Whatever you are willing to put up with is exactly what you will have. Anonymous
If you find yourself giving too much, always trying to make peace among others, people pleasing, taking on other people’s problems, feeling resentful or taking things personally, you likely have weak energetic and personal boundaries.
Once upon a time, I was a bit of a door mat. I couldn’t say no or disagree with someone. I was a chameleon, becoming like whomever I was with to blend in. I didn’t understand my empathic abilities nor could I separate myself from those close to me. If you know me at all, you know this is no longer true. I learned to shore up my boundaries and one of my best teachers was my mare Mariah. My dogs have been great teachers too. Often, our best teachers of boundaries are animals. I’ll share more about the animals later in the article.
What are boundaries?
An energetic boundary is where our “energy body” ends. While the term “end” is a bit of a misnomer because all energy is connected, we do have an electromagnetic energy field that is “ours” while we are in a physical body. Because we are in control of our energy (consciously or not), we set our “boundaries”.
Personal boundaries are what we decide we are willing to accept in behavior from others. This isn’t about them, it’s about decisions we make, again consciously or not, about what we will do in response to another’s action. For example, I have a boundary around discussing politics with my mother. She has been informed. If she brings up politics, I leave. No drama, no arguing, I’ve stated I will not discuss politics. Because she is older and forgetful, I might remind her of our agreement and if she then changes the subject, I can choose to stay. This is a clear personal boundary. I’m not saying she can’t have the political views she has, I’m not saying she can’t discuss them, but I am clear that if she does, I will leave (or hang up).
Setting appropriate boundaries is often challenging for highly sensitive empaths and especially for those who grew up in dysfunctional families. From an early age our personal and energetic boundaries are often violated. We live in a culture where this is not only acceptable but considered appropriate. In our attempts to raise “good kids”, we violate their boundaries.
We tell children to hug someone even when they are not comfortable with it. They learn someone else’s comfort is more important than theirs which underpins feelings of unworthiness. Making children feel responsible for another’s feelings is a way we discourage healthy boundaries. Think about how many times you were told “Don’t make me (or your sister, daddy, mommy), sad, mad, etc.” OR, “You made her sad”, when really, it was the other person’s choice to be sad. It wasn’t the child’s fault.
We turn children into people pleasers at the expense of their own beautiful selves. They learn it’s more important to make others feel good or avoid confrontation than to speak their truth. They learn to hide who they really are so others will like them; so they can feel good about themselves. And they grow into adults who feel their worth is dependent upon how they please others. We think we are teaching them to be considerate of others but we are not.
Of course we want our children to grow up with empathy for others but when we ask them to ignore their own voice to please another, we create children who feel less than. When we teach them to put others before themselves this way it teaches them they are not enough. Recognizing we are all created equal and all deserve love can’t be taught this way. If we first teach children they are responsible for their own feelings and have a right to their feelings, a healthy sense of self and boundaries can grow. They can be taught their actions have consequences and affect others without shaming or diminishing their value.
Children will naturally have empathy for others when they are allowed empathy for themselves.
With healthy boundaries, people take responsibility for their own feelings. No one else is required to take care of them emotionally. They learn to trust their feelings and their inner knowing. As a result, they have much more to give to others. They don’t continually sacrifice their needs for others so they don’t feel resentful or angry. They walk in the world whole, happy and able to give love easily.
When we have weak energetic boundaries, it makes it that much more difficult to have strong personal boundaries. The two work together. As highly sensitive empaths, we are especially attuned to energy. When we let people violate our energetic boundaries, we let them deplete our energy. When we attach our energy to others through energy cords (mostly unconsciously), we have given up our energy boundaries and weakened our personal boundaries. We have become enmeshed with another. If you are bound to someone energetically through cords, it will be more difficult to speak your truth and maintain personal boundaries.
Being enmeshed with others is so ingrained in our lives, we don’t recognize when our boundaries are being violated (or that we are violating others). What we do recognize is a feeling of resentment, anxiety, depression and a need to isolate ourselves from others. When we don’t separate ourselves from others energetically or stand up for ourselves, we lose touch with who we are. We become who others would have us be. It’s a very insidious loss of self.
Our loss of energetic boundaries, like our loss of personal boundaries, began in childhood. Parents and other adults often take energy from children through abuse, over-protection and living their life through the child. This is not a conscious action but something they too learned as a child. We learn our “energy habits” unconsciously as children. Fortunately, we can unlearn these habits and develop healthy boundaries.
How can we strengthen our energetic boundaries?
The first step is to become aware of your own energy habits and how you currently use your energy field. This is where our animals become great teachers. Animals, especially horses, but also dogs, cats, and birds, will reflect to us the state of our energy and emotions.
Mariah has been my best teacher because she demands I be grounded, with my energy “intact” when I am around her. She also insists I be present. If my energy attaches to hers, I get a glare. When the farrier is working on her, I must be present or she will walk off. When I’m completely present with my energy intact (and strong), she stands quiet and cooperative. If I am unknowingly repressing an emotion, she will display it. And let’s face it, anger, frustration, resentment or sadness are usually the only emotions we tend to repress. I doubt I’ve ever repressed joy. Mariah shows me clearly what I am doing with my energy and emotions.
Our dogs and cats will do the same. Walking a dog when you are fearful, whether you are conscious of this or not, will likely result in an anxious dog who barks at everything. You can get similar reactions when your energy is weakened because of energy cords or Hitchhikers. Look to your animal companions for clues on your energy body.
Grounding your energy stabilizes your boundaries. Because our energy is controlled by our thoughts and visualization, grounding can be simple and quick. This simple two step process will enforce your boundaries and give you strength.
Quick Energy Boundary Builder
- Bring your attention to your body. Feel into all parts of your body. This attention brings your energy back into you.
- Imagine you have roots growing out of the bottoms of your feet and see these roots go deep into the earth. I like to feel them wrap around the core of the earth.
You can also learn more about how to work with your energy by downloading my free Energy Mastery Workbook and Guided Meditation, by providing your name and email on the right hand side of this page.
Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.