How do people meet? Meeting is difficult for mammals, but not for the reasons you might imagine. According to Thomas Lewis in A General Theory of Love, “Mammals have a bodily connection so… an individual does not direct all of his own functions. A second person transmits regulatory information that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms, immune function and more inside the body of the first (italics added). The reciprocal process occurs simultaneously: the first person regulates the physiology of the second, even as he himself is regulated.” We are all connected to the people around us, whether we want to be or not. They are already inside our skins. A boundary is for you, not others. It keeps you in one state, so you can meet others. That is what I call an Edge.
Think about the last time you set a limit. Was it easy? Did you hesitate, or not set it at all, because “I’ve tried and tried but he doesn’t listen?” Or “Ah, it doesn’t really matter?” What this “limit” has just done is separated you from yourself. It separated your thoughts from your feelings. All it does is make you uncomfortable, and guarantees that whoever you were going to set this limit with will not respond the way you want them to. Much of the time, setting limits makes people feel out of control rather than in control- it has the complete opposite effect than the one that was intended.
If you note your internal state, you can study what kind of uncomfortable you are and take steps to correct it. And because setting limits feels disruptive to us inside, we think it will be disruptive to the individual on the other end. But what is really disruptive to the people on the outside is our own discomfort with setting limits in the first place. We hem and haw, use too many words, demonstrate a deferential posture. Our words say “Listen to me” and our bodies say “You don’t really have to.” We are split, and can’t be met.
If all your parts are on the same page, then the boundary doesn’t exist within you, disrupting your physiology; it exists between you and the other person; in your extra-personal space; in your visible as opposed to invisible behavior. That is the place we are well and truly met. Used well, a boundary is the physical expression of our right to exist, organizing us and the people around us at the same time.