Dr. David Gruder is an expert on personal boundaries and creator of the NICE™ Boundaries Method. Below is an edited excerpt with comments in italics by Rick@Thrivingnow.com.
What is a Boundary?
“A boundary is any limit I need to honor so I can love or work with you without resentment and with integrity.”
A boundary is the simplest, cleanest form of anger that exists. It is “no” and “ouch.” A boundary also is the simplest form of well-being that exists as well. It is “yes,” and “aaahh/yum.” Ignoring the “yes” or the “no” of basic boundaries will inevitably result in:
You can’t ignore a boundary without paying a price.
Other people ignoring our boundaries is NOT what causes us to get angry; we get angry when we do not gracefully and compassionately honor our own boundaries (whether with or without the other person’s cooperation). This is because our boundaries can only be as clear and only as strong as the extent to which we support our own wants, limits, choices, and values. Learning to recognize and gracefully honor your boundaries (BEFORE your anger starts escalating) is an excellent anger-prevention tool—and an excellent way to also prevent fear, depression, or feelings of invasion!
Why People Have Boundaries Problems
The three biggest fears I’ve seen that prevent people from honoring their own boundaries are that they will:
1) Be seen as too self-centered;
2) Hurt others; or
3) Lead to either conflict or rejection.
The three biggest fears I’ve noticed that block people from honoring other people’s boundaries are that they will:
1) Be taken advantage of;
2) Become unimportant or invisible; or
3) Not be able to do what they other person wants of them.
But the biggest reason of all that people have boundaries problems is that most of us don’t know how to accurately identify a boundary, nor how to honor it in ways that both reflect personal integrity and build authentic collaboration with others.
EFT can be used effectively on both the fears of setting and honoring our own boundaries and the fears of honoring other people’s boundaries. If in past relationships others acted in harmful ways when you tried to honor your healthy boundary, the specific events where such feelings occurred can be used in an EFT session. Such attention to how we energetically feel about our boundaries (and those of others) can make it far, far less fearful for us to set and honor boundaries.
The NICE™ Boundaries Method
This easy-to-learn and fun-to-use method includes four key skill sets from which the name “NICE” emerged:
N = Notice: Recognize when you have a boundary.
I = Identify: Discover the Core Intention at the heart of your position.
C = Commit: Accept the risks of honoring your Core Intention.
E = Enact: Honor your Core Intention by strengthening your energetic boundary inwardly & utilizing your selected Boundary Communication Strategy outwardly.
Step One: Notice When You Have a Boundary
Most people don’t recognize that resentment, fear, depression, anger, postures, positions, loss of personal power, or becoming tyrannical are all clues that they have an unrecognized boundary. Developing the discipline of recognizing when you have a boundary is necessary if you are to begin moving into fuller integrity with yourself and into more authentic collaboration with others.
Let me add that EFT can be very helpful when you feel one of these emotions listed above. You can use EFT to first harmonize the feelings. Then, having recognized that you have a boundary-breach here, conscious or not, identify where there is a “No” or “Ouch!” that can now be made explicit. Our emotions are a guidance system. EFT can help to make sure that the guidance we are getting is not exaggerated by times in the past where we had boundaries, and we did not respect them (and neither did anyone else).
Step Two: Identify Your True Boundary by Discovering Your Core Intention & Multiple Options for Honoring It
Even though feelings, positions, and postures are usually mis-identified as boundaries, they do make most excellent starting points for discovering your true boundary! Moving beyond your positions and postures to identify your “Core Intention” begins to put you in charge of your boundary. Just as a boundary is the purest form of anger, a Core Intention is the purest form of a boundary. Arrived at by discovering what lives at the very heart of a surface feeling, posture, or position, a Core Intention is our most authentic self revealed. Identifying your Core Intention enables you to generate multiple forms for honoring your boundary. And when you do this, you place the power to honor your boundary in your hands rather than the other person’s!
In other words, what are you stating about yourself and your place in the world through this boundary? If someone is verbally abusive, and that hurts (Ouch!), you could have the intention that your relationships be mutually respectful so there is safety as well as love. To me, Core Intention speaks to the “Why have this boundary in the first place? How does it serve me and those with whom I am in relationship?” It is up to us to set these boundaries and the different ways we can honor them and still feel good inside.
Step Three: Commit To Honoring Your Core Intention by Making Peace with the Risks of Being in Integrity with It
Identifying the Core Intention restores and strengthens our personal power. Knowing this truest level of our boundary frees us to live in fuller integrity with our deepest self. Even so, people don’t always stay true to their Core Intention because being authentic is risky! Because of this, NICE™ Boundaries Step Three is about identifying the risks of moving into integrity with your Core Intention, and then holding your awareness of these risks with inner grace. This establishes the inner permission needed for living in integrity with a Core Intention. The more accurately you identify these risks, and the more you hold these risks with grace, the more internal permission you will have to exercise your personal power with a boundary!
Dr. Gruder says here that “being authentic is risky.” I believe it feels that way only because we realize that much of the world has yet to understand how healthy and wonderful good boundaries are. We know inherently that, to be true to our Core Intentions and to the boundaries that allow us to love and work with people without resentment and fear, there will be shifts in our relationships, and some individuals who do not respect our boundaries may be asked to leave. As you look at the “risks” in honoring your boundaries, you may quickly run into those fears of appearing self-centered, of hurting others, or having conflict, or feeling rejection. These all can be addressed with EFT; there is no reason to feel stuck forever with intense fears that keep you from being optimally healthy and happy yourself.
Step Four: Enact Your Core Intention by Strengthening Your Energetic Boundary Inwardly & Utilizing Your Selected Boundary Communication Strategy
Once you have established true inner permission to live in integrity with your boundary, you are in a position to identify and enact the strategies that best honor your Core Intention as compassionately and gracefully as possible. Two sets of strategies are needed in order to enact your Core Intention.
Internal Boundaries Strategies are “energy boundaries” you establish within yourself so that your energy field supports your boundary even if you don’t say a word to another person about it.
Great point here about the energetics of boundaries. By using EFT and other methods to stay “calm and confident… no matter what!” we make it far, far less likely that someone will even consider challenging our boundaries. And it will make it easier to quiety say, “No, please stop that” if they do. We can be at a party where everyone is doing drugs, and no one offers any to us… because we have an energetically consistent boundary. (Now, if you start feeling “left out,” that “no drugs” boundary will begin the feel shakey, and others around you will respond to that. All boundaries work this way.)
External Boundaries Strategies are “communication strategies” you use to establish your boundary with another person. Boundaries Communication Strategies come in four intensity levels: Simple Disclosure, Requests for Change, Cause-Effect Menu and Action Without Words.
This is where role-playing with a coach or supportive friend can come in handy. We need to be able to “say what we mean, and mean what we say.” Simple Disclosure says, “No thank you, I don’t do drugs.” A request for change says, “You keep pressuring me to join you in doing these drugs. Please do not ask me again.” On the Cause-Effect menu you can have choices based on the situation. If someone does this, I can say/do this. Action Without Words says to me, “What do I need to do… without saying or explaining… that we restore myself to safety and peace of mind.” If you have a boundary and you take the time to set these strategies, you should feel empowered. If you do not, if you’d LIKE to be able to quietly walk out but don’t feel you can, I encourage you to use EFT on all the reasons (real or imagined) why that would be “too hard” for you to do. When you can imagine yourself honoring your own boundaries with integrity, you will find that others start honoring your boundaries, too.
The NICE™ Boundaries Method e-books and workshops provide you with energy exercises for strengthening your energy boundaries internally, and also show you when and how to use each of the four intensity levels in boundaries communication, including ways to determine the best level of intensity from which to begin your process of communicating a boundary.