Chapter 5: Real Self-Care Requires Boundaries (part 1)
I am breaking this chapter into 2 parts, because it is very long:
Moving Past Guilt
A lot of women, particularly, struggle to set limits with partners, family, and friends. They get it into their mind that saving the day, rescuing, fixing, and taking responsibility for others is a positive ask. This seems to me based on the common message that we are here to serve, and that others are first. It is reinforced in work, church, school. If you care for yourself first, you are “selfish” which is a “negative” trait. However, Dr. Laskhmin suggests that real self-care requires boundaries first. Remember that boundaries are for US, not them It’s what We will accept, not what he will do/won’t do, or she will do/won’t do. By setting boundaries around our time or activities we give ourselves sufficient time and mental/emotional bandwidth to decide what is in our best interest and makes it possible to respond out of our desires rather than through our exhaustion.
We need to become accustomed to owning our own time- setting boundaries is how we take our time, energy, and attention back. When we’re interacting with a person with SUD issues, we need to be even more clever, because we know emotional manipulation is often how people get what they want, not what you need.
What Are Boundaries?
The author suggests that we think of a boundary as a space between 2 people. In this space you have a moment, time, space, to decide- The boundary IS the pause that enables you to decide how to act next.
You have the option to let the phone go to voice mail- you don’t have to answer it.
You have the option to take the time to answer in a way that is consistent with your thoughts, priorities, etc. You do not have to react right that minute. Setting boundaries is having a choice and communicating that choice to others. When you communicate a boundary there will likely be consequences, real or imagined from the other person. Boundaries are not agreements- they are not co-created. Other people will have their own feelings about your boundaries but they cannot create them. A boundary is what YOU need to interact in the world.
Boundaries are hard not because you can’t identify yours, but because you are worried about the backlash.
In the next section of this chapter, the author describes a number of questions that assess how well a person can recognize that they have choices and their ability to communicate those choices. This is a reliable measure of how well a person takes care of themself. I will share one of these questions below:
Question: It’s Thanksgiving and you’re invited to your in-law’s house for the dinner. It’s across the country. It takes expensive airline tickets and hectic travel with others. Everyone is expected to attend. You’re juggling a busy workload and also have small children who are difficult to travel with. What do you do?
- You fork out the money for airfare, spend the week with the in-laws. Come home exhausted and behind. (1 point)
- During an unrelated argument, you bring up the Thanksgiving issue with your partner. You’re already angry and you cut to the chase, - it’s not fair to spend so much time with his family over the holidays especially during this busy year. Your partner disagrees with you, says you’re overreacting, and you acquiesce and spend the whole week there, feeling resentful, and coming home exhausted. (2 points)
- Over a relaxed dinner, you bring up with your partner that you have some concerns about the trip. You lay out your thoughts calmly and clearly, He disagrees and says you are overreacting. You hold firm to your points of contention and continue explaining how it will be hard on you and your kiddos. After a few rounds, you and the partner weigh the pros and cons, and decide that you will spend the money to visit, but shorten the trip to 4 days instead of a week. (3 points)
In the book she offers 7 different question/scenarios. After answering all you count up your responses and this will identify your self-care temperature [red, yellow, green]. She then offers some exercises to practice. She suggests further that self-care is an iterative process and encourages people to return regularly to this litmus test to follow progress. She describes characteristics of each person explaining the severity of the boundaries issue. (If I answer all 7 honestly, I get a “RED” designation, if I answer like I wish I would handle the scenario, I do a lot better)
I am breaking this chapter into 2 parts, because it is very long.
Questions for Part 1:
- When does saying no or setting boundaries come most easily for you?
- Are there any common factors in these situations (people, places, things)?
- Are there situations in which it feels consistently impossible to say no or to set a boundary?
- What supports have helped you in the past when you knew that you needed and wanted to say no, and yet were hesitant to speak up?
This book club is supposed to be participatory, so I’d love to hear your thoughts about Dr. Lakshmin’s ideas about Real Self- Care. I am trying to learn about this because I am trying to reprioritize myself in relation to my children and others. I am trying to lead a discussion group because we asll have ways to help ourselves and others with our experiences. .
Thanks!. If you like this- great - I suggest you read the book because this is just a summary, a husk,
Real Self-Care by Pooja Lakshmin, MD.