Robert Augustus Masters

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Freedom Through Limitation: Better Boundaries

  • July 12, 2015
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Healthy boundaries protect what needs to be protected.


Yes, we can be overbounded, overly protective of ourselves, defended to the point of cutting ourselves off from what we need, overbudgeting for defense. And we can also be underbounded, not standing up for ourselves, letting others in in ways that do not serve us.


But beyond these two positions, beyond neurotic exclusion and neurotic inclusion, there exists a healthy boundedness, one that protects with fitting power while at the same time remaining permeable and flexible enough to let in enough of what we truly need.


Letting go of or dissolving our boundaries so as to include the other is not the same as expanding our boundaries to include the other!


In conventional or typical romance (the blind and often intoxicating swoon of false oneness), boundaries are not expanded, but rather collapsed, abandoned, forgotten.


In many relationships, boundaries tend to be shoulds, to either be obeyed (as in conventional monogamy) or cast aside (as in “open” forms of relationship). In more mature relationships, however, boundaries are not shoulds, but natural givens, liberating rather than entrapping us.


The boundaries of a great relationship make possible an ever-richer relationship by safeguarding the relationship, resolutely protecting the “container” of such deeply shared mutuality and intimacy, making room for more and more depth.


Such boundaries make real freedom more than possible. That is, the limitations they impose liberate rather than just limit us.


Don’t view your boundaries as rigid walls or ossified shoulds, but rather as firm yet semipermeable protectors of what is vulnerable, tender, sacred, soft, young in yourself.


It’s as if you are a parent holding your child, protecting but not overprotecting that little one, providing enough of a sense of safety so that they feel secure in going beyond their usual zones of safety as they venture out into the world more and more.


Consistently apply this to yourself, protecting what needs protecting in yourself without disconnecting from it, so that you become like a deeply unified nation of many interconnected states, compassionately overseeing them all — and cultivating intimacy with them all — while making sure that they have sufficient autonomy and room to evolve.


Healthy boundaries hold us without contracting us, reinforcing our capacity to embody a “no” that makes possible an ever-deepening yes, a yes that honors the integrity and evolution of our being. In this, “freedom through limitation” becomes not just an interesting idea, but a living reality.