This is the first half of the final installment of the five part series, "Barriers to Joy" by Rev. Dr. Trey Kuhne, LMFT. This series has examined the things that interfere with the active, intentional experience of joy in our lives. I want to again thank Dr. Kuhne for allowing me to publish this series on my blog. Here is Part Five(a):
In this article series, I have introduced four key barriers to the experience of spiritual, physical, and emotional joy in our lives. Those four barriers are: Lack of recreation, anger, spiritual insecurity, and feelings of loneliness and/or not being loved. Each one of these is a barrier to joy because each can manifest a form of pathology in our lives: fear, anxiety, depression, frustration, and other health related concerns. Each is a barrier because each attempts to disconnect us from one another and God.
In these final two installments of this series, I would like to introduce an additional barrier to the experience of joy and that is when there are not clearly defined boundaries in relationships. “The language of personal boundaries mirrors that of property rights. The word boundary is used to define a parcel of land that can be bought, sold, insured, or taxed. Likewise, when we used to describe emotional ‘space,' it most commonly defines the self, which has unique rights that others should respect. Abuse counselor Pia Mellody, in her book Facing Codependence (Harper, San Francisco, 2003) refers to boundaries as ‘symbolic force fields' that allow one to have a sense of self.” (Moffit, Yoga Journal, May/June 2005).
I like the idea of symbolic force fields, not to keep everyone out but to define ourselves and have a clear sense of ownership of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Though our souls are not our own in Christ, we have been taught by scripture to be good stewards of ourselves. That stewardship hints to having a healthy balance physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Boundaries can be emotional, physical, and spiritual. Healthy emotional boundaries are found in those who are balanced in their life and can feel in control of what they sense, feel, believe, and express to others. They know how to respect others appropriately and how not to feel unduly threatened in encounters. Weak emotional boundaries are found when we feel that others have access to our “space” without our permission or against our will, however it is perceived by the self. Unfortunately, there is not enough time or space in this article series to go in any depth about this subject. Suffice it to say, there is much more written about this that warrants further study.
Unclear boundaries in relationships can cause deep hurt and suffering when our emotional, physical, and/or spiritual space is not respected appropriately. Boundary issues typically come in two forms: trespassing and enmeshed. Trespassing is easily recognized, but enmeshed is not. Enmeshment is the inappropriate merging of identities. From over-controlling parents of adult children, to your spouse telling you what to think or believe, your stepmother correcting the way you speak to your children – in front of the kids, your best friend tells you whom you should date, or your boss calls you at home to ask you to do the task he has neglected. In each essence, if you cannot maintain your boundary, you acquiesce and are pulled into someone else's drama. Who wants to have to be responsible for some else's drama? Who wants to be in some else's drama? Not me!
In next week's final installment, I will further discuss some things that one can do to more clearly define oneself and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. We have been created to be in relationship but it takes intentional work to make it work well. See you then!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Trey Kuhne is a pastoral counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist with Pathways Pastoral Counseling located at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, 400 Dupre Drive, Spartanburg, SC 29307. He specializes in working with individuals, couples and families. Call (864) 542-3019 for an appointment. He may be reach via email at: [email protected].