Setting a boundary is not making a threat – it is communicating clearly what the consequences will be if the other person continues to treat us in an unacceptable manner. It is a consequence of the other person’s behaviour.
Setting a boundary is not an attempt to control the other person (although some of the people who you set boundaries with will certainly accuse you of that – just as some will interpret it as a threat) – it is a part of the process of defining ourselves and what is acceptable to us. It is a major step in taking what control we can of how we allow others to treat us. It is a vital step in taking responsibility for our self and our life.
Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation – although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is: when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome.
We want the other person to change their behaviour. We hope they will. But we need to own all of our choices in order to empower ourselves to take responsibility for our lives and stop setting ourselves up to be a victim. One of our choices is to remove ourselves from relationship with the person. We can leave a marriage. We can end a friendship. We can leave a job. We do not have to have any contact with our family of origin. It is vitally important to own all of our choices.
If we do not own that we have a choice to leave an abusive relationship – then we are not making a choice to stay in the relationship. Any time we do not own our choices, we are empowering victimization. We will then blame the other person, and/or blame ourselves. It is a vital part of the process of learning to love ourselves, and taking responsibility for being a co-creator in our life, to own all of our choices.
It is essential to own that we have choices in order to escape the co-dependent suffering victim martyr role – or the other extreme, which is being abusive in order to try to make others do it “right” (that is, do what we want them to.) Both, the people who appear to be victims and the people that appear to be abusers, are coming from a victim place in terms of blaming others for their behaviour. “I wouldn’t have to hit you if you didn’t talk to me that way” is a victim statement. Both victim and perpetrator are coming from a victim perspective, blaming their behaviours on others – or on themselves, “I can’t help it, that is just how I am.”
When we look outside for self-definition and self-worth, we are giving power away and setting ourselves up to be victims. We are trained to be victims. We are taught to give our power away.
As just one small example of how pervasively we are trained to be victims, consider how often you have said, or heard someone say, “I have to go to work tomorrow.” When we say, “I have to” we are making a victim statement. To say, “I have to get up, and I have to go to work,” is a lie. No one forces an adult to get up and go to work. The Truth is “I choose to get up and I choose to go to work today, because I choose to not have the consequences of not working.” To say, “I choose,” is not only the Truth, it is empowering and acknowledges an act of self-Love. When we “have to” do something we feel like a victim. And because we feel victimized, we will then be angry, and want to punish, whomever we see as forcing us to do something we do not want to do such as our family, or our boss, or society.
“And we always have a choice. If someone sticks a gun in my face and says, “Your money or your life!” I have a choice. I may not like my choice but I have one. In life we often don’t like our choices because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be and we are terrified of doing it ‘wrong.’
Even with life events that occur in a way that we seemingly don’t have a choice over (being laid off work, the car breaking down, a flood, etc.) we still have a choice over how we respond to those events. We can choose to see things that feel like, and seem to be, tragic as opportunities for growth. We can choose to focus on the half of the glass that is full and be grateful for it or to focus on the half that is empty and be the victim of it. We have a choice about where we focus our minds.
In order to become empowered, to become the co-creator in our lives, and to stop giving power to the belief that we are the victim, it is absolutely necessary to own that we have choices. As in the quotation above: if we believe that we “have” to do something then we are buying into the belief that we are the victim and don’t have the power to make choices. To say “I have to go to work” is a lie. “I have to go to work if I want to eat” may be the truth but then you are making a choice to eat. The more conscious we get about our choices, the more empowered we become.
We need to take the “have to’s” out of our vocabulary. As long as we reacting to life unconsciously we do not have choices. In consciousness we always have a choice. We do not “have to” do anything.
Until we own that we have a choice, we haven’t made one. In other words, if you do not believe that you have a choice to leave your job, or relationship, and then you have not made a choice to stay in it. You can only Truly commit yourself to something if you are consciously choosing to do it. This includes the area that is probably the single hardest job in our society today, the area that it is almost impossible not to feel trapped in some of the time – being a single parent. A single parent has the choice of giving their children up for adoption, or abandoning them. That is a choice! If a single parent believes that he/she has no choice, then they will feel trapped and resentful and will end up taking it out on their children!” – Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice
We always have a choice. The choices may seem to be awful – but in reality, allowing ourselves to buy into the illusion that we are trapped will have worse consequences in the long run. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that a parent can abandon or give a child up for adoption – but owning our choices no matter how outrageous is a step in owning responsibility for being co-creators in our life. If we are blaming and being the victim we will never be happy.
(And this is a good example of when sharing the 3rd part of this formula is not appropriate. It would be abusive to threaten a child with being put up for adoption. This is a choice that we need to own to escape feeling trapped in our relationship with ourselves – it is strictly an internal thing. With children it is vital to not project our own internal struggle onto the child – it doesn’t have anything to do with the child, it is all about our relationship with self.)