Monday, October 12, 2009

More On Boundaries.

From Hope for Today, page 206:

"With the help of my Higher Power and the Serenity Prayer, I've learned to distinguish between real and imagined threats."

I was talking to a program friend about this just the other day - how we are much less likely to assume that a comment is critical when we are in a state of balance. When my equilibrium is jeopardised because of stress, I'm reminded of that wonderful passage from Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass :

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

When I'm stressed, I can feel like Alice, running with all-out effort, and confused as to why I'm not getting anywhere. In that state, an innocent or offhand observation from another person can feel like an attack. If I don't have good boundaries, and a way to process the information before responding, then almost before I know it, we will be engaged in (minor) conflict over not much. 

When I'm stressed, or in HALT, I'm less able to "distinguish between real and imagined threats." I may react to an innocent comment or question with defensiveness because I'm too tired to be able to think very clearly.  I have learned not to respond to defensiveness in kind, but to stop and state why I said what I did - "I didn't mean that to sound like a criticism, I was..." That simple sentence defuses the situation. Instead of criticising the other for being too stressed or tired to be able to distinguish real from imagined threats, we try to offer support and encouragement and explanation.

My first sponsor used to say that in any conflict, I had two choices: the first was to respond in a way to further my own character defects, and the second was to respond in a way to demonstrate my love. I try to be aware when I reach that point, and to choose the latter.


  1. I like that. I need to make sure when I say I'm sorry that I really am. We talked about Step 10 tonight. Waiting to feel the apology is different from just mouthing words.

  2. I absolutely love what your first sponsor told you! I know that I have a choice in how I respond to a situation, but to choose my response based, in part, on what I want to get out of the situation is a whole other, big-picture view of relating to myself and others.

  3. You have some wonderful posts on boundaries. Thank you for all the thought that went into them. Gives me strength.