How to work with energetic boundaries is an aspect of metaphysics that took me a long time to truly understand. When I was young I had no idea what they were, let alone how to maintain my energetic boundaries. Being on the extremely sensitive side as child, I remember feeling uncomfortably overwhelmed when around other people. Looking back now, I realise it was uncomfortable because I found it hard to separate my feelings, from other people’s feelings who were in my orbit. My personal boundaries were very ‘soft’.
If one is an empath it is a natural state of being to tune into others and so one’s energy boundaries are naturally quite fluid. From what others have shared with me it seems it is a common experience for empathic people to absorb other people’s emotions without realising this is what is happening. For the empath, the result can often be confusion as to what is being felt simply because the feeling being experienced is not theirs. This brings me to the question; how can one deal with the emotions flooding their heart and make sense of them, when their source is from someone else? The answer is, you can’t and that is where the problem lies.
During my younger years I was an energy sponge, constantly absorbing the emotions that floated in the ether around me and I did not handle it well. As a result of all the absorbing I did, I was seen as emotionally ‘messy’ by my parents and my older sister. I began to develop a complex about this inability to switch off from all I was picking up on, which in turn then created within me quite severe social anxiety because each time I stepped into the space of another, I would feel what they were feeling, making it impossible to act ‘normal’. As a result I did not enjoy socialising and was not able to navigate the world of people and for many years did not stop immersing myself in the feelings of others. Very soon my soft boundaries led me to feel responsible for how other people felt, which lead to letting people in who did not always have the best intentions.
I then began to observe this type of letting in due to soft boundaries, not only within myself, but in others who were similar to me. I recognised that once a person is ‘in’ and was often let in due to an empathic response of sympathy, it can be difficult to get them out. If the other person has a strong will and the person who has soft boundaries is linked empathically to them, then what that strong-willed person dictates to be true, will be felt by the empath and believed to be true. Being empathic leaves one vulnerable to this kind of psychic attack where the attitude of the person let in can influence the thinking of the empathic person to their own detriment. This is why learning to develop firm energetic boundaries is crucial to a healthy spiritual life.
Now sympathy and empathy are two variables at the heart of having soft boundaries. I find that when I am interacting with someone, I search for a point of connection. I naturally try to find the energy point within the interaction that will link me with that person. I imagine this is what everyone does as a human being, as every soul is by nature empathic. Yet some are naturally able to disconnect their energy from others out of self preservation and this is where the creating of firm boundaries begins. Self preservation is not about being selfish, it’s about preserving one’s wellbeing by not interacting with another in an unhealthy way, so one pulls back and self-protects. But my need to be so open was not simply born out of lack of self preservation. It was also born out of the desire to help others. You see, I felt at first that if I disconnected empathically to create a firm boundary, I would lose my ability to connect, to be caring, and as a result would not be able to fully comprehend the human being before me. I felt I would be stuck in my own sense of me, left unable to support. It was a compromise I was not willing to make and I chose the act of connecting empathically so I did not fall into selfishness. I just wanted to care, to give and to feel what the other felt. This inability to find the right balance lead me to relationships with controlling people, and to being bullied by other adults who did know how to set up boundaries so strong that they felt little empathy at all towards the response of others towards them. Deep down I envied them and their detachment. But this is not what I wanted. If I were to work as a healer and help others, switching off to the perception of another, switching off to their pain, was not an option.
This is where is I began to learn about equal energy exchange, and this was to be my saving grace. What I realised was, I had been confusing connecting in a healthy way, with connecting in a way that was so empathic that I lost myself in the other person. I was not honouring my own energy, I was not honouring what I gave out and what I received. I was not giving myself pause to collect my energy and assess what an equal exchange between myself and another was. I just let it flow so freely within the exchange, that I did not know how to say, no, this energy does not belong to me therefore it is not mine to take on, or help heal for that matter. As a result if I were pushed around by another person, no matter how terrible their behaviour, I would always find a way to feel responsible for it. I would think I had ‘attracted’ it and so deserved it, or I would think I deserved the poor treatment because I had allowed the dynamic to happen in the first place.
An equal exchange of energy does not leave one feeling tied up in knots. We have to develop an awareness that feeling tied up in knots when interacting is a result of soft boundaries and not being able to see whose energy was whose.
If we interact with someone who is trying to manipulate for whatever reason, we will feel it in our solar plexus, the place where self worth resides and having soft boundaries wreaks havoc with my self worth.
I consistently felt I was to blame for any cruelty I experienced at the hands of another. So my self-worth diminished from childhood to adulthood. I let all sorts in and as a result, my sense of what I deserved became rather skewed. So at that time the exchange of energy between myself and others was not created with consciousness. If it happened in a way that was equal and pure it happened by default rather than a higher level of being. Seeing this dynamic consciously was the first step I had to take, which led to a deeper understanding of how it needed to work.
Having healthy energetic boundaries is essential in protecting us, but to do no harm to another means the intention must not be malicious when setting up the boundary.
When setting up healthy boundaries that lead to equal exchanges of energy there has to be a choice made, not to take too much from the other and not to give more than one is able to give. If we take too much, whether this be in the form of time or money, whether it be in the form of wanting compliments or attention because of our insecurities, we will be left feeling unbalanced and so will the person, or people we have taken from. On the other hand if we give too much, if we give away too much of our personal freedom, our ideas, our thoughts, our secrets and our money, or time, then we will be left feeling empty and unfulfilled because here is the spiritual truth deep down we all know: no one can fill the void within us. If we expect others to try, then we are asking the impossible. And this is where energetic boundaries become crucial. If they are not set up in a healthy way, then we will allow others to take from us to fill a void within them. If we do this, we will be drained completely because we can’t fulfil another’s needs to the point where they are full and neither can another fulfil our every need. Therefore we need to recognise when this dynamic is in place, and question, am I giving or taking in a way that is based in the shadow self, in the Archetype of the Prostitute? The shadow-self exchange of energy based in the Archetype of the Prostitute is the worst kind. Here the intention is based in darkness where we literally prostitute our energy out and completely give away our personal power and in these cases one must develop extremely firm boundaries.
But again, it all comes back to treating the space we take up in the world as sacred. This is the complete opposite to working from the shadow self when interacting with others. If we can see and know that we are sacred beings, not because we have earned the right to call ourselves this, but because we are in essence light beings having a human experience, then we can call our own space sacred. With this perspective in mind we can also approach others with a reverence for their sacred space and so when energy is exchanged, each will hold a space for the other, to exist in their own being, without violating their boundaries.
It is important to sit firmly in the understanding that we can give endless amounts to others and still have this be an equal exchange of energy if we draw the energy from the right place, from an endless source that resides within us, a source that is inexhaustible, a source that is eternal love. Giving and receiving from the spirit never leads us into a situation where boundaries are crossed or there is an imbalance in an interaction with others.
Rama has always encouraged me to work from a place of peace and stillness, to work from a space that is quiet and centred.
‘Cause the least amount of karma, withdraw your plans, your actions into inaction and peace.
Work only with the heart through meditation and stillness.
This needs be the focus; stillness and inaction based in love and observation of what is pure, natural and good.’
The ‘How To’ in Summary:
- Acknowledge that you are a sacred being, so treat your personal boundaries as sacred.
- Work towards healing a lack of self worth by knowing that you have the right to be here and to receive unconditional love not because you have earned it, but because you are essentially a spirit that is pure when beyond this world.
- Become aware that you cannot give, or take, in a way that harms another for we must all honour the sacredness in each other.
- Understand that you are allowed to say no. Actually… learn to say no if you are always inclined to say yes to please others. Just to be clear, this will cause discomfort in others but it is not to be considered ‘doing harm’. This discomfort is one of the main reasons boundaries are hard to hold; we don’t want to cause other people discomfort and so kick into people-pleasing mode.
- Know when to stop. Or at least try to sense when it is time to close down the dynamic and stop giving too much, or taking too much.
- Know when you have said enough.
- Learn to recognize statements that are self effacing and said to please the others. This is a clear indicator that our boundaries have softened. So slam your trap shut when you feel the impulse to do this!
- In a social dynamic for a few seconds at one point give yourself permission to sit back and breath, particularly if you feel a headache coming on, feel your heart rate increase, or your body heat up around your neck, chest and face. Just be still even if it’s for a second, and just be still in your own space.