“By choosing recovery and risking to be real, we set the healthy boundaries that say, “I am in charge of my recovery and my life, and no one else on this Earth is.”
— Charles L. Whitfield
If we are going to appropriately own our power and take charge of our lives and recovery, we will come to a place where we must protect and care for ourselves. We come to the bottom line, the place where the only response left is “no”. No I will not do that. No I will not accept that. No I will not compromise my values, beliefs or my needs. We come to the place where no means - no.
People tend to resist change. They may really dislike the new "no". They might feel or react strongly when we insist that change happen, especially if that change impacts upon them. Let's face it, we've been "training" the people in our lives how to treat us. If we've put up with something for a long time, we've essentially given "permission" for it to continue. Oops. It can be really difficult to accept other people's changes, after all:
Saying “no” may mean that someone else’s “yes” no longer works for them.
Setting a boundary means we are very directly setting an expectation for change. Think about a time where this has happened to you. Someone in your life made a change. It may have been a big change or a seemingly smaller one. The way the relationship worked or looked changed. Maybe we were okay with the change, maybe weren't, but either way, the interaction shifted and we were left with a choice; shift with the relationship and accommodate the change, or end up in a conflictual struggle of trying to pull the status quo back to where it used to be.
We've all bumped up against someone else's no, or someone else's refusal to change.
This is seldom not a comfortable place; whether we're the one changing the status quo or someone else is. Either way, if we've set a boundary we need to maintain it and do what we believe is right- for us. Just as others will decide what they need to do for themselves, and stick to what they believe is right for them. Sometimes this means "push-back" will happen. People might try to "push us back" into doing things the same way. They may raise the stakes of relationship. People who, in the past, may have tried to manipulate or control us may increase their efforts.
Push-back is a normal part of setting a new boundary and enforcing it.
It's important to know that when we experience pushback, its not necessarily because other people don't respect or care for us. They are resisting having to change. We all do it. However, disrespect and abuse, is not normal or acceptable. When push back becomes longstanding and toxic and we find ourselves constantly on the defensive, that is feedback. It lets us know in very clear ways where our relationship stands. We don’t have to try to control or fix other people’s push back or resistance. We don't have to make them okay with our decisions and choices. We certainly do not need to accept or tolerate abuse. What we need to do is respectfully, compassionately and clearly maintain the boundaries we've decided upon. That's our responsibility. Our responsibility isn't to change other people. In fact, we can't change them.
Sadly, sometimes setting boundaries creates unresolvable friction. Sometimes other people simply refuse to accept "no". Unfortunately, we can't control that. We do however, have choices about whether we will allow push back to get in the way of doing what we have decided we need to do to look after and care for ourselves. That's right, we get to choose. It may mean we will choose to limit contact or let go altogether, of relationships with people who are unable or unwilling to accept our boundaries. We may do it for a time. We may do it permanently.
The alternative is no alternative at all.