Have you ever began reading a book for one reason, only for it to turn out way more meaningful for you than you initially thought? The book I just finished was so insightful to me on a personal level. I bought Boundaries With Kids because of my job as a teacher and wanting to become better at classroom management. However, boundaries have always been an area of difficulty for me. It seems to be a common issue globally; “most boundary problems are universal” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998).
Dr. Cloud & Townsend seem to cover the familial cycle pretty well; being that: parents who never learned boundaries do not have the tools to teach their children boundaries, and so the cycle goes on. I grew up with a set of two very different people when it came to… well, pretty much everything! In their parenting styles, my mother was Disciplinarian, but mostly in a Permissive or Indulgent form. My father was sometimes Authoritarian (or he tried to be), but mostly he was Uninvolved. It’s fair to say, I’ve had my work cut out for me when it came to my own boundaries and understanding the origin. For so long, I let others trample over me like a doormat; always being too polite to set the boundary. I’ve come quite a long way since.
My parent’s marriage was in trouble long before I become conscious of it; way long before they officially got divorced. For all the personal and relational issues they were never able to work out themselves, my brother and I paid for. It is common knowledge these days that we inherit our family trauma; it shapes who we are. It Didn’t Start With You. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just is what it is. At one point or another, we have to evaluate and own the reality of our childhoods, as well as develop ways to heal and grow from the traumas faced back when we didn’t have the resources to adequately cope. My personal history has been what shaped me into wanting to study Psychology, to practice teaching – particularly Kindergarten – children who are still in their developmental stages of life. I am still not where I want to be on my healing journey, but I have come a long way, and mindfully try to work on this daily. I know that my pain – like my parent’s and their ancestors’ pain – will fundamentally trickle down into the lineage in some way, shape or form if not dealt with. We have to find ways to break that cycle – or at least die trying.
For a long time I have battled with a fearful avoidant attachment. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a blog about ‘how messed up I am’. Everyone has their issues. I am just trying to shine light on how critically important it is to identify why we are they way we are, because it is in that awareness that change can happen. Whether you were able to emotionally connect to your caregivers matters now more than ever. Those infantile needs, having not been met, do not just go away with time. I love what the book says on this: “Time is only a context for healing. It is not the healing process itself. Infections need more than time; they need antibiotics. With nothing but time, things do not improve, but break down further.” Whether you viewed your parents as individuals who cared for you is important. Your life setting and environmental influences play a massive role in your adult life today.
Try to isolate the specific boundary conflict in your life. Determine how severe the problem is. Now that you are no longer a helpless child in the hands of wounded individuals trying their best at survival, you have a multitude of resources. What have you got to deal with in yourself that is within your control? We cannot change our past or our parents. We can only try to empathise and to do our best with what we have, where we are, and what we know, and continue to grow in our knowlege and awareness of ourselves.
An incredible way of discovering these parts of myself were in my relationship with my partner. There’s something about a romantic attatchment that is like no other when it comes to seeing the real you – flaws and all. In our relations with others, we see our reflections. Observe your reactions. Keep “working on whatever is broken in you that causes you to respond inappropriately” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). What have you internalised or introjected from your upbringing? When I realise the responses which are not serving me or my relationship, I try adressing them. The things I have found were not all sunshine-and-rainbows! Seeing the truth isn’t always easy. It’s damn painful and unpleasant to accept. However, it is crucial to our development, now that we have the element of choice.
Really, what contributing factors made you YOU? How are you the perpetrator of your own problem? How can you take responsibility now for the adult you turned out to be? Is it working for you? Trust me, I still catch myself playing ‘the blame game’, trying to pin my problems on the traumas I suffered as a child or young adult. I’m not saying we have to excuse the serious stuff that was dealt to us (like in the case of abuse) – but we absolutely have to free ourselves from the bond it holds over us. One way of doing this is forgiveness. SO MUCH HARDER SAID THAN DONE – trust me, I know! I’ve gone back and fourth with this so many times. What I can say is that it does ease the pain at least a little bit to try to empathise with the parent or their past. Even if it’s just a tiny bit. You don’t have to do it for them. Do it for you; do it for the person you’re in a relationship with who you love and who deserves more, do it for your children (or, as in my case, future-children). My wish for the world is that we lessen this universal suffering; the overwhelming chaos in our lives; where we have “enough order and structure to bring order and structure” to future generations. I repeat, my mantra: Do what you can, with what you know, where you are. ❤