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         Boundaries -    

      The Foundation of Good Communication 

 Boundaries are the basis of all good communication.  No matter what else is going on, if we do not protect our boundaries and respect those of others, then communication has more to do with  manipulation or even verbal warfare than true communication. Communication for human beings is food for the soul but so often  communication with others tends to be draining rather than energising.  This is most often due to the question of boundaries.

Basic to respect for boundaries is a respect for our right to make our own choices.  If  our perception of ourself is so weak that we need others to agree with our position then we are going to find things difficult.  We will tend to be either a passive person acting as a doormat or an over aggressive one, angrily believing that people who do not think the same as us, are in some way inferior or wrong.  Boundaries are crossed when someone believes they can ‘see through’ another person.  Boundaries are crossed when anyone tries to manipulate another person and boundaries are crossed if ever someone tries to make decisions for another.

Making decisions for another person is indeed a grave attack on their right to autonomy and it is surprisingly used today in many situations where it should most certainly not be.  It has been known, for instance, for some counsellors to ‘give advice’ when giving advice is the very last thing any good counsellor would do.  There are also many people who seem to want someone else to ‘tell them what to do’ as if they were still young children, unable to make their own choices.  Of course in certain situations it is perfectly sensible to follow what someone else says.  There would be no point in, for instance asking for directions and then not following the advice.  There are indeed many situations in life where we lack knowledge and need to ask for and follow advice.   Here it is both sensible to ask for and to follow the advice given.  The other person has knowledge which we do not and which we need.  But when  dealing with choices about how to deal with personal relationships or what to think, believe, like and nurture, there is only one person who we should be listening to and that is ourself. The reason for this is exactly the same as the reason we should take advice from lawyers, doctors and so on.  In their sphere of work they have the most knowledge, but when the problem is about personal choices then the person who has the most knowledge of you is you yourself and you are the only person who can find the choice which is right for you.

Obviously there is a problem if we do not trust ourselves sufficiently or for some reason feel so intimidated by others that we find difficulty in making personal decisions.  Clearly this is not a happy situation.  It is after all your life and it would be better if you were the person choosing how it is lived. A great deal of the time our responses are simply habitual, based on our past experiences.

There are several ways in which it is possible to move out of habitual responses to do what others want and to learn instead to trust yourself.  Good counselling is one.   Humanistic counselling respects a person as an individual and works to help you be more in contact with yourself and this is nowhere presented in such a healthy way as in Rogerian Counselling. This is totally non directive counselling where the counsellor’s job is to help you get in touch with your inner feeling self and your own inner resources.

In this type of counselling the counsellor doesn't take responsibility for your behaviour, emotions and thoughts - they are your own responsibility, but the counsellor does take on a strong responsibility to be there with you on your journey.

Meditation can be very helpful for many people.  It may be that here there is some need to be careful to choose whether you ’add’ anything to your meditation. Some people nowadays are complaining that meditation is a kind of cult activity making people go into trance states.  This is certainly not the essence of meditation and possibly comes about when meditation is used within a particular framework.  A particular sect or community may have a certain way of meditating which emphasises their beliefs for instance.  Meditation, when done simply as meditation improves concentration, allows a person to be more focused, more in touch with their own reality, to be active in the present with an increased sense of aliveness. It is not for everyone but can be a great help in staying in touch with yourself when dealing with the demands of every day life. John Kabat-Zimm, although himself a Buddhist,  has some excellent books and tapes on meditation without religion - Mindfulness Meditation comes to mind. He simply gets people to focus on the now, experiencing the now, not trying to change it. You may be surprised at how little you actually do experience the now and also at what a good feeling it is to do so, regardless of what is arising.

Another excellent way for grounding yourself and finding out how you really feel is Focusing .  This teaches you how to work on yourself along the lines that research found the people who ‘grew’ most from therapy worked on themselves.  Again it is a totally non intrusive way of helping you to find your own inner resources and autonomy.

Once you are in touch with that you will find you can think for yourself and almost certainly you will start to notice that you have a free spirit!  From this place, experiencing your own uniqueness you will no longer need or wish for others to think and feel the same as you.  Life would after all be boring if we were all the same. Knowing yourself, you will respect the uniqueness that is another person.

Obviously it will not all be that easy as there are many people around who do not have access to their inner self and unfortunately they will still wish to control you in order that they may feel secure.

Boundaries are our own special space which we need around us to protect our identity and integrity.  We can work on ourselves till the cows come home but if our boundaries are not well protected, then as a person becomes more open they can find the emotion turmoil as others overstep their boundaries even harder to endure.

There is happily a training which provides skills which will allow you to protect your boundaries without emotional drainage.  This is Assertion Training.  Although Assertion Training is known to be particularly helpful to people who are either too passive or aggressive, it can be of value to absolutely anyone. It is also not itself a therapy.  It is a skills training but whatever your present situation it will make communication with others so much easier. Assertion Training is a way of working where everyone wins, no one loses and it does  by being a set of skills which teach people to respect each others boundaries.  When we do that, we can all get on with our right to be who we are in this world, while also respecting other people’s right to do the same.  In other words we respect boundaries and when we do  communication becomes real, alive and nourishing. Boundaries are the basis of all good communication.

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