Background Shadow

Living with Boundaries….a Snake’s Tale

Proper boundaries make for  healthier relationships

Proper boundaries make for healthier relationships

My daughter has a California King Snake named Jake.  For almost 10 years, Jake has healthily and quietly reposed in a large aquarium, dining on a thawed, previously frozen mouse weekly.  Jake likes to leave the aquarium to explore the outer world, but we’ve learned that he needs appropriate boundaries outside his aquarium.

One evening years ago, my husband held Jake’s tail while sitting in his Lazy Boy recliner and talking to family members. None of us noticed as Jake’s long body slithered inside the chair, wrapped around its inner metal workings, and became stuck.   We worked hard to dislodge Jake without harm, but nothing worked.  That is, until my husband brought out the WD-40, sprayed the stuck spot, and gently pulled Jake out of the Lazy Boy.  After a few days, the constricted indentation around Jake’s body released and he was as good as new.  What did we learn?  While appropriate boundaries encourage safety for Jake the Snake, inappropriate boundaries can lead to a tight squeeze.

Many of us understand the importance of boundaries for pets.  Fences and leashes keep other dogs from getting in our dog’s space. An indoor bunny condo keeps our rabbit safe while it protects our home from unsupervised nibbling teeth.  Clearly, appropriate boundaries promote healthy relationships with our pets.  The same is true for humans.  What are boundaries for humans?  Think of a boundary as your personal property line – it clarifies what you are and are not responsible for in life.  A boundary indicates how you define yourself, shows the world who you are and who you aren’t, sets limits, and establishes consequences if others try to control you.

Without healthy boundaries, a mom may be unable to separate her own past from her teen’s present experience.  A man may act as his son’s friend and fail to function as a father.  A wife may sacrifice her well-being trying to control the addiction of her spouse.  A child may become responsible for regulating his parent’s mood.  In each of these examples, where is the personal property line of the mom, the father, the wife, the child?  Lacking healthy boundaries, maybe each feels a little like Jake the Snake – caught in a tight squeeze.  Perhaps it’s a good time to examine our relational property lines and determine if we have healthy boundaries.  The good news is that boundaries can change!

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Attitude…

Recently, I’ve come to regard attitude as a valuable, but often overlooked commodity.  A week ago, the following quote arrived in my inbox via a financial independence newsletter:  “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”(William James).  A few days ago, my aunt relayed the following story (without providing any attribution):

 An old lady woke up one day, looked in the mirror, and saw only three hairs on her head.  “I think I’ll braid my hair today, and have a good day”, said the lady, and that’s just what she did.  The next day the old lady woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw only two hairs on her head.  “I think I’ll part my hair in the middle today, and have a good day”, said the lady, and that’s just what she did.  On the third day, the old lady work up, looked in the mirror, and saw NO hairs on her head!  She immediately exclaimed, “Oh goody! I don’t have to do my hair anymore, I think I’ll have a great day!”, and that’s just what she did.

In my neck of the woods, anecdotal data suggest that it’s far easier to expend one’s energy attempting to control/influence external realities, while ignoring one’s internal attitude.  Could it be that we too easily get the cart before the horse by failing to challenge our attitudes?

 

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.