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  • Writer's picturePenny Muller

I Choose my Experiences with Others

How do we decide on our boundaries regarding our experiences with others?

I have had some interesting experiences with people in the last couple of months that I have wondered about. When a pattern starts to develop in our lives, we wonder what the lesson might be or how we might be attracting similar situations or calling them in. Despite reflecting on this for some time, last week I said to a friend that I wasn't aware that I was consciously drawing these experiences to me, however the next day, I suddenly realised that, yes, I had been drawing them to me, but that they had been some time in coming. Almost a year and a half ago, when I met my spiritual coach at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival, I spoke to her about my apprehension about family holidays, and that leading up to a gathering with extended family, I would feel sick and anxious. I realised that, while in living alone I was able to meet my needs and apply self-care, in the context of a larger group of people who were important to me, I became unaware of my own needs and preferences. My only concern was to avoid conflict within the group. I realise now, in assessing myself more honestly, that my desire to meet my needs was still there - I hadn't given my preferences over to others, but that my need for harmony within the group - and more importantly, harmony within myself, would surpass any other needs or preferences I might have within that context. So, when asked ''Who wants to go to the beach?", my response would be, ''I'm happy to if everyone else wants to".

I'm sure I am not alone in this, however, when there is fear or anxiety, there is something that needs addressing. My desire is to bond with the family, but my body is telling me I want to run away to a deserted island so that no one can force me to attend. Although I had enjoyed these situations in the past, I had reached a point where I loved myself to the extent that my needs and preferences had become more important to me. I was no longer able to suppress them, nor did I believe that there was any benefit to others if I did so, therefore my body - in internalising these understandings - had begun to give me signs that change was necessary. In becoming an embodiment of a new understanding, our higher selves and those who guide us - I call them my Celestial Team - will ensure that our bodies and our outward circumstances facilitate the directions in which we would like to go. And, if we ignore the signs and symptoms we are given, the whispers will become a roar - we will become sick, anxious, depressed, etc. so that we are forced to make changes to our lives.

Lately, I have had three experiences with people in which my understanding of my boundaries became blindingly clear. In the moment, I knew where the line was. In situations where others have attempted to draw me into participating in emotional releases they were having, I calmly told them I would not be able to engage and removed myself from the situation. I didn't even realise I had those skills - the words came when they were needed because I had embodied the commitment to my self-care and choice over the experiences that I wanted to have. I care deeply about others, and I am happy to listen and be a support for people when they are suffering, particularly if they are close to me, however I will not allow them to treat me badly in the process - that was the boundary. There are no negative feelings towards these people, as they are experiencing and processing real pain, however I am not choosing to experience emotional manipulation from them as they process their emotions. This would not serve them, as they need to work through their pain internally and develop self-love. Nobody can do this for us.

I believe that the Universe has been providing me with opportunities to find these boundaries for myself and to practice the words to say in these situations, so I will be able to grow in my ability to engage with others rather than wanting to avoid certain social situations. I know I am calling for growth in all areas of my life, and that my Celestial Team is supporting me in this so that my capabilities for expansion as a person become greater. Although they are challenging, I am viewing these experiences as opportunities rather than negative experiences. I am excited that my higher self and my Celestial Team see me as ready for bigger challenges and more expanded experiences. I am acknowledging my growth and the years of work I have done to reach this point. If we experience a challenge, it doesn't mean we are failing or ''broken'', it means we are growing.

The commitment to meeting our own needs and choosing our preferred experiences doesn't mean that we are entitled to behave rudely or selfishly towards others. It is important that we balance self-care and self-respect with empathy and compassion for others. Some people struggle with finding this balance when they begin practicing boundaries and assertiveness. In asserting their preferences, they might behave unpleasantly, for example, harassing waiters rather than asking politely for what they want. I believe this can be done more softly. We just need to reflect on the best words to use and practice them. We can show empathy by first acknowledging their situation - ''Wow, you're so busy today. It must be such hard work. I ordered a coffee earlier and it hasn't come yet. Can you please check if it has been forgotten?'' Likewise, if asserting boundaries with others is difficult for us, we should take our time before responding so we can choose our words carefully. Rather than referring to their behaviour, as in this we could risk shaming them for it, we should clearly articulate our needs - ''I'm not going to be able to make it tonight / I'm not able to have this conversation today. I'm feeling quite tired after my week at work / I'm needing some time alone to process my feelings / I'm not managing stress as well as usual''.

Much of the time, we have the luxury of choosing the company we keep, but there are times when this isn't the case. Love others with as much of your heart as you wish to share, but don't allow others to treat you badly or to manipulate you. Tune in to their motivations to ensure this isn't happening to you. Listen to your feelings and to your body to determine how you feel in the company of that person - either in general or during that moment in time. Reflect on your boundaries and the words you can use to express them. Practice assigning words to your feelings so you can learn to clearly articulate them to others. We should respect our own time, energy and preferences, but we can equally consider the time, energy and preferences of others. Quite often, all can coexist. Relationships with others can be the most challenging aspect of life, or the most beautiful. If we can learn to love and respect ourselves to a higher level where we are choosing the experiences we wish to have, the most beautiful aspects of friendship and love can be ours to enjoy.

Setting boundaries is not about keeping people away, rather it is a powerful act of self-care - Michelle Maros

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