The hardest time to set boundaries is when you’re feeling lonely.
It’s just so temping to give in to people. They ask you for something, anything, and you jump at the chance to help them, because it’s guaranteed to make you feel needed and useful.
The quick fix is irresistible. Like putting a salve on a wound.
When I was a young, struggling entrepreneur, scrambling for any shred of new business that came my way, setting boundaries was profoundly difficult. Potential clients could flatter me into doing free or discounted work, for which I had zero passion or qualifications, solely because anything was better than sitting around in my pajamas all day, waiting for the phone to ring.
Fuck boundaries, this stranger is giving me money to work on a project for them! Oh boy oh boy!
But as gratifying as it is to feel so needed and useful, we have to remember that other people’s problems are not our responsibility. Particularly the emotional ones.
If you’ve ever found yourself depleted or depressed after spending an extended period of time with someone who was suffering, you know what I mean. It’s a gift to sit there to listen and receive their feelings, but the boundary is what prevents us from being harmed by it.
Sometimes, out of my own loneliness, I become a perfect sponge for sopping up other people’s emotions. Taking on their burdens, I try to pedal for them. And I wonder why I’m so tired all of the sudden.
My problem here is a universal one. Most of us don’t have the faintest idea how to lay other people’s burdens down. It’s not something we’re taught, directly nor are there a lot of positive examples from which to model.
Next time feelings are thrust upon you by another person, here are a few mantras you might incant to yourself.
This is not mine to carry.
I’m letting this emotional pain that is not mine go now.
I am now returning this person’s feelings back to them.
During my many years of hypnosis, part of my therapist’s guided mediation program was a cleansing process. Discharging other people’s behaviors, experiences and emotions from my body, like a green mist rising from my stomach.
Running this simulation each day allowed me to stop carrying other people’s shit on my shoulders all the time. You might consider what sorts of boundary mantras and discharge techniques might work for you.
Remember, our freedom depends on our ability to leave other people’s feelings at the source. If someone tries to hand you their bag of shit, don’t pick it up. It belongs to them.
Figure out your own techniques for stopping the flood of emotion from overwhelming your ability to cope.
It’s a big ask when you’re feeling lonely and just want to feel useful.
But if you don’t set boundaries for yourself, other people will set them for you.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How much are you still carrying around inside that should have been put down a long time ago?