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Miscellaneous Musings

Self, Ego, and Boundaries
See also:
Self-Image - The Painted Mirror
Identity, Personality & Fragmentation - Layers of Self

Having a strong sense of identity is a good thing. Your ego is your sense of yourself, it is not an evil thing as some will say. Your sense of self gives you YOU, as unique from those around you. Without your ego, you would collapse into those around you, take on their feelings and opinions, become a "go alonger".

Having a weak sense of self means your boundaries are fuzzy, or non-existant.

Having fuzzy boundaries means you are vulnerable to those who wish to use you, enslave you or hurt you.

Having a weak sense of self is not a sin ... or a failure.

We have been told by our various religions, for eons and eons, that the two things that make individuals unique -- our ego and our feelings (Soul) -- must be given up, surrendered, collapsed into God's, or ...

He will not love us
He will abandon us and it will be our fault
We aren't following the true path, and therefore must be following Lucifer or Satan
We will never get into "Heaven"
We will never be able to "ascend"

We have been told that the ego is synonymous with selfishness.
We have been told that anything that begins with SELF is counter to love. That self-LESS-ness is the only path to enlightenment. Ego is an attachment to this world, to the desires of the flesh, desire for individuation, which is counter to blending and enfolding into the All That Is.


These lies are the true evil.

Unhealed ego is a problem. More on that below. But without our ego and our feelings, we don't know who we are. Our essence/energy is floating about, formless, open to energies and influence from without. The energies who covet other's essence gladly seize the opportunity to enslave us, as much of us as we allow.

"But", you say, "I didn't allow anything. They 'took me over'. They -- the cult, the group, the sexually abusive father, the dominating lover, the guilt-making mother -- they are responsible, not me"

Here is where we walk the fine line between victim and ownership.

I have such rage when someone tells me I am responsible for the abuse I suffered. As if I had the power to change it. I didn't. Then. AT THAT TIME. Guilt and self-hate and judgments disabled me and kept me from being able to prevent abuse.

But now, today, I do have that power, I have the tools. I know how to cry and take ownership of my life.

"I own my life, today."
When you own your own life, and all the events in it, you also own that you have the power to change those things. When you take responsibility for everything that happens to you as resulting from your own subconscious backlog, you flood the darkened room with light and give your wounded inner children hope. If painful events are the result of old pain, then you can cry and cry and cry... until the day comes when you can completely recreate your life.

This is not a pipe dream.

However, still walking the fine line, I give myself all the compassion and forgiveness and help that I can for all the parts of me that suffered abuse in any form. They did the best they could, we did the best we could. We were helpless then, and we didn't know how to cry.

Owning your own life also means giving yourself permission to

Discover how you really feel about things...
Accept all your feelings, not just the ones you were told were "good"...
Find, retrieve and know all parts of yourself...
Put up protective boundaries ... and
Put a stop to behavior that is hurtful -- ask the person to leave, stop engaging with them, walk away

You do not have to accept anything, or anyone, in your life that doesn't feel good.

Notice how the progression above goes from feelings, to self, to boundaries. This is the natural progression, although you may find it needful to set a boundary for yourself in order to find out how you feel and who you are.

Boundaries are for your protection, for your good. And they should be flexible, ever-changing, based on your feelings and needs at the moment. Some say boundaries are not a good thing, that people will use boundaries to hide behind and keep their pain from moving. That's entirely possible. But it's not the boundary-making that is the wrongness. It's the resistance/avoidance. And resistance/avoidance can use ANYTHING to hold feelings hostage.

BOUNDARIES & RIGHT USE OF WILL (and Other Confrontive Therapies)
It has been said that the word boundary is not actually RIGHT use of Will. In some therapy groups this is taken to the extreme - people believe it is their right and duty to point out eachother's denials, to get in eachother's faces and tell eachother what is wrong with them in one way or another, and if someone says STOP, they are accused of being in denial. They are accused of putting up a boundary in order to continue denying. The accusers say a boundary is a place where the person does not want to be reflected to and is refusing to see something.

If you lay this judgment, this generalization, on me, it automatically places pressure/guilt on me. It invalidates my feelings, my own Will's need to protect a tender heart, or prevent more damage. It invalidates my RIGHT to say, "this is where my limits are, because this does not feel good to me". This judgment says that to be a good little RUOW doobie, one must open the door to all and any kind of "reflections", no matter how damaging or hurtful they may be. And it always leaves you, the "reflector" in the position of better-than, because if I don't respond according to these RUOW guidelines, I am judged, I am labeled weak, in denial, Luciferian, unloving.

What a weird twist on the original WILL! Your Will is what tells you what feels good or not. Your Will tells your Ego, ouch, that hurts. Your Ego has the job then, to set a boundary and say no.

In any case, it is far more loving and accepting of others to allow them to find their own denial in their own time, to trust that their own Will and their own High Self / connection to God will lead them to their own pain when they are ready for it. Respecting boundaries is extremely loving. It shows trust in the person, in their Will, and in their process. It shows acceptance of the pace that they need to heal at, which is obviously not the same for everybody. Assuming that you know better than the person what they need to face or deal with, or when, or how much or how fast, is the height of arrogance, disrespect and lack of trust for the other person.

There are many reasons why you may have fuzzy boundaries, why you can't say no, why others keep overriding you and you keep losing yourself. The answer lies in your feelings, in your Will, in your backlog. As you work backwards through your old pain, you'll find the places where your SELF diminished...

where you were terrified
where you gave yourself away in order to try to survive
where self-hate diminishes you
where self-hate opens the door to guilt, which further diminishes you
where rage caused you to explode and pieces of you literally blew away
where a part of you chose to leave you
where you chose to throw away a part of yourself

These are some of the things that can diminish the SELF. Sheer overload of pain from an abusive situation can cause fragmentation. The issue of fragmentation will be covered on a separate page, but it's a big part of lack of ego and boundaries in many people. I threw away a stand-up part of myself in favor of playing the small-victim, which in my family was a more sure way to survive unscathed. Later in life I found I had to find and recover that part of me. I am still recovering parts of me, but my sense of self is much greater now.

I became aware, while working through a sexual abuse incident that occured when I was very young, that sexual activity itself crosses boundaries. As a sexual adult, I had so many doors already closed that I never experienced the melding of two bodies/two selves in an adult sexual situation. It wasn't until I worked through this early incident that I realized that's what happens between a man and a woman. That's part of why we love to be in love, why making love is such a joy. It's not just the orgasm, it's the temporary suspension of aloneness, the melding of two into one for a brief time, the opening and crossing of self boundaries.

The sexual abuse I experienced created terror, confusion, and pain. But most of all, it caused a blurring of my physical boundaries, my emotional boundaries, and a diminishment of my sense of self. At one point in my crying, I felt his lust as if it were a physical thing entering my body, invading me like a worm under my skin. I remember looking down and not knowing if it was my hands or his, my arms or his. I had lost my sense of self, of where I ended and he began, and it was terrifying.

What is a joyful experience for a consenting adult, is a terrifying experience to a child who is still developing a sense of self. Guilt, self-blame, self-hate, even twisted lust -- these things were actually his that I took in when my sense of self was unformed. His evil became mine. And I didn't know it wasn't mine.

One of the reasons Ego has gotten such a bad rap is that without moving the backlog of emotions, it gets frozen, stuck in a pattern. Many of our destructive behaviors were an attempt to keep us safe or help us survive. Attempts that either went wrong, got twisted, or are just plain frozen in time. The Ego isn't immune to this.

Let's say for instance, that you have a ton of self-hate in your backlog. That self-hate eats away at your Ego and your boundaries, it makes you feel small, unworthy of taking up space, stupid, inept, etc., etc.

Eventually your Ego will dissolve and your boundaries will become so fuzzy that you become vulnerable to all kinds of negativity, but at first your Ego will try to protect you. It might build itself a platform. It might find a flag to stand under, the way a person defines themselves by their race or their religion. With the structure of that firmly in place, the Ego has less work to do.

Another very common tactic of the Ego is to play the better-than/less-than game. I am very familiar with this pattern. My self-hate tells me I am nothing. My ego looks for better-thans, ways that I can be superior to somebody in some way. Usually they're pretty small things, but it serves to put me on the seesaw of being on top for a while before my self-hate knocks me down again. When I feel all puffed up and important, I can be pretty sure it's my Ego playing the flip side of my self-hate backlog, and it's time to go cry.

Setting a boundary is an activity for you. Saying NO, or whatever words you need to use, is simply saying "I do not deserve this, I don't like it, I won't live with it". It's really a boundary on YOUR behavior.

Saying NO won't magically make the other person stop their behavior. But it's always good to give them the chance. To be perfectly honest, usually what happens is it provokes an anger response in the other person. You are threatening their status quo and so they scramble to get you back in the box, whatever it is. Unless they also can cry and deal with their own pain, they can become pretty ruthless, and sometimes hostile, using whatever guilt or fear tactics they think will work.

If you are in a potentially violent situation, I highly recommend you NOT confront your attacker. If the situation is one with someone you love and want to try to negotiate with or stay in the relationship, you can try talking to them about your needs and your feelings. If they cry of course, you have a much better chance of success with this whole process. But if they are unable to stop the behavior, or refuse to stop, you have to make a choice. To drop your boundary or to sever the relationship.

That may involve leaving the situation, or it may involve the other person leaving. And you may find you can't do it, you can't say no. Keep crying the pain, all the pain of the situation, whatever it is. Leave no stone unturned, and eventually, you WILL be able to say no. And you'll be able to do it with light heart and an ease you never thought possible. You'll see open doors you didn't see before, you'll wonder how you could have been so blind, so stuck. Moving your backlog sets you free, to see new possibilities, new roads of discovery, and a new (ever-developing) sense of self.

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