Mental Health, Social Science

What is the price of love?

Every so often I like to take a trip into good old NYC. Nothing like NYC to help you gain motivation in your life. The speed of this big city is very quick. Walking around, even the most accomplishment person can wonder if they are achieving enough in their life. Sometimes I like to sit down at a cafe with a drink and write. Recently I decided it was time for a NYC adventure again. Took my seat at a Starbucks and began to focus. I was deep and focused, when a pack of dogs walked by. A dog walker was walking them. The expressions on the faces of some of the dogs were intense and distracting as they rushed by. So intent on what they were trying to accomplish. They had a job to do and they were going to do it. It was interesting to see these dogs work so well in a group. Each one was no longer an individual. They were now functioning group members.

Group Mentality is such an interesting subject to me. I find it interesting because my whole life’s goal has been to find strength within my developed individuality. But how well did I work in the group? We are trained throughout life to stay within the confines of the group. A view that dates back to the beginning of time. We go to school and follow a schedule that resembles closely what are lives should look like as functional and productive¬†group members in society. We follow a religion in order to be part of a group, in order to be loved and accepted and to indulge in the social constructs of belonging as a member of society. Because after all, our ultimate goal in life is to be loved.

But to me this price is just way too steep. Must I sacrifice myself in order for you to love me? Or can I be a whole person and find your acceptance? So many of us with so many holes. We were trained to seek solace in others. Why are we trained to seek validation from others and not ourselves?

Not that it bothers me too much but leaving the confines of the group usually leads to criticism. Criticism because the person choosing individuality puts the security of the group in jeopardy. Another view that dates back to the beginning of time and most likely rooted in the reptile brain (the lower part of the brain that responds to fear). We were conditioned to function this way but in a healthy way, just like the pack of dogs. It just seems like we have lost that balance. So many people giving their power away instead of claiming the power of their own individuality. Do you struggle with the fine balance of individuality vs. group?

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How Bendable Are Your Boundaries?

Establishing clear and concise boundaries for yourself is an essential part to living a happy and successful life. It is through relationships we learn about ourselves and what our personal boundaries are. As children we struggle to develop our individuality and begin to establish boundaries. Our childhood provides us with a guide of what is acceptable treatment from others and what is not. In my practice, I have encountered individuals who have been raised in what most would describe as a healthy environment. They come from supportive families who foster growth and encourage self-worth. Others I have encountered were the exact opposite, raised in abusive and unsupportive domestic environments. And just as both of these clients’ domestic situations were drastically different; so were their personal boundaries.

I began to notice that the more abused client struggled more often with loose or soft boundaries. In other words, they were willing to endure more pain in a relationship than an otherwise healthier person. The possibility of abuse was always a concern for the abused person, even despite working on their self-worth and self-esteem and becoming successful at creating change in their lives. Once our brains have been exposed to trauma, we simply can’t unsee or undo it. We may recover from the experience but the experience will always be a part of us. An abused person may set solid personal boundaries but they will always struggle with the possibility that these boundaries may be compromised. This can be compared to the recovering alcoholic who struggles with alcohol. The recovering alcoholic knows he wants to stay clean but struggles with the fact that it is possible to drink again. Over time this problem can improve but will never be completely gone.

A person who has encountered trauma may be more challenged to stay true to their strong established post-recovery boundaries when faced with a similar triggering trauma.

This is something I call bendable-boundaries. Boundaries are bendable based on how well you are able to respond to a person or situation that challenges your limits. Are you able to exert what is expected of others when they are involved with triggering a previous trauma? So as I begin to close, I have one question for you. How bendable are your boundaries?