Recovery Workshop: Lesson Forty-One

Mastering Boundary Awareness

Take today to review the past four lessons on boundaries. Review the work that you have done on identifying your own boundary system. Ensure that you have a working knowledge of how you will use your boundaries to help you manage your life. How you will use them to assist in decision-making. To protect your value system. Ensure that you understand why your boundaries will evolve. How they will evolve. If you do not understand any of this, share your questions in the community forum.

Lesson 41 Exercise:

It is your job to eventually identify and master the boundaries that exist to protect all of your highest values. This cannot be accomplished in a single sitting.

Over the next month, keep a log of the moderate to major events that occur in your life and assess your ability to deal with these events in terms of your existing boundaries. Family arguments, decisions, chore assignments, etc. All are related to your values and all should have boundaries that protect those values. With each event, identify the event itself, the values that were infringed upon, the existing boundaries that were in place to protect those values and any additional rules/boundaries that may help you the next time you face a similar situation.

There is no need to write all of this out as long as you are actively deepening your awareness of the role that these boundaries played in protecting/abandoning your values (though if you have the time, writing them all out would prove to be a tremendous benefit).


Event: I had plans to attend dinner with a platonic, female friend who was in town on business. My wife didn't want me going and we argued for several days about the decision. Her main argument was that she didn't trust me — though I have done nothing to earn that assumption in over two years. The decision was made that I would go, but at the last minute she called to say that she had to work late. As I had no other choice, I cancelled dinner to stay home and watch the kids.

Reaction: Felt frustrated, helpless. Taken advantage of. Manipulated.

Values Involved: Respect; Partnership; Personal Growth; Honesty (and more)

Existing Boundaries: When one of us is going to be late, we call. When we speak to each other, we speak in specifics, not generalities. When decisions are made in terms of prioritizing time, children's activities come before our own. When our personal growth time is infringed upon, we have that time made up in other ways.

Their Effectiveness in Managing this Situation: Poor. All boundaries were adhered to, but I still felt taken advantage of, violated, disrespected.

New Boundaries Needed: Current trust boundaries were insufficient in managing the event. Will need to adjust as follows:

Old Boundary: When we speak to each other, we speak in specifics, not generalities.
New Boundaries: When we communicate, all questions will be answered in specifics. When we communicate, will make every effort to offer all relevant information without having to be asked for it. An omission of information will be treated the same as a lie. We will each subscribe to a policy of absolute honesty towards each other. With these boundaries in place, an assumption of trust will exist.

This is the level of awareness/assessment that you will want to engage in at least once a day for the next month if you are to master the practical application of boundaries in your life. There is no such thing as a 'good day' where no events take place. There is only a lack of priority on your part to develop this awareness.

Mastering Boundary Awareness: In Others

In the previous lesson, you took time out to explore the value system/boundary system of someone you care about. Someone who is important to you. This exercise in 'empathy' is valuable if you were indeed able to connect with that loved one's value system. However, even in your best effort, you will still be limited by your own perceptions, values, skills, etc. To master this boundary awareness, you will need to allow THEM to share their values/boundaries unfiltered.

If it is safe for both of you, ask this person to explore these things with you. Ask them to share their values and boundaries openly and with pride...with you taking a passive, inquisitive role only. If it is not safe to do this with that person, choose someone else. Someone non-threatening. Your primary goal here is to sit back and listen to how someone else is striving to manage their life.

Now, you will find this exercise much more rewarding if it can be completed with a close loved one; but if that is not possible...find a way of completing it with someone less threatening. A friend. A coworker. Someone in a support group. Find a way of seeing their life through THEIR eyes — WITHOUT attaching your personal perceptions, judgments and/or values to that life. Just allow them to share, asking questions only to clarify their boundaries — if needed.

In your recovery thread, briefly share who the person you interviewed was (relationship, not name). If this person is close to you, share two or three of their most important boundaries that you will maintain an awareness of as the relationship moves forward.

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