We often talk about boundaries & consequences, and it is often this enigma that defies understanding. Partly because of what little understanding there is, but also partly because it is not explained very well. This is a brief on the subject because it is a paramount and necessary component to betrayal trauma recovery. I have written about this topic in depth, and also Savannah has made a video about it, which you can watch here:
Boundaries ~ A boundary is defined as a line that marks the defined limits of an area; a dividing line or a limit of a subject of sphere of activity. Most notable is a property line boundary which marks ownership of a piece of property.
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 able to engage in, nor we have the time, patience, or inclination to be an active or passive participant in.”
“Boundaries always start with ‘I need/want…’ or ‘I cannot/will not…’ because it influences or impacts the creator of them.”
What Boundaries Are NOT
“Boundaries are NOT instruments of control, manipulation, ultimatums, or punishment.”
“Boundaries are NOT, and should NOT be interpreted to be a parent/child, boss/subordinate, or master/slave relationship where one party is in a position of power and authority over the other.”
Rules ~ A rule is defined as 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.
“Rules are instruments that we put into place to enforce and protect our boundaries.”
Boundaries are really pretty self explanatory. But let’s face it, addicts rarely comprehend and understand them, or more likely, choose not to, which is why rules become necessary to protect the boundary. 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.
Our comfort zone lies within our boundaries, and our anxiety and discomfort rises exponentially the further we find ourselves outside and away from them. 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.
Consequences are defined 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.”
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.
We establish consequences as a means of enforcement of our rules either to promote respect for our boundaries, thus following our rules governing them, or as a deterrent for failure or refusal to respect our boundaries regardless of the reason for doing so. Just as Newton’s Third Law is applied to the laws of physics, so too are the interactions in a relationship.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (aka consequence). Actions spawn reactions. Good (positive) actions yield good (positive) reactions. Bad (negative) actions yield bad (negative) reactions.”
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 behavior teaches us naturally what the ramifications are for our actions. 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 a boundary, thus breaking a rule. These are imposed because we present a problem or danger to ourselves and others. These consequences, reactions if you will, must reflect the actions, be enforceable, and address the problem. I should reiterate that it should address the problem and not the symptom.
“Imposing consequences on someone who must already endure natural consequences is counterproductive, unnecessary, and useless.”
Be careful 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 actions and behavior.
“Consequences need to be harder and more difficult for your Partner to accomplish than they are for you to endure.”
“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.”
The People, represented by the government positions for which they have been duly elected in the jurisdiction in which we reside, have determined that a speed in excess of 55 is too dangerous, and thus passed a law declaring that a speed limit of 55 should be imposed for the health, safety, and welfare of all of its citizens.
BOUNDARY: I (We the People) am (are) not willing to allow anyone to travel excess speeds that are dangerous to myself and others.
RULE: I (We the People) establish a Rule (Law) that stipulates that to protect our boundary, the Speed Limit shall be limited (a misnomer and should actually be called a “Speed Rule”) to 55.
CONSEQUENCE: Failure to maintain a speed of 55 or less, shall result in a fine of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, and $1000 and 90 day suspension of your driving privileges for the third offense.
Group or Team Example
The Team, as defined by its members, need to insure that as a team, that everyone on the team actively participates and practices regularly so that we may accel together as a team for the good of the team and win.
BOUNDARY: I (We the Team) want(s) all members of the team to be active regular participants in team practice.
RULE: Practice is mandatory for all players for every scheduled practice barring a medical excuse
CONSEQUENCE: Miss one practice, you sit out a game. Miss two practices, you sit out a month of games. Miss three practices, you sit out a season.
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 want, I need, to be able to trust my Partner in a relationship, and I cannot, I will not, be in a relationship with a Partner who lies to me.
RULE: Do not lie to me, do not withhold information from me that has any impact or influence on me, and do not make me have to explain to you what a lie is.
CONSEQUENCE: First lie, you move into another room for a week. Second lie, you move out of our place of residence for a month (since you were the one who crossed this boundary and broke this rule, you shall be the one who leaves our place of residence. Third lie, I cannot restore trust with you, and therefore I will sever the relationship.
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, we decide what others are allowed to do with respect to that circle of influence; that boundary. Boundaries are for us. Rules are for everyone else.
“Simplified, Boundaries are our lines we do not allow others to cross, Rules are our policies that uphold and protect our Boundaries, and Consequences are our reactions for every action and our response when our Rules are Broken and our Boundaries are crossed and violated.”
Without consequences, anyone intent, either accidentally or deliberately, on breaking the rules, thus violating our boundaries, would have little incentive to change their behavior. If our boundaries are being followed, and thus respected, we wouldn’t even need to produce any rules to protect them. The reality is, for the most part, we shouldn’t even have to produce written B®C (Boundaries, Rules, & Consequences). However, in a state of addiction, any addiction, what would otherwise be considered naturally intuitively implicit must be made explicit, else the addict will abuse them.
Please take a moment and go watch the B®C videos by Savannah above. At The Modern Mr. and Mrs., we have created a B®C Workshop that teaches you how to create, produce, and execute efficient B®C that are most effective. For more information on our workshop, please contact me at email@example.com or Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or check out our workshops here.