By TLB Contributor: Ken LaRive
All of us, at one time or another, have been at odds with a relationship. We say “I really don’t like that person.” or “I can’t even be in the same room with them.” or “Just not my kind of people.” And then some seem to get along with everyone, and push through life ostensibly unaffected by any negativity around them.
We all see and realize the differences in others. Sometimes we can identify, and other times we become so agitated we go into a rage, even attempting to harm the other by both word or deed. It can be a subtle reaction easily forgotten, or gravitate to a point where slander seems justified, or violence tenable. Depending on circumstance, confrontation can escalate directly, toe to toe, or be fought behind the scenes, where both lines and defenses are drawn by the attempt to find others of like mind to both validate and help in the conflict.
According to Nina Brown, these quarrels are stimulated by how we are taught at mother’s knee as personal boundaries. These boundaries are so hard-wired into our personality that even the realization of where it originates may not be enough to rectify the conflict without professional help.
Personal boundaries have been studied by many, from sociologists, psychologists, to social engineers like Marx, and Freud. Boundaries are the guidelines that have been instilled in our physic, and though little of it seems to be conscious choice, they are not entirely set in stone. They can be controlled.
Boundaries are both the rules and the limits in each of us that creates identity. It is what we consider reasonable, permissible, safe and allowable when we deal with others. It is how we are taught to respond to each other, by past experiences, instilled attitudes, and a mixture of beliefs, opinions, and social learning that is the veritable stimulus for a specific response. Some are immediate knee-jerk reactions, and others are planned to transcend generations by hate-filled writings or social prejudices.
Jacques Lacan goes a bit further saying that personal boundaries define you as an individual, outlining your likes and dislikes, and setting the distances you allow others to approach. They include physical, mental, psychological and spiritual boundaries, involving beliefs, emotions, intuitions and self-esteem. He considered them to be layered in a hierarchy, reflecting “all the successive envelopes of the biological and social status of the person,” from the most primitive to the most advanced.
Nina Brown, defined four major types of psychological boundaries, they are:
Soft – A person with soft boundaries merges with other people’s boundaries. Someone with a soft boundary is easily manipulated.
Spongy – A person with spongy boundaries is like a combination of having soft and rigid boundaries. They permit less emotional contagion than soft boundaries but more than rigid. People with spongy boundaries are unsure of what to let in and what to keep out.
Rigid – A person with rigid boundaries is closed or walled off so nobody can get close to him/her either physically or emotionally. This is often the case if someone has been physically, emotionally, psychologically or sexually abused. Rigid boundaries can be selective which depend on time, place or circumstances and are usually based on a bad previous experience in a similar situation.
Flexible – This is the ideal. Similar to selective rigid boundaries but the person has more control. The person decides what to let in and what to keep out. –WIKIPEDIA
Understanding these four major types seems a breakthrough, and Gestalt therapy has been used to both define our personal boundaries, and to attempt to control them. The plan is to give an individual the ability to move between what is termed “connection” and “separation” that is jeopardized by either weak and over-rigid boundaries, stimulating, in a variety of methods, “enforced confluence” or “enforced withdrawal,” depending on what category or combination is ascertained by the therapist.
Understanding Narcissism seems very important…
Hotchkiss defined the word Narcissism as a person who does not recognize his boundaries, or indeed that others are separated and not a virtual extensions of his. Their reality and perceptions define the existence of others as a means to meet their personal (selfish) needs, and if they cannot, are discarded as useless, and emphatically ejected from their lives.
Those who cater to the needs of the narcissist subject themselves to living up to their narcissist expectations, and in that process there is no longer a definable boundary between their self and the other.
If you displayed boundaries to a narcissist, the relationship would possibly be in jeopardy.
The loss of personal boundaries and the absorption of the self is one key feature associated with psychosis. Such a boundary loss is sometimes described as, “I wasn’t myself.” or “I was besides myself.” Psychosis is the primary reason people think they are going insane. The old adage that “No one can hurt you unless you let them.” seems applicable here, because it is not only a lack of control, but that boundaries become diffused by the definition of another’s boundary that you let control you. The loss of “self”, as described by Carl Rogers, is a dependency one has on another for self worth.
It might seem creditable to mention here that propaganda utilizes this concept in the control of others. A case in point might be the growing dependency on government to be the wherewithal in a growing socialistic state. When one relinquishes control to a dominating government, individual boundaries no longer exist, and liberty withers.
Defining, discarding and rebuilding boundaries
A relationship is complicated, some work and others are at odds. It might be perceived that a healthy personal relationship depends on an individual’s perception of self-worth, and other nebulous concepts like, joy, elation, and happiness, or motivators such as responsibility, truthfulness, and many others that can be incorporated as a primary axiom of what is termed by social scientist as “mental health.” A so called healthy relationship, as understood using this method, sees the co-dependent personality to have difficulties in setting limits, and the inability for both defining and protecting boundaries to be a vital part of regaining mental health. Others say there are “innate” boundary limitations we are born with as survival tools, and or as mating modus operandi as well.
Therapists of many categories seem convinced that an individual should develop clear boundaries. A family in painful communicational distress have developed an unhealthy enmeshment that overrides normal personal boundaries, and seems to this student very profound in understanding both the problem, and finding a viable reconciliation. However, the outcome, and this is primary, may not always be for the cohesion of that particular relationship. The negative fall-out of past boundary transgressions might be so pathological, the interdependence so central to the relationship, no other viable connections exist. Unless these new boundaries are understood and accepted by both parties, the particular association, for all intent and purpose, is finished. To develop new boundaries is to develop a new relationship, and something else must be found to stimulate that.
Love as a common denominator
In research, there seems little regard for the use of “love” by the writings of most social scientists, and that is not understood. Seems that love is indeed a powerful universal denominator, and though it is not readily defined as such, it is a commonalty that can hold a relationship together no matter what consequence or significance social scientists put on individual boundaries. There are times, no matter how narcissistic or co-dependent a patient is found to be in therapy, the patient may deny it, even making up scenarios to justify the situation. Not everything is what it seems to be, and this is the most difficult part of making a prognosis. The patient must see the problem in order to control it. Love is a common denominator.
On the surface, an individual dealing with others might be perceived to be unhappy and despondent, their relationship dysfunctional. They might be reluctant to admit a problem, and invariably un-accepting that anything could or should change.
Indeed, change takes effort, and the outcome from that endeavor might not seem worth the risk or effort without an admission, or to set upon a perceptible plan of action. In other words, some people are in denial that they could actually have inside of them a flaw so profound it is inhibiting them from a fruitful and rewarding life. It is like trying to describe color to a blind person. Denying that anything at all is wrong, they might attempt to continue to the end of their lives with unresolved issues that could have easily been addressed in therapy, and the diminished quality of their lives will go unrealized.
In order to find the root cause of a relationship problem, one must comprehend that the start of the process of both healing and understanding begins inside of themselves. Also, and this might seem basic, but it also takes two. It takes two to make a relationship, and both must desire that.
Understanding the nature of True Love
One cannot define love as selfish in nature, as it seems evident that both narcissism and co- dependence live and is nurtured by selfish desires. True love, Agape Love, is unselfish in nature, and this is the cement that can keep a relationship intact beyond any other. When you hold your significant other in high regard, above yourself, you will want what is best for them. It is the volition for self reflection, the strength to overcome both self doubt and denial, and the primary essence that stimulates positive change. Without it, a relationship is BASE in nature. True Love is selfless, and an individual must know self- love in order to love another with any meaningful value. Ideas created and devised by man such as honor, principle, ethics, value, significance, and many others, all get their origin from ones original understanding of the concept of love, and this will influence boundaries in powerful ways.
Though the Id, ego and super-ego are also parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche; this concept is too complex for the confines of this paper. Never-the-less, they are indeed a further description of mind and its perception of reality, and worthy of further study.
This concept of boundaries can be extended to most every conflict we find ourselves in this ever shrinking world. It is the reason we can’t get ice in our drinks in France, a straight answer in India, or constant war from an out of control war machine. With approximately 6,912 languages sharing far more cultures, it is no wonder we are having problems with boundaries. It is the reason cultures want a secure border, to save their culture, and why a central banking system doesn’t. A One World Order relinquishes all boundaries. A disintegrating border is the destruction of sovereignty and liberty, and what is left is collective dominion over all.
The readings below were suggested by Wikipedia:
1. ^ Boundaries definition, Outofthefog.net[unreliable source?]
2. ^ Vanessa Rogers, Working with Young Men (2010) p. 80
3. ^ G. B. and J. S. Lundberg, I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better (2000) p. 13. ISBN 978-0-670-88485-8
4. ^ Timothy Porter-O’Grady/Kathy Malloch, Quantum Leadership (2003) p. 135
5. ^ Jacques Lacan, Ecrits (1997) p. 16-7
6. ^ Brown, Nina W., Coping With Infuriating, Mean, Critical People – The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern 2006. ISBN 978-0-275-98984-2
7. ^ G. M. Yontef, Awareness, Dialogue and Process (1993) p. 375
8. ^ Hotchkiss, Sandy & Masterson, James F. Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism (2003)
9. ^ ‘Claire’, in Simon Crompton, All About Me: Loving a Narcissist (London 2007) p. 105. ISBN 978-0-00-724795-0
10. ^ Patrick Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (London 1990) p. 160
11. ^ Janae B. Weinhold et al, Breaking Free of the Co-Dependency Trap (2008) p. 198
12. ^ Robin Skinner/John Cleese, Families and How to Survive Them (London 1993) p. 93 and p. 213
13. ^ Weinhold, p. 192
14. ^ Weinhold, p. 198
15. ^ Richard G. Abell, Own Your Own Life (1977) p. 119-122
16. ^ Sigmund Freud, ‘Le Bon’s Description of the Group Mind’, in Civilization, Society and Religion (PFL 12) p. 98-109
17. ^ Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought (2007) p. 403
18. ^ C. G. Jung ed., Man and his Symbols (1978) p. 123
19. ^ Carole Jones, Disappearing Men (2009) p. 176
20. ^ R. D. Laing, Self and Others (Penguin 1972) p. 36
21. ^ Carl R. Rogers, Becoming Partners (London 1973) p. 35
22. ^ Patricia Evans, Controlling People (Avon 2002) p. 33-7
23. ^ C. D. C. Reeve, Love’s Confusions (2007) p. 168-171
24. ^ Gary Gutting ed., The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2003) p. 22-4