So maybe the best and simultaneously worst thing about being in a counseling program is how often you have to take a minute (or days) and think about yourself in terms of what you are learning.

At the end of the semester, my professor in my Developmental Theories class assigned an immunity map.

It's not a complicated thing, but it has several parts that are most likely uninteresting to most of you and definitely not necessarily important to the point of this post, but in sum, when you do an immunity map you identify something about you that you want to do better/differently and through prompted self-reflection identify the things that stop you from already doing that thing(s). When you know why you don't do something you can make a better effort at doing it.

For my immunity map, I said I wanted to have healthier relationships. As I worked through the map, I didn't find myself writing down anything that I wasn't already aware of. Probably the most revealing portion of the immunity map is when you have to ask yourself what you're afraid of -- what are you scared will happen if you do x, y, z... Basically the immunity map asks you what you want to do, why you don't do it and what you're afraid of happening if you do it and then says -- go test your theory.

One of the things I must begin to do, and do so forcefully, is set and keep boundaries. Not too long ago, I asked a friend to keep me out of something because it made me uncomfortable. I set a boundary. He ignored that request, even though when I asked it of him, I explained what my concerns were. I've been here before: set a boundary and had a friend ignore it for their own reasons and usually I just deal with it. This time, though, I reminded him of my request and told him anything moving forward concerning this situation would be ignored.

He sputtered a little bit, but he left me out of it. Not the response I'd been expecting. It did not confirm my theory that if I set and hold boundaries that are inconvenient to people in my life they will get upset and make it a bigger problem for me.

Success 1.

I have one friend who hasn't been single for longer than about a day in 10 years. She continuously gets into relationships with men who are not good for her (not that they are bad, just that they are not good for her) and whines and whines to me about how unhappy she is with him. She has to stop that. But moreso, I have to stop allowing it to happen. I have to set that boundary and stick with it. She is not the only one in my life who does that: several people find themselves in the same situation over and over and instead of working to get out of it, want to just wallow and feel sorry for themselves. It becomes a cycle and I'm dizzy with a lot of them.

I think I'm most afraid that my friends will think I don't care about what's going on in their lives and that's not true. I'm just over being too exhausted to deal with my own stuff and as I move forward in my counseling program, dealing with my own stuff is far more important than making everyone around me feel free to whine.

I'm here for my friends, but not for their same situations over and over. When I get to a point where I literally have nothing else to say because I've said it all, over and over, it's time for us to stop talking about that and if that's all we have to talk about, it's time for us to stop talking. I don't anticipate this being easy for me at all because I want to be there for my friends all the time -- but boundaries, boundaries, boundaries....


♥ CG ♥ said...

Oh yes, the often difficult task of establishing clear cut boundaries. I can relate to every point you've made. I've also found it hard to establish boundaries with *some* folks because of the same reason, but have realized it's something that some relationships require to stay healthy and ongoing. I see now that that people do respect it when they realize that you're seriously trying to maintain and not trying to harm them but maintain your peace of mind. Great post!

Solomon said...

I agree with everything you have said here. I tend to stick with the same old boundary issues much more than I would care to admit. But my problem has always been feeling like I had an obligation to help those whiners. Not anymore I'll tell you.

I've learned that the whiners generally don't want to do anything but whine. They wouldn't hear you if you shouted exactly what they wanted to hear right in their face.

I am all for helping anyone I know who needs some help that I may be able to offer them. But I refuse to be the one that agrees to set and listen to the same people whine about the same issues they always have and don't really even make the effort to change what needs to change to solve their problems.

A.Smith said...

CG - You're so right! People do respect the boundaries you just have to let them know where they are. I struggle because in some ways I like pushing limits and boundaries and such, but there just must be some in place that you won't move because that makes relationships work.

Solomon -- You know I"m with you on the whiners. I can't with all that.

T. Tappan said...

Interesting and inspiring. Thinking of setting boundaries in all facets of my life. Should be interesting to see the reactions.

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