Avoiders and Boundaries
Let’s begin by reviewing what boundaries are all about. Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written extensively on the topic of boundaries.
The following overview is taken from the book by Cloud, Changes that Heal. He devotes a chapter on boundaries.
HEALTHY BONDING WITH BOUNDARIES:
Boundaries are the ability to maintain one’s own identity and selfhood while connecting with others.
An intimate relationship needs both vulnerability and closeness as well as the freedom to move apart and be separate.
In a healthy relationship, each person is supportive and encourages the uniqueness and
growth of the other.
In other words, closeness does not equal sameness.
FUSION / ENMESHMENT
Thinking about a relationship with no (or few) boundaries will help us better understand boundaries.
Avoiders and Boundaries
Most people who have trouble saying “No” or setting limits struggle with feelings of guilt or anxiety if they say “no”.
Since avoiders don’t feel much, it is often no problem for them to say “no”, or set limits.
Being self sufficient, they think others should be also and do not tend to feel much angst if they ignore the feelings and needs of others.
Avoiders often do not realize they have too many boundaries.
Remember having boundaries means one can say “no”.
It is possible to say “no” to things when God wants us to say “yes”.
Avoiders learned early in life to say “no” to the expression of their own feelings and needs.
They grew up in homes where most feelings were not allowed, sought after, or expressed.
Perhaps feelings or neediness in their childhood home was met with neglect, anger or overwhelmed exasperation.
Somehow, avoiders got the message, “Things so a lot better if I hide my emotions and take care of myself.”
All babies and kids have feelings and needs.
When it becomes painful to have feelings and needs we learn to push them away and disown them.
It gets easier to get rid of feeling and needs over time until it unknowingly becomes natural and normal.
The truth is God designed us to have feelings and needs.
As Christian we are encouraged to grow and become like Christ.
Jesus had feelings and needs.
Read through the gospels and note every time Jesus expressed a feeling or need.
You may be surprised.
Healthy boundaries involve setting limits.
Avoiders set rigid limits on their own humanness by restricting the very essence of what it mean to be human……to feel and to need.
Avoiders learned as kids to say “no” to feeling needy and asking for help.
We might picture avoiders as having a tightly guarded chamber where the pain of needing and not having is locked away.
Minimizing anything painful in the present keeps the chamber tightly guarded and pushed out of awareness.
Growth for avoider means softening their boundaries and allowing themselves to feel and need as adults.
While this sounds simple it is quite a process.
Many avoiders link neediness to disgust and shame.
To need is to feel flawed, unloveable and like something is wrong with me.
To need is “bad”.
This takes time and positive experiences of needing and receiving to break the link between needing and shame.
If you are married or in close relationship with an avoider they may make you feel something is wrong with you when you need or want emotional connection or would like to discuss and process feelings.
Remember this is not a vindictive act or intentionally hurtful behavior.
They are reacting out of those early childhood messages and learning that neediness is something to get rid of not encourage.
If you are an avoider.
You need to take responsibility for the wound inside you and learn to grow into the image of Christ.
If you have not gone through the workbook of How We Love, we encourage you to take that step.
Love and blessings,
Milan & Kay
Next Week: Continued Discussion of Boundaries and the Love Styles.