Up until last year, I had a different personal story. It was a story based on pain, betrayal, codependency, guilt, shame, and denial. When my story stopped being about upholding these things, it became about identifying them, rejecting them, and protecting myself with boundaries.
Boundaries or Fear?
At a time, barricading myself behind certain behavioral guidelines was necessary. Integrating the lessons I had learned from past entanglements required me to be constantly on my toes, stuck in prevention mode. But what’s next? What do you do once the lesson is assimilated? How do you proceed when the lesson starts to become an encumbrance to further expansion?
After a while, it became an exhausting game of “Am I keeping this person at arm’s length because of boundaries or due to my fears of vulnerability and intimacy?” Ruminating too much on a lesson can sometimes distort it, pushing you to find it in every interaction, any potential. At 26, I’m learning that boundaries shouldn’t keep you barricaded behind thick walls, preventing access to and from the world around you.
Boundaries should be your safety pack, assuring you that you’re in control, enveloping you in confidence and freedom as you explore your environment, your connections and your future. This year, I’m learning to integrate and flow.
Step 1: Take Control of Yourself by Any Means Necessary
I made peace with my father a couple of weeks ago, on my birthday, after a two-year standoff. I had accumulated a couple of decades worth of resentment and anger towards him, and two years ago, I finally exploded. I was at a period in my life when everything was in upheaval, I call it my spiritual awakening.
That year, I found unconditional love, ended a seven-year relationship with a narcissist, decided on my future path, exposed the truth about myself and my family dynamics, and basically set fire to the precarious foundations of my life until then, determined to rise from the ashes. So I did.
The pride and the power I sensed at the time made me feel righteous, turned my anger into a noble cause.
It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes showing me all of the ways I had betrayed myself, longing to be seen. I was angry. Enraged. I forged a machete of truth, and I carved a way out of the darkness through my loved and unloved ones who had hurt me. It was painful. For everyone involved.
Yet, it felt liberating to say the things I’d been holding in for so long, allowing my tongue to lash out, soaring past any concerns for politeness, decorum, and authority. The pride and the power I sensed at the time made me feel righteous, turned my anger into a noble cause. I can remember thinking and saying that I would punish my father by never talking to him again, unless he did something that I knew he never would, unless he became someone new.
At the time, I called my “revenge” a boundary.
Step 2: Unlearn and Relearn
In Eight Keys to Forgiveness, Robert Enright states, “Forgiveness is about goodness, about extending mercy to those who’ve harmed us, even if they don’t “deserve” it. It is not about finding excuses for the offending person’s behavior or pretending it didn’t happen. Nor is there a quick formula you can follow. Forgiveness is a process with many steps that often proceeds in a non-linear fashion.”
Personal boundaries are the rules and principles you live by when you say what you will or won’t do or allow. There are several types of boundaries: material, physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual.
As a material boundary, I don’t lend my books to people who don’t live in my home. One of my instinctual physical boundaries is to shut my door if I’m in my room. I’ve been learning to work on solidifying my mental boundaries by: becoming less suggestible, knowing what I believe, holding onto or amending my opinions based on how I’m understanding new data, and especially listening to other people with an open mind even when I think their ideas or opinions are full of shit. (To practice, I’ve been listening to the Joe Budden Podcast 🤣 ).
In this week’s episode on 99% Anomaly Podcast available below, we discussed Forgiveness. I talked to the girls about how Forgiveness would become a new emotional boundary.
Emotional boundaries separate your emotions and responsibility for them from other people’s. It’s like an imaginary line or force field between you and others. Healthy boundaries prevent you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others’ comments personally. Being quick to react suggests weak emotional boundaries. Healthy emotional boundaries require you to be clear on internal boundaries — knowing your feelings and your responsibilities to yourself and others, so you don’t take on what’s not yours.
Step 3: Take Accountability
When I was in a relationship with a narcissist, my mental, material, emotional, and spiritual boundaries were practically nonexistent. The relationship rested on their ability to manipulate and control different realms of my life. Acknowledging and retaking my power over my ability to direct my life would have meant abandonment, a deep-rooted fear that colored my childhood. When I finally flamed out of that trauma bond, I immediately instituted physical, mental, and spiritual boundaries between myself and them. However, emotionally, I was still in a bind.
One does not simply fall in a relationship with a narcissist. Once you are finally able to admit that you are in an abusive situation, after the pity and shame parties, you must make the transition from seeing yourself as a victim to seeing yourself as a survivor, or a warrior, in my case. Becoming a survivor is extremely difficult to do, due to the ego. “The Ego insists that other people’s behavior is about you. If this is denied, the ego feels unimportant and becomes injured. When the ego is injured, it will rage.”
The thought that saved me was that “abusive behavior from others is not personal.” Hurt people hurt people. Although we would expect them to know what pain is and to want to spare others, often, hurting and being hurt becomes the only way we know how to relate.
Even though believing this fact was my ultimate saving grace, I resisted it for a long time. “What do you mean it wasn’t about me? I’m the one who suffered, I’m the one who has to put the pieces back together.” I was extremely defensive to any question of “how could that have happened?”, especially given the general skepticism about mental and emotional abuse. “Pics of the scars or it didn’t happen!”
The thought that abusive behavior from others isn’t personal but about the abuser felt dismissive of myself, my anger, and my pain. Saying it wasn’t about me felt like an implication that the narcissist wasn’t responsible or should just get away with everything. Ultimately, I had to realize that my anger and my pain came from an ego injury caused by the idea that I wasn’t important enough to be the reason for the abuse. Ain’t that a mindfuck?
The more I purged through the toxic sludge I had accumulated by being so intertwined with an energy vampire, the more my attention was drawn to the patterns the unlearning process was illuminating. Throughout my whole life, I’d found safety in being the victim.
Being the victim justified the grudges that I had stacked up in my subconscious. Talking to me became a casual stroll in a minefield, everything was triggering. I was lost in all those stories of how people did me wrong, from the point of always expecting to be hurt, all the way to believing that I must deserve it, somehow.
I had completely taken myself out of the equation. How did people hurt me? How did I respond? How did I try to prevent it? What about me attracted those people? What was it about those people I couldn’t help but let in? Asking me to take accountability for my choices implied that I deserved to be treated badly. “That’s victim-blaming!”
Nah, it was all just fear. Fear of admitting some of my own toxic and dysfunctional patterns, behaviors, thoughts, and mindsets. Fear of owning up to my bad decisions and mistakes, especially in ignoring my intuition and all the red flags. Fear of being “wrong”.
That fear had barricaded me within my past. Being in that narcissistic relationship and getting out of it became my origin story. The narcissist became the great white beast whose slaying had given birth to this new version of me. But I still wasn’t dealing. I still wasn’t free. I just had a story that only made me feel safe by telling and retelling it.
I could develop the tools to change and build a better life, a better me.
For a while, I thought that taking ownership for my own choices and behavior in that mentally and emotionally abusive relationship meant that ultimately I deserved the way they treated me. Only through actually standing up to myself, being willing to look at my stories with free-flowing self-love and self-compassion, was I able to realize that taking accountability for my own mistakes did not make me any less valuable. Being imperfect never damaged my worth. Making mistakes certainly did not give people the right to abuse me. Absolutely NOTHING gives anyone the right to abuse me.
I had to get to a place where I could understand that people could hurt me, it could not be about me, and yet I could still love and forgive myself for any mistakes made in the situation without feeling guilty of the pain others caused to me. This realization freed me from the prison that is victimhood.
No longer did I have to hold onto the fear of the past repeating itself. I had walked out of my triggers and could respond to the world, instead of merely reacting to it. I could even shape it. I could look at myself with clear loving eyes, and I could take action to prevent any repeat. I could develop the tools to change and build a better life, a better me. So I did.
Step 4: Heal
Still, some anger remained. Now that I loved and felt compassion for myself, my anger shifted into a new gear that was devoid of guilt and shame, but filled with reactive protective energy. Never would I allow anyone to treat me in any sort of wrong way. No more disrespect. Any mention of my narcissist would send me into a whirlwind of memories that I could only climb out of by swimming in the pool of hate where I’d drowned them. Any ego-based behavior from a loved one that even marginally reminded of them was swiftly and loudly punished. I was at peace, only when I didn’t think about them.
Being a survivor wasn’t enough for me. Learning about and instituting boundaries had helped me feel more secure in the attachments that came after my trauma bond with the narcissist. Yet, it still felt like my narc lurked in the shadows. I was still seeing loving myself as revenge, still a reaction to what had been done for me.
Then, this summer, I learned about Forgiveness. True forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness that would allow me to pass my narc on the street, nod at them, and forget about them a few steps later. The kind of forgiveness that poured into all my relationships, current or past, illuminating where my ego was still telling me stories about my importance in others’ lives and decision-making. The kind of forgiveness that allowed me to write a different story.
I learned to see Forgiveness as an emotional Boundary. On the podcast, I explained how I needed to practice Forgiveness in order to truly liberate myself from my past and my ego’s stories. After that relationship, when someone did something that caused me pain, physical and mental boundaries were immediately put in place. But my armor had a chink, I was still allowing people to live rent-free in my emotions, thinking that it would be enough to just not let them “see it.”
As a non-linear process, I can see that I had to go through my steps of getting out, taking accountability, forgiving myself, and instituting boundaries in order to truly get to a place where I could forgive them as well. Truly let go of all the resentment and anger I harbored towards them. Leave only the truth.
The only way I can finally let love in.
That’s what forgiveness did for me. It gave me more room to fill myself up with the things I really want, not just barriers against the things I don’t. Forgiveness allowed me to let go of the need to take justice into my own hands. Let Karma handle it. I’m only responsible for the energy I generate.
Blocking is not the only option. Healing is.
On my birthday, this year, I meditated on Forgiveness. I visualized all the people that caused me pain, all the anger and resentment I still held against them whether we were still in a relationship or not, and I just let it go. Again and again, I let it go. Healing is not a linear process, and sometimes the angry and negative thoughts pop back up. I hug them, and release them, and focus on my breath, my love.
Not forgiving people often feels like we’re doing something “to them,” taking our revenge. Sometimes, we don’t forgive because we think that doing so is letting others off the hook. Or forgiving and reconciling is opening up the way for more abuse and drama. It’s not. What happens after you are hurt? How do you get out of it?
Being afraid of being hurt (again) is not a valid reason to ignore love. It’s justifiable, but it’s still fear. Is this how you want to lead your life? Through fear?
Forgiveness gives me a clean slate to build something new. Forgiveness assures me that being hurt is not the end of the story. Forgiveness as a boundary gives me back control to say, I will no longer allow my emotions to be hijacked by your actions and my memories. Forgiveness frees me to move on. Forgiveness is the closure I give to myself.
99% Anomaly Podcast on Relationship Issues
Have you checked out my podcast yet? We don’t usually cover Pop Culture but last week we definitely got into it.
If you have social media and follow Americans, you are most likely aware of the drama that unfolded with the Smiths and August in July. Well, we thought it would be the perfect occasion to discuss some of the larger themes within the story that can help us to examine our human interpersonal relationships.
This might be our most contentious episode, because we disagreed a lot on a few of our takes. Cass was definitely on Ross’s side on the show Friends “We were on a break!”, Nessa totally fell for August Alsina’s “old soul” and wants to be his money manager and publicist, and Dassa is looking for a job helping Jada to develop an online course titled “Pimpin ain’t easy” for our skruggling queens out here.
Got a bone to pick with any of us? Hit us up on Social Media. Stick to the end of the episode (00:59) to hear about Cass’s announcement about her new nonprofit promoting Education in Haiti, Rose of Hope. Thank you for visiting the website, signing up to Volunteer, and Donating: https://www.roseofhopehaiti.com/.
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