One of the best things I have ever done for myself was to go to massage school. Now I am beyond grateful to get to do what I love every day of my life. But that isn’t actually what I am referring to. I am referring to the Healthy Boundaries class we took as part of our ethics module. Every human on the planet should take this class. Worth YEARS and YEARS of therapy. It taught me many things, healed up a bunch of my damage and has enabled me to have better, more authentic and meaningful relationships.
It taught me how to ask for what I want without shame. What I want is independent of someone’s ability to give it to me. Also the value they may place on what I'm asking for has no relation to the value I place on it. Is it lovely when we both think it is a grand thing? Yes! But it’s still a grand thing to me no matter what someone else’s opinion on it is. That’s a hard one for us humans. I think this might be because it is a form of seeking validation. And that is a hard position to come from, because your worth changes depending on who is standing in front of you.
And it taught me how to accept with grace someone’s inability to give me something I want; without fire. Again, because their inability to meet my need isn’t a reflection on me, my worth, or the worth of my desire. And they can tell me what they ARE capable of giving me. And I can decide if that is enough for me. And if it isn’t…well that also doesn’t change the worth of what they are offering.
This all freed me up to set boundaries on the time and resources that I could give to others without panic or shame. This part is perhaps the hardest bit of all. It requires a great deal of navigation and truth seeking with both yourself and the person in front of you. And then it requires honesty. And honesty, for many of us, feels mean. We have been taught to soften the blow, tell a white lie to “spare” someone’s feelings. But how horrible is that? Really, when you do that you are being condescending. You are saying that person isn’t sufficiently emotionally mature to handle healthy human relations. And to be fair, some people AREN’T emotionally mature. And there are plenty of people out there who will fight you on it. Energy vampires who take and take. People who explode with hurt and recrimination and accusation when you say “no.” But even then, don’t lie. Separate with loving detachment.
See how this works? Everybody just becomes responsible for their own dern self. The best thing you can give to another human is a strong and independent you.
Building off these concepts, we were taught a framework for negotiation and conflict resolution. I have since learned that what they were teaching is called Nonviolent Communication. There are great resources out there than can explain it far better than I can. But in a way, it boils down to something I read from the Dalai Lama. And for the life of me I can’t find the direct quote but it goes something like this. “In order to get what you want from someone you must first build a platform that both of you can stand on together.” I’d say that that platform has a lot to do with respect and understanding. Don’t push people’s buttons. Don’t shout. Don’t manipulate. Be compassionate. Be loving.
Now imagine going to school with a bunch of people actively practicing all of this. It was wonderfully refreshing. One of my favorite things was the IPSB welcome. Someone would greet you and ask you how you were doing. And get this…you could be totally honest. I’m doing great! And they’d say “awesome.” even if they, themselves, were doing not so great. And they would mean it. And if you said, “I’m doing crappy.” They wouldn’t jump all into your hot mess. Your hot mess was your hot mess. They’d just say, “I’m sorry.” And they would mean it. And then they’d offer you a hug. And they’d give you the opportunity to accept it or not. And you never felt obligated to take them up on it. And those kinds of hugs are some of the most healing hugs out there.
Kinda like this: