When I was a child, the one creature that I had the greatest aversion to was Ticks.
I once found one in my hair and thereafter the mere thought or sight of them sent shrills down my spine. Whenever I found one, I would have great delight in dismantling them or subjecting them to the “gas chamber”. (Not my proudest moment, but I was an inquisitive and potentially macabre child).
What is interesting though, is that no other insect inspired the same level of repulsion or attraction. I loved spiders. Snakes didn’t scare me, and all other typical “creepy crawlies” or worrisome rodents didn’t bring about the same reaction in me as they seemed to instill in others. Ticks however were a different story…!
So what is the lesson that Ticks teach us?
According to Ted Andrews in his book: Animal Speak; the energy that Ticks carry is parasitic, draining life from you, invading intimacy and personal space.
In other words … they lack boundaries!
The concept of boundaries is one that gets bandied about rather often. We have all heard about them and understand that they are valuable etc, yet the bulk of us still struggle to have a conscious and healthy relationship with them.
We can all agree that relating to each other would be much simpler if society supported us to take care of ourselves. If we celebrated each other for saying no, even when that means we are disappointing the other… If we celebrated remaining truthful and centered within ourselves.
The world would look a lot prettier if we could respect each other’s boundaries and not impose our will and domination on each other.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the current society that most of us inhabit.
Our culture is unfortunately parasitic. Invading our space, imposing its views and draining our life essence. It expects us to show up and do what we are told without consulting ourselves first. It conditions us to repress our core needs and suck up whatever is being offered by marketing-obsessed machinery bent on ensuring we feel unworthy, so we can consume more of its products and wares…. Ultimately, leaving us undernourished, emotionally depleted and exhausted.
Our culture does not teach us how to tune into ourselves and speak our truth. It does not celebrate us to find our boundaries and space between ourselves and the external world. It does not teach us how to conserve our emotional resources so we can be of service to ourselves and each other in a connected way.
This is something that they leave us to sniff out on our own.
So here are 5 tips to strengthening your boundaries:
1. Slow Down (and Connect)
In each moment ask yourself what you feel about x (whatever you are facing at the moment).
For example: If your friend offers you a cup of tea… before automatically saying “yes” out of politeness or habit, take a breath.
Ask yourself: Do I want a cup of tea in this moment? If not, then what else would you prefer? If anything. Decide from your genuine desire and then respond. Either accept, decline, or ask for something else (Hint: You are allowed to express your preferences!)
In the same vein, if someone asks your opinion or you find yourself in a conversation or argument, don’t feel the need to react with the first thing that comes to mind (or in defence). Slow down and connect with yourself first.
You have permission to create pauses in conversation. To take time to think… to feel. What is your genuine response in this moment?
(Hint: You have the right to remain silent as well and come back in response after you have slept on it first….. resist the impulse to act quickly and “efficiently”)
2. Explore your relationship to boundaries
Do you often make a decision and then soon after abandon it for something more convenient? Do you have dreams and desires but struggle to create the containers for them to manifest in?
Adopt an attitude of curiosity and spend some time exploring your own relationship to boundaries, containers and structures:
- Do you want to resist them?
- Do they make you feel safe?
- Do they make you feel suffocated?
Explore your parents’ parenting style when you were growing up:
- Were they permissive parents allowing you to do what you liked whenever you liked? Or were they very rigid parents who didn’t let you experience much freedom?
3. Practice letting people have their own feelings
What is your relationship to disappointing others? Does disappointing others seem worse than disappointing yourself?
Let’s say you are invited to a party and you don’t really want to go…. How do you say no?
- Do you feel the need to justify your decision via something “worthy” e.g. a work obligation or family emergency?
- Do you allow yourself to say “no” despite any justifications or reason, simply because you have the right to say no.
- Do you override your desire not to go, and go hoping you’ll end up enjoying yourself anyway / tell yourself to get over yourself?
- Do you initially say no and then let your friend convince you otherwise? Then you end up going, and then feel frustrated / resentful / annoyed / beat yourself up etc. because you didn’t want to go.
It is not our job to make other people happy. It is our job to be truthful and caring to ourselves. This act of self-love gives permission to others to engage their own boundaries and self-love.
Don’t feel the need to prioritize other people’s feelings over your own. Enable people to take responsibility for themselves and their own emotional responses. We can support each other to find this novel way by embodying it ourselves.
4. Discover your heartfelt yes & no
A core component of weak boundaries is feeling overwhelmed. This happens because we often say yes to too much and end up filling our plate beyond our ability to digest it all. We end up exhausting ourselves and then biting back in anger and frustration at others.
The flip side of this is that we are not comfortable exerting healthy boundaries (which have a level of elasticity and provide for flow) and so we exert rigid boundaries and high walls. We automatically say no and deny ourselves various experiences.
Practice with finding your honest yes and no.
The next time someone asks something of you, feel into whether you have a “yes” or a “no” for this request. What gets evoked for you if you answer the opposite from your habitual response?
5. Practice the art of setting boundaries for yourself
I follow the maxim that the microcosm represents the macrocosm and so by extension, how we do anything is how we do everything.
When trying to work with the “big job” of creating healthy boundaries, we can start small and practice the “small job” of “mini”-boundaries.
As an example:
There was a period in my life that I struggled with completion. I would commit to a project and then give up or change direction before I ended it. Resolving my relationship with completion felt like quite a daunting task.
I then noticed that in my microcosm, I also didn’t finish my shampoo bottles before moving onto the fresh bottle. Half-finished bottles would accumulate and clutter up my shower. I created a boundary for myself: I could not start a new shampoo bottle until I had finished the previous one in its entirety.
At first, this felt uncomfortable as I was so often tempted by the new fragrance or allure of the new bottles… but I stuck to my commitment… and over time not only was my shower much less cluttered, I also found that I had a greater ease in completing bigger projects in my life. The microcosm of my shampoo bottles translated to a greater ability to complete in the macrocosm of my life.
What small area of your life can you find where you can practice exerting healthy boundaries?
If you are experiencing the energy of the tick in your life… being drained of your life force…. feeling overwhelmed and/or that people are taking up too much of your personal energy… Then you are invited to explore your relationship to boundaries.
If you need any support in attending to this task then you are welcome to reach out and book a coaching session.
About the Author: Tiffany Stone
Tiffany Stone is an Internationally Accredited Family Law Mediator, Systemic Family Constellations Facilitator and Divorce & Relationship Coach.
She loves reflecting on the wisdom and symbology of animals and how it can relate to everyday lessons we can incorporate into our daily lives.