You already understand that setting boundaries involves saying no. Yet, which specific mindset makes it easier to do? We’ll explore the mindset that leads to easier and clearer boundaries in this post.
No, I’m not going.
No, I won’t help you.
No, I will not get involved.
No, I do not accept your mistreatment.
No, I don’t agree with you.
No, no, no. Boundaries.
How can something so simple be so hard to do?
The answer may be in the mindset you adopt when you consider saying yes or no.
Over 20 years, when my clients have had a hard time saying “no,” I have asked them to go inside their mind and notice the internal image of the person with whom they are ‘boundary impaired.’ The internal pictures reveal a pattern.
They see the other person as weak, incompetent, unstable or otherwise inept or incapable. Interesting, huh?
A soft-hearted mother with a cruel 17-year-old son noticed her internal image of him. This image was of a shy ten-year-old boy.
A woman whose husband was cheating became aware of her internal image. She saw a scattered, lost man who could not make it without her.
A man who couldn’t draw the line with his father’s business interference saw his dad as a lonely man without prospects in the world.
A man saw his female friend as a nervous socialite who couldn’t handle it if he didn’t show up at her events.
What is the pattern?
When we don’t set boundaries, we often see the other person (in our mind’s eye) as sad, weak, or inept. Are we saying “yes” to everything out of subconscious pity? Maybe.
Think about someone with whom you have boundary issues. How do you see him or her in your mind’s eye? Does your inner image display a weak person or a strong one who can take care of him/herself and handle the truth?
If you see a weak person, this could be the reason you can’t say “no.” You don’t want to damage them. Yet, your internal image may be outdated or inaccurate. Knowing this is the key to freedom.
When you update or change your inner image of the other person, you want to see them accurately. You may see their weaknesses, but you also want to include their strengths. Most of all, see them as capable of handling the word no. Fortunately, most people can recover from hearing that word!
We might summarize steps to setting boundaries like this:
1. See the other person as strong enough to handle the word “no.”
2. Say “no” when appropriate.
Not so fast?
There may be reasons why you subconsciously want to keep weak boundaries.
The mother of that cruel 17-year-old may have some painful letting go to do if she seems him realistically.
The woman with the cheating husband may need to face the terrifying reality of life on her own if she sees her cheating husband as capable of making it without her.
The man with the interfering father may have to learn how to be his own man before he puts his father in his place.
Setting boundaries may open a can of worms. Are you ready for that?
Saying “no” is so simple. And there is always a rub. The obstacle is often a larger fear lurking under the surface. It may take commitment to deal with your issue beneath the unclear boundaries.
If setting boundaries seems impossible to you, you are not alone. So many of us at one time or another feel like the change we must make is way beyond our capacity.
Don’t worry. Keep moving ahead, looking for that rare, healing insight and the right action to take. It will come!