Boundaries? No thank you!
The issue of boundaries has long been a hot topic in the field of interpersonal psychology and, over the course of the past several decades, much has been written about this important subject. Questions about how to understand and define one’s personal limitations and to communicate these effectively to others so that these are respected and honored are valuable ones to answer. As such, the idea I am going to share in this article is not intended to completely contradict or undermine notions of “healthy boundaries”, but rather to develop this concept one step farther—toward the place where even “healthy boundaries” can be replaced with something, well, even more extraordinary.
Think of a flea. A flea in a jar will quickly jump out of it. Put a lid on the jar and the flea, still repeatedly jumping, will collide over and over again into this boundary you’ve placed. This doesn’t feel so great for the flea, so eventually it learns to jump less high, thereby protecting itself from unwanted injury. Smart flea! Now you can remove the lid (the boundary), without the flea leaving the jar. Since the boundary you set has already achieved its function, it can be discarded. And the same is true for relationships. Eventually any and all “boundaries”, once they have been understood and respected, can be removed. To share a truly extraordinary relationship with someone, ultimately this is the goal: to develop an alliance in which boundaries become completely and utterly superfluous.
Boundaries only work to keep people away from us. Neighboring countries may erect fences or walls along their borders to better manage their relationship to one another. This is effective, but at what expense? A spirit of distrust and suspiciousness persists between the two nations and only the most tenuous peace is maintained. When there is genuine peace, when two nations are truly allies, there is no need for a barrier to divide them. Any fence or wall, any clearly defined boundary, would only stand as a reminder of their separation and leeriness of one another.
The philosophy of The Two Truths is not about separating ourselves from others, quite the opposite. It’s about learning how to effectively achieve harmony and peace through extraordinary relationships, both within ourselves and with those we care for. It’s about building intimacy and enjoying satisfying lives filled with rich and rewarding relationships. For these particular goals, boundaries do not work. Boundaries limit freedom rather than fostering and promoting it. Boundaries attempt to tell others where they can and cannot go, what they can and cannot say, what they can and cannot do, what they can and cannot think or feel. Boundaries are the very opposite of giving permission. Boundaries don’t unite; they divide. They keep others a “safe distance” away which, in some cases, may be the goal, but not when we are striving for an extraordinary relationship. In the extraordinary relationship, we don’t want boundaries; we want true and lasting harmony and intimacy.
If boundaries don’t work to achieve harmony and intimacy, then what does? Knowledge that we are the masters of our own emotions and that, whenever we suffer emotionally, we have the power to transform this. To best “protect” ourselves, we give permission to others, freedom to others, even when they do not give it to us. We give freedom for others to think and feel and say and do whatever (within legal limits, of course), and give ourselves this exact same freedom. This is what creates peace and intimacy. Boundaries only create the illusion of peace and that’s not the highest accomplishment we are capable of attaining. We can achieve more. What precisely? Not merely a relationship without boundaries, per se, but a relationship with no use for boundaries.
Instead of setting boundaries, instead of telling people what they can and cannot do, we communicate. We communicate on the level of wants, expressing our wants to others and inquiring about their own wants. This type of dialogue promotes mutual understanding. We respect another person’s right to choose to do whatever they want. We do not attempt to control. We educate. We inform others of our wants and leave it up to them to honor or disregard this information. If they disregard our wants, despite knowing them clearly, then this tells us a whole lot about them. They are not someone with whom we want to share an intimate relationship. That’s when we can say, “Thanks, but no thanks”. Besides, we do not have to stay with someone in order to have a harmonious and peaceful relationship with them. Many relationships actually improve after two people, lovingly, agree to part ways.
The goal isn’t to maintain boundaries, but to invite freedom, a freedom that respects other people’s right to choose for themselves what they want to think, feel, say, or do. Does that mean that we let people “walk all over of us”? Of course not. It means that we take a stand for our relationships to be extraordinary. We share a discovery process with others, learning about their preferences and helping them learn about ours. If we care about one another, we’ll naturally modify our individual behaviors in consideration of our increased knowledge of one another. And we’ll do this not because boundaries have been set, but because we understand, love, and respect one another. So, boundaries are never the issue, choices are—our own and those of others. We give others permission to interact with us according to their own abilities, and give ourselves permission to alter our choices in response. We focus on ourselves. All along, boundaries are never a factor; freedom is.
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