Growing up in a family that was completely twisted and dysfunctional, one ends up being allowed to do things that they shouldn’t but then punished and screamed at “NO, bad child” for behaviors that were perfectly innocent and healthy and behavior that would have been welcomed and nurtured in a healthy family. As a result, one ends up with boundary issues in relationships with other people, having learned the word “NO” is a bad word associated with abuse and punishment.
In a healthy environment, a child growing up may be wanting to eat too much candy should hear the word “NO” in a calm manner. Then after the word “NO” is heard, the parent moves on and doesn’t dwell on the moment a child made a mistake. This teaches the child that saying “NO” to them and being angry at them are two completely different things that shouldn’t be associated with each other. But in a dysfunctional family like mine I always heard the word “NO” used in anger when someone was trying to hurt me or get a rise out of me.
It resulted in a complicated problem which I’ve worked very hard to fix, and that is to reconcile my relationship with the word “NO”. Whether it would be work or dealing with personal relationships, loved ones, friends, at first when people set their boundaries with me my immediate impulse was to take it personally and to be hurt and offended because growing up that was how the word “NO” was used. But I soon had to realize that in order to live in society as a healthy functional person, I had to recondition myself completely and see boundaries as a beautiful thing. I need to say “YES” to the word “NO”.
In fact, it is this in doing this that I can now tell the difference between a relationship that I know is healthy and going to last or a relationship that is showing cracks in it early on. Because unhealthy people who lack boundaries have a difficulty accepting my personal boundaries without taking it as a personal offense or feeling that I was somehow attacking them. On the subject of signs of a dysfunctional person there is another sign here so please allow me to go on a little rabbit trail.
Another huge sign of a dysfunctional or unhealthy person is when an altercation happens between you and them, sometimes when they know they’ve done something wrong they won’t confront it directly but try and just act normal with you and go back to the way things before. Whereas with my healthy relationships, I know that we can confront things anytime and have a messy conversation if we need to, to get to the root of the problem. However if someone violates your boundaries and then just suddenly wants to act nice or act like nothing happened or even behaves like they are trying to overcompensate for their misgiving…….this behavior is an early warning sign and red flag and alarm bells should be going off inside of you.
OK, time to hop off this rabbit trail and get back to the main path. So if you’re from a broken background like me and you want to make that step and become a person that embraces boundaries there are steps you can take. Firstly understand that when people first set their boundaries with you, your first impulse will be to get upset. Because that is your conditioning, however the good news is that the more that you encourage other people to set their boundaries and set your own boundaries, the more used to it you’ll get and the less upset or offended you’ll feel.
And before you’ll know it you’ll actually enjoy being around people who you can say “NO” to and are willing to say “NO” to you. What will happen is that you’ll be able to detect if someone is healthy or not. And you’ll lessen your chances of investing yourself in someone dysfunctional and avoid the pain, heartbreak, and drama that comes with it. One of the ways I encourage boundaries in my friends is I always applaud them when I see them setting up space and boundaries. Human beings thrive on positive reinforcement so if you are complimenting someone when they are setting their personal space, guess what? Your kudos and compliments will encourage them to set up their personal space and do it more and more.
Note that in encouraging people to set their space and boundaries, the rules apply to you too! I always make it clear to my friends that I am no exception to the rule, if they need space and that includes setting boundaries from being in touch with me or connecting with me, I have to respect that too. I cannot have a double standard and be encouraging friends to set boundaries in everything else except when it comes to me.
You may wonder how saying “YES” to the word “NO” may have positively impacted my life having made the leap from a dysfunctional home where “NO” was associated with anger and abuse. Well, I’ll put it like this, have you seen a a bottle of milk where all the cream and goodness rises to the top? The part we love to greedily indulge in. That pretty much represents the state of my relationships, rich and full of flavor…..utterly delicious. And it all began when I decided to say “YES” to the word “NO”.