I’ve been thinking about this concept of setting boundaries and not enabling others harmful behaviors. It’s a little confusing because growing up, my family didn’t practice setting boundaries. Rules and demands were created from frustration, hurt, anger, or disappointment. These rules and requests were a big “No” that separated us from each other.
As an adult I learned that setting boundaries wasn’t about keeping people apart. I learned that boundaries actually help people relate to each other, and as a result, become closer. Although setting boundaries communicates “This is not okay with me”, it also communicate “I want to have a better relationship with you”.
I also learned that setting boundaries is a healthy way to learn about and value oneself. It’s common to be unaware of ones own boundaries until they’ve been crossed. Someone does something, maybe even you do something, and quite suddenly you get angry, sad frustrated, etc. and you can’t quite pin-point why. In these cases, it was most likely a boundary of yours that was crossed, ignored, or invalidated.
When it comes to people with addictions or harmful behaviors it’s a slippery slope that starts by helping someone out of compassion that quickly leads to enabling. For example if someone is arrested for driving under the influence, do you bail them out? Do you pay the money to take their car from the impound. If you do, are you doing so for them or to soothe your own discomfort? Are you dishonoring yourself and your boundaries by choosing to take these actions? Did they cross your boundaries by making these decisions and expecting you to pay the financial consequences?
As young adult, I remember my mother no longer helping me financially once I began living with a boyfriend that she didn’t like. This was her way of telling me “I don’t support your decision”. To this day, I wonder if she was she setting a boundary, or was she being passive aggressive. This one experience has affected me when I decide to set a boundary. Initially I feel like my mother. I feel like I’m coming from a hurt place. From a place of trying to control someone instead of trying to be supportive.
I’m not quite sure what the answers are yet, but I think there’s a lot of letting go that is required to successfully set a boundary from a healthy place.