Using the wisdom in the body to help guide us in honoring our boundaries.
May 30, 2018
Hands up who has ever had a challenge maintaining their boundaries. How about saying no to something you don’t want to do? Or what about wanting to ask for what we need, but not being sure how to say it? (Both my hands are waving wildly in the air for all of these).
You see I find these 3 things often go hand in hand:
maintaining and honoring our boundaries
saying no (in a way that doesn’t drain your energy)
asking for what we need…without guilt!!
And I know I’m not the only one out there who struggles with these. But I’m working on it and things continue to improve in this area of my life. I’ve found that tuning into my body sensations, along with my awareness of my thoughts and energy help guide me in this process…and I think this is a deeper way for you to work these 3 things too.
First off, a little personal backstory on having our boundaries breached and how my body (tried) to guide me…if I would’ve listened at the time! Haha. (I’ve changed names and some minor details, but the essence of the experience is the same.)
So awhile back I got home from a more or less regular day working (back in the day when I was at the hospital), and pretty much wanted to go to bed as soon as I walked in the door. I was zonked. At 6pm. I’m all for an early bed-time, but this was a little excessive!! I’d felt this before, and often attributed it to just overdoing it in a day.
So this time I went, “Nope, really truly I know it was just a regular day,” so what did I do differently? And then I realized. Huh. Maybe that “little errand” I’d agreed to do for a friend had something to do with it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’d been an (unfortunate) energy suck for me. You see, I’d gotten a message from my friend that morning saying she’d found this great toy for Kelly (not really her kids name), a good ol’ Craigslist pickup.
She figured I was in the area for it, and it was really hard for her to go pick it up when her kid was always with her, so she just asked if I’d grab it on my way home. She’s a single mom. I wanted to be supportive. I didn’t want to make her life harder. So I instantaneously just said a bright and cheery “yeah, sure, no problem!” Then she gave me the number for the Craigslist person and said “oh this will just be easier if you coordinate pick-up with them.”
And I think “Ummm ok. I guess that makes sense.” Except then me and Mr. Craigslist Pickup Dude had scheduling issues and just couldn’t mesh times for pick-up. We’d already exchanged a half dozen messages to find a time/place to meet. And then I’m thinking, I’ve spent half my lunch break trying to organize this…gah! I’m frustrated with my friend (who I haven’t communicated this with at all) and I’m frustrated at me for saying yes, and I just want to eat my leftover lasagna and relax! Sigh. So long story short, I ended up meeting the Craigslist person later that day in a totally out of the way area for me, but here’s the kicker it felt easier to do that than to just call my friend up and say, hey, this isn’t working out!
Has anybody been in a situation like that?
Where you automatically agreed to something, then found it was way more trouble and challenge than you were up for/had time for, but figure since you’ve already started it’s easier to just finish it rather than (gasp) bail on a friend!
When I slowed down and reflected a little more on that initial conversation where my friend asked my to do this, I realized I’d ignored a lot of body signals that told me that I didn’t really want to do this. And that I wasn’t maintaining my boundaries with this.
I didn’t pay attention to the tightening in my throat and upper chest as I said yes. I’d initially felt myself stiffen my spine and throw my shoulders back, you know, into that “perfect” upright sitting posture…Basically like pumping myself up to say yes when really I wanted to say no. Because right after I agreed, I felt the energy draining out of my shoulders and my heart area…there it is, helllllllooo energy drain.
I was letting my perception of my friend’s situation (single mom, kid’s birthday, trying to buy a more economically priced present) and ignoring the fact that my plate was full enough that day, and that I don’t really like meeting Craigslist people as not everyone is exactly reliable. I was putting what I thought were her needs, above my own. Heck for all I knew, she had 10 other options for getting that gift! I’d unwittingly allowed my emotions and difficulty in saying no to rule my response. On another level, I wanted to show it was no big deal. Yeah, sure I can handle one more thing on my crazy day. Bring it on!
Except here’s the tell for me. It’s always a dead giveaway for me and a clear sign I’ve not honored boundaries. It starts with an R and feels pretty icky….that uncomfortable, self-righteous feeling of RESENTMENT! That’s my cue to go, wait a second, how can I now navigate this situation differently now that I realize what’s happened? Now that I realize I’ve not maintained my boundaries (my responsibility, not anyone else’s).
So what did I do after all this? When I’m at home, tired like I want a 12 hour snooze fest, and really just wanting to just crash in bed (or lose myself in hours of youtube cat videos, that’s my other alternative when I’m over-tired hahaha). Ok so here’s what I decided to do:
First off, I did a little TLC on my energy body through a grounding and nourishing meditation (do a lovely earthing meditation to connect your roots to the core of the earth, and/or just head on over to Youtube to find a guided meditation you resonate with. I love the Honest Guys channel, if you don’t know where to start, try them!) I think of this like an an energetic reset. I got myself into a good headspace and a more resourced feeling in my body. By resourced, I mean I felt good and not in energy drain land, I felt nourished. And then I decided to get clear on what I needed out of this situation, so that I didn’t harbor any resentment with my friend…which she would’ve had no idea about.
Later when I saw my friend to drop off the gift, I had a bit of a chat with her. No I didn’t go into the whole sob story of being frustrated that it took so long to organize that pick-up. I just simply said I’ve realized I have a hard time saying “no” to her, because I can appreciate that being a single mom is challenging, so I have an unconscious need to say yes.
This opened up a whole new conversation with her (as she was totally surprised by this) and actually ended up deepening our relationship. We both agreed that when we ask each other a favor, we’ll give each other a few moments of pause to tune in and answer from our heart, instead of answering automatically. Yup, that’s some good love and support in a friendship that I’m grateful to have.
So there’s a bit of a long example of when pausing and tuning into my body sensations could’ve told me how I actually wanted to handle that situation. Next time I’m in a situation where I feel my throat tightening right after I’ve said yes, I have given myself permission to go “Oh wait, I’ve realized this doesn’t actually work for me.” I’ve realized I am allowed to pause, reflect, and give a different answer!!! Pretty crazy stuff, I know ;)
Ok so let’s break this down a little. Here are some ideas and tips for the “big 3” I talked about at the start…especially for honoring your boundaries:
Pause. Literally. Instead of the instant “yes” response or “sure that’s fine I’ll finish of that big report by Monday gulp” or whatever it is that someone has brought into your life, that you feel is stretching what you need to do to take care of you.
- So, just take a pause (ok maybe not for like 5 minutes without explaining that you need a sec), but allow yourself just a little time and space to absorb what your instant reaction is about to be, and check-in with your body to see what it feels like. If you’ve got a strong area of tightening, or like a sinking pit in your stomach, well you might want to consider what your boundaries are in that situation. ….
Consciously give yourself permission to say no. (This comes straight from Brene Brown’s permission slips…she will actually write herself a permission slip for something she’s struggling with, which I really love the idea of). If this is your process, feel free to physically write it out and carry it with you. You are allowed and worthy to do _____________________ (ie say no to this person, to ask for what you need in this situation, whatever it is!) Know that you will still be loved if you say no. (Hello subsconscious fears–>really these have no place in the real world, but they still exist of course).
Gently question why you have trouble saying no or maintaining boundaries, you can meditate on it or try free-writing for 10 minutes with a prompt like this: I want to be able to easily ask for what I need, but I find it pretty hard because…. you might be surprised what shows up. (I love free-writing by the way, it’s a great way to find what’s underneath the surface thoughts.)
Seek the help of a therapist (I am all for getting some support on a deep level around these challenges!). Whether that be a Counsellor, Somatic Experiencing Therapist, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist, or someone else familiar with providing a safe and trauma-informed container for you to explore the “big 3.”
Try out different ways of saying no that are easier for you. Here’s some ideas:
“I’d love too, but I just can’t fit it in right now.”
“That sounds great, though it doesn’t really work for me at this time.”
“I’ll need to think about it and get back to you later on it.”
“Thanks so much for the invitation, but I have other plans (like having a bath at home to recharge…they don’t have to know your plans are with you!)”
- Play around and find some wordings that feel physically easier to say. Practice saying them out loud, does your voice go high and squeaky or stay neutral? Or does your body stay relatively relaxed with it? Use that one!
And last but certainly not least, you could try some Flower Essences (also called Flower Remedies) for emotional and energetic support. Flower Essences are basically a homeopathic version of the flower imprinted in water. I’ve personally found them extremely helpful to gently work on emotional issues and personality traits that I’d like to shift. My favorite definition: “Plant Helpers from the Spirit World.” But if you’re not super into the vibrational imprint of things, don’t let that turn you off. I’ve got a link below that gives more info for ya.
- If you want to actively work with your boundaries and being able to say no in a healthy way using Flower Remedies, these are a few suggestions (which are all definitely in my cupboard ;)
Walnut: It’s sometimes referred to as the Flower Essence for protection, but I have both read and personally found it’s better at helping me be able to tune into my own thoughts and needs (as opposed to being overly concerned with someone else. Yup, there’s that empathic nature coming in…I find the “big 3” are something energetically sensitive people can really struggle with, espeically empaths and intuitives). So really, Walnust helps me get a better handle on what I need in that moment, instead of being influenced by outside sources as much. (So, sorta protection, but in a different way than you’d first think). Also a great remedy for times of change, letting go of the old and transitioning to the new.
Centaury: Literally, for saying no. For recognizing what you need and that your time and energy are not limitless, and for strengthening the ease with which you can decline a request.
Elm: For overwhelm. Sometimes we get so overloaded with responsibilities that we don’t know which way is up. Using Elm can help you land on what’s important and what needs to be focused on right now, in this moment.
If you’re new to Flower Essences, you can find more info here: https://www.crystalherbs.com/bach/bach-remedies-choosing.asp
Each time you take one, it’s helpful to remember WHY you are taking it. Just a little reminder to our psyche that we are working on this actively. Our so-called “negative traits” are definitely some of our most powerful teachers and tools for growth, so selecting Flower Essences is something that requires a little bit of reflection on where we are currently at. And one more quick thing on Flower Essences, you always choose based off the “negative state” not the glorious things you’d like to become by reading the charachterisitics of the “positive state.” Work on one onion layer at a time my friend :)
Alrighty so I trust this will support you in exploring how to honor your boundaries, say no, and ask for what you need. So as always, if you have questions or curiosities about this, body awareness, trauma recovery, or Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, you are welcome to get in touch via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blessings and gratitude,