As a person who has had to put significant effort into learning the art of strong, healthy boundaries in relationship with others, I have considerable empathy for individuals who struggle to maintain their personal boundaries and suffer as a consequence. I was reminded about the devastating impact that an absence of boundaries can have, when my friend, Sally (not her real name) shared her story on Facebook. Sally consented for me to share her story and photos with you. I have called it:
Jasper’s Ultimate Challenge for the Vegie Patch.
Sally recently relocated and has been spending her weekends blissfully re-designing the backyard. Being a ‘green thumb’, she was very excited to discover the ‘remains’ of a once thriving but alas, now very neglected vegetable garden. The image of fresh vegetables on the dining table spurred her in to action and in no time, there were ‘posts’ on Facebook displaying a vegetable garden par excellence.
However like in all good fairy tales there must be a villain. The villain of this story is a likeable fellow – ‘puppy dog’ eyes, a long tongue that needs no invitation to lick your face whenever possible, a hyperactive tale, 4 hairy legs and comes to the name ‘Jasper’. Jasper means well of course, but he does get bored when the family are out, so ‘sampling’ the veggie patch wasn’t such a drama – until Sally arrived home to be confronted with the mess.
Not to be defeated, Operation Dog-Proof-Vegetables commenced. A boundary fence needed to be made, and so a visit to Geelong’s recycle renovation yards gleaned a gate, ironwork and finials which would become the new boundary. Within a fortnight, the fence was standing, and order was restored to Sally’s beautiful vegetable garden. The End
Postscript – Fortunately, Jasper still survives thanks to a sturdy and impenetrable boundary.
Who is your Jasper?
Do you have a ‘Jasper’ in your life? Partner, parent, child, employer, work colleague, friend or other; ‘Jasper’ is friendly, energetic, warm, enthusiastic and has the potential to overwhelm you by their easy, optimistic, encouraging and often manipulative ways. Most ‘Jasper’s are not conscious of the methods by which they manipulate; however they are intent on your co-operation and involvement. ‘Jasper’ is not good at listening, frequently fails to understand the needs of others and does not like or hear the word ‘no’. As a result, you feel perpetually frustrated, resentful and exhausted.
What to do? We can take a ‘leaf’ from Sally’s book.
Here are 3 principles to ensure strong, healthy boundaries:
1. Give up trying to reason with ‘Jasper’ and expecting him to understand. This rarely works, so why keep doing it?
2. Take responsibility for your personal boundaries. No one can build those boundaries for you, it is your work and you need to own it.
3. Access the resources and support you need to build your boundary. You don’t have to do it alone.These may include:
Further reading: I recommend a book by Dr Henry Cloud called ‘Boundaries’.
Talking to a Professional Counsellor who is skilled to: – facilitate dialogue that will promote self-knowledge – challenge beliefs that have prevented you from keeping strong, healthy boundaries (such as guilt, fear and/or the need to please) – coach you around self-assertive skills – support you as you put your personal boundaries in place.
Journaling: Writing allows you to reflect process and integrate your experience. By getting in touch with your thoughts and feelings, you will promote personal awareness and insight and feel more empowered to build strong boundaries.
A Family Therapist or Family Counsellor who is trained to work with two or more people, may be a resource when ‘Jasper’ is willing to talk about your relationship and how to improve it.
It can be hard, challenging work if you have not had experience building a strong, healthy boundary however it will be worth the effort. You will feel less vulnerable, more safe, respected and in control of your life.
Do you struggle to set boundaries? Is there a ‘Jasper’ in your life who is over-stepping the mark? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.