Have you ever felt overwhelmed, sick to your stomach, sad, and angry but not sure why?
It could be that someone was violating your boundaries and it was so subtle that the only way you would see it is for your body to send you those signals.
I have done a lot of work on my boundaries the last few years and, one thing I have learned is that, once I believe I have done a lot of work on my boundaries, I am sent someone who lets me test out my newly strengthened skills (and hubris).
It happened again a few weeks ago. The first week of this new relationship was really confusing. I was excited, I was taking steps to build my business and it was growth for me on many levels. At the same time, I was exhausted, not sleeping well again, eating a lot for no reason, and my stomach pain and diminished interest in anything was back.
When a coach friend asked if this felt familiar to other situations, a light bulb went on. It felt like all of those times when I didn’t have great boundaries – when I ended up with gall stones (and a dead gall bladder), endometriosis, and kidney stones. Once I made those connections, I could look at the situation and identify where I had let my boundaries get permeable and was repeating old patterns. The light was on, now I needed to look around the room.
In this case, looking around the room meant watching what my body did when I received and read an email – and waiting to respond until I was really clear with what I wanted to accomplish. If my goal was to be heard, I realized I would not be clear, and it would escalate. I needed to edit my response. My body signal was tightness, frustration, the start of a headache and, most telling, shaking my head in disbelief. If my goal was to state my response clearly and without room for interpretation, then I could proceed. This felt clear and positively charged, on the verge of excitement, really.
I love that my body gave me warning signals when this started and as I looked around the room. I love that my friend asked a question that turned that light on. I love that looking at the situation was not about laying blame; it was about identifying and breaking old patterns so that I could be healthy and feel good again.
The next few days I spent extra time being clear in my responses (I stopped trying to explain and build understanding because that failed, and even backfired, for a whole week) and I tried really hard to keep everything simple and clear.
It no longer mattered that we had confirmed tasks multiple times two weeks earlier, that the other person stated interpretations of what was going on with me as fact and that were clearly inaccurate, and that the other person attempted to “punish” me for speaking up by taking projects away (but without telling me until they completed my tasks). It only mattered that the other person was not living up to what they agreed to and I needed to decide how I would respond – not how I could change the situation back to what we agreed to. My only move was to decide whether I was going to keep struggling against reality or move on and do only what was right for me knowing what I know now.
I was never going to change this person’s mind or make them see me through explaining.
Yes, I was still triggered a bit when I received an email with a subtle dig or a repetition of the misunderstanding but that initial response (like a flare of anger) was so quickly neutralized now that I knew I was on the right track.
The next week was amazing. I was not triggered by emails in a significant way (even when they contained thinly veiled digs) and I stayed clean and clear in my responses. I noticed that I no longer craved junk food and I stopped overeating. I ate when I was hungry, I drank more water, I got more work done, the stomach pain was gone, I was able to do more things that I enjoyed, and I was back to sleeping fully and deeply.
Oh, and the three pounds I gained the first week of this situation are gone now.
I am still learning how to hear my inner voice that says, “You’re not being heard” (isn’t that ironic) – it is my intuitive signal that I need to check my boundaries and make sure I am clear. This takes practice and is hard work – but it gets faster and easier. What previously would have taken me years (sometimes more than a decade), took 10 days (ok, three weeks in total, and I am still provided opportunities to practice – three Sunday night, none on Monday). Only 10 days.
Now that I am feeling confident again, I am sure the next boundary violator is coming. I am grateful I am even better prepared for this one (because he or she is bound to be even more subtle).
If any of this sounds or feels familiar to you and you would like someone to walk with you on your path to solid, healthy boundaries, I would love to help you see your own strength.