The founders of the United States of America wrote these words in their Declaration of Independence in 1776. And to this day, this statement is one of the highest and most profound statements ever formulated by mankind. I suggest you consider it carefully. They wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The ultimate abuse occurs when someone tries to violate another person’s unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And this, we all know, is happening all the time, all around the world. Just turn on the TV and you see it happening. It’s going on all the time on the world stage.
But this abuse is not just happening on the world stage, it’s also happening up close to us – in the lives of people who are around us. And it can be pretty shocking when you start to notice that it’s not just out there but that it’s also in here.
The Ultimate Abuse
Since I do private sessions with people almost every day, I get to hear about this happening all the time. Almost everyone who comes to me for private sessions has experienced this type of abuse and is today suffering from the effects of this. They are suffering from and struggling with the reality that someone close to them has tried to violate their unalienable right to their own life, and to liberty (which is the freedom to do what they want – and experience the consequences) and to pursue happiness in whatever way they deem best (and again to experience the consequences). I hear this often from my clients. And it’s heartbreaking…
I hear stories of husbands who are trying to violate their wives’ right to live their own lives as they deem fit and who justify this violation by repeating the old patriarch call to duty for women saying “It’s your job to make me happy”… “You have a duty to the children”… “You have to think about the family,”… “I know what’s best for you”… etc. etc.
I also hear stories of parents who are trying to manipulate their adult children in this way and I hear it from adults who have been manipulated in this way by their parents. It is as if these children (whether they are young or old) only exist to make the parents happy and to satisfy the needs of the parents. Children from these confused and dysfunctional families are brought up to believe that they don’t have the right to their own lives. And so they feel they don’t have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness in whatever way they see fit (and experience the consequences of their choices). And when they finally try to strike out on their own, they often feel terrible guilt because they were taught from an early age that their lives belong to another.
And this is the ultimate abuse – to hear from the adult caretaker(s) in your life that you don’t have the right to your own life. When this happens, it is the ultimate violation of a person’s basic human rights as a free individual.
This of course does not mean that parents are not responsible for guiding and protecting their children when they are small, but as children grow into adulthood, it is no longer the parent’s job to determine what’s best for their children’s future. Because how can they know? How can one person possibly know what is best for another?
The violation of human rights is not just something that is happening out there on the world stage… it’s also something that is happening right here where we are. And I doubt very much that we can fix out there until we fix in here. Out there is just a reflection of in here…
If we want to make the world a better place, we need to work on having healthy boundaries! And by this I mean… when we have healthy boundaries, we understand that I am me and you are you and that each of us has a right to be here and to choose and experience the consequences of all our thoughts, words and actions.
When we understand this, we can communicate honestly and respect both ourselves and the right of other people to say and do what feels right for them. And we can also take better care of ourselves when another person tries to interfere with our right to make our own choices.
Changing Your Behavior To Please Someone Else?
Are you modifying or changing your behavior and not doing what feels right to you because you’re trying to please someone else – like your partner, your mother, your child? The problem with this tactic is that it never works in the long run.
When you think about it, you have to admit it feels uncomfortable no matter how hard you try to cover it up to yourself. Sometimes instead of admitting that this is what’s going on – we develop psychosomatic symptoms like headaches, tension, back aches, etc. Physical symptoms that are actually warning bells that you’re not in alignment with YOU!
Being in alignment with YOU and following your integrity is your only job if you want to life a happy, satisfying life. (And this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat other people with respect. Of course you should. But it does mean you can say kindly, “Thank you and no, that doesn’t feel right to me.”)
Healthy Self-Defense Is Not Being Aggressive!
What is the difference between healthy self-defense and being aggressive? Healthy self-defense is taking good care of yourself when someone violates your boundaries by telling you what you should think, do or say when you haven’t asked for their advice. So when you tell them to please back off, that’s healthy self-defense.
Being aggressive is something completely different and arises when you violate someone else’s boundaries by telling them what they should think, do or say when they haven’t asked for your advice. Then you’re the one who needs to back off.
There’s a lot of confusion about this one because we think we should never be angry (forceful) and should always be “loving” and “kind” in all situations. But when we understand the difference between the healthy self-defense (which may feel forceful like anger) and aggression, we can see that healthy self-defense is being “loving” and “kind” – to ourselves! And that’s where it starts, with us!
I have always tried to treat everyone kindly and with respect. The challenge is how do this without being a doormat, especially when you are dealing with someone who is disrespectful or abusive and who violates your boundaries.
It’s taken me my whole life to discover that this is what the art of being assertive is all about. Learning to take care of yourself (respecting you) while treating everyone else kindly and with respect. And yes, it really is an art and yes it can be really difficult to practice at times. Really difficult! But it’s definitely worth the effort, because as you learn to be assertive, you discover to your great delight that it’s so much easier to respect yourself and everyone else at the same time.
The Secret of Good Relationships – Healthy Boundaries!
If you want to have a good relationship with anyone, it’s important to have healthy boundaries. And this is true whether we’re talking about your relationship with your partner, mother, father, child, friend or colleagues at work. When we don’t have healthy boundaries, we have difficulty relating to other people and in experiencing true intimacy. So let’s take a look at what it means to have healthy boundaries.
When we have healthy boundaries, we understand that I am me and you are you and that each one of us has a right to be here and to be who we are. It also means that each of us has the right to make choices for ourselves and then to experience the consequences of all our thoughts, words and actions. When we have healthy boundaries we understand this and respect everyone’s right to be or do what feels right for them (and experience the consequences).
As a result of having healthy boundaries we respect other people’s rights and we expect other people to respect our rights. This means that when someone tells you how you should think or feel or what you should say or do when you don’t specifically ask them for their advice; they are not respecting your boundaries and your right to be you. This is an example of boundary violation and is why it feels so uncomfortable.
Taking good care of you means being able to recognize a boundary violation when it happens and then being able to clearly tell the other person that when you want their advice, you will ask for it! But this works both ways, which means you also respect other people and don’t tell them what to think, say or do unless they specifically ask for your advice or opinion. In other words, you do not violate other people’s boundaries either.
People Who Have Trouble With Boundaries
People who have trouble with boundaries usually fall into two main categories: Boundary-less and walls. The first category (boundary-less) are people who have no boundaries and uncritically let other people tell them what to think, say or do. As well as people who tell other people what to think, say and do without being asked first. Both types of people are boundary-less.
The second category (walls) usually arise in people who have been violated so much that they have walls instead of boundaries and never let anyone get close to them. Unfortunately, this also prevents them from showing and sharing who they really are.
And then of course there are people who swing between being boundary-less and having walls. In all these cases, it is difficult to have close, healthy relationships with other people and to experience true intimacy which is the ability to share who one is with other people in a respectful manner.
When we begin to understand what it means to have healthy boundaries, we can learn to communicate honestly and respect both ourselves and the right of other people to say and do what feels right for them. And we can also learn to take better care of ourselves when another person tries to interfere with our right to make our own choices.
*Subtitles by InnerSelf
©2015 Barbara Berger. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Article written by the author of:
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
by Barbara Berger.
What is preventing you from being happy now? Is it your partner, your health, your job, your financial situation or your weight? Or is it all the things you think you “should” do? Barbara Berger takes a look at all the things we think and do that prevent us from living happy lives now. Barbara presents 10 practical ways to use this understanding in your daily life, your relationships, at work and for your health.
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com