"I have had many people ask me what I mean when I refer to setting boundaries for my inner children. People who have asked for examples, for how it looks on a practical level to set a boundary with an inner child."An article by inner child pioneer/Spiritual teacher about setting internal boundaries with critical parent and inner child.
"So I set a boundary with the critical parent by not buying into the criticism, I set a boundary with my inner child by not building up expectations of some kind of reward, and I work my recovery program by focusing on the half of the glass that is full (my needs that have been met) and being grateful for the gifts I have been given, instead of allowing the disease to focus on fear and scarcity, on the half that is empty (my wants that have not been met.)
The purpose of doing the inner child healing work is to improve the quality of my life today - not to reach a destination or reward."
"Another aspect of the inner child we need to set boundaries for is the child within us that wants instant gratification. A little child doesn't have any perspective - doesn't know what an hour is, or a a day or a month. They are in the moment. And in the moment they feel things REAL BIG! "I have to have that toy right now!" It feels like life or death to them - but 20 minutes later they have forgotten and gone on to something else. We have a child in us that I have heard called the King Baby - "I Want What I Want and I Want it NOW!"
This child we need to set boundaries for - because this young child (3 or 4 or 5 ish) does not understand that eating 15 candy bars will make him sick."
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The Web Site of Spiritual Teacher, codependence counselor, grief therapist, author, Robert Burney and Joy to You & Me Enterprises
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|This article was originally
published online May 18, 2001 on Robert's Inner Child / Codependency
Recovery page on the Suite101.com Directory as part
of a series of articles on healing the inner child under the title Inner
Child Healing - Part 13 - Happy, Joyous, and Free. This article was used to create this page on Joy2MeU in January
Happy, Joyous, and Free
"It was vitally important for me to learn how to have internal boundaries so that I could lovingly parent (which, of course, includes setting boundaries for) my inner children, tell the critical parent/disease voice to shut up, and start accessing the emotional energy of Truth, Beauty, Joy, Light, and Love."
Next in inner child section: The Inner Children that need Boundaries
As mentioned just above the article, it was first published in this form on Suite101 in May 2001. The guts of the article however had been part of a Question and Answer page that was part of my original Joy to You & Me web site on silcom.com - it was in fact, on the First Question & Answer page that I posted in August of 1998. When I Launched Joy2MeU.com in February 1999 I listed the pages which I didn't transfer to the newer domain site on this page of the new site: Joy to You & Me web pages. I have decided to include on this page the original question and answer that this article grew out of because it covered more than just the portion I used as the foundation for the above article. (In this excerpt from Q & A 1 I used green for the question - and for some reason used red for some of my comments.)
"I have begun reading the information you are providing on-line. As preface, I am "the lost child". That leaves me confused about how I feel any way as I have spent 45 years in limbo. I am blanking out on boundaries. The first one with the critical parent is fairly easy - just cut it off and refocus. After that I am lost.My most recent article related to this was published on Suite 101 in December 2003 Setting Internal Boundaries in relationship to Romantic, Sexual Relationships
It is natural and normal to be confused and scared and feel lost (I talk about that on my Self-Nurturing page) - what is important is to try to not let the critical parent voice beat us up for being confused and scared. One of the really insidious things about Codependence is that once we start getting awareness we start beating ourselves up for what we are learning.
You say to set a boundary between being and behavior. At this point I have no awareness of my being and do not know how to lay the defining boundary. My favorite expression of my disease is isolation (the second is teaching, third is care taking. After that I know no other ways of being/behaving). Does that make sense to you??
It makes perfect sense. You weren't allowed to have a being, a self, as a child - you had to adapt to survive. Here is an excerpt from my book about "being verses behavior:"
This healing is a long gradual process - the goal is progress, not perfection. What we are learning about is unconditional Love. Unconditional Love means no judgment, no shame.
[When I use the term "judge," I am talking about making judgments about our own or other people's beings based on behavior. In other words, I did something bad therefore I am a bad person; I made a mistake therefore I am a mistake. That is what toxic shame is all about: feeling that something is wrong with our being, that we are somehow defective because we have human drives, human weaknesses, human imperfections.
There may be behavior in which we have engaged that we feel ashamed of but that does not make us shameful beings. We may need to make judgments about whether our behavior is healthy and appropriate but that does not mean that we have to judge our essential self, our being, because of the behavior. Our behavior has been dictated by our disease, by our childhood wounds; it does not mean that we are bad or defective as beings. It means that we are human, it means that we are wounded.
It is important to start setting a boundary between being and behavior. All humans have equal Divine value as beings - no matter what our behavior. Our behavior is learned (and/or reactive to physical or physiological conditions). Behavior, and the attitudes that dictate behavior, are adopted defenses designed to allow us to survive in the Spiritually hostile, emotionally repressive, dysfunctional environments into which we were born.]
So what I am talking about is fighting off the Toxic Shame that says that there is something wrong with me because of the way I have behaved. For instance - the disease/critical parent voice will tell you that there is something wrong with you for being confused and lost. It will tell you there is something wrong with you that have had no awareness of your being. It will tell you that there is something wrong with you because you know of no other way of behaving beyond isolating, etc. That is all bull. All of these things are about being wounded, about being human.
One of the ways to start setting a boundary between being and behavior is to start doing some positive affirmations.
"I am a Spiritual Being full of Light and Love." is one of my favorites. When my disease is wanting to beat up on me it is better not to argue details with it. Just state the Truth.
When it beats you up for being confused and lost - say:
"It is human to feel confused and lost. It means I am going through a transition. I am a Spiritual Being full of Light and Love. It is not my fault that I am a "Lost Child." It is not my fault that I was wounded and learned how to protect myself by isolating and care-taking - those were the best choices available to me at the time. I am Unconditionally Loved in this very moment - I always have been and always will be. I am perfect in my Spiritual Essence. I am perfectly where I am supposed to be on my Spiritual Path. And from a human perspective I will never be able to do human perfect. I am learning new ways to do life and my Spirit is going to guide me through this."
Sometimes when the disease is really yammering away at me the best I can do is just to keep repeating an affirmation (or 3 or 4 of them) over and over again like a mantra.
I am a Spiritual Being full of Light and Love.
I am a Spiritual Being full of Light and Love.
I am a Spiritual Being full of Light and Love.
I am a Spiritual Being full of Light and Love.
There are a lot of books available with affirmations in them - One of my favorite authors in this area is Shakti Gawain (Creative Visualization is one of her books that helped me a lot. Now available in the Joy to You & Me Bookstore)
Also what actual boundaries would I set for inner children? Perhaps I am the worst case scenario, but possibly not so I thought, for the sake of those who have even less to go on than I do, perhaps you could be really concrete and explicit.
There are several facets to setting boundaries with our inner children. One is that we need to gently explain to the magical thinking child within that Fairy Tales do not come true - that is we are not going to get to happily ever after in this lifetime on this plane. We may meet our prince or princess - but they are going to be wounded souls who need to work on their issues also.
~I just took a break from writing this to go to the post office to mail a book and tape set to England - and as I was walking to the post office a perfect example of what I am talking about occurred within me. (This is the kind of miracles that I get on a daily basis - "the ask and yee shall receive" kind - I am thinking of the best way to answer and by paying attention I was given an example.)
As I was writing this response to your questions, I got a hit/idea/inspiration that I should post a web page with the questions that I get by e-mail and answers I send back. As you mention, it can really help sometimes to be concrete and explicit. So, as I am walking to the post office I am thinking about doing such a web page and the following interaction takes place within me (in my inner reality these are fleeting thoughts rather than a formal conversation.)
ego/critical parent: "Your giving away all of this information for free and meanwhile you can't even pay your rent. That is pretty stupid"
Romantic (believes in fairy tales) inner child: "Oh, but we're going to be rewarded. All kinds of good things are going to happen - including getting a lot of money."
Adult on Spiritual Path: "Now, settle down you two. In the first place, it is very important and wonderful to give away what I have been given - that is how to keep the energy flowing - and that is what works, it is what I need to do for me/us. And I am going to do it because it feels good, it feels right - like the next thing in front of me to do. We'll worry about the rent when it is time to pay the rent - for today, for this moment, we will do what feels right for today. And I need to tell you that our reward may just be to feel good about what we're doing - and if that is all there is, that is still a wonderful gift. On top of that we are getting positive feedback from all over - and that is a great bonus. There may never be a lot of money but that is not important. There is enough money for today. And we are very blessed to have something to do today that is fulfilling and makes us happy."
So I set a boundary with the critical parent by not buying into the criticism, I set a boundary with my inner child by not building up expectations of some kind of reward, and I remind myself to focus on the half of the glass that is full (my needs that have been met) and be grateful for the gifts I have been given - not the half that is empty (my wants that have not been met.)
(Expectations are a real key to getting honest with ourselves. My column about expectations can be found on the Serenity and Expectations page. My column about gratitude, focusing, and the difference between wants and needs, can be found on the Web page Gratitude)
I have peace and serenity when I can accept reality as it is and focus on what action I can take to change what needs to be changed. That means I need to accept that I can be happy and fulfilled even if I never have any money, never get any more of my books published, never have another romantic relationship, etc. I need to let go of my picture of how I want things to be and focus on what action I can take today that:
1. feels good/right,
2. that feels like a kind thing to do for myself (could be doing the dishes or cleaning house - inner children rarely want to do house work - of course if house work is one of your coping mechanisms then for you doing something frivolous and silly might be in order),
and/or 3. that is about planting some seeds (going to the library to get a book, posting a new web page, checking for local 12 step meetings, etc.) that maybe will help to meet my wants.
The Truth of the reward thing is that I have no way of knowing if I am creating "good" (feels like reward when it comes back) Karma or settling old "bad" (feels like punishment) Karma - so I cannot know what is coming, I just know that I believe it is all going to be all right in the end and I will get to go home when I am through with this often very painful boarding school.
There is always going to be more work, more healing to do - but the magical thinking child wants to believe in magical fairy tales (we're going to win the lottery) - this does not in any way preclude believing in magical miracles. We need to know that there are miracles and magic so we can be open to them (we could win the lottery.) but not just sit around expecting (planning on eating on your lottery winnings tomorrow is not a good strategy) them to rescue us and takes us to happily
ever after - we need to take some action/do our part (buy a ticket - just one - and though this can be applied literally to the lottery I am really using it here figuratively speaking) - we are co-creators here. And even if we win the lottery it is just going to present us with some more lessons - not bring us happily ever after.
So, got off on one of my tangents there. Another aspect of the inner child we need to set boundaries for is the child within us that wants instant gratification. A little child doesn't have any perspective - doesn't know what an hour is, or a a day or a month. They are in the moment. And in the moment they feel things REAL BIG! "I have to have that toy right now!" It feels like life or death to them - but 20 minutes later they have forgotten and gone on to something else. We have a child in us that I have heard called the King Baby - "I Want What I Want and I Want it NOW!"
This child we need to set boundaries for - because this young child (3 or 4 or 5 ish) does not understand that eating 15 candy bars will make him sick.
So, we need to be a loving parent who protects our inner child from always giving into instant gratification.
I hope that I have helped you some. There are so many levels and facets to this stuff that any question leads into 20 more. It can be very hard to keep things simple sometimes."
The Inner Children that need Boundaries
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The article Setting Boundaries with inner children was originally published online May 18, 2001 on my Inner Child / Codependency Recovery page on the Suite101.com Directory as part of a series of articles on healing the inner child under the title Inner Child Healing - Part 13 - Happy, Joyous, and Free. There is a list of - and links to - articles published on that Directory on my Suite101 Articles page.