**Trigger Warning: Mention (without details) of childhood sexual abuse**
There are many, many books on Boundaries. Most are very good. Just to give you an idea of how many there are… here is a list from amazon.com (hint: it goes on for 101 pages).
Boundaries (Where you end and I begin) by Anne Katherine, MA is one among them and not even the best one… but I like it. A lot. For one thing, I appreciate her definition of a boundary: a limit that promotes integrity. I love that. Don’t you?
This book came out in 1991. I picked it up at a library sale some time back and read it only recently. It is packed full of life stories that will break your heart, especially if you’ve struggled with a lack of boundaries. You’ll see yourself through its pages. I sure did!
Under the umbrella of boundaries, Katherine tackles subjects as diverse as sexual abuse, overbearing parents, family dynamics of all kinds, the marriage relationship, intimacy, friendships, peers and work stuff… I could go on and on.
It also has exercises in every chapter… mostly simple… but not easy. Like: “If someone you don’t trust stands too close to you, move to a distance that feels safer.” I know, seems easy enough. But take it from me… it isn’t… at least, not at first. And I know a thing or two about this.
I would say that setting boundaries has been the most difficult – AND REWARDING – of all the things I’ve learned to do for myself. Took me long enough, eh?
Listen, I’ve read about boundaries for years and years … just like many of you have, I know. They’re mentioned in far more books than those devoted to the topic. Boundaries are super important, if you are to grow and thrive as a fully functioning adult. Wait! Scrap that… what I mean to say is that everyone (even children!) need boundaries. The earlier, the better. I say that as an adult survivor of sexual molestation and also a mother of children who were molested.
Hmmm… I wasn’t going here… but here is where I landed. So… in deference to the fact that this part of the story is only mine as “mother”… I will be careful how much I share about what happened with my (now adult) children.
Two of my children were molested. They also happened to have had severe difficulties in school. My oldest daughter had health concerns and my son, as you already know, is autistic. My third child, my youngest daughter, was NOT molested simply because she was never on the scene. She prefered to play by herself. Don’t get me wrong, she was as vulnerable to abuse as any child… it just happens that the other two were more vulnerable simply by virtue of the fact that were were often surrounded by others… and unfortunately, there were those who abused.
My son’s abuse was sexual in nature and progressed to CPS, the police and a childhood sexual abuse psychiatrist. It happened in a shower with an older boy at church. His father and I weren’t even aware of it. The school principal called CPS… then us. That’s all I’ll say about all that. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
I’ve spoken about my abuse, as well, which began in childhood and stretched into early adulthood. I never blame the victim but can say that having boundaries might have lifted (at least some of) the cloak of shame. Might and some are the operative words here… because it isn’t guaranteed. All the boundaries in the world will not promise to stop someone intent on harming… but!… they may stop someone in the very early stages, so that it doesn’t go further.
An example: You’re out on a date with a new guy who, as it turns out, is not someone you’d like to know better (for one or a million reasons). Luckily, you have a rule (a boundary) about taking your own car. You do NOT want to get in a car (alone) with him.
Had you gotten in the car with him, he was gonna be all-hands and lips. It might not have led to rape but it would take three or four “No’s!” before he’d huff, slam the car into Drive, speed to your house and leave you at the curb. (Good riddance!) A boundary saved you. (Do I sound like I know a thing or two? Because, 1978. Yeah. Good times.)
The flip side, according to Katherine, is too-rigid boundaries. While they offer protection from some things, they’re also a sturdy wall against getting close. And those who have them often have a very, VERY tight field of vision. She talks a lot about this, too… and actually, I’d guess more than any other book on boundaries I’ve read. So, that made it kind of different and interesting.
Aging has given me (what feels like) freedom to build up healthy boundaries… and I have no idea why. Why does turning a certain age make it easier? Maybe because I don’t care as much about what people think? Or maybe, I just like myself that much more. I’m worth protecting, ya know?
If I could give you one piece of annoying advice from a crone as she enters her sixties, it would be this: MAKE BOUNDARIES. Stick to them. Don’t wait until you’re old. Do it now.
*Originally written by me for this blog on October 22, 2018