Internal & External Boundaries
You’ve heard of creating boundaries. You’ve probably even attempted to coach your clients on keeping their boundaries firm in their lives. Most people have no concept of what a boundary actually is, because whether it’s internal or external – they’re still intangible. No one is going around with a literal fence built up around them (although a lot of our clients would probably love that). So explaining what a boundary is, and then holding that boundary firm, is challenging at best and fleeting most of the time.
The reason why external boundaries are so important where physical transformation is concerned is because, as you now know, there are a lot of external triggers or motivators pulling us back towards past patterns that no longer serve us. In order to maintain a sense of who we are becoming and how we want to act with our new habits firmly in place, we must shut out the “noise” that was once there guiding our thoughts and behaviours.
Examples of this might include:
- Getting clear about who are the people in your life who are loving and supportive versus who are the people who are the energy suckers – leaving you empty after an encounter. The boundary would be committing to making time only for those people who fill you up.
- Putting a “flow day” in your calendar where you don’t book anything committal and you leave your day open to do whatever you feel you need to recharge – a yoga class, a walk outside with your fave tunes…anything.
- Committing to disengaging from the toxic banter in the coffee room at work
That being said, there is a crucial step to this process that is often missed entirely and the reason why your clients struggle to maintain the boundaries you help them put in place.
Before external boundaries (commitments and intentions protecting your energy from outside forces) can be built up, internal boundaries (those boundaries in your mind that you have created to keep you “safe”) must first be shattered. What are examples of an internal boundary?
- The way you habitually react to a situation that feels uncomfortable with defensiveness, anger, frustration, closing off, anxiety, etc.
- The thoughts that play on a loop in your mind when you come close to the edges of safety and challenge yourself to grow (“I can’t do this”, “who do I think I am”, “I’m going to fail just like last time”, etc)
- The beliefs you hold about what is possible for you and your life based on what you were taught to be true from your parents or adult figures growing up.
Think about internal boundaries like this >> in your mind you have built an electric fence around all of your current beliefs about yourself and how the world should be. You have ideals in there about how you expect people to behave, what you believe to happen in every type of situation, and how you think you should perform, act, think, or show up inside of this world.
Most people live their entire lives within this fence. Why? Because when something doesn’t happen the way we have conditioned ourselves to think that it should, or when we don’t show up the way that we have been taught is “right” or “acceptable” in order to receive that which we all crave (happiness, love, worth, value, belonging) we get a shock from the fence. We ventured too close to its perimeter. When we get shocked, it hurts! It takes us by surprise! We think, “that’s not what’s supposed to happen, something must be wrong.” But what we don’t realize is that this fence was built by our own design…and is the exact reason why we struggle to grow beyond our current beliefs and behavioural patterns. Because every time we have an opportunity to challenge them, we retreat out of fear of getting hurt.
We logically think that the fence is there to keep us safe – to keep intruders out. But it’s really there to keep us small…to experience life through a singular lens instead of expanding our vision to view the world and ourselves through multiple lenses. To stop reacting to what is happening around us and to recognize that we actually have no control over what happens around us and how the people in our life behave. Yet we are obsessed with trying to control every situation to fit the mold that we have pre-constructed. And when something doesn’t fit, our defense is to eat. Our defense is to lash out. Our defense is to accept failure. Talk badly about ourselves. We do anything we can to REINFORCE our current belief patterns.
How liberating it is to realize that in one single moment we can choose to step past that invisible electric fence, feel the pains of growth and view the world from a completely new perspective. So how do you help your clients step past their invisible electric fences? You help them recognize where their fence exists by helping them walk up to it until they feel the zap. They’ll know their zap – it will come in many different forms. But the place to start is the physical expression as it’s the most tangible. Ask them how their body physically felt in different challenging scenarios that they are facing. Often times their zap presents similarly in all of them. Most commonly your clients may experience tightness in their chest, knots in their stomach, anxiety well up inside of them, their face go flush, their body tense, etc.
Once they learn to recognize the zap, help them understand why its happening and encourage them to listen to the voice in their head when they feel their physical trigger. It’s going to be talking non-stop, telling them all of the reinforcing things they need to hear to retreat. Can they sit in that, feel it, and continue to push forward despite the pain and fear they experience? This is them stepping over the invisible fence into their new life. This process done over and over again will reinforce a new belief pattern in them that will support the self-worth and confidence they require to begin to build new external boundaries up to protect their new perspective on life.
That they are in control.
That no matter what happens around them, they get to choose how they respond.
And that they are capable of achieving anything they desire.