There is no time like the holidays to get a clear sense of how well you set and maintain your own personal boundaries. It seems everyone is tugging at you for your time, your money, your energy… and without clearly set, and well maintained boundaries, this time of year can leave you feeling extremely drained, emotionally spent, angry, and resentful. Here’s a quick look at what boundaries are, how they affect our well being, and what the horses have taught me about setting boundaries.
What are Boundaries?
Boundaries are simply defining what you will allow and what you won’t allow in your life. They can be physical (your body, your home), emotional (feelings, sensations) or energetic (thoughts, time and energy). [bctt tweet=”Another way of looking at boundaries is defining where your responsibility ends and the other person’s begins. ” via=”no”]In looking at how far reaching the affects of boundaries are in our lives you can start to get a sense of just how important boundary setting is. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is absolutely vital to your emotional health and thereby vital to your physical health.
The Response to Unhealthy Boundaries
The most common sign of not having clear and well maintained boundaries is feeling anger and resentment towards someone or something. Other common responses to unhealthy boundaries can include stress, exhaustion, and guilt. Guilt? Doesn’t that come after you set boundaries? Often it does. But I see that most often when women allow many “insignificant” boundary violations to seep through cracks over time until all at once she feels the enormous weight and reacts by setting an exaggerated boundary which she not only regrets/feels guilty about, but is not (at that time in her life) able to maintain. And so the cycle continues.
The crucial thing to remember in setting healthy boundaries is they define where your responsibility ends, and the other person’s begins. Once you have set a boundary, you are in no way responsible for the other person’s reaction or response to it. If that sounds too difficult to accept, start thinking smaller. Practice setting boundaries to prevent the “insignificant” violations. Practice with someone you feel comfortable with. Practice with terms that feel easy to you. Practice with someone who can accept their responsibility without resentment towards you. Which brings me to one of my most valued lessons from the horses.
Lessons from the Herd
Boundary setting with the horses is a skill and lesson that comes up again and again. No matter how experienced a woman is with boundaries, no matter at what level a rider is, the horses are the best teachers for this vital life skill. Most often boundary issues arise around physical and emotional needs for the women I work with. Personally as their caretaker, I also have energetic boundary issues arise with my herd.
While it requires a great deal of vulnerability for us to define our boundaries with one another as humans, it is just not so with the horses. Sure, it still requires vulnerability on our part to draw the line with them, especially in the beginning when we’re not used to being so clear about what we will and won’t allow in our lives. But for them, everything is on the table. There is no hidden agenda. There is no under-breath mumbling. There is no self righteous indignation, and above all else there is no resentment.
When horses define their own personal boundaries with one another, they are often imperceptible to onlookers. As I mentioned in my last post, horses speak a very subtle language. But there are times that call for speaking up and demanding their boundaries be respected. In their world, it can even escalate to a violent lashing out, biting, and kicking. But the remarkable thing about observing their life after a boundary setting, is that It. Goes. On. Whether it was a frantic episode between two horses, or a quiet, tearful moment with a newly empowered woman in the round pen, they hold no resentment. Neither do they hold sadness for you, or pride for you. That is not their job. Their responsibility ended with their response to your boundary. Everything else is up to you. And while that may seem overwhelming, it is also absolutely incredibly empowering.
If you’re feeling a little tapped out this season, or you see your daughter struggling to define what she will and will not allow from others, or if either of you are feeling the slow creep of “insignificant” violations seeping in on you, I invite you to come here. Come here and feel what it feels like to know what you want, say what you want, and not have energy around what the response to that declaration will be. This is how you practice. This is how you get the confidence and the empowerment to take these skills out into the world and create meaningful change for your self, your health, and your beautiful life!
With love & support for your journey,