Friday, November 22, 2019

Boundaries Are Good, Actually

So there's a Twitter thread going around right now that is creating quite a hubbub. It was penned by Melissa A. Fabello, PhD in Human Sexuality Studies and was about how wonderful it is when her friends ask if she has space for discussing an emotional/potentially triggering topic before simply unloading on her and ended with a possible template for saying "no" in a way that is still supportive. It's some of the most emotionally and socially healthy shit I've ever seen come out of Twitter.

And man, a lot of people HATE it.

It's been a while since I've written about how a lot of people hate when others put up healthy boundaries, but they sure still do.

Here are the parts people seem to object to the most:

As you may know, I have some experience with therapy and some knowledge of human psychology, and when I saw this I was like "fuuuuuuuck yes girl spread that healthy shit." In fact, I had shared something kind of similar on Facebook several months ago suggesting that people ask their loved ones if they have the time and emotional energy to talk about heavy stuff before just doing it, and some of my friends and family have used this with me to great effect.

I have an issue where I want to fix everything and will sacrifice my own well-being to try and take care of others. This can result in my becoming emotionally overwhelmed, depressed, and if it happens enough, even resentful of the individual or everyone in my life who ever seems to want anything from me at all, resulting in self-isolation and even lashing out at people.

This is, of course, my issue, and it's my responsibility to work on it and set the necessary boundaries. That is why I was so stoked to see this Twitter thread and I may even use a version of that template in the future. Plus, people asking me before talking to me about heavy topics or personal problems makes it so much easier for me to say no, and I've even been able to do so recently when I feel I need to. This has worked out so well, though I have only really done so with people who I know understand the importance of boundaries and would be supportive with me taking care of myself like this.

And that's what this is. THIS is that fabled self-care people talk about so much. It's recognizing that you have limits, being able to recognize when you've hit that limit, and declining to push yourself beyond it. At the same time, it's still supportive and puts effort into making sure the other person gets what they need. It's pretty much ideal.

I saw a lot of people balking at the rather formal language in the "template" provided by Dr. Fabello, which is not necessarily surprising. Yeah, it does sound a bit like a form letter or an office email, but nowhere is it written that you have to use the EXACT language in the "template" she provided. You can obviously be less formal if you want. But people have gone so far to call this "sociopathic," which, no.

Others have described the language as "transactional" which I don't understand at all. There's no transaction happening here. It's simply recognizing one's limits and practicing self-care. It's being aware that nobody has an unlimited capacity for emotional stressors and no one is always available to talk. And it can be hard for some people (like me) to say no, and this is a way to do so while ensuring that the other person will still be okay without your immediate support.

Then there was one guy on Twitter who, when I expressed that I don't get why people have a problem with this, said the following:

"There is absolutely a way that this kind of language is used to lead towards more isolation, less freedom to express feelings, and enforce hierarchies of control by those with more power in the relationship."

And when I asked him to explain which language and how, I got silence. I feel like this is a case of a dude using super academic language, the understanding of which comes from the privilege necessary to get a really good education, and declining to explain when someone without that privilege doesn't understand.

So, ahem, hierarchies and power.

And I really don't get it, because this kind of honesty, self-care practice, and boundary-setting has already allowed me to avoid isolation and given me more freedom to express feelings. The only thing I can figure (and can't figure much else if someone doesn't explain) is that he means "I will be sad if you don't sacrifice yourself to listen to me vent whenever I want."

That's not a friend. That's a user.

This is important to me because I was raised in an environment where it was expected that I would sacrifice myself on command to provide emotional support, and saying "no" at all in any way would be selfish. This only led to mental illness, resentment, and a hell of a time learning how to practice real self-care and set boundaries way later in life than I should have. It only caused problems and pain.

Boundaries are good for everyone. You don't have to set them with formal, PhD language, but set them and let others set them. They will improve your relationships and make everyone happier and more secure. I promise. Try it for yourself.

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