Ego Boundaries

By Esther Veltheim

It appears that our way of exploring how to set boundaries has to begin with self-honesty, which translates into expressing ourselves towards others in a more honest way. As you know this is a trial and error process that we can only do for ourselves.

Self-honesty, obviously, requires that we explore our mode, medium, etc. and our distortion of the masculine/feminine qualities. When we do the work well our interaction with others transforms. But?.it seems that this external transformation does not fully bring about internal transformation.

This might seem strange. After all, the external and gender interaction provides us with a direct reflection of our inner dynamics. Externally, when interaction transforms from defensiveness to healthy communication and interaction, something positive has had to have happened on the inside.

But, in my experience, the changes on the inside are only the first step. These changes provide us with a more nurturing, safe arena to now do the second stage of the work. This is an indication that we have become better at nurturing and protecting ourselves.

The strange thing is that, despite healthier ego boundaries on the outside, the mind does not fully lose the habit of blame and victim consciousness. The difference is that, if we have done sufficient, genuine work, the changes in our external provide sufficient stability that we no longer feel the need to voice or insidiously express any mental unsteadiness in the way we used to.

This does not mean that we are suppressing rage, hatred or whatever other strong over-reactions that catalyzed the need to explore and bring about healthy ego boundaries. But, invariably, and at first incomprehensibly, the mind will continue to boot up the same old same old. Perhaps less frequently, but when it does it will seem as if nothing on the internal has changed at all. The external interactions have radically transformed, but the mind now continues to regurgitate negative blame and victim memories.

IF the conflict we have been working to resolve is extreme enough ? which it usually has to be before we resort to the work of boundary setting in earnest (rather than seeking new modes of coping/self-deception) ? then we will have had to address the conscious identities that have been challenged by outer events.

As I see it, once we have learned to stay alert to the behaviors that perpetuate identification with conscious roles, this work is the gateway to getting in touch with previously displaced, unconscious identities. For this reason ? or, at least, this is my sense of it ? when external boundary setting starts to manifest, it is often possible for the collective unconscious (archetypal) and its identities, to begin asserting themselves ? trying to have a voice.

The circumstance that triggered our work of boundary setting is indicative of a wound, the external changes are indicative of a healing process. But, as is the case in any disease process, when one aspect of the psyche begins to heal it makes it possible for other aspects to also begin healing ? a sort of domino effect. In other words, once the work of individuation begins in earnest, our ?head is in the tigers mouth.? We cannot go backwards.

The trouble is that it often feels as if we are going backwards or as if all our self-honesty has actually been very superficial. We see the mind still regurgitating the same old same old, even though our outer relationships are considerably healthier. We feel like hypocrites on the inside because the mind still, periodically, re-boots the blame and victim consciousness that beset us in the face of this story, and that we have worked so hard to rid ourselves of.

This is where we get a deeper understanding of what we are teaching in BreakThrough ? that our goal is not to get rid of anything, but rather to highlight the workings of the mind in increasingly clear ways so that we can deal, rather than cope, with it.

Our new-found, healthier way of being with the other or others is a tremendous relief on the one hand, but confusing on the other. Because what we experience on the inside oscillates between a much steadier mind ? because we now have a more nurturing external arena ? and bouts of extreme unsteadiness.

The outer conflict that catalyzed this whole process began with the experience of having to face a core aspect of the ego wound. The work we have done gives us more self-confidence and strength, along with a more nurturing relationship with the other, but we still haven?t learned to experience self-nurturing in a deep, fully autonomous way. In the process of boundary setting our focus, as it has been all our life, has been geared, first and foremost, towards healing the external relationship or relationships.

This means that we are still, internally, experiencing vulnerability. A lifetime of submissive/dismissive behavior, albeit in the process of transforming, is a very delicate process to navigate. Our focus is easily directed outward and it would be easy for us to rest on our laurels once our external relationship begins to harmonize. But because we are in such a delicate transition state from defensiveness to more fully engaging, the mind makes the most of this raw experience. The wound is still not fully healed, but the healing that has begun occurring now lets us experience a deeper level of the wound. The good thing is that our external environment now supports us in this even more delicate and difficult process.

What happens then is that we have to face the machinations of the mind in a very different way. Until now we managed to arrive at a place where externalization of the content of the unsteady mind had to be curtailed ? and this happens by putting the ball in our own court and exploring the role we play in the conflict. Now we are capable of facing the mind in a steadier way ? facing the unsteady mind in a steadier way ? and the external changes are what make this possible.

The next step is trying to reconcile with the continued conflict that persists in arising in the mind. We know better, have remedied so many things about our roles etc. and have become more conscious of the faultiness of our identities. But now the unconscious is using our still raw, still unfamiliar way of being (however nice it might be) to make us face and deal with the mind in a very different way than we ever have before.

Now, although the thoughts might oscillate between blaming the other and blaming self, we have divested the external relationship of defensive energy. The defenses are now arising internally without any recourse to externalization (at least, at some point this is the experience when boundaries become healthy enough on the external). At this point, even though the previous protagonist might still be being used as a punching bag within the mind, it is the mind itself and these machinations that become the real seeming protagonist.

This is the next step: the hardest step in boundary ?setting?. We have to begin the work of setting boundaries between ourselves and the mind. The more deeply we understand or have realized that we are not the mind, there is an exponential, involuntary, diving into the workings of the mind. We know we are not the mind, and might even have stopped identifying AS it, but identification WITH it persists.

True individuation is the process of developing a relatedness with the mind, which is very different to having a relationship with it. When we set boundaries with another person we are actually transforming relationship into relatedness. To start setting boundaries with the mind is to transform identification with the mind into relatedness.

What is necessary is not to control the mind ? which we desperately want to do, more than ever at this stage ? but to learn how to make the mind our servant. A healthy master/servant dynamic is not a relationship where one is dominant and the other is submissive. A healthy master/servant dynamic is a relatedness where the roles of each support and complement one another.

Similarly, in setting boundaries with the mind, our goal is to transform the relationship of our self being enslaved by the mind, to a relatedness with the mind. The mind is necessary when it comes to interaction, planning etc., but if the thinking processes are constantly intruding, even during periods of relaxation, the mind is not serving us well.
To draw on Shakespeare?s wisdom : ?There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.?

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