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The Moon Times

January 2018

a letter released with the full moon
sharing thematic teachings, news & affirmations to
cultivate psycho-spiritual wellness, creativity & community

The theme of this moon cycle is
Setting Healthy Boundaries
in Relationship to Self & Others

“Good fences make good neighbors."

-Robert Frost

Dear reader,

I've been grappling since the full moon with how to examine the idea of "healthy boundaries" productively; especially because boundaries can be invisible, so ever-changing, subjective and unique to each individual. It's complicated AF!

Inspired by Jack Frost's quote above though, this newsletter will define "boundaries" as fences (lines, limits) around our physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual spaces. These fences allow us to maintain our optimal well-being, while simultaneously existing, respecting and collaborating with others.

Reflecting on "healthy boundaries" in relationship seems more pertinent than ever as they're being violated all around us. The movement around #metoo and #timesup is a collective example of how so many of us have experienced the infringement of our boundaries, physical, emotional and sexual, to name a few. The recent Aziz Ansari assault story particularly struck me as a case where boundaries could have been better realized and upheld by each person.  "Grace," the 23-year woman who shared details of a painful and violating date with Aziz, is a symbol of so many girls and women, especially in the face of power. When we either idolize someone, or give him or her more power over us than they have over our bodies and time, we can forgo ourselves. We can so easily become voiceless to our own needs, thoughts, desires and boundaries. We don’t speak up when we need to in fear of rejection- and it feels extra painful to be disapproved by others with great influence. Many of her decisions described in the article reflected a grave lack of confidence and clear communication; perhaps I have these judgments of her because this story made me recall times when I didn't feel the confidence to uphold my boundaries and it resulted in getting taken advantage of.

This sort of this happens all the time; I bet there are men who relate to Aziz, have behaved in similar ways and find nothing wrong with how he acted. And, I know there are girls and women who have walked away from a voluntary "romantic" encounter feeling used and abused. In intimacy and beyond, we're navigating our and others' fluid boundaries in every moment, and often without enough attention or intention. Could we decrease the conflicts and violations between us by clarifying in our own minds and communication exactly what we're willing and wanting to do, put up with and allow around us?

The intention of this newsletter is to bring increased awareness to our various types of boundaries so that we are more self-aware, self-empowered, and prepared to articulate and honor our needs with others. I'll use my reflections of Aziz and "Grace" as an example to ground into some of the main points about setting healthy boundaries.
What are healthy boundaries?
 
“A boundary is simply what’s ok and what’s not ok.”
  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Sexual
  • Material
  • Time
Here are a couple graphics for reflection and thought via @sadgirlsclub describing aspects of healthy relationships and toxic/abusive relationships. Healthy boundaries align with self-respect and respect for the other.
 
 
Where as unhealthy boundaries tend to be rooted in power and control.


Aziz's celebrity and seniority (10+ years) over "Grace" left much of their dynamic under power and control. With Aziz's influence, he needs boundaries around how he uses it. If he talks about feminism and equality, he needs to allow space for a woman to voice her needs, from what she wants to drink to where she’d like to go, etc. before handing her a glass of something you decide for her. Although Aziz seemed genuinely unaware of how he hurt her, his lack of boundary-setting in consideration of his power left him abusing it, compromising the support, cooperation, safety and honesty he could have offered.
 
In regard to sex specifically, we skirt around it too much, it’s one of the most intimate acts we can do with someone, how can we not talk through it? If anyone has an intention to have sex, ask before assuming. There’s nothing wrong or unsexy about being direct, clear and asking “would you like to have sex tonight?" Consensus is not passive- and in regards to sex and intimacy, this needs to be known by all parties involved: CONSENSUS IS NOT PASSIVE. It’s active: it’s an active, energetic YES. And until you get this from the other person, don’t assume that anything involving sexual intimacy is a go.

 It seems like Grace carried a great deal of emotion around meeting Aziz as she told many people in her life, from friends to coworkers, about it before and after the date. Who wouldn’t be excited to go to dinner with a impressively successful and popular comedian and actor? Yet, boundaries around privacy here were lacking, and she had already looped so many people in on her business and his before it even really began- that’s a lot more pressure on her. Her accountability and acceptance of responsibility over her own needs was absent as she was trying to manage Aziz's behaviors rather than asserting what she wanted more clearly.
 
When we want something really badly (an indication of highly charged emotion), whether it be attention or intimacy or approval, it’s extra important to intentionally set boundaries around what we’re willing to do, and what we’re not willing to do to get it. So before stepping into any meeting or interaction, especially one charged with emotion (i.e. excitement, anxiety, anger or resentment), we need to take time to set intentions and boundaries for ourselves and how we want to be treated by others.
How do we realize our boundaries?

Feelings often tell us a lot about when our boundaries are being crossed, and ultimately, it's up to us to respond to those feelings (rather than put too much power in others' hands to respond to our feelings). Psychologist and coach Dr. Dana Gionta has observed two key feelings that might show an invasion of boundaries: discomfort and resentment.

"Resentment usually 'comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.' It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us... When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary.'"*

 
Journal Reflection for Boundary Recognition

Some questions to ponder:
  • What are your core values? Prioritize and narrow down 10 values, then choose your top 3.
  • What specific actions have you taken recently that align with your top values?
  • What actions have you taken recently that do not align with your core values?
     
  • What types of boundaries (physical, emotional, intellectual, sexual, material, time) could you be more protective around?
  • What types of boundaries are you really good at protecting? How?
  • What keeps you from asserting your boundaries?
  • Which boundaries do you respect most in others?
  • Which boundaries do you misunderstand most in others?
     
  • In thinking about what you want (say a relationship, a dream job, belonging with a certain group, intimate connection/sex, self-confidence, money and success, etc.):
    • What are you willing to do moving forward to get it? Be specific.
      • i.e. "I'm willing to work for 12 hours a day for 1 week to get this project launched." OR "I'm willing to have sex on the X date but not before the Y date."
    • What are you not willing to do moving forward to get it?
      • i.e. "I'm not willing to work 12 hours a day for more than 1 week, but can do 9 hour days for 2 weeks more if I still need to get it done." OR "I'm not willing to go to his house before the Y date."
Boundaries are so unique to each of us and it takes some intentional self-reflection to garner awareness of the fences that we need to uphold for our optimum wellness within ourselves and with others. Our boundaries are also immensely fluid and vary with people, context and time in our lives; cultivating self-awareness about our boundaries is an essential and continual practice.
How do we communicate our boundaries?

Setting healthy boundaries is...
"The art
of putting your heart
into something without taking it out
of yourself."
Pavana Reddy, @mazadohta

 
Why didn't Grace say frankly, "I'm not here to have sex, I just want to spend some time together and get to know you"? So many people have asked, "if she was so uncomfortable, why didn't she leave?" I wonder if it was more complicated than that; did she stay because being in the presence of a celebrity felt special; or because she would have had more juicy details to share with her friends and coworkers afterwards? Perhaps a part of her had hopes that they’d really hit it off and nerd out about cameras and their affinity for one another, or she didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to get to know "Aziz Ansari" a bit more. Yet in Grace staying, she was not clear with her communication. She let vague body language speak for her, and even texted back "it was nice to meet you too..." the day after right before she explained how violated she felt. This is incredibly confusing.

Boundaries involve*:
  • Confidence (knowing that it’s okay to say “no”, to set your own limits, be assertive when you need to be, and uphold your own boundaries first)
  • Clear communication
  • Willingness to allow others’ discomfort, disappointment, or even anger when you set limits (except when it's a danger to your safety)
     
Clear communication of boundaries involves:
  • State what you want or don’t want very clearly; avoid generalities, hinting, or vague language
  • Use confident body language (eye contact) and try to match your body language to the words you're saying
  • Use “I” statements like “I want...” “I feel...” “I need...”
  • Don’t expect others to read your mind nor assume what others mean without them saying it
  • Seek to understand what the other person is saying while seeking to be understood (not just the latter)
  • Don't take others' boundaries personally; it's far more about them than it is about you
  • Revisiting boundaries with others consistently as they can be fluid and changing

What keeps us to from upholding boundaries?
  • Fear of rejection or abandonment
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Guilt
  • We weren't taught healthy boundaries
  • Safety concerns
    • Asserting our healthy boundaries could dangerously compromise our safety with others; in this case, it's important to share this information with loved ones and get help
Meanwhile, Aziz probably saw Grace just being in his apartment after  dinner as a “yes” to him, even a “yes” to sex; a common and incredibly ignorant assumption on the part of many men. This assumption is a product of a “hook up” culture that we’re in around dating and intimacy, where sex is often expected before it's explicitly invited. We’re feeding and perpetuating the culture when we’re not asserting for ourselves our own boundaries. It takes extra intention and awareness to reflect on our boundaries that are counter to a larger culture or system.

It’s the micro-situations that require us to step up and speak for our boundaries; Grace reported how Aziz gave her white wine in the beginning while she preferred red. How might the night have progressed if she said that she’d prefer red? How would she have felt in herself and how would he have treated her? When she complimented his marble counter-tops, instead of telling her to hop on it before starting to kiss her, what would it have been like for Aziz to say, “you being here in my apartment turns me on, can I kiss you?” How would these micro-interactions have affected their whole dynamic of relating to their own needs in the moment and one another's?

Teachings
Some resources related to healthy boundaries

LISTEN:

Video: Sarri Gilman, author of “Transform Your Boundaries,” shares insights on boundaries from decades of experience as a marriage and family therapist
Video: professor and researcher,
Brené Brown speak about successful people and boundaries
Podcast: Oprah and Maya Angelou talk about creating a place within ourselves for ourselves that absolutely no one else can invade

MO' READS:

Blog: some thoughtful steps to setting boundaries in relationships
Summary: signs of healthy boundaries and communication tips
Article: suggestions to building and preserving boundaries

 

News

Updates from mosaiceye's community

New on the site:
  • The mosaiceye shop has new giclée prints in tribute of sensitivity, belonging & growth <3
  • Chetna wrote a personal essay for Tiny Buddha re: physical and energetic boundaries for health & safety
Upcoming local events for exploring and expanding boundaries:
  • Arts for Social Change Jam: this week-long retreat expands the boundaries of potential, empowerment, influence and community for artists, activists and changemakers. Click the link to find more details and art by mosaiceye
  • POC and Queer Movement Mornings: a free space that draws a boundary for people of color and queer folk to move safely and freely in their bodies, in community and in peace every Wednesday morning from 8:30am-9:15pm at the East Bay Community Space
Thank you for subscribing to The Moon Times.
 
I appreciate you and would love to hear from you.
Do you have comments, questions, additions or critiques?
Email me: chetna@mosaiceyeunfolding.com

Stay tuned with the next full moon on March 1st for
The Moon Times - Issue 5
Copyright © 2017 mosaiceye, all rights reserved.






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