Discovering your internal boundaries
By Matthew Tait – Fork in road coaching.
Are there boundaries that are serving you, and are there other boundaries that are holding you back?
This article will explore how you store your boundaries and get to know yourself, and your self-concept, understanding boundaries and if they are serving you can be super useful in coaching of your mindset be it 1 on 1 or in a group setting.
Today we are going to explore boundaries in your self-concept. What am I talking about? Self-Concept I hear you ask?
This all comes from the book written by Steve Andreas called Transforming Yourself.
Steve Andreas explores how we store our boundaries and questions are they useful or holding us back. We all have boundaries that keep us safe. Boundaries that protect our energy, our time, our safety. We let certain people in, and we push certain people out.
Choose a boundary to explore.
The very first boundary I thought I’d explore is the boundary of my personal space. A very simple one we all know. The boundary that allows family and very close friends into your personal space, and the same boundary that keeps others out of your personal space to keep you safe. Let us explore your personal space.
Inside the book Transforming yourself there is an activity which I found began to stir my mind to explore why this boundary is there. This activity is exploring your external boundaries, and I am exploring my external boundary of space. Why not do the same as me as you read this article. Explore your internal and external world as I describe this interesting topic.
The external boundary of space is the normal one I have, and most people have that keeps them safe. The boundary that won’t let people within my three-foot (1 metre) radius. You know that one, don’t you? The one we all have when someone gets inside that space, we say oh back, back, back, don’t you get near me.
We allow into our space people like intimate partners, a close friend, your mother, some moments when you will let people in and give them a hug. All that is great, but if it’s a business situation there is a definite socially and culturally constructed boundary. Hugging in business is not accepted.
Don’t even get me started about us men. We men we have this socially constructed boundary, and perhaps biologically infused one that kept us safe when in ancient tribes surviving.
For the men we don’t know, the boundary is strong. For men we do know, like a close buddy with a few drinks at a bar, and then we let the guard down and may well be hugging all over the place by the end of the night. But with the general population of men there’s a socially constructed boundary that we all have, mixed with a biological barrier of male competition strengthening that boundary.
I shall explore that this is my expansion of understanding myself and how I have stored my boundary internally.
Explore your boundary and how you store it inside.
As I close my eyes, I notice this boundary. I think of the personal space around me and imagine someone coming towards me. I notice I have a single boundary, then notice I have more than one as I allow my mind to observe it. I have three rings like the satin rings on around the planet Satin. I have 3 rings around me protecting me. The rings are green – nearest to me, blue – a bit further out, and yellow the outer boundary. Green, Blue, Yellow.
The yellow is the outer ring which is my warning system oh you know you’re getting into my space. Do I want you there?
Notice your boundary. Explore your boundary, your personal space, how you store it.
For the personal space boundary, where is it? And what are the characteristics?
I have characteristics of colour. And I have given the characteristic of three boundaries. They are a certain distance from my body. The length of my arm is a ring that goes all the way around me.
I am also noticing at the back the ring is a bit closer. At the front the ring is a little bit further away.
Where is your protective personal space ring? How far in front is it? What colour is it? What shape does it take on?
Interesting little thing for each boundary. Where is it? What are the modalities? What are the sub modalities?
What is a modality? VAK. Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic. Or Pictures, Sounds and feelings.
What is a sub-modalitiy? Break down of the VAK. Eg. Visual (Colour, distance, size, shape). Auditory (Loud, tone, direction of sound). Feelings (vibration, energy, emotions, heat, tactile)
Can I see it? Can I hear it? Can I feel it?
All right, back to my boundary, I can see it. I have explained the three things, that are three positions of the rings in distance from my body. The three colours of the rings are green, blue and yellow.
Is there any kinaesthetic (feeling)? Yes, there’s a little bit of a vibration for me (as I close my eyes to access it). It vibrates higher close to me, less further out, and very little at the outer yellow ring.
If I’m in a dangerous situation maybe i want to turn up the one at the outside as my warning system.
If I am in a loving situation maybe i need to have a rule where i can allow the outside ring to be turned down. Interesting and the sub modalities are the vibration of the feeling that’s a part of kinaesthetic modality.
Anything else about that boundary that is protecting me?
What about auditory (sounds)? There’s a little bit of sound, a little bit of a sound to it in my head.
Hence a little bit of auditory. The sound reduces with the rings of energy that expand out from my body. That’s interesting, I don’t know where’s all that coming inside my head. But that’s what my brain is reporting to me.
Analogue or Digital?
Next is the word analogue varying over a range. Or digital on off.
It is analogue meaning it gets stronger as the rings get closer. And I can turn it off if I am around loved ones. I can also turn it on if I am in a business setting. Hence it is context driven which makes sense culturally.
What would you allow to pass through the boundary? The next question is what would you allow to pass through? Also what would you not let through, stop, resist?
I think in business it’s not seen as professional to get inside that 3 foot radius from the body.
There is a cultural overlay in business, like a networking event, that closer you get to someone the less comfortable it gets.
On the other hand, if it’s your loved one, an intimate partner, a very close old friend, you give them a hug because you haven’t seen them for a long time. You let them in because you know them.
For my boundary, if I know them well, If I have known them at a deeper level, then I let them in.
If I don’t know them at a deeper level, they’re on the outer ring. So as I explore I am refining the way I use my boundary. Exploring old memories when I let people in and when I did not.
Defining what those rings are is going to be really useful. Do I let them into the ring? Or do I push them out?
Does the boundary change in different contexts?
What else do we have here? How does the boundary change in different contexts? Business feels like it is appropriate to shake a person’s hand. That’s as close as you’ll get.
Personal or Intimate people are allowed into the 1st or 2nd ring nearest me. Friends who you only know 2nd or 3rd hand are in the middle ring. Happy to see them but not on hugging terms.
That now reminds me of a situation I experienced. I was in a training and there was a gentleman who came up to me and talked to me. He was a very kinaesthetic person. Meaning that kind of person gets energy from being in your space.
He really wanted to get in my space because he was used to being closer to people. I definitely had my boundary, and it might have also been because he was a man and as men, we tend to keep our space. Be it a cultural overlay or otherwise.
As he kept entering my space, my thoughts were, “whoa back now back in your own space.” I found myself getting further and further away, as he kept edging in to talk.
In the book, Steve Andreas talks about that. He talls a story of someone at a Party. They were from England talking to a person from Italy. And the Italian is used to being in each other’s personal space.
But the English are used to the stiff upper lip, keep my three feet of personal space. And so, at a party these two people are like chasing each other around the room because there are cultural overlays affecting them both. One backing away, the other re entering the space. A never ending loop of energy.
I was no different from the Englishman and the Italian. I was wanting to run. My boundary alarm system was firing off feelings of flight in my body.
As discussed, we have business contexts, training contexts as a student, intimate contexts, in public contexts, friendly contexts, family contexts both close and distant. And many, many, more. We change our boundary dependent on how safe we perceive we will be. All a generalisation. And all designed to keep us safe whilst still maintaining some form of connection. This part of the topic could be its own blog for sure as there is so much to explore in the boundaries versus connection space. The values conflict inside is what I often help clients deal with. Once we perceive things differently, our boundaries and our connection is actually often trying to achieve the same goal or outcome. Safety and love. We just go about it in unusual and stressful ways as we can tear ourselves apart believing we are about to lose one or the other. Safety or Love.
What is the positive function of the boundary?
Boundaries can keep us safe. Protecting you from something or someone. What specifically does it protect you from? And how does it do it? How well does it work?
Well i think it specifically protects you from threat being ripped off it protects you from the unknown perhaps it protects you from people who don’t have your best intentions at heart and so it works quite well but there are certain situations i could i could have different boundaries but that’s getting to other subjects i i think that there’s a lot more activities in the book so we’ll get into the actual how we might apply differently later so it serves me pretty well most of the time and the last one are there any ways in which this boundary causes problems for you are there any consequences that you don’t like.
What are the consequences if I let someone in too quickly, without really seeing where they’re at? It depends on the context.
If it’s a social situation allowing someone into your boundary, I think I am now accessing not only a personal boundary, I think it’s also the time boundary. That is indeed a different subject.
Later in the book this is outlined as something Steve Andreas explores.
I would say generally that the space boundary has served me well on the few occasions when someone has entered the space without being invited.
Most of the time they’re invited, and it brings up other topics up as I explore. For example, who is setting a boundary inside yourself that’s not yours? Now sometimes you know in a relationship for example you’ve got to set boundaries with other women that are appropriate.
Where you’re not tipping over into a dangerous territory, or if you’re in a business context if you go hugging it out with every businessperson, you’re going to break that invisible contract. You know the one, where that is clearly not acceptable.
The invisible contract is the unsaid boundary. An expectation. A level of expected behaviour. A Cultural boundary you need to understand of you are to be accepted in that environment.
Next time you go into a situation just have a look and see the personal boundaries that are being set.
If it’s obvious or not, like at a bar the boundaries are loose because people are drinking. But in a situation where you go to a business networking event there’s these little two- or three-foot boundaries. It is useful to be aware of the context and when you allow people in.
What socially constructed boundaries there are? What biological boundaries there are? Where are people putting expectations on you, both healthy and unhealthy?
It’s a very interesting place to explore.
Further into the book Steve explores in the next activity changing a boundary which is a video I have done a review on also.
There are all sorts of little things in here which you can look at where boundaries are congruent with your needs and your values.
I read in the book where the lady who set boundaries that were rigid physical boundaries. Physical barriers like an armadillo skin, or an iron plate around her. The problem with this was she was not letting people into my life. And hence was very lonely. The boundary was not serving her.
She was pushing away people due to her metaphoric armadillo skin.
Her boundary like an iron curtain.
When she altered her iron curtain, it became porous. She could let people in from further away and they didn’t have to bounce off and so she could have more people in her world.
Just by exploring her internal representation of that boundary and shifting how she stored it. So very fascinating.
Here’s my question to you.
What’s an in external boundary you’ve set for yourself?
I have just explored my personal space boundary. Are there other boundaries that are serving you, and are there other boundaries that are holding you back? It is a good question, isn’t it?
Exploring the boundaries how they’re serving you is such a valuable session to do.
Are they giving you what’s important to you? Are you getting connection? Are you keeping safe?
It’s a balancing act, not all or nothing.
it’s an exploration to allow people in at appropriate levels. If you’ve had trauma in your life you may have a big boundary up against let’s, say for females had a bad experience with men you might have a big barrier up for men? Or if you’re a male has had a bad experience with females you might have a big barrier up for females?
Because trauma is inside, so to be aware of that’s handy evidence to test as to whether that boundary is serving you or not. It might be an opportunity to go and do some healing. It might be an opportunity to come to someone like myself like a mindset coach, NLP coach, Ericksonian hypnotherapist, pick your sauce. I don’t mind too much which way you do the work, so long as you heal what needs resolving inside.
I hope you have enjoyed my exploration of my personal boundaries, the questions that allow you to unpack the structure, and the way you can get to know your internal world just a little bit better to allow you to chase what is so very important to you.
Youtube Videos – personal boundaries.