How many times have you heard children need limits and boundaries?
If you are a mom, like me, probably a million times, right?
I heard it countless times from friends, family, experts and most often on the internet. Yet it never rang true, so I began a deep inquiry into why I felt extremely disturbed by this one seemingly “true” parenting belief. I began to ask myself, is it true? Does she need me to control or limit her? (This was my interpretation of the phrase and in my work with parents saw the same)
Through diving deep into my inner world it became crystal clear, in my experience, I limited and controlled my daughter because I was terrified to set personal boundaries. I was told, as a child, I was selfish, rude and disrespectful when I attempted to take care of myself. (Now, granted I was a kid so am sure I set boundaries in ways the adults thought were inappropriate.) The message I took in through my young innocent filters was it was not OK to say NO. I was conditioned to believe it was my job to take care of others, not myself.
The truth is I had to say NO to take care of myself and meet my needs. Since I organized my life around not feeling selfish, rude or disrespectful I convinced myself I didn’t really need boundaries. Instead of feeling discomfort and setting a personal boundary, I began controlling everyone and everything around me.
When I became a mother, the rubber met the road. My daughter was not willing to join me in the game of controlling herself so I could feel like a “good” mom and stay asleep. She was strong, feisty and determined to take care of herself. She had a forceful and definitive NO and it was so disturbing it triggered an explosive rage I hadn’t felt since childhood. Under my protective rage, was an incredibly vulnerable “inner” child who was flooded with feelings of rejection and abandonment. Of course, I wanted to control my daughter’s behavior because I didn’t believe I could tolerate what was coming up in me.
The truth is, as an adult I can tolerate the intensity even though it is uncomfortable. I choose to release my daughter’s taking care of herself from being the cause of my pain. Even though it can still trigger feelings of rejection I now recognize this as a signal to set healthy personal boundaries instead of controlling her behavior. Even today, I can honestly say every time I set a healthy personal boundary I still feel selfish, unsupportive and rejecting and yet through my practice, I find this doesn’t mean I am a selfish, rejecting unsupportive mom. It means I am having feelings and guess what? I am not my feelings, I am the beautiful powerful ocean experiencing waves of feelings as they come and go. With this recognition, I gently return to my true nature: FREEDOM.