Friday, February 25, 2011

Setting Boundaries

Recently I got my first feedback as a volunteer in a playroom - working with a young autisic guy in a relation based therapy. The feedback was from Aaron Deland from Connecting with Autism. I loved it!

Anyone who is used to getting feedback in the playroom, knows what a blessing it can be. The feedback is given in a loving and respectful way - from a place of curiosity of "why did you do what you did in that particular moment"?

Often we have been trained to be defensive about the word "why" - too often it has had a kind of hidden agenda as in "why did you not do what I wanted you to do" or a "why did you do it the WRONG way" kind of judgemental attitude.

The feedback in the playroom comes from a really curious place as in "what was your personal reason for doing what you did"? or "what was YOUR underlying motivation for what you did in that particular situtation?".

What I did in the situation was more a lack of doing: I did not set clear boundaries.

What does it mean to set boundaries? How is this different in different situations? With different people?

After getting the feedback on a short videoclip from the playroom (I'm in Europe and Aaron is in California) I started to pay attention to my boundaries - to when they were met and when they were not.

I soon realised that this boundary thing wasn't just about the playroom - it was all over my life: with my friends, family, employees, managers...

I started to recognise a small tension that I've got when someone has passed my boundaries - and I started to say stop.

One thing that was especially effective from the feedback I got from Aaron was that it is important to stay with your boundaries.

My old way of setting boundaries would be to gradually expand my space. Let's say I wanted people to be no closer than 1 m. First I would ask them to stay at least ½ m. away from me. Once they got used to this I would expand to 2/3 m. then 4/5 m. etc.

This way I might never get to the 1 meter that I really wanted ( remember I'm a math person - x/(x+1) will never equal 1).
BUT I could end up having some "friends" who were pretty confused as of what my wants were: it seemed as if I kept changing my requierements from them.

Being raised in a family where requierments from others were not pronounced but only INDICATED, setting boundaries was to some degree a new skill I had to learn. I started out in the playroom, expanded to friends, work and family - and I realised that not only did it feel good: it was also quite easy to do.

In the playroom boundaries could be things such as being physical without getting permission ( I used to accept it in some situations and not in others which must have been confusing). At work it could be to set requirments: I used to say pharses such as: do you have time to... rather than: I want you to...

With friends it could be to tell a person that she gives advice that I do not want and never asked for - and that I actually find it annoying. It has been to be more firm about appointments - to make sure that they are actually convenient for me - that the appointment does not become more important than things I have decided are high value - such as sleep.

I'll invite you to investigate your boundaries: when do you set them and why? do you have boundaries that you have pronounced earlier but now want to re-evaluate?

Happy Boundaries


I went slowly in the sense that whenever I felt uneasy or unclear - I decided: this is not a time for boundaries - this is a time for observation. This ment that I might have let people cross my ousituation.

Knowing my boundaries first made it more likely to set boundaries I would not later change - which ment that my pronounced boundaries seemed more stable and I believe that this made it easier for people to respect them

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