Archive for June, 2016

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

In “Mending Wall”  Robert Frost* and his neighbor meet to repair the wall between their properties.  The neighbor repeats, “Good fences make good neighbors,”  while Frost seeks to know what it is he and his neighbor are walling in or out.

Great relationships are full of great paradoxes.  They are not based on meeting needs, but with your best-friend or soulmate, your needs often get met very beautifully.  A transcendent relationship is not based on physical attraction, but the compatibility is usually there as if it were!

The profound connection of a great relationship also comes with the paradox of strong boundaries.  Walls and boundaries strengthen relationships by strengthening individuality, recognizing equality, creating empowerment and and requiring consensual connection.


photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photo pin cc

I appreciate your individuality and your perfection as a soul by honoring your boundaries and  letting you express yourself exactly as you are without interference from me, although we may choose to be influenced by each other.

I acknowledge your power, by allowing you to own what is on your side of the boundary.  I might think I know how to resolve problems for you, but that assumes you have no power or choice of your own, so I do not trespass without your consent.

Walls, boundaries, and good fences make good neighbors because they reinforce the sovereignty of each neighbor.  Our delight in relationships is when someone who is not us appreciates and loves us.  Especially when it is someone we appreciate and love.

Walls make us acknowledge what territory is ours or not ours and make it clear when we are invited to cross the boundary as opposed to when we are trespassing.  Those who trespass our boundaries early in a relationship and get too close too soon can flatter us with their attraction, but in truth, it is like a stranger walking into your house without knocking or waiting for an invitation.

Being invited to cross the boundary is an honor and accepting the invitation is a powerful way we overcome our separateness.

Good fences make good neighbors.

*See the Poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost


DSC00784In a talk I gave a few weeks ago about transforming toxic interactions, a member of the audience asked me, “What do you mean when you talk about boundaries?”  This was a great question from a group of people who were interested in changing their interactions for the better.

In fact, many of us have had blurry boundaries modeled for us through family interactions, TV shows and romance novels.

Boundaries define what is or is not acceptable treatment from others.  They mark you as being sovereign; a free agent in charge of your life and your choices.

When boundaries are honored, you feel respected and empowered.  When trespassed, you feel, and probably are, disrespected.

The distinction can be very obvious, as when someone eats off your plate or calls you a foul name.  When a friend shares embarrassing confidential information about you to a whole group of acquaintances, you are likely to feel disrespected and even vulnerable about what future boundary violations may be in store for you from such a person.

More insidious disrespect is often shown by those who provide unsolicited help, and such help is often a power play.  The employee who tells me how to turn on the projector which I have already powered up is being helpful.  He is also demonstrating his assumption that I don’t know how to operate the projector without assistance.

The person in the audience who interrupts the presentation to add expert information, which doesn’t really support the speaker’s topic, is pretending to be helpful while her intention is to demonstrate superior knowledge, even though she is not the speaker.

Notice the wonderful people who honor boundaries and show you respect.  Seek out more of them.  They have certain sterling traits.  Primary of these is the empathy to discern where your boundaries are.  They also respect your ability to live your life, make choices and take care of yourself.

They may seem less helpful, but they respectfully assume you are handling things until you tell them otherwise.  They won’t often rescue you unless you request their help, but when they do help you, there will be no strings attached.

Through the Portal from Avoidance to Attraction

DSC00860Those of us who have experienced power plays, bullying, narcissistic abuse and just plain awful relationships find we are much better off when we learn to identify and avoid toxic people.  Being consciously aware and cautious of the red flags which signal unhealthy interactions is critical for anyone who has been entangled with a wolf in a sheep suit.  Developing discernment is the first step to freedom.

Getting too focused on problem behaviors and red flags, however, has a downside.  It is not enough to avoid difficult people.  At some point, we want to actively attract healthy, supportive people and have easy, loving relationships.  Avoidance is not attractive.

The metaphysical minded tell us that what we focus on expands; that we attract what we think of the most according to habitual feelings.  This makes avoidance a bad strategy for finding new and better relationships.  And, indeed, avoidance is only a part of the process.

When avoiding problem people, it’s a good idea to ask, “What do I want instead?”  In this way, we move away from the competitive and move toward the collaborative.  Rather than moving randomly away from the problem, and perhaps toward another problem, we can set a course away from the problem and directly toward the solution.  The solution is the relationship we wanted in the first place, or maybe even better than that.  This is to be found in a different territory altogether.

Simple steps through this portal;

  • Believe that there exist wonderful relationships with delightful people.  Find an example of a wonderful relationship, to prove to yourself it exists.
  • Know you are worthy of great relationships.  If you have been targeted by a low-empathy type, chances are very good that you value relationships, have a great deal of empathy, and are a socially savvy person.  Your matches, personally and professionally, are others who empathize and collaborate.
  • List the behaviors and traits you avoid as red flags.
  • For each red flag, define what you want instead.  For example:  My last manager made me feel criticized.  I want a manager with whom I feel accepted and supported.
  • Seek out people with whom you feel consistently good.

Set aside any cynicism.  (It doesn’t really protect you.)  See what happens after a couple of weeks of redirecting your attention in this way.

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