Join counselors Melanie Vann and Melissa Richards with host Kristin Sunanta Walker as they talk about boundaries. An important word on the journey towards self-care. As usual we offer personal examples of where we’ve traveled on the road to healthy boundaries with clinical and spiritual talk mixed in!
Empowered Empaths: What the Heck is a Healthy Boundary? Download the transcript HealthyBoundaryShow.
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KRISTIN: Welcome to Mental Health News Radio, your source for information about mental health providers and the work they do in the world, the organizations that support their work, volunteers, and mental health consumers. This show is brought to you by ZenCharts.com, the intelligent EHR for addiction treatment providers; and also EverythingEHR, devoted to helping organizations find the best electronic health records software in behavioral health. Thank you for joining us.
KRISTIN: Hi everyone. This is Kristin Sunanta-Walker, host of Mental Health News Radio, and I’m here with Melanie Vann, our program director and my often co-host. Melanie, thanks for coming on again.
MELANIE: Thank you, Kristin. I am excited about tonight’s topic.
KRISTIN: Yeah, Counselor Melissa Richards is going to be joining us in a little bit, but we’re going to get started because we’ve been getting a lot of emails about what are healthy boundaries and what are unhealthy boundaries. Melanie, you and I can talk a lot about that.
MELANIE: We could! The interesting and ironic thing is, when you have the tendency to be a little co-dependent…
KRISTIN: Just a little…
MELANIE: …just a smidge – you have a really hard time understanding what boundaries are because you are such of a giver and you give so much of yourself, and you feel like you’re doing this out of this humanistic place in your heart. So this whole concept of boundaries just feels so very uncomfortable. It feels foreign. It feels like you’re naked or selfish. In reality, it’s a normal part of everyday life. I think there are so many people that as children did not have healthy boundaries and families, or the boundaries were too strict. Boundaries can be very messed up. Frankly, in my opinion, the core of every healthy relationship, whether it is a parental relationship, a sibling relationship, a romantic relationship or a friendship, is boundaries. If you don’t have healthy boundaries there you’re not going to have a healthy relationship. That’s just my opinion.
KRISTIN: Yeah, I’m right there with you. We don’t really learn what healthy looks like when we’re raised in all kinds of drama and trauma. I sure didn’t know what a health boundary looked like until I was about 44 years old. That’s not too long ago. If you self-examine at all, you will ask yourself, “Was that relationship okay when no matter how many times or ways I said ‘no’ this person just wasn’t hearing me until I had to scream it or be really hurtful so they heard me? Yet, why am I ignoring these really nice people that wouldn’t even think of behaving that way?” We run to the familiar.
MELANIE: Yes, I agree with that. Before I forget about it, and this immediately came to my mind when you told me what we were going to talk about today, I must mention Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, who are the masters at talking about boundaries. They’ve written a top-selling book; and it really helped a lot of people understand what boundaries were and how to teach boundaries in therapy, because these were two clinicians who wrote the book. This book was even talked about in my graduate career. In thinking about boundaries, I want to talk about how it plays out in your everyday life so you have a hands-on way of understanding what a boundary is rather than a Googled definition. Say you’re in a relationship. In this relationship you have problems saying no; you don’t feel like you can express your feelings; you say yes every time someone asks of your time, or you make fear based choices. If those things are happening in your relationship or if you are doing things to please others all the time then you have issues with your boundaries. If these things are continuing to show up in your relationship and you are having these internal thoughts, or if you don’t feel like you have freedom in a relationship, then really it’s about boundaries. That’s the best way I can describe it to our listeners. Those are the types of things you will hear yourself saying when you aren’t setting appropriate boundaries. The best way to set an appropriate boundary is just to open your mouth. You have to talk about these things. Let me tell you, if you open your mouth to talk about boundaries and they aren’t respected that should tell you a lot about where your relationship is. I think it’s hard for people to understand and have healthy boundaries. You need to have time apart if you are in a romantic relationship. You need to be able to take time for yourself in the relationship. Sex doesn’t need to be a type of currency in the relationship. Do you know each other’s passwords on social media? What are your rules and thoughts about photos and sexting and things like that? Those are all things that revolve around boundaries and your relationships. Obviously, if your boundaries were continuously crossed in your family, or if you were a victim of some type of abuse, you have no idea what boundaries are. Oftentimes when you’ve had a problem with people crossing your boundaries, then later in life when people don’t cross your boundaries, it almost feels like they are standoffish or they don’t have anything to offer you. Do you agree with that? I think that’s the case sometimes.
KRISTIN: Yes, absolutely! This is about where I’m at right now. I have really wonderful, amazing friendships in my life. Always, when you meet someone new, you have to establish boundaries with that person wherever they are at and you are at. That’s always an interesting thing, especially for someone highly empathic. Sometimes we bleed into them or they bleed into us. But what’s been interesting for me is I have several people, including the two of you, Melanie and Melissa, and some male friends, who do not need me to rescue you. You have your moments when you call and we talk; but you don’t need me to over give because you have healthy boundaries or are always working on your boundaries. With women, I’ve learned how to be okay with that; and with men I’m still kind of working on it. I have some male friends who really don’t need that from me, and I’ve taken that with my feelings being hurt instead of realizing that is what it’s like to be around a self-contained yet open, fun person. Why is it that I ran toward someone who had horrible boundaries and told me things they should never have told me along with all kinds of whacky behavior; and why did I ignore this healthy, together person where we would probably “nice each other to death” before we ever held hands?
MELANIE: Oh, that’s a good one!
KRISTIN: It’s like, “Oh, tell me something disgusting about your body parts and I’m all over you man.” But be nice and polite and I’m like “What’s wrong with you man?” I mean it’s crazy!
MELISSA: I don’t know what you guys covered before I jumped on, but isn’t that like the idea we’ve talked about before with feeling a certain safety in the familiar, even if the familiar is bad?
KRISTIN: Yes, very much so. We aren’t given a list of what you should do as each person has their own journey with what is a healthy boundary depending on their childhood and their experiences and so on. Every person has their own criteria, so it can be hard to know how to navigate that, to recognize it, and reel yourself back in out of the familiar. A lot of our listeners have said, “Please talk more about boundaries, and how do we even know that we are ignoring them?”
MELANIE: I had a couple of thoughts around that, so I’ll just go down a quick list that I can remember, and then I want to hear your thoughts around that, Melissa, as a clinician. What I was saying, instead of giving a definition of what a boundary is, was to talk about what your relationship is when you don’t have healthy boundaries. I think you make a lot of fear-based choices if you don’t have healthy boundaries. Anytime someone asks of your time, you are always giving it. You’re not saying no. You don’t feel safe to express your thoughts and feelings. Anytime those dynamics are going on in a relationship, either your boundaries are off or you aren’t setting your boundaries at a healthy place for the relationship. I also stated that healthy boundaries are the core of a relationship. What are your thoughts, Melissa?
MELISSA: I love your thoughts always, both of you girls. The only thing I would think add is that in trying to establish what a healthy boundary is, ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” Like you said, Melanie, if it’s a fear-based thing that keeps us from having a boundary, it’s a good question to ask. “What if I wasn’t afraid that this person would be upset, what would I do? What if I wasn’t afraid I would lose this relationship? What if I wasn’t afraid that this would reflect poorly on me, then what?” I think in order to have a healthy boundary it requires a certain amount of attention to the self. Monitoring what was the initial thought and what was the second thought, if you can even sort that out, and asking why the second thought came in can help untangle the web in the dialogue. I always say that if you can’t give it freely without feeling victimized or resentful, then you shouldn’t do it because that’s not a gift to a relationship.
KRISTIN: Right. Very true.
MELANIE: Yeah, I think that’s a boundary in and of itself. So I guess, Kristin, the listeners want to know how do they set boundaries? Well, Melissa just said it. The first thing you need to do is to sit down with your phone or a piece of paper and a pen (like I do because I’m not a millennial,) and you need to write down what your fears are. What are your fearful thoughts? Is it fear of rejection? Is it fear of being alone? Do you feel like you’re not good enough? What are your fears? If you can identify those, then you can start working towards a healthier set of boundaries. So the first step is to identify what your fears are.
MELISSA: The idea of having a boundary is the willingness to advocate for yourself for whatever your needs are, for whatever your desires are, for whatever your emotions are. To advocate for them is to set a boundary. To speak about them, to draw a line, or in some kind of way to acknowledge them is what a boundary is. It’s a marker point; it’s a delineation. So are you doing anything to say, “This is where I’m at?” Honestly, Kristin, you and I had a conversation, and I scared you I think, because I needed to articulate something. It was a boundary for me; and you let me know where your boundaries where. Boundaries should be happening not just in unhealthy relationships, but healthy ones too! When you see how a person responds to your boundaries that tells you more about the kind of relationship that you have. Sometimes I think we’re afraid to find out that the relationship we have is a bad one because we suspect that they won’t actually respond well. We are in fact right, and we don’t want to be proven right. We don’t want to see it; we don’t’ want to know it, so we keep moving around so we don’t have to be confronted with that.
KRISTIN: Oh my gosh, that is so true! I have moved mountains to make relationships work that I should have walked out of long before. I had tried to say or had said to the person, “I’m done with this relationship,” and yet I go and apologize for their bad behavior and then I’m back in the relationship. I keep jockeying position for it to be in a healthy place until I finally am like, “Nope! Done!”
MELISSA: Yeah, it’s almost like we keep giving people opportunity to be what we hope they’ll be instead of just letting it be what it actually is, and for letting ourselves be what we actually are. Whether we want to have a certain boundary or not, if it is the boundary we have then we need to honor it instead of asking, “Then do I need to move my boundary line?” That’s not the question. The question is, “Do I have a boundary and where is it?” not “Should I have that boundary?”
KRISTIN: Right, exactly. Melanie, what do you think about that?
MELANIE: I think that when you’re in a household without healthy boundaries as a child you oftentimes lose sight of your personal boundaries because I think we have them naturally. We have them naturally when we’re born. But if you’re starting off in an unhealthy relationship, then you learn how to turn that intuition off if something you think might be healthy and safe to say in your family isn’t accepted or your feelings aren’t validated when you say it. That’s how you start to lose sight of your boundaries when you are constantly compromising or you don’t have a safe environment to express your feelings, emotions, needs, and desires – all those types of things. That’s where it all starts. When I think about the opposite of fear, one of the opposites of fear is love. When we can make decisions in our life based on love, whether it is love for another person or especially love for ourselves or love for God, then that is reversing that fear-based thinking. So if the other person in your relationship is making decisions that are fear-inducing or not based on love, then it’s an unhealthy dynamic. Yes, all relationships have boundaries. Healthy boundaries are what make a healthy relationship. These are things in all relationships. So when Melissa has talked about with patterns, which is an awesome thing to always point out, if you are seeing a pattern in your life where the boundaries are being crossed in all of your relationships, then maybe you need to revisit and figure out where that fear-based thinking is coming from.
MELISSA: Yeah, I ask myself and my clients sometimes, “At what point did you think it was okay to violate your boundaries? At what point did you give yourself permission or what persuaded you that it was okay in that case to violate your own boundaries?” Unless we’re talking about assault or covert manipulation that we can’t see, we typically allow someone to cross our boundaries. Sometimes they are exploited. I’m wondering what was the buy in? What was more persuasive to you or more valuable to you that you were willing to sacrifice your well-being for that?
KRISTIN: I used to have a therapist that would say to me, “What’s the pony in this for you?” I didn’t get that forever; and then finally I got it. I didn’t like what they were saying, but I got what they were saying. But I think that too, with me, it’s always been when someone shares what seems like very deep, painful information or their sadness and pain with me. Even during the sharing of that pain with me, when I feel like it’s really uncomfortable for me, I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Sometimes they are using covert manipulation during the sharing of that pain to try and manipulate me and that is where lines have been able to get really blurry for me. What I’ve noticed, because I’ve really worked on this and closed off some unhealthy relationships in that arena, is that absence of emotional turmoil hanging out in my brain, heart and mind makes me unsure of what to do with all the free time that is no longer spent on other people’s stuff. It’s really interesting, all of the free time, from saying, “No” much more quickly and putting up a boundary.
MELISSA: I find it so fascinating that it frees up more mental space for you to have life and then are almost bewildered by the lack of chaos.
KRISTIN: Yes and the chaos in my life has gotten less and less, obviously, as I’ve gotten older. My life is very peaceful. My home life is extraordinarily peaceful. I go out and do things like a conference and it’s fun and exciting, but then I come home and it’s like Zen – so home life is wonderful. But, I still was looking for that emotional hit with people. This show is a very good boundary. It’s an hour. I connect with someone, and then I’m done. I remember when I worked at the mental health hospital with Myles, my therapy dog. I go in and I do this intense thing with him in the mental health hospital and then I’m done. There were very well defined boundaries. But when something with a guest or a friend would bleed into personal, then it would get messy. Now I’m realizing things are not getting messy and I have a lot of free time. I’m not upset about that, but I’m thinking, “Huh, I’m going to have to do something with all this. I can start reading something or do something else and not be upset with someone who has shown me some pretty healthy boundaries of their own and not interpret it as they don’t want me or they don’t like me. No, that’s what a healthy boundary looks like. And you run to that; you don’t run to the other one.
MELISSA: Just to identify with you, Kristin, I sometimes have to recalibrate too. I work myself up and then I think, “Wait a minute. What are you doing?” Sometimes I get my feelings hurt also, and I have to ask, because of my life experiences, “Is that a normal boundary on their part or not? I don’t know.” I guess at the end of the day, regardless of whether somebody has a normal boundary or not, or whether we would have that same one, we can say, “This is the way that I feel in response to their boundaries,” and then work through our own emotions. For me the feeling that comes up, because it happened in my relationship, is neglect. I think, “I’m putting more into this relationship than you are,” because maybe they aren’t as available or are not as eager or they just want to spend an evening alone. Then I think, “This isn’t mutual, so I’m going to put you off.” That’s something for me to work through, because they have a healthy boundary there. All that to say that even though we know what a boundary is doesn’t mean we have to stop working at making sure that we can receive and have them in a healthy manner.
KRISTIN: Yes, and that we deserve them. One of the things I talked about with Melanie is that sometimes I carry this tremendous guilt if I’m referring to a past relationship that was really unhealthy even though I don’t say anyone’s name and I don’t think any of them listen to this show (and some of them would be obtuse to me barely referencing them anyway,) but I carry all this guilt as if I was such a bad person that I’m even talking about these things. Today I was thinking that part of this whole boundary thing that I have embraced and feels really good is that I’m also going to let go of that guilt about what I’ve said because I don’t need to carry that around. They certainly don’t feel bad about hurting me and completely blasting through my attempts at saying no until I finally had to scream it out. I don’t need to carry that around, so I’m letting it go and it feels really good.
MELANIE: I think that’s kind of a daily practice for everyone – to let go. I think the word “guilt” in and of itself is something that is very tied up with boundaries. I want to talk about something you said, Kristin. That fear of hurting people’s feelings, I can definitely relate to that. As a clinician, and you know this too, Melissa, sometimes you hear something that is just so painful. But in my everyday life, it’s one of the toughest things for me to be in someone else’s space and then have a boundary or “to hurt someone’s feelings.” You’re scared to say no because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. That is something I would say to myself all the time. It’s a real uncomfortableness with being able to sit in someone else’s disappointment, and you have to learn how to do that if you are going to have healthy boundaries. Then after time, it doesn’t feel like a disappointment because they have learned your boundary, and then hopefully they don’t continue crossing it. But especially for an empath it’s tough for us to not have that thought that we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you keep doing that, eventually you lose your own feelings. You don’t even know what your feelings are anymore because you’re so concerned about everyone else’s feelings. You have to ask yourself, “Why am I avoiding my own feelings? Why are my own feelings not worth the time that I give everyone else? You have to get to the bottom of that, and I think when you do and you get that self-worth where it’s supposed to be, then your boundaries kind of come naturally. I’m like you, Melissa. I have to recalibrate all the time. I’ll start to feel it and then I have to back up: I have to do some self-care; I need to spend some time with my horses; I need to get adjusted; I need to get a pedicure; I need to go to church; or I just don’t answer the phone. Seriously, there are times in my life when I used to just turn off my phone. I would literally let my loved ones know, “Hey, if you need me, 911 me or do something, but I’m taking a sabbatical for two weeks from technology. Oh my gosh! It’s remarkable what can happen! You just come back so refreshed. I just wanted to validate for our listeners that it’s hard to have boundaries and to not want to give to others or to not want to give of yourself. We certainly don’t want to encourage people not to give of themselves, but it just has to come from the right place. When it comes from a healthy place, then everything works out as it should; but when things are off balance, things are just going to be off balance period.
MELISSA: Yeah, you used that word guilt. That’s such a common thing. I want people to understand that guilt is such a terrible motivator, and it is not a motivator of love. It’s not a pure hearted motive. It’s a motivation to perhaps ease your own guilt or to be obligatory or obliging or pleasing. But that is not the same as giving freely, counting the full cost and to saying, “Yes, I want to do this for you, not because it serves me, but because I’m serving you genuinely.” When we’re motivated by guilt, the motive gets a little bit convoluted because it serves us first. It’s our own poor management of our emotion. I don’t want to feel guilty and this is what I must do in order to not feel guilty, to alleviate myself of that kind of suffering that comes with guilt. So I will do A, B, C, and D; and then we end up living lives driven by guilt, which is not a robust life.
MELANIE: And so there’s your pony. That’s your pony, Kristin. I can totally relate because I have people say basically the same thing, “What’s your pony in this?” I was literally so caught up in, “Oh I’m such a nice person and I always do things for everyone else.” I didn’t even get it. It didn’t even register in my head. “What do you mean? I don’t get anything out of it. I’m doing something for someone else.” That was really my true thought process until I was enlightened, and I realized, “Wait a minute. There’s definitely a pony in this for me.” So there may be listeners that are sitting there thinking the same thing I used to think – they’re just doing it out of the kindness of their heart. Sometimes you need to rethink it.
KRISTIN: It’s very true. I always think, “Why am I trying so hard to prove that I am a good person?” Well, some of that is because I was involved in some pretty toxic relationships where there was a lot of projection, and that person was not a very good person and they were trying to plant that seed in me. Of course I took it on and ran with it like I do everything – like a dog on a damn bone! But as you build that self-esteem back, you can get to this place where you say no. Like you said, Melanie, being able to sit in someone else’s disappointment – that is so huge! I am completely okay with not being perfect, or with a client saying, “We really don’t think that you did the best job, “or a friend saying, “I really don’t feel like you’re hearing me.” I don’t like it – I really don’t like it. If I’m on a cleanse, like I am right now, I’m going to go to defcon one emotionally, like I did with Melissa, about ridiculous things. (Then later I’m thinking I should be in a padded room while I’m going through this cleanse.) But, I’m okay with it because I’m okay with me and where I’m at. It doesn’t mean that once you get here all of a sudden you feel wonderful like everything is perfect. No! It means that you allow yourself to feel really awful. I think it’s the allowance of that – the allowance of feeling crappy, awful, sad – whatever. Those are the things that we run from out of fear, and if you just let yourself sit with that stuff you realize you’re not going to die. It’s not going to kill you to feel like crap.
MELISSA: You can survive! You know I just want to clarify, because I don’t want to paint a picture, Kristin, I know we’ve referenced it twice now about our conversation. We did not have a conflict! So when we’re talking about boundaries, it’s almost like we’re portraying this picture.
KRISTIN: No, let’s clarify it.
MELISSA: It wasn’t at all that way.
KRISTIN: Let’s talk about that, Melissa, what we talked about; because it’s important. This fits right in with our conversation, if you’re comfortable, what you wanted to talk to me about.
MELISSA: Yeah. One of the things is that we all have different voices on this conversation, which I love. Some of them align, and some of them are of different experiences and different viewpoints. For whatever reason, it had been weighing on me and weighing on me. I don’t think I approached you in a very good way because I said, “Something is heavy on my heart and can we talk about it?” I knew that I needed to speak up, but I couldn’t talk about it in that moment. That was me needing to lay a boundary for myself, not for you, but I needed to know that I would advocate for my own feelings. It’s basically that my heart – yes, I’m a clinician – but my heart is for the LORD. I want to be able to speak openly and boldly about that, and I just wanted to make sure that was okay with you, as often as that comes up, because you are the host. But because I gave you that layover in time…
KRISTIN: I went into freak out mode.
MELISSA: I know, and I thought you were a narcissist, which you are not – not even close – or that I didn’t want to be a part of this, which I adore our conversation. So that’s really the conversation we’re talking about. And Kristin, this is a testimony of the person you are, because despite all that fear and all that build up you had about what it might be because of the way I presented it, you were so willing to listen, to hear, and to just engage the conversation. That’s the sign of a person who is able to have a healthy relationship.
KRISTIN: Oh, thank you.
MELISSA: So thank you for being gracious to me, listening to what was on my heart, and being willing to receive it and work with me and to try to find the solution together instead of just bristling at it. I was also relieved at that.
KRISTIN: Yeah, I thought about it because Melanie has been posting a lot of stuff on our social media about being aware and being mindful. That’s a theme that’s going on with us right now. That’s really cool because I’ve been watching my thoughts, watching my emotions, and really being present with right now: what am I saying; how am I feeling; what’s going on? So when that happened, Melissa, I was like day five of this really intense cleanse. Every time I do one of these I am uber-emotional – I know this. So I had to calm down. My mom said, “Honey, you need to pull over and let me drive because you’re very emotional.” I wanted to snap at her and say, “I’m fine!” But I thought that wouldn’t work while driving a vehicle, talking like that to my mom. So I pulled over, took a deep breath, and my mom is trying to be there for me while I’m thinking it’s all fine. But what I noticed was that with my background – with so many painful exits in my life – I still have some work that I need to do. I’m probably going to do it with this great therapist that we just had on, Jean Campbell. She does psychodrama therapy. I’m going to work with her on why it is that I instantly go to, “Oh my gosh, it’s a bad thing! This person doesn’t want to be in my life any more. Ok, I can deal with it. I’ve had plenty of people leave.” I have to do this talking to myself. My mom said, “Honey, fifty percent of the time it works out just fine. Your odds are really good. You don’t have to get upset.”
MELANIE: Yes, I just want to reiterate that. You rise to the occasion when you need to, and I’ve seen you do that so many times. We’ve had conversations about boundaries. Melissa, just to make you feel not alone, I totally had all sorts of feelings when I first started doing the show with Kristin and talking about my own experiences. I’ve always been such a private person, and I hadn’t really worked through all of my feelings yet; so I wasn’t comfortable talking about them because that’s just how I am. I don’t talk about things until I’ve already worked through them. It was very hard, and of course, the faith piece comes in for me too. I had to just do some real hard prayer about it. This will be a great example for our audience to understand that everyone’s boundaries are different. So whereas Melissa’s and my boundaries are probably coming from the same place – from our faith and what our beliefs are – my conclusion was, “God knows where my heart is,” and that was the answer to my concern of “I don’t want people thinking this or thinking that I agree with something that I don’t. Is this guilt by association? Does everyone automatically think this is how I feel about something because this is what this guest said?” I had to let all that go and realize that God knows what’s in my heart, and He knows why I am doing this show. So therefore I was able to release that because there is not an evangelical bone in my body and there never has been. I’ve always wanted to work in a secular setting. My point being, we’re coming from the same place with our faith, and your boundary is the same and yet different than mine. Does that make sense?
MELISSA: Absolutely! I think that’s a beautiful example because what I feel compelled to do is different than what you feel compelled to do, even though, like you said, our starting point is the same but our boundary is different – and that’s okay. It is learning to respect people’s boundaries for what they are. Melanie, I think you do it very graciously, and Kristin, you too. That’s what makes these dynamics work and gives us the freedom to be in relationship. I think freedom is a huge part of boundaries just as much as restriction is a part of boundaries.
KRISTIN: It was so lovely to have that conversation, and Melanie and I have had many as well, and to be able to say, “I want you to say what you feel, how you feel about God – I want you to say what you need to say, what you feel is right for you.” I don’t want any voices to be squashed. That is the whole point of this show; because yes, I’ve had guests on where I’ve not agreed with anything that they said but I’m not going to tell them that I because that’s their history. Or I didn’t believe that the direction that they are going in was right or whatever. But it’s different when the three of us are having a back and forth conversation as opposed to a guest sharing their story. I’ve never felt like – well, no, that’s not true – I have felt like, “Oh gosh what are people going to think.” But I guess I got over that a long, long time ago. So we all have a voice. It’s very different. It comes from, as you said Melissa, it hit me when we were at that conference together; you said, “We all come from a pure heart. Where is someone’s heart coming from?” I thought, “Yep. That’s exactly right.”
MELISSA: Yes, that matters the most at the end of the day – what somebody’s motive is. That’s the part where, Melanie I think you kind of referred to that, the fact that God looks at the heart and your heart is what is going to produce behavior. So when we talk about narcissists, or we talk about poor boundaries in ourselves, we’re revealing our heart really. We just have to figure out what our heart is revealing about itself.
KRISTIN: Yes, and if you’re a self-reflective person you examine those things. I examine so much stuff that I’m to the point where I don’t worry that I’m going to examine something enough – it’s the opposite. I have a friend that I’m going to go visit, and he and I just do fun things together where we don’t talk about anything serious. We do silly, ridiculous things together. We don’t talk about anything an inch beneath the topsoil, even though we are both very deep people, and it’s awesome – because I spend most of my time delving into the deep end of the ocean and I need some time to just be completely silly and ridiculous and laugh over nonsense and fart jokes and all kinds of crazy stuff like that. I’m thankful that my friend is in my life to do those things and many others.
MELANIE: Yeah, I think that’s important for us self-analyzers. I really have to pull myself out and just have fun to get myself out of that headspace. So I feel you – that’s so important to set yourself outside of that. But my headspace is certainly a lot less busy than it used to be, and that is something that has contributed to more healthy boundaries in my life. I don’t have to figure everything out any more. If I need to self-reflect, I will self-reflect. If someone asks me to self-reflect then I will try to think it out logically. But otherwise I’m just kind of present and in the moment. Like you were saying, Kristin, that mindfulness is beautiful. It really sets you up to have a healthier life.
KRISTIN: It does and I think everything that has happened in my life – meaning every past show, whatever I have said – my intentions were coming from healing a pure heart – a loving place – and they all got to here. Here feels really good. Not all the time; definitely not every day. But my home is that it feels really wonderful and loving. My place away from home is much shorter time periods of feeling anxiety, stress, freaking out, going to the dark zone – that’s a place I visit, but it’s not my home anymore. That means that every single step I’ve taken up to here has been the perfect step.
MELANIE: Well, we certainly all have our journeys to getting to these places, and I guess that’s just a reminder to the listeners too that this stuff takes time. It takes time, and sometimes it’s really hurtful to look at the places where you have compromised yourself. I think I shared on the show before that when I got out of the relationship with the narcissist that I was in, the biggest hurdle was forgiving myself for compromising myself and for letting my boundaries be crossed over and over and over and over again. Because at the heart of things, God owns me; and I was just continuously stepping on that and not respecting what He had put in my heart. That was a tough one to get over. It just takes time. Certainly, try and talk about it with a clinician. I do think it’s really important, like Melissa was saying; you need to find your places of compromise – really try to examine what situations keep occurring where the pony is that you are constantly compromising yourself – because that’s probably where the answer is to begin to heal. An example of that would be when my brother passed away, and I tried to stay in the counseling field for a while; and then I just realized I couldn’t. It was because my boundaries were all confused. Every time a client came in and was sad, it completely overwhelmed me because I was incredibly sad, and it was just too much for me to handle. When that happened I realized something in my life, and that was that my pony appears when the reaction from someone else is reminiscent of something in me that I haven’t resolved.
KRISTIN: Oh, that’s a good one right there.
MELANIE: That was something I realized: I don’t like hurting people’s feelings because I don’t like standing in hurt because I’ve got so much unresolved hurt of my own. If I didn’t have that there would be room for other people’s hurt. Does that make sense? So anyway, I think it’s important to find those places where you are compromising yourself. Where are those moments?
MELISSA: And just know that nobody may clap for you when you set a boundary. In fact, symptoms are what they are, and they like to reinforce themselves; so if you try to break out of what is comfortable for somebody else you can be assured that there is going to be some kick back. Sometimes that might be why we don’t set boundaries, because we don’t want to deal with the consequences of it; but ultimately if you look at things in a physical realm, we put boundaries around what we eat, what we do (our activities), or what we subject ourselves to – like if something is going to cause pain we don’t touch the oven, right? We put a boundary between ourselves and it. So you sometimes have to look at the long term and say, “Is this going to serve me in the long term? If it is, is this going to serve the relationship in the long term? Then I’m going to go ahead and draw this line. It may not immediately bother me yet, but if I can see that it is going to lead me somewhere that it is going to bother me down the road, then let’s maybe draw a boundary early. It’s easy to think about in realms outside the emotional, but for some reason when we put it in the emotional, we have a hard time forecasting for ourselves, or really understanding what is wellness to even try to preserve and put protectors around it.
KRISTIN: Oh my gosh, you guys are just so flipping wise. Holy moly. Lots of wisdom tonight. That is so true in that emotional realm, especially in a relationship, our hopes and dreams and whatever pictures we’ve painted in our heads about how a relationship is supposed to be. Even a friendship, a relationship with a parent or a love partner – all of that stuff. I’ve gone from letting everybody cross my boundaries and saying nothing, to being so fierce that I probably scared half of America, to now the pendulum swinging back to the middle – thank God! Now it’s much more balanced. But the key here for me, the takeaway from the two of you tonight, is that I’m not balanced around that pendulum if I’m carrying a bunch of guilt with me while I’m sitting there. So it’s really important for me, as much as I don’t like it when people say, “Let that go,” it’s okay for me to say that to myself about this. I’m just going to let that stuff go because it doesn’t serve me anymore. It just doesn’t.
MELISSA: That’s a boundary, too, that you have to put on your own self. Am I going to allow myself to indulge these feelings? Not that we ignore or avoid our feelings, but we do decide how we are going to interact with them, if we’re going to foster them and facilitate them, and what we’re going to allow to grow. So we have to put up a boundary sometimes. If that’s not going to serve you in the long run, I am not going to engage with my own thoughts and feelings in a way that facilitates something that is festering and causing harm. We have to say, “No, I’m not going to just let my thoughts run away! No, I’m not just going to sit in my feelings, pitch a tent and stay there. What am I going to do with them?”
KRISTIN: Oh I love that – pitch a tent and stay there! This is awesome.
MELANIE: God knows we do that, or I’ve done that so many times – literally made roommates with my stuff. But when you learn to let that go – I remember when enlightenment finally came for me, I had this vision, and that’s something that is really helpful for me – visualizing something that’s happening in my life. I had to visualize that I was unpacking luggage – throwing stuff everywhere – shirts, underwear, bras, everything – unpacking stuff I had literally been carrying around in this luggage for so long. Once I did that it gave me a starting point to begin having other things. Now, the image I have when a thought like that comes into my mind that I know isn’t healthy or I know is coming from this familiar unhealthy place (which everyone has,) I literally let it float in my mind. I imagine it, and then I imagine it floating right on out the other side, or I will imagine it leaving my body between my shoulder blades and just let it go, because can you imagine the weight some people feel from carrying that stuff around for years and years and years?
MELISSA: Absolutely, what I like about the visualizations, a couple of techniques that maybe people can use – for me, first, I just really cry out to the LORD a lot. I tell Him all about it and then I say, “Okay, now the burden is on You, so You take that and deal with it.” Second, I picture myself putting it in a box and putting it up on a shelf in my closet so that if I want to pull that box down I can. I can have access to it if I want it, but I don’t have to. It’s there for me, but it doesn’t have to consume my life. It just has that little spot, and I can pull it down to coddle it and then put it back up. Or sometimes you could set a timer and give yourself permission to think about it for two minutes – think about nothing but that thing. I find that people usually expire their thoughts in about forty-five seconds and then are done; but if you hadn’t given it the time or the space, it would have eaten up your whole day! So just go ahead and pay the attention that it needs, honor it, and then move forward.
KRISTIN: That’s so true! I tell people when they say to me, “But I’m angry!” I say, “You have every right to be angry!” I had several emails this week from people having a hard time with the wrong therapist. I said, “Look, you are a consumer. If this is what this person is telling you, that’s not someone I would want as my therapist. You absolutely have the right to go find another one. You don’t have to stay there. Just because they are a therapist, it’s not fair to put them on a pedestal. They are human too. If they’re not saying what’s right for you, not in a way where you’re avoiding dealing with your stuff, but if they are blatantly saying things that are just not right, get out of there.” So thanks for the emails this week. I don’t know why we got a lot of them, and I was asked, “Will you talk about your issues with boundaries?” I said, “I talk about my stuff a lot. People are probably sick of hearing about my stuff, so you tell me some of yours.” Both of them said a variation of the same thing, “No, will you just be the guinea pig about your stuff?” So not a problem, we’ll do that. We do it well. So thank you both for your patience on that, but that was the theme this week. It’s interesting to watch what people come back to and want to hear about when we talk. It’s always a theme that follows.
MELISSA: Yes, I like the feedback too so that we have a different variety and we make sure we are addressing the things people are really experiencing and hurting with.
KRISTIN: Absolutely. Well, we are going to close so that we don’t go over, but I want you both to have a last word on this show. So Melanie, if you want to go first that would be lovely.
MELANIE: Honor yourself. Just honor yourself, and your first thought is usually the right one, and to be brave. Putting your stuff first doesn’t mean being selfish, it just means being yourself, which we are called to do. So, that’s my last bit.
KRISTIN: Awesome. Melissa?
MELISSA: Yeah, mine is related to that. There are more than enough people out there willing to neglect and abuse you, don’t allow yourself to become part of that party.
KRISTIN: Oh, absolutely. Jean Campbell came on and said, “Don’t be part of the itty, bitty, shitty committee.”
MELANIE: I loved that. I told Emily to make a meme because I loved it.
KRISTIN: It was really good. I’ve had some intense shows this week. Lots of cool conversations are going on and that’s the point – connecting in healthy ways, which is what we do when we’re here. Thank you both for being a part of this with me and with the listeners.
MELISSA: Thank you.
MELANIE: Thank you.
KRISTIN: And thanks to our listeners for joining us on another edition of Mental Health New Radio.
Please join us next time on Blogtalk Radio. Visit MentalHealthNewsRadio.com for a list of upcoming and past shows. If you’d like to be a guest on our show, please visit EverythingEHR.com or email me at hello@everythingEHR.com.