I’ve begun the third and final book I bought after the difficulty we had with my in-laws, “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day” by Anne Katherine, M.A.
One of the very first passages I’ve encountered that really struck a chord ties into my last blog “A Dark Reflection”.
“No matter how bad someone else’s childhood may have been, it’s still not okay for them to hurt others, either physically or emotionally, with a mean action or cutting remark. A person who does this is exploiting you, and their relationship with you, by using you to discharge their own bad feelings.
Some of us have a tendency to put the other fellow or our relationship with them first. However noble this may feel, it is not healthy – for you, them, or the relationship. Instead, you must make yourself a priority over the relationship. Put yourself first. Do not risk further harm. You may have to leave the relationship…”
I didn’t recognize this behavior at the time, but this is what I was doing, without doubt, when I was being so tactless and blunt, offering my unsolicited opinions, not really caring if I hurt someone or not, in fact I thought it was the fault of the person claiming to be wounded by my behavior if they couldn’t deal with hearing the ‘truth’. (Of course, at that time I also didn’t realize the ‘truth’ was only my truth, not necessarily ‘the truth’.)
I had so much pent up emotional baggage, was angry, bitter, resentful and felt like I might explode if I didn’t say everything that was on my mind, so I just blurted it all out there, in the direction of anyone who appeared to be listening and the fallout occasionally had an effect on someone who wasn’t meant to hear it.
When I made a personal change deciding I was awfully lonely, losing friends, engaged in one argument after another as the result of being misunderstood or misinterpreted, I let ‘the pendulum swing’ in the opposite direction too far. I became one who allows others to unload on me. I have had that ‘noble’ feeling, about putting others’ feelings and emotional needs ahead of my own.
I set myself up for feeling taken advantage of, taken for granted and often dismissed.
This is where I find myself now… working on creating boundaries that are healthy, not only for others, so they understand where my limits are, but also for myself so I don’t over extend myself, agree to doing or giving more than I’m truly capable of, so I can stop setting myself up for feeling taken advantage of.
I’ve found myself on both sides of this situation, someone who discharged and someone who became a receptacle for the discharging of others.
When I look back on that time in my life when I was abusing people with my emotional baggage, it was a very dark time in my life. So many of the struggles regarding my mother, childhood, family of origin, were represented in my attitude toward others and my approach to ‘relationships’.
I look forward to digging into this book more deeply, as the first few pages really gave me a lot to think about.