Chapter 1: What Are Boundaries?
Pause a moment. Stand on the earth and sense the spiral of your life. You have not come to this place by chance. All your choices have brought you here.
You created this life by the people you let in and the people you shut out, by giving your time to the quests that matter and by letting hours trickle toward lesser goals, through the pursuits to which you gave your energy, by the pressures to which you gave heed.
Every decision you've ever made, step by step, brought you to this pass. In short, your boundaries -- or your defenses -- created a corridor through which your life moved.
What is a boundary? A boundary is a limit that promotes integrity. At the most elemental level, your skin marks your physical limits. If it is ripped, the integrity of your body is threatened. Your cells hold their shape because a membrane contains them. Your nerves are sheathed. Your brain is protected by blood and bone.
Thousands of other boundaries might also be yours, protecting every treasured aspect of your life -- your relationships, your time, your home, the way you do things, your children, your priorities, your health, and your money. These boundaries are unseen, held in place by your decisions and actions.
A boundary is a limit. By the limits you set, you protect the integrity of your day, your energy and spirit, the health of your relationships, the pursuits of your heart. Each day is shaped by your choices. When you violate your own boundaries or let another violate them, stuffing spills out of your life.
A boundary is like a membrane that keeps an organism intact. It lets positive things through. It keeps harmful things out. In this way it operates quite differently from a defense, which indiscriminately keeps things out.
Boundaries provide a clear moral compass. They keep us on track. They protect the important, tender parts of ourselves.
Look at the parts of your life that work, that have integrity. This wholeness comes from the limits you have set to protect them.
Any part of your life that is not working can be improved by boundaries. Whether the organism is you, your body, your health, a friendship, your marriage, your work, or your energy, its integrity can be strengthened by boundaries.
This book is a boundary handbook. It can help you discover the walls that are missing as well as rules or customs that confine you to one place, preventing you from occupying the wider spaces. It will also expose defenses that you may have erected in place of healthy boundaries -- defenses that may do a lot of harm to you and your relationships.
We all make constant decisions about how to use this minute and that minute, whether to say yes or no to that request, whether to respond to a friend's need or rest a bit. It's the little decisions that can use up our lives, that can either support or sabotage our larger mission.
This book is about how to handle the daily demands of life in a way that protects your time and energy for the things that matter. It can help you to be clearer about what to include and what to leave out, so that you can fill the spaces of your life with the people, activities, and pursuits that are truly yours.
You are the only one who can change your life.
Copyright © 2000 by Anne Katherine, M.A.