• Leatha Kingi

Boundaries - how do we maintain them around family?

At some point in emotional healing we learn* that boundaries are everything. And for many of us, there's no one harder to maintain our boundaries around than family. Am I right? Family. No better classroom to hone and refine our boundary skills. And they are skills! They aren’t magical abilities only granted to some. Regardless of our natural proclivities we can get better at this. So what skills do we need?

  • How to clearly discern our boundaries

  • How to communicate them assertively

  • How to respond to feedback - this includes pushback and boundary violation from others, as well as learning to evolve our boundaries as needed

These are skills we can learn and develop, but they are anchored by intuition. We are born with that intuition - an inner compass that can guide us to act for the highest good for ourselves and ultimately others.


Ever seen a baby being fed something they don’t like? Or being passed to someone they don’t want to be held by? The instant recoil, the wailing and weeping - that baby knows what they want and that ain’t it. There’s that intuition. My now toddler wouldn’t even let me put her to sleep as an infant when I was angry or frustrated - she couldn’t articulate it, but she didn’t want that bad energy.


So while there are skills to be learned around boundaries, knowing what we need, want, and feel is intuitive. It was inherent in us from infancy, yet many of us were taught from a young age to disregard those needs, wants and feelings to please others. And so over time, that intuition is dulled.


Save for those who undergo immediate and severe trauma and neglect from birth, there was a time in our lives where we knew what we wanted and asserted it. Then, for many of us, we received subtle or not so subtle messages from those around us that caused us to disconnect from our intuition. We knew when we were hungry or full, yet we were told to disregard that and finish what was on our plates, or not eat so much. We knew when something felt off in the family dynamic, yet we were told that nothing was wrong. We knew we didn’t want to hug that uncle, yet we were told to not be rude. We knew we were sad, or lonely, or devastated, yet we were told “you’re okay” or “there’s no reason to be upset.”

As we grow we develop adult communication skills, and as we commit to our healing we deepen those skills. We also learn to tune into our intuition again. Armed with these continually evolving skills, we can maintain our boundaries even around family. This takes practice.


Developing boundaries is not something instantaneous. Like all healing, we need practice and consistency. For many of us, asserting boundaries contradicts a lifetime of neural pathways built and reinforced around ignoring our own discernment. It will take time and repetition to create new pathways and for those new pathways to become our default. Think of forging a new trail through a dense forest when a well worn path already exists. Every time you hike the area, the temptation to use the old path will be there - at least until the new path becomes the default as the old one becomes overgrown with vegetation and debris. Boundaries with family can be the most difficult to navigate during this phase of healing because we often forged the old path together, and maybe everyone else is still on it, waving you over to join them again. Have hope! Human beings are powerful creators. We have shown over and over again that we can create new ways of being.

In my personal work of creating new neural pathways through new, small, and eventually consistent habits, essential oils** have been an extremely powerful support. While the research on exactly how essential oils impact our neural pathways is continually expanding, so are the experiences of many people like myself who have used these precious gifts of the earth to enhance our emotional healing. Essential oils have helped me anchor new habits and ways of being and amplified my work and commitment to healing. They can be applied over the heart or wrists or diffused as a support to emotional healing.


There are many possible obstacles when we are healing and claiming our boundaries with family. We are responsible for our own boundaries, and we always have the right to assert the boundaries we need - including a hard line boundary of no contact permanently, or as needed. As healing evolves, often so do boundaries. Below are some ideas to consider around some obstacles we may face.



Obstacle:

Feeling resentful and frustrated around family, but having a hard time articulating why. Knowing that boundaries are needed but feeling stuck about where to start. Feeling guilty or selfish about asserting boundaries. Feeling upset that others don't understand or accept them.


To consider:

Boundaries are an act of self love. If we don’t love ourselves, it will be difficult to discern our needs. Deepening self love leads to a clearer understanding of our wants and needs.


What was our family and community culture around boundaries? Did I see healthy boundaries modeled? Am I conflating community love and care with having lax boundaries?


Giving ourselves patience and grace as we heal that disconnect is important and it actually amplifies the healing itself.


Affirmation + oils:

Bergamot, the oil of self acceptance; I love and accept myself. I am worthy of care. Rose, the oil of divine love; I tenderly love and care for myself. Magnolia, the oil of compassion; I accept myself as I am right now.



Obstacle:

Feeling like a different person around family, putting on an act, not behaving in integrity with our true selves.


To consider:

Especially around family, we may feel a need to mask aspects of ourselves or to repress our emotions. This may be due to messages since childhood that certain ways of being are unacceptable. So we create a facade so that we can receive love. However, true love requires emotional honesty. Dropping the facade frees up the energy we used to pretend, and it invites closer and deeper connections with those who are ready for that kind of emotional connection and integrity.


Affirmation + oils:

Black pepper, the oil of unmasking; I am authentic. Coriander, the oil of integrity; I am true to myself.



Obstacle:

Knowing our boundaries but having difficulty keeping them around family. Feeling defeated or like a victim. Feeling drained around certain family members, even prior to interaction. Feeling vulnerable and easily manipulated. Feeling codependent.


To consider:

It is normal and common for boundaries with family to be the hardest to maintain. We may feel powerless around family. There may also be those who, because of their own wounding, drain us energetically, sometimes simply due to proximity - there may not even be any interaction, yet we find ourselves exhausted and empty around them. Perhaps even the simple act of being around family or in our oil family environment seems to instantly weaken our boundaries.


Affirmation + oils:

Clove, the oil of boundaries; I have clear boundaries; I am empowered. Tea tree, oil of energetic boundaries; I protect my time and energy. OnGuard, the oil of protection; I have healthy boundaries. All of these are especially effective in a roller and applied over the spine as an energetic shield.



Obstacle:

Resentment, consistently unmet expectations, anger, feeling unheard


To consider:

It is our responsibility to be our own biggest advocate. Resentment is generally a sign of crossed boundaries. This resentment is present even, and perhaps especially, when we have not communicated our boundaries. Consider if you have clearly articulated your boundaries. Be clear about your needs and communicate them. Be specific. Once you've identified your limits, communicate them clearly and unapologetically. Be kind but recognize that being kind and being nice are not the same thing. Instead of wasting time and energy by explaining boundaries repeatedly in different ways in an effort to get people to understand, after the initial explanation of boundaries, choose a “broken record” phrase to repeat. An example would be to first clearly explain your boundaries around discussing your relationship status. If that is not honored, repeat every time, “I don’t discuss my relationship status.” Create new boundaries as needed for those who don’t oblige.


Affirmation + oils:

Lavender, the oil of communication & calm; I am open and honest. Spearmint, the oil of confident speech; I communicate clearly and confidently.



Obstacle:

Experiencing triggers when interacting with family


To consider:

It is okay to stay away from family completely if that is what is best for you at this point in time. You can always make a different decision later. If you have considered your boundaries and want to interact with family despite triggers, think and plan in advance. List possible ways you will cope with triggers. Affirmations, going for a walk or hike, simply going outdoors, deep breathing, meditation, a designated support person who is there or one you bring with you, journaling or drawing, and of course, using essential oils


Affirmation + oils:

Adaptiv, the oil of adaptability; I am calm. Serenity, the oil of tranquility; I am at peace within myself.


Obstacle:

Hard hearted. Rigid. Feeling a call to soften boundaries but not knowing how.


To consider:

First and foremost, reconnecting is not a requirement. You get to decide. If you do feel a call to soften boundaries, understanding why you became hard hearted in the first place can help.


Affirmation + oils:

Marjoram, the oil of connection; I am open to love and connection. Petitgrain, the oil of ancestry; I am free of my family’s story.



Obstacle:

You experience an emotional hangover afterwards. You are mentally and physically exhausted, short-tempered, drained etc.


To consider:

In my experience, with time, and consistency in asserting boundaries, the emotional hangover symptoms diminish significantly. Planning time for breaks in between and time afterwards to decompress is important.


Affirmation + oils:

Magnolia, the oil of compassion; I am tender with myself. Frankincense, the oil of truth; I am in alignment. Lemongrass, the oil of cleansing; use to cleanse toxic energy. Peppermint, the oil of a buoyant heart, use as needed for a reprieve from heaviness and anguish.



Although asserting boundaries with the people in our lives can feel very foreign and difficult, in practice, it is truly life changing and liberating, and gets easier with time and consistency.


Comment here or message me with your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!


*As with everything I share, I am not an expert. I am simply a woman on her own healing journey sharing my ever deepening and expanding Truth.


**My suggestions and recommendations are based on doTERRA essential oils. Here's why.


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