Monday, April 20, 2009

Personal Boundaries....

When we grow up in families of trauma, we may lack the opportunity to develop healthy personal boundaries. (A personal boundary is an imaginary line of demarkation between me and not me.). When our boundaries are poorly differentiated, we run the risk of overextending ourselves in our helping roles.

As James Miller expresses so clearly in The Caregiver's Book -

To be close, you must establish boundaries.

When the needs of someone you care for are great, 
or when you have become part of the other's life in so many ways,
you may desire to draw as close as possible.

You may be inclined to keep that person always at the forefront of your thoughts.

You may try to keep yourself always within easy reach of their grasp.

You may find yourself almost merging with the other person,
so whatever happens to them happens to you.
Whatever they feel, you feel.

Whatever upsets them, upsets you.

Whatever their pain, you take it on as your own.

Identifying so completely with another
is an ideal some caregivers have sought
But it is less than ideal.

We all need healthy personal boundaries.  We need to be able to maintain a separate self with our own experiences, limits, sense of privacy, supportive relationships, and times of reprieve and refreshment.  When we create a separate space for ourselves, we allow the people we care for to have their own space as well.  As Miller says, -

They need it as much as you - perhaps even more. For they may not have the 
strength or clarity to create that space on their own.

And as Rainer Maria Rilke has said, -

Love consists in this:  That two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.

Are there ways that you can create your own space today? Define your own limits? Take some time out? Nurture supportive relationships? It will make a healthy difference to you and to all those for whom you care.


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