Psychology in Bigfooting – BOUNDARIES

Ironic that this would be the subject for my final blog.

For over two years now, I have been battling impending cervical cancer without health insurance while raising my daughter with very little financial support for her other than what I provide. Medical bills for tests, labs, procedures and checkups have been daunting and so has the fear of not knowing what’s next. For a while there, things were going better. However, last week, I received test results from a checkup that were less than encouraging.

My doctor has insisted that I remove as much stress as possible from my life in order to fight this. Being available and visible to the public makes one vulnerable to all sorts of craziness and the vast majority of stress in my life over the last couple of years has been due to that. More so, even, than this illness.

It ends here. For my sake, and for my daughter’s sake. I have a child to care for and she is my top priority. I need to be healthy in order to do so and that demands that I have peace in my life.

The Oregon Bigfoot public website will remain online for now. I will no longer be publishing the blog. My facebook account will be closed down to all but my closest friends and family. The Oregon Bigfoot members’ community WILL REMAIN ONLINE but ONLY members of the OB community will be able to contact me from now on. The OB members’ community will still be in existence for the co-education and support of witnesses.

My old email address, if you have it, will no longer be functional. I will not be corresponding with anyone other than close friends, family and OB members.

I want to thank all of you who have been supportive over the years. If you’re so inclined, please say a prayer or send some positive thoughts this direction. It would be greatly appreciated.

The following blog was written a little over a week ago. It is not finished, nor will it be, but it’s all I have left to offer.  I hope, in it, you find something helpful.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the very best.

 

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This is part three in a blog series. If you haven’t read part one (Psychology in bigfooting – FEAR) or part two (Psychology in Bigfooting – CONTROL) yet, please do.

Today’s topic is boundaries.

In the last two posts, we examined how fear is the root of dysfunctional behavior in human relationships and how people attempt to control one another when they feel fear. Today, we will discuss how establishing boundaries for oneself can mitigate the role of dysfunction in our lives.

Having clear-cut boundaries established within ourselves, and respecting the boundaries of others, is part of having a highly developed EQ (Emotional Quotient). Boundaries allow us to determine how we will and will not allow people in our lives to treat us. They establish our sense of Self, protect us from the whims, problems, needs and concerns of dysfunctional people, help us maintain autonomy and give us a sense of peace. Let’s look at each of those things more closely:

#1 Boundaries allow us to determine how we will and will not allow people in our lives to treat us. When we have established boundaries, we do not allow people to intimidate us or manipulate us.  We have a clear, healthy sense of how we wish to be treated and we maintain relationships only with those individuals who respect that.

#2 Boundaries establish our sense of Self: Others may have differing opinions, ideas and beliefs. We respect that, and do not feel the need to become someone we are not for another. Boundaries help to establish the difference between “me” and “you”. Your opinions are not mine. His beliefs are not yours.

#3 Boundaries protect us from the whims, problems, needs and concerns of dysfunctional people. While acting in a caring and concerned manner is one thing, rescuing people and allowing ourselves to be manipulated is another. (We’ll examine this more in a bit…)

#4 Boundaries help us maintain autonomy. When we maintain clearly established boundaries, we take responsibility for the emotions and actions that are ours, and allow others responsibility for themselves. We do not give in to unreasonable demands made by others.

#5 Boundaries give us a sense of peace. This is, perhaps, the most important function of maintaining our boundaries. With them, we know where we end and others begin. We have a clear idea of what behaviors are acceptable to us, and what is unacceptable. Without them, we fumble around in the dark in our interpersonal relationships, giving in to guilt trips, rescuing others, trying to control others, behaving dysfunctionally ourselves and wondering why our personal relationships become ugly or fail.

Boundaries light the way in the darkness of interpersonal relationships.

Maintaining our own personal boundaries is important, but so is respecting the boundaries of others. Controlling, intimidating, guilt-tripping, asking others to do for us what we can do for ourselves… these are all examples of over-stepping someone’s boundaries. Part of respecting others’ boundaries is recognizing others’ right to feel the way they do about things and not attempting to control them. You can offer insight (which is what this blog series has been about). You can share your own feelings and ideas in an attempt to inspire a different understanding in another (if you have permission from another to do so). But you cannot CONTROL others’ feelings, or make them feel something that they don’t.

When you maintain clear personal boundaries and respect the boundaries of others, it  looks something like this… I am me. You are you. I will meet you in the middle and you can meet me in the middle. I will not cross that line with you, either to control you or rescue you. I will not expect you to cross that line, nor will I allow you to. I am responsible for myself. You are responsible for yourself. If you cannot respect that, and attempt to push into my space or pull me into yours, I will remove myself from you.

Think of a personal relationship you have RIGHT NOW in which you feel drama, discord or discomfort. It can be with a spouse, a family member, a co-worker, a friend, an acquaintance, a member of the bigfoot community. Can you clearly identify WHAT the drama is? Are you angry with them? Are they angry with you?

Someone is crossing someone’s boundaries.

Is it you? Are you angry (fearful) because you cannot control that person? Or are you angry (fearful) because they have crossed a boundary that you have? Are they angry with (fearful of) you because you’re trying to control them? Or are they angry with (fearful of) you because they cannot control you? Who’s stepping over that middle line?

The reason it’s so important to have CLEARLY established boundaries is so we can figure out who’s crossing the line and take steps to remedy that and minimize the dysfunction.

This was shared with me years ago and has turned out to be one of the most powerful interpersonal tools I’ve ever learned. The Karpman Drama Triangle is a model of dysfunctional interaction (overstepping boundaries) and it unwittingly affects every relationship we enter into unless we’re aware of it and take steps to minimize its effects. It was visualized to me as a board game.

There are three positions on the board. Victim, Perpetrator and Rescuer. The game begins when someone “should’s” on us and attempts to make us responsible for their feelings or behavior. “You should do this,” they say. Or, “You should not have done that.” It may not be that overt. Often, it’s subtle… phrased in a way that is not direct but it’s still a guilt trip, a manipulation – someone trying to control us – and once we’ve taken the bait, the game is on. (Imagine yourself buried under a big, brown, stinky pile of someone’s “should”.)

Here’s how the game works: The first person always begins in the Victim position, in an attempt to make someone else responsible for their feelings or actions: “You should have…” Or, “You should not have…” Our gamepiece has been moved to the Perpetrator position, whether we like it or not. Do you notice that we’ve just allowed someone else control over us? They pulled us into the game and placed our gamepiece where they wanted it.

(REAL PERPETRATORS DO EXIST. THE ONLY TIME A “SHOULD” IS VALID IS WHEN SOMEONE IS GENUINELY HARMING ANOTHER OR OVERSTEPPING BOUNDARIES. NO ONE SHOULD DO THAT, NOR BE ALLOWED TO.)

Now it’s our turn to react (and here comes the continuation of the dysfunction). Here’s the first of two moves we can make. We can choose the Rescuer spot: “I’m so sorry! What can I do to make it up to you?” The trouble is, if we take the Rescuer position, we will inevitably end up in the Victim role. Why? Because in making ourselves responsible for someone’s feelings or actions when we did not truly harm them and by giving in to their unreasonable expectation that we are responsible for them, we become a victim. We have allowed them to pull us across that boundary line and now we are in their space, responsible for their feelings or actions.

Or we could knock the Victim from their spot on the board and take it for our own, while casting them into the Perpetrator position: “Well, I only did that because YOU…” We have now pulled them across our boundary line into our space, making them responsible for our feelings/actions. The dysfunction continues because we’ve now made ourselves the victim and them the perpetrator.

This dynamic plays out in our day-to-day lives on a regular basis if we are unaware of it. Think again about that someone who “made” you feel guilty when you didn’t truly harm them, or someone whom you’re angry with because they didn’t do something you felt they “should” have (even though it didn’t harm you… it was just something you wanted or preferred). What was the “should”? Who crossed whose line?  How did you react? Did you try to rescue them? Did you go on the attack and cry Victim?

“Crying victim” is not the same this as being victimized. People who don’t respect others’ boundaries ARE perpetrators. Genuine perpetrators are the ones who damage you. Who attempt to coerce you into feeling responsible for their feelings and behaviors. Who refuse to respect your boundaries. Some people never learned how to relate to others in any other way. They guilt trip. They manipulate. They don’t respect others boundaries or feelings. They interact dysfunctionally. They refuse to be responsible for their own feelings and, instead, expect others to accept responsibility for them. They ARE genuine perpetrators and the only way to not play game is to avoid them.

The ONLY “should’s” that SHOULD exist are those which genuinely protect us and others. People SHOULD not harm others. We SHOULD be able to have boundaries that protect us.

If you’re thinking of sucking someone into the drama triangle… DON’T. Be responsible for your own feelings and actions. And here’s a secret… There is an escape hatch from the drama triangle if  you have been unwittingly sucked  into it. It’s in the “False Perpetrator” position, when you’re being guilted into something or blamed for someone’s feelings or actions and you’ve done nothing to harm them. It’s carefully hidden in allowing others to be responsible for their own feelings and actions . It looks something like this:

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

It’s that simple. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, while those who remain in the triangle continue to see us as the “Perpetrator” because they’d prefer to try to make us feel responsible for their feelings and behaviors rather than holding themselves personally accountable for them.

Our awareness of the drama triangle, and knowledge of how not to bite the hook, or to extricate ourselves from it if we’ve unwittingly stumbled inside, can make all the difference in the quality of our lives. Emotional maturity is about maintaining our personal boundaries, being responsible for our own feelings, and allowing others responsibility for theirs. If someone is overstepping your boundaries or trying to get you to be responsible for them by claiming perpetual victim-hood and pointing the finger at us as a perpetrator when we have NOT done something to truly harm them, it’s time to end the game. It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who is stuck in the triangle and refuses to accept responsibility for their own feelings and actions. Interactions with that person will always be a manipulation of one sort or another as they attempt to control our feelings and make us responsible for theirs. It’s exhausting, fruitless, dysfunctional and sometimes even dangerous.

The final part of our boundaries are the ones we hold ourselves to – internal instructions we give to ourselves about how we will and will not treat others. Those are called “Ethics“. Our ethics, and how we treat others, are the birthplace of emotional intelligence… and inner peace.

 

 

 

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