then do we begin to see the connections – the inner links between cause and effect – and our behavior, our choices, our decision-making and problem-solving become both accurate and wise.