The very word, BRoACH™, is defined in the dictionary as to raise (a sensitive or difficult subject) for discussion. Boundaries, Rules (of Accountability), Consequences, & Honor is all about approaching this very sensitive and difficult subject. Before you begin to read about Boundaries, Rules (of Accountability) or RoA, Consequences, & Honor, hereinafter BRoACH™, please be advised that this is “A Brief” on the subject. As such, it represents only 10% of the overall surface and subject matter that is included in Recovery Revolution.
We often talk about boundaries & consequences, and it is often this enigma that defies understanding. In part, this is because of what little understanding there is, but also partly because it is not explained very well either. This is a brief on the subject because it is a paramount and necessary component to betrayal trauma recovery.
Boundaries ~ A boundary as defined by the dictionary is a line that marks the defined limits of an area; a dividing line or a limit of a subject or sphere of activity. Most notable is a property line boundary which marks ownership of a piece of property. In a relationship, it is that line that defines what we cannot, or will not allow another individual, to cross in order to maintain our own safety, security, and sanity in our environment.
What Boundaries Are
“Boundaries are guidelines that we put into place for and to protect ourselves in the safety, security, and sanity in our own environment”
“Boundaries are those things that we have declared that we are not comfortable with, nor are we able to engage in, nor do we have the time, patience, or inclination to be an active or passive participant in.”
“Boundaries always start with ‘I…” “I need/want…’ or ‘I cannot/will not…’ because it influences or impacts us; the creator of them.”
What Boundaries Are NOT
“Boundaries are NOT instruments of control, domination, manipulation, ultimatums, or punishment.”
“Boundaries are NOT, and should NOT be interpreted to be a parent/child, boss/subordinate, or master/slave type of relationship where one party is in a position of power and authority over the other.”
In its most simplistic form, boundaries are what’s OK, and what’s not OK.
RULES (of ACCOUNTABILITY) or RoA
Rules ~ A rule as defined by the dictionary is a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere, control of or dominion over an area or people, exercise ultimate power or authority over (an area and its people), and pronounce authoritatively and legally to be the case. That is the dictionary definition. We need to make this very important distinction because rules have become quite the hot topic of contentious discussion and debate.
Contextually, the word “rules” becomes quite the stumbling block for both those in addiction and those in betrayal trauma. And it causes confusion for coaches, therapists, and counselors alike as well. The idea that one party is in power, control, and authority over the other is purely conjecture. The dictionary definition of it doesn’t help matters. It is for that reason that we adopted RoA (Rules of Accountability) instead of just simply “rules” in order to add clarity.
“Rules (of Accountability) or RoA are instruments that we put into place to enforce and protect our boundaries.”
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BOUNDARIES & RULES (of ACCOUNTABILITY)
Often times, the difference between a boundary and a rule becomes blurred. It becomes difficult to distinguish the difference. And it is so very often grossly misunderstood. So what’s the difference between boundaries and rules? Neither boundaries, nor rules, are synonymous with one another. In fact, neither of them have any synonyms in common. Just remember, boundaries and rules are not the same thing no matter what literature you may find to the contrary. They are very much different.
As a simple sports analogy, let’s take a football game for example. So as not to get too caught up in all of the rules of the game, we’ll just focus on this one point of the game. Each time a play is about to begin, it starts at the line of scrimmage. That’s a boundary. That boundary line separates the offense from the defense; one team from the other. There are rules to protect that boundary. One rule states in its most simplistic form that players on either side of the line of scrimmage, the boundary, may not be positioned on their opponents side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped, thus the play begins. Failure to comply constitutes a violation of the “off-sides” rule. Another rule states that the offense must have at least 7 of the 11 players positioned at the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped, thus the play begins. Failure to comply constitutes a violation of the “illegal formation” rule. Another rule states that all 7 players on the offensive line of scrimmage must remain in position until such time the ball is snapped. Failure to comply constitutes a violation of the “false start” rule. Another rule states that the play must begin within a specified amount of time (in the NFL, it’s 40 seconds from the end of the previous play). Failure to comply constitutes a violation of the “delay of game” rule. All of these rules are designed to protect that line of scrimmage; the boundary. That is why they are called rules.
Accountability refers to the processes and norms that hold the population responsible for their action(s) & behavior(s) and impose sanctions if they violate the rules. Accountability is essential if there are systematic threats to the rule that are to be corrected. For our purpose in a relationship, we will call them Rules (of Accountability) or RoA to make that distinction.
A boundary is that line that we draw in the sand. We draw that line because we want to feel safe, secure, and sane in our environment. Boundaries are all about us as we defined above. The only thing we control with our boundaries is ourselves. No one else. Our comfort zone lies within our boundaries, and our anxiety and discomfort rises exponentially the further we find ourselves outside and away from them. And our RoA protects them.
Let’s face it, addicts rarely comprehend and understand boundaries, or more likely, choose not to, which is why RoA becomes a necessary component to protect them. It is quite difficult to get someone to understand something when their addiction depends on them not understanding it. However, you’re dealing with addiction and the emotionally compromised state, brain, and thought process of the person that goes along with it.
Consequences are defined in the dictionary as a result or effect of an action or condition, importance or relevance.
“Consequences are defined and set to help teach us a lesson leading us to implement positive change.”
Before, we utilized a simple sports analogy, football, to differentiate between boundaries and rules. What we didn’t talk about were the consequences for failure to comply with said rules. For our examples above, the consequence was a 5 yard penalty, and a repeat of the down for each infraction. In some cases, 5 yards doesn’t mean much and doesn’t change the outcome very much. But if the clock is running down, and there is little time left in play of the game, it could mean the difference between winning and losing the game.
We need consequences so that we learn to make good choices. It encourages self-examination, holding oneself accountable and responsible for one’s own actions, learn from our mistakes, and develop a means of self-control. Consequences make it so that we learn that we are very capable of taking responsibility for our own problems and process and handle them appropriately.
In the real world, we operate on a principle of natural consequences. The consequences are direct and logical for each boundary we cross and rule that we break. The best examples of these are with our own children. Forget your jacket? You’re cold. Forget your lunch? You’re hungry. Stay awake? You’re tired. Like our children, the natural consequences to our action(s) & behavior(s) teaches us naturally what the ramifications are for them. We pay a natural price for those. These are most preferable because we don’t have to think about coming up with the consequence; we learn them from the real world.
These are consequences that we define and impose for crossing our boundary, thus breaking our RoA designed to protect it. These are imposed because we present a problem or danger to ourselves or to others. These consequences, sanctions, or reactions if you will, must reflect the actions, be enforceable, and address the problem; not the symptom.
“Imposing consequences on someone who must already endure natural consequences is useless, unnecessary, and counterproductive.”
“Beware of consequences that you enforce upon your Partner that serves only to comfort them as opposed to causing them discomfort, thus making them uncomfortable.”
“Consequences need to be harder and more difficult for your Partner to accomplish than they are for you to endure.”
“If you’re not uncomfortable, you may not be doing much. Recovery work should be uncomfortable.”
Last, be careful that we aren’t placed in a position to choose our own consequences because, more often than not, we’ll choose consequences that are harder on ourselves than would otherwise be imposed, let alone necessary. This does give us the power to positively reinforce properly addressing and fixing our action(s) & behavior(s).
The Partner, as defined in the relationship, has engaged in as a compulsive and pathological, habitual, and unrepentant liar in the relationship, and it needs to stop so that the couple may rebuild trust, reconciliation, and integrity in the relationship.
BOUNDARY: I need and want to be able to trust my Partner in a relationship, and I cannot maintain a relationship with a Partner who lies to me.
RULE (of ACCOUNTABILITY):
- Do not lie to me.
- Do not withhold information from me that has any impact or influence on me.
- Do not make me have to explain to you what a lie is.
- First lie, you will not be allowed to sleep in the same bed with me for a week
- Second lie, you will not be allowed to stay in the same residence with me for two weeks.
- Third lie, you will not be allowed to stay in the same residence with me for six weeks.
- Fourth lie, I cannot restore trust in you for the foreseeable future, and therefore I will proceed with severing our relationship.
In the aforementioned game of football, when we uphold our boundaries, obey the rules designed to protect them, and endure the consequences for not, we honor them, our team, one another, and the game of football. When we honor BRoACH™, we demonstrate a triad of respect; respect for our relationship; respect for our Partner, and respect for ourselves. Honoring one another honors ourselves and everyone else around us. This is the single most important thing we can do to enjoy personal recovery and heal our relationships. Honor helps to not only survive, but to thrive as well.
THERE IS HELP & HOPE
For a boundary, we determine who, what, when, where, and how anyone is allowed inside of our circle of influence. For a Rule (of Accountability), ROA, we decide what others are allowed to do with respect to that circle of influence; that boundary. Boundaries are for us. RoA are for everyone else.
“Simplified, Boundaries are our lines we do not allow others to cross, Rules (of Accountability), or RoA, are our policies that uphold and protect our Boundaries, Consequences are our reactions for every action and our response of enforcement when our Rules (of Accountability) or RoA are Broken and our Boundaries are crossed and violated, and all of it is encapsulated in Honor; honoring boundaries, honoring the rules of accountability to protect them, and honoring the consequences for not.”
Without consequences, anyone intent, either accidentally or deliberately, on breaking and violating our RoA, thus crossing our boundaries, would have little incentive to change their action(s) & behavior(s). If our boundaries are being followed, and thus respected, we wouldn’t even need to produce any RoA to protect them at all. The reality is, for the most part, we shouldn’t even have to produce written Boundaries, Rules (of Accountability), & Consequences. However, in a state of addiction, any addiction, what would otherwise be considered naturally implicitly intuitively obvious must be made explicit, else the addict will abuse them.