At the heart of codependency is an overstepping of boundaries. It's one thing to do for others what they cannot do for themselves, but another to keep thinking and acting the same way when they can do more for themselves. Prolonged caretaking or living in a dysfunctional community can easily lead to this kind of imbalance; even when the one we've been caretaking begins to get better, or if we should find ourselves in a healthier community with more responsible people, we still continue to feel anxiety about others/situations and can't just relax into our own lives.
As you know from working Step One, some of what we lose with codependency are a sense of being in possession of our own life, self, energy, etc. It always seems as though other people and circumstances determine what these will be, and so we spend a lot of time focused on those externals, trying to control them. That's hard work! Impossible work! The harder you try, the worse it gets, both for you and others. Boundaries enable us to regain a sense of having our own life, energy, and self. They also enable healthy relationships. As an old saying puts it, "good fences make good neighbors."
What follows are several links to web pages on boundaries and relationships. What I'd suggest is that you read them over and see how they apply to codependent relationships and circumstances in your life. Some of this will overlap with previous reflections, but much will be new. For one thing, we are beginning to affirm positive directions for recovery and for healthier relationships. Look them over and see what you think. Share your reflections and questions on the forum, as needed.
A worksheet I developed and have used in presentations on codependency.
A good discussion of what boundaries are, how we lose them/give them away, with links to other relevant pages.
Boundaries in Relationships
Another good discussion of origin of unhealthy boundaries, and a helpful comparison between healthy and unhealthy boundaries.
It's bedtime and I really should go crash, but thought I'd relax one boundary that I should be stricter about so I could post to the forum. Hahaha. I've found this an intriguing topic. I tend to feel guilty about setting real strong boundaries, feeling at times like I'm being selfish in doing so; but I'm beginning, in middle age, to value the unique person that I am and to honor that person. As I thought the whole issue of boundaries, I thought again of my singing experiences over the years. I've sung soprano all my life, and it felt like second nature to me. After a group I sang with finally disbanded, I finally found a parish near my home that had a choir I could join, and I jumped at the chance to be part of a community again. The director decided to put me as an alto, probably because I can hold a part and am a strong singer. That felt a little strange, but I decided to accept it, figuring perhaps it was where God wanted me, and that I should think of the needs of the choir before I thought of my own desires. I sang with that choir for nine years. During that time, when I would sing with musical theater groups, I was asked if I was a soprano or alto, and I'd always say that I could sing either. Well, of course that meant I'd get stuck singing alto. I kept telling myself I was really a soprano, but was just singing alto because it was needed, but I was at a place where I was never getting to sing in a range that had always been such a part of me. I got to where I was becoming a really sloppy singer, not supporting my tone and singing under pitch, etc. I finally started taking voice lessons from one of the musical directors of a show I'd been in, and she discovered I was a soprano, and I came to terms with how much I missed singing soprano. I didn't feel comfortable asking to switch to soprano in the choir I was in, as my singing was so bad by that point, and I didn't feel affirmed and accepted for who I was. So I switched to a different choir at a different Mass in the same parish, and when they asked what part I sang, I said, "I'm a soprano," and didn't even mention that I could sing alto. It fellt really good to say who I was instead of who I thought others wanted me to be. Then a couple years ago I sang in a show. Even though I auditioned as a soprano, and told this particular director so, I was put as an alto, and this director, who had known me as an alto, continued to have it in her head that I'd auditioned as an alto. I really didn't enjoy doing the show that year, but didn't leave, because my alto services were needed, and I'd previously talked to the producer about people didn't stick with their commitments to see a show through once they auditioned. I figured I'd better put my money where my mouth was! The year after that, we had a different director, and the producer of the show cast me in the chorus even though I hadn't auditioned. I figured since that was the case, I'd do it on MY terms, and sang soprano on most of the songs and had a blast. Even on the songs where I'd learned alto just to make sure the part was covered, this new choral director had me singing soprano. It was wonderful! This year I did the show again with this same choral director. He told me that the producer had me down to sing alto, but that we could still have fun, and it might be fun for me not to sing the melody all the time. Although I was a little disappointed at not getting to sing soprano, it wasn't so bad singing alto, because I was recognized for who I was, while being asked to use a different part of myself. This was quite different from the other director, who assumed I was a certain thing and wouldn't see it any other way. So it's been fun for me to see how I let people cross my boundaries in situations where I perhaps shouldn't have, and how those boundaries were able to become more flexible once I knew who I was and was accepted for who I was, and therefore was able to stretch a little to meet other types of needs. There's still a lot for me to think about on this subject, but my pillow is calling, so I need to answer the call.
Peggy, I found it interesting that you can tell how your singing voice is affected when you are being faithful to your true gifts, and when you're compromising them somehow. What a tangible indicator of boundaries that is for you. Thank you for your sharing.
I'm baaaack! Phil, in reading over the various links you gave us about boundaries, it looks like some of the wording in your first one didn't come through, or else it's in a form that my screen reader doesn't recognize. In the section on how to regain boundaries, under #1C, it says "I live acccording to gibberish) of moral values." Translation, please? Oh, and the other part is in consequences of lack of boundaries, #2, Narcissism: "The 'other' is part of (gibberish)." I think it's supposed to be "me", but don't want to assume. Can you translate, please?
I see what you mean, Peggy, and I've corrected the problem. It was a scanned document with a couple of errors. Should work fine now.
I'm just looking back through the various conferences to review and see what strikes me. The thing I keep coming back to in this one is how boundaries are "the means by which 'I' experience myself as separate from the other', and the defining of those things that "belong" to me (freedom of choice, etc.). Thinking about myself and others in this light helps me be more aware of when others are crossing over my boundaries or I over theirs, and helps me take more responsibility for those things that belong to me and leave those things that belong to others in their care.
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