Welcome to Day 13 of #write31days!
For more information check out the series’ page.
Nature has not only defined boundaries around us, our bodies are created with boundaries as well. From every hair on our head to our skin to our organs – everything has its specific order and serves a specific purpose. One. purpose. Not anyone else’s.
Early Childhood Development
We mostly complain about a lack of or the wrong kinds of boundaries as adults, but boundary foundations are actually laid at a very early age. Researchers and psychologists have made interesting discoveries when looking at how the relationship between an infant and its mother develops.
The first stage is all about close bonding. Babies know their mother really well; her smell, the sound of her voice, the shape of her face. Whenever she moves away from them they start crying. They feel insecure and lost. Why? Because they have no sense of self yet, they believe that mommy and them is one person (emotional object constancy).
It is essential for infants to experience this close bonding, the love and care of a mother. They learn to feel safe and rooted in a loving and caring environment, an unbeatable foundation for their soul and spirit.
Within the first year of life a change happens; some parents are surprised and shocked by it, when their cute and cuddling baby suddenly rebels and wants to get away from this close bond. Once again, it is important for parents to realize how necessary this step is for a child’s development. Every child needs to gain more independence and autonomy. The only way to do that is to separate and individualize. Mommy and baby are no longer the same, they are actually two independent individuals.
You can’t have “me” until you first have a “not-me”.
I find it particular that the journey to your self and who you ARE goes via who you AREN’T. Children who never took that step to separate and explore their individual identity will struggle with setting boundaries as adults. Parents who don’t release their children to a certain extent will have trouble with respecting other people’s boundaries.
Separation and individualization leads to experimentation. Toddlers (and teenagers later on) are driven by energy to explore the world. They often believe: I can do anything! This is perfectly okay because it will allow them to take risks, not shy away from challenges, and ultimately grow. Even as adults we need to experience this feeling once in a while. Nevertheless, the counterpart is just as important. Some have to learn it the hard way: I can’t do everything! And this is okay, too because somewhere along the way we’ll hopefully find our place. We’ll learn to maximize our strengths and say YES to good challenges, but also to accept our weaknesses and say NO to overburdening ourselves with the wrong tasks.
Our Body’s Radar
I find it amazing how our body has been created with a natural sense of boundaries. Just look at your skin. It protects the underlying layers of skin and organs from damage. It serves as a boundary to dirt from the outside and exchange point for bodily fluids. It keeps the good inside and the bad outside.
Without any kind of training we have a sense of space, how close someone else is allowed to get to us. Normally we are not aware of this unless someone violates our personal space. A stranger coming closer than one meter is intimidating. He enters a space he doesn’t belong. It feels like he’s getting hold of us – our body, our soul, our mind – without even touching us. A group of people can be overwhelming at times because our personal space is taken away from us. These instincts most times are no sign of claustrophobia, they are our natural boundaries and protect our body with all its different layers.
These natural boundaries are a gift and we should appreciate them, especially when we think how easily this gift can be taken away. Victims of abuse and rape often suffer from a loss of boundaries. Of course, there’s physical harm, but the emotional damage is even greater: someone has violated your personal space, has overstepped your boundaries without permission, has taken something away without every giving it back.
Our physical boundaries are a gift and we should learn to appreciate and use them well.
Think about your own development for a moment: Have you ever thought about who you ARE and who you AREN’T?
What is your personal space? How close are people allowed to come, what is too close for you?