Bound By Boundaries

Last weekend while visiting New York, I found myself intrigued by the accessibility of the city while walking or using a train. After the excitement of walking began to wane, I started to feel exposed. I realized I was out in the open interacting with people on a level I was uncomfortable with. I became conscious of missing my car. I realized how a car provides a boundary of protection between me and the outside world. Without the car, I felt vulnerable, no longer able to express myself freely for fear of how I would look to others or how they would respond to me.

I soon adjusted, reminding myself that I had been in the outside world many of times and was simply overreacting. The emotions instantly subsided and the excitement returned along with an exhilarating energy. A feeling of liberation came over me. I was free from the attachment of my vehicle. Free from the worries of where to park, the need for gas, or repairs. Energy had been freed up for me to use in other ways, even if it was only temporary.

This moment of freedom led me to think of other ways I had set up emotional and mental boundaries to define and protect myself. Albert Einstein stated that “common sense is a collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.” I believe this suggests that we have preconceived notions about the outcome of events influenced by past experiences. We use this knowledge to build protective barriers around us. When we find ourselves in unfamiliar situations or are not able to rely on those past references, we have either reached or are outside a self imposed boundary.

At that moment, fear steps in and we limit our options to a natural response known as “Fight or Flight.” We use this response to determine if we should fight or run from a situation depending on the perceived threat. This instinctual response proved valuable to us millenniums ago, as well as today when dealing with life or death situations. It can be cumbersome when we find ourselves over reacting to situations as if our life depended upon it. Key examples are those instances when we tell ourselves that we can’t stand something or live without someone. The truth is you have withstood everything that life has thrown at you so far. When we look at a situation and assign it the appropriate amount of emotional energy (granted this may differ from person to person), we then allow other options to present themselves.

One such option is to remain exposed to the situation and letting go of the things that separate us. Thereby utilizing the experience to reveal how we are a part of the things we try to separate ourselves from. We find that we begin to expand our boundaries growing consciously. We are able to realize the freedom that comes from leaving behind preconceived notions that are no longer valid in the present moment. It is through these moments of self discovery that we nourish our soul.

There are instances where it is necessary to have boundaries or defend your current state from rogue forces. Having boundaries is not negative. They help define us and allow for structured growth. Although some of our boundaries were handed down to us at an early age, they are none the less self imposed constructs. It is important to remember that this is a preference and we have a choice. It’s necessary to keep in mind that we voluntarily erect these structures and can remove them or relocate them (by reframing our beliefs) in an effort to expand in new ways.

Another important fact is to communicate your boundaries to others. Communicating boundaries offers its own set of challenges. In some situations we expect people to know our boundaries and justify this by defining them as “common sense” or pretending that they are universal laws that everyone should know. In other circumstances, we are not even aware of our boundaries. When this is brought to our attention, we may find that we don’t have the language to articulate the issue, or feel shame about not knowing that this was an issue. It is common at these moments to reflect our issues onto another person when we find ourselves unable to communicate what is wrong. We then expect the other person to change their behavior in order to remove the discomfort we feel. It should be noted that when we find ourselves frustrated or confused it is our boundary that has been exposed. From that point. it becomes our responsibility to communicate to the other individual that a line has been crossed.

Discovering our boundaries is an exciting time. It is at these moments that the opportunity for self exploration and growth presents itself. By communicating our bo