Anger, Boundaries & Sallies
I have not been the best boundary setter...with myself, or really anyone else. And I think that I really understood that the boundary is for us, not the other person. Yet, I have fallen into the trap, and it is a trap, that I set the boundary and you are supposed to comply, honor it and hell even appreciate it.
I am not capable of setting a boundary for you. And if you have ever tried to do this, you will understand frustration in a way that is, well, FRUSTRATING!
Ok, so here is what I know.
In relationships with others, your behavior frequently vexes me. I don’t like it, I want it to change, I need it to change or we are in danger of no longer having a relationship...
I may try to talk to you about it. I may even beg you to change your conduct that is making me unhappy. You are gonna do what you are gonna do. Most people, in my experience, care and listen and do not want me or anyone else to be upset. However, that desire does not often result in a real change in behavior. I want you to stop being upset, but not enough to really want to change whatever it is I am doing to upset you! I mean, that is kind of asking a lot...
This is hard stuff so I am going to use a hypothetical...
We are friends. You only call me when you need something. I mean really, you do. You are bored so you call. You want to do something, like have lunch or dinner or go on a hike. So you call and make plans. I agree to whatever it is you propose. We make a plan. But because your request of me, was really about you (you were bored) now that you are no longer bored, you want something else. You want to go to lunch with someone else, or do something different all together. So you call and cancel...again.
We all have this friend. We all have someone in our lives that constantly makes plans and then cancels them. (Just for clarification, I am NOT speaking about anyone in particular here so if you are reading this and we are friends, NO, I am not talking about you...).
The constant cancelling irritates us. It pisses us off. “My time is valuable and I am tired of Sally (not a real person) asking me to make plans, and then cancelling those same plans!”
So we get angry. And then we try to control Sally. We come up with lots of strategies to make Sally change. We talk to her about her behavior maybe. We tell her how it makes us feel. We may be a little passive aggressive and say yes to Sally but then make back up plans ourselves knowing that Sally will always come through with a last minute cancellation. Regardless of how it goes down, we are pissed.
Well right there in all of your pissiness is a great lesson! Let’s review...
You have a friend.
Friend makes plans with you.
Friend constantly cancels plans.
You are mad at friend for cancelling.
You still make plans with friend.
You get angry and insist friend change.
Friend does not change.
You continue to be pissed.
Well your anger is here to tell you that you set the boundary for the wrong person. If you are pissed at the way you are being treated in a relationship, you are the one that needs to change. I have learned that my own anger is a warning sign that I am allowing someone in my life to violate a boundary that I am not enforcing for MYSELF!
So I have to take care of me, and set a clear boundary for me, instead of trying to control you and your lack of follow through...
First I have to recognize that precious minutes of my life are being given to someone who does not value me or my time. No matter how much I may love this person, care about this person, need this person, they do not feel the same way, or are not able to really behave in a way that communicates perhaps their love and respect for me. It isn’t really personal, it is just who they are now. And, I have absofuckinglutely no power to change said friend at all...
Here is perhaps a better way...
Really look at who I am calling friend.
See that the person I am calling friend isn’t capable or doesn’t want to really be in my life.
Let friend go.
Move on to have lunch with someone who actually can and will show up for me.
See the difference? AND, no anger. This rollout has the added benefit of allowing me to experience grief if that is what I feel when I have to cut off a friendship. Or joy in finally being done with someone who has really just been an irritant in my life. It also allows for me to be on my side of the street and leave you to yours. It is not my job to call you out, it is not my job to get you to change, it is not my job to do anything but really evaluate the quality and quantity of my relationships with other people.
And that right there is why a lot of people opt for the first scenario. It is hard and painful to really evaluate the relationship you are in. We want so much to believe that the people who are in our lives, love us, care about us and value us. However, upon closer examination, it appears that a lot of us come up way short. And we will go to amazing lengths to not know this information.
What I have learned is that anger is the tell. My own anger tells me that I have set a boundary for someone else and I am on the wrong side of the street. If you are pissed at me, then likewise, you have also set the boundary for the wrong person.
The boundary is always and forever for ourselves. And that is inconvenient, because it feels so much better to pretend that it is all your fault. And perhaps the failure to ever follow through on plans is your fault. However, my continuing to grant you the option, is totally 100% my fault.
For me, once I realized this, boundary setting became so much easier. I wasn’t all pissed off and flopping about...I have no need to get upset or mad when I can totally handle the situation. I can set the boundary for myself. You don’t have to change at all. I can just decide to do it differently.
No more lunch plans with Sally. I don’t have to hate her, change her or have long winded discussions with her that go nowhere. Sally has told me who she is: someone who does not value my time. If I really look at this, then I can be honest with myself about who Sally is to me. Sally doesn’t have to be a complete asshole and I must now vilify her. She can just not be a good fit for me. And I can blessedly move on to someone else who might be a better friend fit and lunch partner. Sally is similarly relieved to now move on to break plans with someone other than me. Or she might change, she might decide that perhaps her lack of consideration is a problem in her relationships and do something different. Either way, its ok, I am now dining with Georgia and we are having a fabulous time, Sally a distant memory.
See it is my job to decide what I put up with and what I do not. The boundary is for me, no anger required. I do not have to be pissed at you for violating my shit, because it is mine, not yours and I can own that.
For me, anger is the indicator, the emotional turn signal that I have now veered off the relationship road of health onto the codependent superhighway. If I am pissed at the way you are treating me, I need to find the nearest off ramp and check google maps because I am clearly heading for a crash that can totally be avoided.
It is hard when we care about, love, like, need someone who isn’t good for us, can’t show up for us or just isn’t all that enthralled with us. We want everyone to think we are fabulous. But, I have learned, if we don’t see our own fabulousness, we will always end up in relation with people who will always take us for granted. People who want to be in our lives, will make the effort. And those Sallys will not. Anger is not a boundary enhancer, it is a flashing red light that you are involved with a Sally. And as soon as you see that, you are on your way to hanging with Georgia...who is way more pleasant to be around and quite a fun lunch partner...which you never knew because you were giving all your time to Sally.
The boundary is always for me, with myself. What am I doing? Why? Taking an honest look at our friendships and relations with others is often painful, but if you are willing to really see who you are having lunch with, or in Sally’s case not having lunch with, you can find yourself seated with the best company ever... a you that values yourself so much that you are willing to do the hardwork of maintaining your own boundary and letting anger be the guide that something is off inside you.
And the pay off is that you get to enjoy the company of someone who really digs you and shows up for you while allowing that other thing to become just sally.