The toughest boundaries I ever set were with myself.
And they are STILL the toughest boundaries I have to enforce every day.
Growing up, I learned to relate to myself a certain way. Talk to myself a certain way.
Lots of us grew up learning to relate and talk to ourselves in certain ways that didn’t exactly make us feel awesome.
Why? Because that’s how we were related to. That’s how we were talked to.
When we were abused, bullied, or neglected growing up, yes, it’s awful— but it’s also instructive. It “teaches” us what we’re supposedly worth.
It “teaches” us how we “should” be talked to.
We get USED to being related to and talked to like we are not worthy. It becomes familiar.
We internalize it. We learn to talk to ourselves in aways that are self-downing, dismissive, mean.
Then, when people come along and actually treat us with respect or kindness, it feels…off. Wrong. Weird.
The reason for that is because it clashes with our conditioning— but we don’t know that.
All we know is, we have a “feel” for what we “deserve”—and what we “deserve” is to be put down.
Most of this happens implicitly. We don’t wake up one day and DECIDE that we’re going to treat ourselves like sh*t, because we’ve only BEEN treated like sh*t.
It just becomes part of our conditioning. Part of our programming. Often the cornerstone, the baseline of our conditioning.
When I got into recovery, a lot of the stuff I was learning felt “wrong”— because it clashed with what I was used to.
Recovery asks us to be kind to ourselves.
Recovery asks us to be on our own side.
Recovery asks us to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
My conditioning tells me that I don’t deserve ANY of that. My conditioning told me that suggesting I deserved kindness was some sort of “excuse.” That it was me trying to get out of what I “deserved.”
Turns out: we can’t recover AND talk to ourselves like we’re someone we hate at the same time.
We have to set limits on how we talk to ourselves.
When our conditioning nudges us to behave in self-harmful or self-sabotaging ways, we have to set limits with it.
We have to set boundaries with ourselves.
And it’s hard.
My brain wants what my brain wants, when my brain wants it. And if what it wants is to beat the living sh*t out of me, it feels “wrong” to set a boundary— even if that boundary is just, “I will not beat the sh*t out of myself.”
Sometimes my brain wants to relapse. I have to set a boundary with it— that we don’t relapse just because we want to.
Boundaries of all sorts tend to be difficult for trauma survivors— but boundaries with ourselves are often the MOST difficult to stay consistent with.
Our old programming, our old tapes, WILL kick back when we try to set a boundary. They will NOT like it.
But we’re not in recovery to stay loyal to our old conditioning.
We’re not in recovery to stay loyal to our old abusers.
And that’s who we’re REALLY settling limits with when we set boundaries with our conditioning, isn’t it?
Yes it is.
One thought on “The most important boundaries we can set.”
Dang…so on point.Marrying the same, the conditioning was so thorough, is probably what a lot of us do. It’s true. It feels so strange when treated with real kindness from someone–usually a random stranger, I’ve stacked my deck so neatly with “the familiar.” I do feel almost uncomfortable, when treated kindly and generously. it’s so strange. I couldn’t really put together why this has been all jumbled up for me before, because my values entail treating others with the upmost respect–simply because they exist, and are a spark of the divine. I couldn’t quite understand why my efforts to be my best–which I now think was subconsciously seeking to finally somehow “prove” I deserve to be treated fairly, kindly, respectfully–with basic dignity–never seemed to produce that. I guess, it cannot come from those that need that paradigm in place, and doesn’t change for those who think they deserve it. Wow. Mind-blowing, Doc, thank you.
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