Do you know when some one is stepping all over your personal boundaries?
One of the after-effects of child abuse is the inability to either construct or enforce personal boundaries. Most of the Adult Children of Abuse [ACAb] I have met have no concept of “boundaries”. They know walls, cell bars, andhiding places, but not boundaries. (I love this book, Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud)
It is part of their recovery to learn healthy boundaries — fences, I call them: “I end here, and your rights end at the gate. This is my territory and you may not enter without my permission. If you violate my property (physically, verbally, emotionally, mentally) then I can be strong enough to let you know you are over-stepping your bounds, either with my words or my actions.” Wow! How many years did it take for me to reach that point?
Many abusers try to do an end run around the “NO!” by using passive-aggressive methods like insinuation, dominating the conversation, demeaning tone in their voices, or sarcasm.
ACAbs learn to live and grow around someone else’sboundaries (or walls of silence, or blocks of anger). We become so adaptable that soon we lose any sense of self. I did that. There was no such thing as my schedule, just adapting my life to everyone else’s needs. This is especially a problem with Christians who are active in their churches! Even pastors have a problem drawing boundaries! That’s why they burn out!
When it goes too far, a person can end up dissociating with his/her own identity. Or the ACAb can experience PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] as I did. Hey! It’s not just soldiers on the battlefield that have it!
ACAbs who grew up in a battlefield at home can experience nocturnal Grand Mal seizures, severe memory loss, night terrors, panic disorders, and other serious symptoms. It’s a full time job just trying to make sense of the insane.
Someone said to me, “So he had a bad childhood. Who didn’t?” I would have been shocked if I hadn’t already seen that attitude prevailing around me. So why does it matter?
When a child’s brain is growing, and his ability to reason is non-existent, he’s like a big old sponge, just soaking up all the images, sounds, impressions and silences around him. You know, even my dog knows what her behavior should be by the sound of my voice, or the look on my face! How much more does a child internalize his atmosphere?
Even at three years of age, I knew it was my fault Mama was angry or sick all of the time. I begged Santa Claus to bring her a present instead of me so she would be happy for a change. How pathetic is that?
And at five years, I sat in the Alligator Park in El Paso, watching all the passers-by faces. I was hyper sensitive to body language and facial expressions, and felt totally responsible for all those who were angry, sad, bitter, or poor.
I grieved over every one of those adults, and my brain immediately went into motion trying to figure out how I could “fix” them. That made me an easy target for predators.
Predators come in many disguises. They can be siblings, parents, pastors, deacons, school teachers, school janitors, professional counselors, or evenSELF.
Take a person with no sense of self, no ability to even conceptualize a boundary, add raging never-met needs, and you have a self-destructive person.
That takes us to addictions, fear of success, loneliness, isolation, depression, perfectionism (either slacker or over-achiever), self-mutilation, and the list goes on.
Boundaries – the ability to set and enforce boundaries – have to be taught to ACAbs by caring counselors. I’ve never known anyone who just learned one day how to set and enforce boundaries.
Jesus had boundaries! When He disappeared into the hills to be alone with His Father, I’m sure his disciples wondered what the deal was with his sudden disappearances.
Boundaries are quiet.
Walls and cell bars are loud, angry, and very aggressive.
My goal is still the same as it was years ago: Today I will set quiet healthy boundaries. I will, with God’s help, enforce these boundaries if needed. And yes, I will respect the boundaries of others without internalizing them and feeling “unloved and unappreciated”.
Whew! That’s a full-time job for an Adult of Child Abuse!
(c) 2007-2009 April Lorier