Welcome to Part 2 of our series on Setting Boundaries. This article is all about handling what I call the “pushback” that happens when we introduce new boundaries in our relationships with the people in our lives.
“How do I maintain the new boundaries I’ve set with my mother (85 years old), when I know she won’t understand why I’m changing, and will just argue with me and tell me that I don’t respect the fact that she’s old and can’t change – and besides, she raised me and I should just stop giving her a hard time.”
This is such a common, and dare I say, NORMAL issue. Key #1 to keep in mind is that our goal here is NOT to have your mother (or anyone else for that matter) “get it.” As long as you struggle, work, or put time or energy into figuring out a way or ways to get others to ‘get it’, you will feel overwhelmed, frustrated and ultimately, defeated. Exactly the opposite of where you want to be or what your desired outcome is.
So the first step, of course, is to STOP! BREATHE! FOCUS! Clearly bring to mind your real underlying intention: What is the boundary you want or need to establish? Focus on the reason you have chosen to set this boundary. In what way does this boundary respect and take care of you?
Remember, setting and maintaining boundaries is not about rejecting or refusing others, it’s about taking care of you. This in itself is a huge shift from always caring for the others (mothers included) in your life. Your mother is pushing back against what she perceives as you taking something away from her. She says what she is saying because in the past her “guilt inducing” messages were effective in terms of getting what she wanted. Your mother (and so many like her) is using what’s called “emotional blackmail” to get you to do what she wants or believes she needs.
It is essential that you remind yourself whenever this happens that her criticism of you is NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s simply her way of maintaining the status quo. She’s doing her best to get her way, and after all you can’t blame her for trying this tactic – up until now her methods have worked! I will talk more about emotional blackmail in a future post, but for now I want to simply focus on helping you maintain the boundaries you have chosen to create.
It’s imperative that you stay focused on your desired outcome, and – Key #2 – that you take slow, deep breaths before responding to anything your mother says. The deep breath takes you away from reacting and allows you to move into an emotional space where you can respond.
Key #3 is to practice the following 5 steps when facing resistance from others to your new-found boundaries and limits:
- Acknowledge how the other person feels. Recognize that you get that they feel frustrated, annoyed, confused, angry, etc. By acknowledging someone’s feelings it does not mean that you capitulate to their requests.
- Respect their feelings. This is validating how they feel and that they are experiencing something new and different because you are behaving in a new and different way.
- Accept that these are their feelings. Acceptance does NOT mean liking or agreeing with them – it simply means not wasting your precious energy on arguing about it.
- Be honest and clear that you are responding differently now. Let them know you appreciate the fact that they want what is best for you. Say this out loud. Tell them that while it’s new and different, and there may be discomfort around the changes, you are sure they want what is for your greater good.
- THANK THEM! Yes, initially you may feel awkward about this because clearly you are not getting the response you had hoped for – yet! But by saying “Thank you. I truly appreciate your support and understanding even though it is difficult for you,” you are setting the stage for more positive communication, and less drama and defensiveness for everyone concerned.
While the above 5 steps may seem challenging, you are on the road to establishing healthier boundaries and communication with the people in your life.
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Remember also that you do not have to go it alone! Take a half hour or so to use my Caregivers Step-By-Step Guide and audio, to get some clarity and begin to shift your mindset.
You can find that freedom in the midst of the overwhelm…really!
Leave your comments, questions or concerns below… I look forward to hearing from you.
And we breathe…