Does being around certain people cause you to feel drained, agitated or confused? If so, it’s possible you’re losing your “energetic boundaries.” Energetic boundaries are subtle, invisible, and profoundly felt. Losing them happens when you merge with other people’s feelings and you lose your sense of self. The following information contains 5 Boundary Setting Tricks so you can retain your boundaries and remain energized, calm and assertive.
What are “Energetic Boundaries?”
According to principles derived from Eastern energetic anatomy, sometimes referred to as “subtle anatomy,” there is a field of energy that surrounds all matter; living and nonliving. Briefly stated, the energy surrounding the human body is often referred to as the “human energy field.” In this worldview, there are layers of energy surrounding our bodies, with the outermost layer being less permeable than the other layers. This gives the energy field its structure and boundaries, resembling that of an eggshell.
Therefore, when we speak about energetic boundaries, we’re referring to our own energy field remaining free from “picking up” on other people’s subtle energy and having an effect on us by penetrating our personal energy field. For example, in the energetic worldview, when we say somebody is “staring daggers” at us, they’re using their intention to project their anger towards us, through their eyes.
There are several books available that go more in depth describing the human energy field, a personal favorite being Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan.
How do energetic boundaries differ from physical boundaries?
When describing boundaries, two types of boundaries that will be addressed here are physical and energetic boundaries. They are not necessarily distinct, instead they overlap in the ways we sense and understand them. From the energy-based worldview, physical boundaries are the most obvious due to their tangibility. For example, we protect our physical boundaries by putting our private belongings in drawers or safety deposit boxes; or we post signs that say “no trespassing” or “keep off the grass,” etc. These are all things we can readily perceive with our five senses.
Energetically speaking, boundaries are the container of the self, where you end and another person begins. It’s being in your own skin and being in charge of that. We human beings, like other animals, are designed to feel our surroundings for survival purposes. We often “pick-up” on what others are feeling, so we can sense if the situation we’re in is safe and what we need to do to adapt to the present circumstances.
A couple examples of losing your energetic boundaries are as follows:
Imagine you’re in a cheerful mood and you walk into a room where you could “cut the tension with a knife,” even though nobody is speaking. The tense feelings coming from other people are palpable. Ever happened to you before? In such circumstances it would be a common response to pick up on other people’s tension and embody that. In this case, the tension you absorbed from those in the room could be cutting you off from having the ability, in that moment, to help diffuse the situation and provide help.
Here’s another hypothetical situation: You and your partner are going through a rough time. Perhaps your partner is caught up in a conflict at his or her job and is rightfully self-absorbed. You try and support her or him by checking in and listening to every detail of every daily upset she or he is going through. Meanwhile, you’re doing most of the parenting for your children, working part-time and caring for your elderly parents. Inside you feel like you’re going to break under all the pressure from so completely merging with your partner’s energy, as well as going about your daily life. This extra stress causes you to be angry and resentful towards your partner and you just want relief and space to breathe.
Why are maintaining boundaries so important?
If you can’t affirm your boundaries, it will be difficult to trust your ability to maintain your own truth – whether it’s your mood, your beliefs, or your circumstances – while at the same time, being present and responding to other people. There’s also a good chance that if you have weak boundaries, you’ll be uncertain if you’re picking up on another person’s feelings, or tapping into your own issues. For example, are you feeling angry because the cashier at the store was crabby when you were buying your groceries, or is it because something is happening in your life that is causing you to feel that way?
Here are some signs that you may have lost your boundaries:
1) When what you’re feeling is not matching your current circumstances.
2) When you become confused about a topic and merge with other people and their issues.
3) When you experience a sudden shift in emotion or sensation.
4) When you lose your certainty about a truth you firmly believe in.
Now that you have the definition of energetic boundaries and have been presented some signs that you’ve lost yours, here are some tips!
5 Boundary Setting Tricks and ways to restore them:
1) First, stop and disengage energetically from what you’re doing. This can be done in taking a simple deep breath and saying a word that is helpful to you. I use the word “focus, “ I have a friend who says “I’m back.” Anything that helps bring you into present time in your own body and separate from whatever it is that’s happening.
2) Say your name, to help bring you back into your own experience.
3) Ask yourself: “Is this my problem or emotion?” If not, “Whose is it?”
4) Work to name what happened. For example, “I just walked into a tension-filled meeting.”
5) Name 5 differences between you and the other people you’re with. For example, I’m not wearing green, I’m a male, I’m with my toddler etc. This will further help you separate from the person you are merging with.
These practices can be done alone, combined or in any order. Once you’ve identified the source of the energy, first, visualize it leaving by sending it “away.” Then, invoke love and compassion for yourself and the other people, to make the transition back into your own truth easier and without blame.
Boundary setting, like anything else, gets easier with practice, and it’s life-long work. Meaning it’s not a skill one can expect to perfect. Chances are you’ll get good at maintaining your boundaries in some situations and with some people and with others, well, it’s a work in progress.
Happy Boundary Setting!
Written by Julie Schmit, MA, LAMFT
Copyright© 2017, Shaktibodyworks, LLC, DBA Jumpstart Counseling Studio
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