What does an abused person look like? Many people can look in the mirror for their answer. The term defies any stereotypes or mental image one can imagine. An abused person can be any age, any sex, or come from any ethnic background or nationality . They can be CEO's, plumbers, preachers, lesbians or rock stars. No one group is immune. There is, however, one similarity which most abused people have in common: they have a weak understanding of what their boundaries are and who the violators are which step over the line of acceptable and humane behavior. Others have no problem marking their boundaries, but find themselves helpless when it comes to implementing or protecting them.
Anne Katherine has authored an informative guide for those who need help in forging an acceptable limit to the behavior which causes them harm. Her Book Boundaries is available at Walmart for $9.00. Not everyone has the same expectations or levels of tolerance, but human nature and society in general have rules which should never be violated in any relationship. Of course, what is tolerable in one relationship, is not always acceptable in another. There are certain actions which are not welcome in any relationship. Period. Regardless of the culture, socio-economical levels, educations or religions of those involved, there has to be a place where the line is drawn.
There was once a woman who reported that she too did not know where to draw the line. Once day, her husband turned on an oven burner and pressed her face several inches from the piping hot disc, just to "scare" her . The next day, he brought her roses, which she threw back at him. This woman finally figured out what her breaking point, or boundary for acceptable behavior was. Another woman reported that she left her marriage when her three year old son called her two year old son a name which describes a four legged female animal…and it wasn't "Dear".
In establishing these important barriers, the abused individual should be aware that there are various types of boundaries. They can be physical, emotional, spiritual, and verbal. Kids often belittle other kids and bullies, in too many cases, grow up to continue in their destructive behavior. When this type of tyranny is allowed to go unchallenged, it's because acceptable boundaries have not been enforced by the guardians, caregivers or parents of these budding masochists. Dr. Henry Cloud's Boundaries-participant's guide (www.Amazon.com) is also helpful in taking control of situations which have become intolerable. (also available in Spanish: Limitas- Dr. Henry Cloud)
Another great resource is Dr. Cloud's Boundaries In Marriage Workbook which specifically addresses issues in a couple or marriage. Any healthy marriage requires clearly outlined expectations and limits for each partner to enjoy the freedom and confines of what defines their union. Those boundaries define who they are and who they are not. They build self-respect in both partners which allows them to agree on who they are as individuals and as a couple, as well as what defines non-acceptable behavior. The implementation of what is okay and what is not can transform a dysfunctional family into one which communicates and expresses their needs and disapprovals in ways which do not have to become destructive or damaging to their family structure.
There are other helpful avenues when exploring ideas in establishing boundaries, and we will be exploring these in future articles. Seminars and workshops, blogs, family meetings, rewarding reached goals and positive behavior, and networking with others in similar situations are some of the ways people of all walks of life recover from abusive set-backs. What may work in some situations may not work in others. It's up to each person, couple or family to discover what makes them function successfully in a sane, peaceful and loving environment.