Boundary-Setting for Empaths
For empaths, being able to understand and to implement boundaries is critical. However, doing this is incredibly difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible, for an empath. The reason for this is because most empaths were conditioned at an early age to completely avoid setting boundaries.
Why is this? Why is it so difficult for empaths to set boundaries?
The reason is simple. Most empaths were raised by a narcissist parent or caregiver. Narcissists hate boundaries. (Unless they are their own, of course.) Narcissists will do anything to stop the people closest to them from having boundaries. This process is what I call “the conditioning of the empath” and herein lies the problem.
"The Conditioning of the Empath"
The narcissist parent or caregiver conditions the empathic child to live to please the narcissist. The empathic child becomes obsessed and fixated on pleasing the narcissist at any cost, including self destruction. There is no room for boundaries in this equation. Any time that the empathic child sets a boundary or even remotely sets a boundary, she is met with extreme physical and/or emotional violence. It is just like training a dog, the bad behavior--in this case boundary-setting or even self-preservation--is conditioned out of the child.
The process is as simple as breaking a wild stallion or training a circus elephant. In essence, the narcissist breaks the spirit of the empath until she has no will of her own left, no desire to protect herself, or to set boundaries. The abuse that she will endure when she sets boundaries is simply too painful. So over time she stops doing it altogether. She becomes boundary-less, defenseless. She is fully and constantly open to the will and desire of the narcissist. She is broken.
This conditioning remains with the empath for the rest of her life. Her sense of self is virtually non-existent. Her entire identity is built on pleasing others. Her own happiness means nothing to her and she survives only by making others happy. She thrives only on the validation that she receives from others. Boundaries, self-preservation, self-love, and any true sense of self do not exist in the world of the empath, they were conditioned out of her a long time ago.
Rewiring the Empathic Spirit, Creating a New Paradigm
This is a sad story, a process which brings about devastating consequences. The only hope here is knowing that this trauma can be healed from. Through intensive heart and spirit work, healing is possible. We can rewire the empathic spirit and undo the conditioning that broke us.
To create a new paradigm means to completely undo everything that came before--to build a new pattern. We have to start at the beginning, tear out the damaging pages of our past, and rewrite everything. Where we were taught to self-destruct we must learn to self-love. Where we were taught to avoid setting boundaries, we must learn to set and enforce the strongest, healthiest boundaries imaginable.
We must evaluate all of the damaging thought and belief-processes that hold us back from true happiness and wellness; and then we must completely transform all of those processes until our mind becomes a breeding ground of health, clarity, joy, and strength. All of this is possible through reprogramming and healing. Developing the ability, and most importantly, the habit to set and enforce healthy boundaries is life-changing for an empath.
This is a complicated process. It can take a lifetime to achieve. But we start at the beginning and the first part of this process is understanding what boundaries are. Because boundary-setting was conditioned out of the empath at such a young age, she never had the opportunity to learn about what a boundary is or how to set one and enforce it. To move forward, we must go all the way back and learn what a healthy boundary is.
What is a healthy boundary? How do boundaries impact relationships?
A boundary is a rule, it can be in our mind or we can say it out loud or write it down and express it. It is a guide that we set and maintain in order to keep our self healthy, happy and safe. Boundaries let other people know how they must treat us. Boundaries tell others and ourselves what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Boundaries are rules and guides, that allow us to live optimally, and maintain wellness and joy, especially during our interactions with other people.
For people who are not empaths, all of this can sound crazy and unnecessary. Those people may think, "Of course other people know how to treat me because I won't tolerate anything less than what I need." But for empaths that is simply not the case.
Empaths are so willing to sacrifice their own happiness, sanity and safety to make other people happy that empaths never habitually set boundaries. Empaths allow other people to use, humiliate, degrade and dishonor them all because we would rather see someone else happy and because we will avoid conflict at any cost. Because once again, we were conditioned to do this from a very young age. Extreme self-sacrifice and martyrdom is our nature.
Let's further define what a boundary is. A boundary is a membrane, it lets positive things through and it keeps harmful things out. A boundary is not a wall, it does not keep everything out. Like a membrane, it is a thin protective surface, almost transparent. It does let some things through, but it doesn't let everything through.
To repeat, a boundary is not a wall, it doesn't keep people out. In fact, a boundary can allow us to be closer to other people in a healthy way because it sets parameters on the relationship so that we can function and maintain our own happiness and health within the relationship. With boundaries, we are no longer allowing behaviors that strip us of our joy and health. We are setting a precedent for respectful, honest, loving behaviors. Therefore boundaries are incredibly beneficial to all relationships.
When we find individuals who are willing to honor our boundaries, those are the relationships that we want to keep, cultivate and grow inside of. On the other hand, when you encounter an individual who is rigid and unwilling to respect your boundaries, that person is probably a narcissist. Or you are dealing with somebody who you are simply incompatible with. In either case, if a person repeatedly violates your boundaries and there is no lasting effort on their part to change that behavior, the best thing to do is to move on. You cannot convince a person to see your worth to such a degree that they suddenly decide to start respecting your boundaries. If that is not their nature to respect your boundaries, you cannot change their nature. And that is okay. That is when we release in light and love, and we let go. There are plenty of people in the world who will be more than willing to respect your boundaries. Finding them will be a piece of building the new paradigm.
Boundaries Provide a Moral Compass
Boundaries also provide a moral compass for us and help us to protect the important tender parts of ourselves. We can set boundaries not only with other people but also with ourselves.
For example, if we have self-destructive behaviors, we can set boundaries with ourselves and say, "I am no longer going to participate in this self-destructive behavior. If there is a situation that often exposes me or triggers me into this self-destructive behavior, I am no longer going to expose myself to that." That is a boundary that we set for ourselves and a way in which a boundary can serve as a moral compass, directing us toward what we will and will not accept.
In this way, boundaries are not only applicable when it comes to others and relationships, but also--and hugely importantly--when it comes to ourselves. For empaths, the only person who abuses us worse than the narcissist, is our self. Yes, after a lifetime of abuse from others, we experience self-hatred on an inconceivable scale. Setting boundaries for yourself, and redefining the way that you allow yourself to treat and speak to yourself is an integral part of this process.
As you journey along the path of healing and self-love, you will redefine what you will accept in terms of how you treat yourself. As a result of this process, you will naturally redefine the way that you allow others to treat you as well. This is how you will begin to live a life of boundaries. This is where your transformation begins.
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