Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Setting boundaries is not how you stop others from acting hurtful toward you. That’s because you cannot control someone else’s choices.
Setting boundaries is taking charge of yourself! You get to decide what you will put up with and how you will respond. You have options.
Let’s use a few possible scenarios:
–An acquaintance is negative and critical of your decisions. From what you wear to your career choice, this “friend” seems to always have an opinion. You don’t like it, but assume the role of sacrificial lamb.
–You are in a demanding career. People call you during off-hours and expect immediate responses. Energy and compassion have drained from you, but so far only you are aware of it.
–Your spouse seems to look for opportunities to humiliate you in front of your friends. You carry the weight of shame and begin to believe you deserve it.
–Your child is a smart mouth and doesn’t listen to your instructions. You tire of the arguing, and so leave him alone.
Experiences like these happen every day. If you feel trapped in an impossible situation, boundaries will help! Here’s how to make the kinds of decisions that set you free regardless of how anyone else behaves.
- What do you want? If you want someone else to change, this goal will not be met. I am asking you to decide what you want in life, from relationships, and for yourself.
- Think about what you must have to know joy. For me, it is creativity. When I let art, writing, or creative processing go untapped for a few weeks I feel old and more stressed. What do you need to be happy?
- Write out your values. What is important to you? What kind of person do you want to be?
- List specific goals and priorities that will support your answers to the above questions. Make certain self-care, including the nurture of your mind, body, and soul, is at the top of your list. Without self-care, nothing else will produce best results.
Now you have a clearer picture of who you are and what has to happen for your dreams to come true. You are in a position to draw healthy boundaries.
MAKE QUALITY DECISIONS
I once had a friend like the one described in the first example. In the few years we spent time together, I learned much about my incapabilities, bad taste, and lack of wisdom. Unfortunately, initially I accepted the criticism and premise that I needed this person to “fix” me. Later, after requesting a certain behavior stop and being blatantly ignored, I had to address the question, is this the relationship I want? It was up to me to decide what was most important – protecting my mental health or retaining the damaging friendship.
Sometimes a situation is more complicated, and it is not simple to walk away. Still, you have power. Abusive spouses, disrespectful teenagers, and demanding clientele do not own your decisions. Are you who you want to be in this relationship? Are you living up to your values and able to know joy?
In a case of belligerence from a son or daughter, is it the arguing you hate? Then do not engage in it. Allow firm consequences be the “words” you wish to express. If your spouse is abusive, what is keeping you in the marriage? You have options – start asking for help. People asking too much of you? Set time constraints with those who would take advantage of your flexibility. Turn off the phone, screen your calls, let people know you are off-duty.
The strength you will need to stick to your boundaries comes from your answers to questions 1-4. You are responsible for finding ways to get your needs met; it is not anyone else’s job. It is not selfish to say no because you are not able to supplant the responsibility of other people toward themselves. Can your spirit be broken by a toxic relationship? Only if you buy the negative message and stick around for more.
You are in charge.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.