Ask: How do you know when boundaries come from love or fear?

I have been studying spiritual paths for several years now and there is one question that nags me most often. How do I distinguish between setting healthy boundaries for what I think I need and setting boundaries out of fear instead of love? I understand when it comes to things like not accepting physical abuse. My struggle comes from less obvious situations. For example, my ex, after 2 years of dating, decided she wanted to be able to date other people. I knew that what I wanted was a monogamous commitment from a partner, but I attempted to stay in the relationship because I loved her and I thought not being willing to open the relationship to include others was fear based. Eventually, I decided that, fear based or not, it wasn’t what I wanted and lovingly exited the relationship. I still don’t know, however, if this was loving or fear based boundary setting. Any insights you have would be greatly appreciated.‑VLB

A fear-based decision for the personal self means one that comes from the personal thought system (ego). Fear indicates that you feel guilty. Guilt manifests as anger, defensiveness, and blame. When you come from fear there is a lot of hand-wringing, drama, and finger-pointing. Sometimes the finger is pointing outward (projection) and sometimes it is inward. Either way you believe that guilt is real.
A love-based decision for the personal self is one that comes from your True thought system (Christ/Holy Spirit). So it begins with your recognition that you are whole. You understand that you do not need something or someone outside of you to make you whole. You accept all personal selves without judgment. You are aware that personal values are not “bad” or “wrong” just because they are different. This does not mean, however, that you want to be around others if they are dysfunctional or that you have to change your values to fit theirs. You set healthy boundaries so that others’ dysfunction does not disrupt your life and you let others go with love when your values do not mesh.
In the example that you gave it sounds like you came from love not from fear. You even went so far as to stretch your own boundaries in a relationship to see if they would change. In the process you found that they did not. You truly do value what you thought you valued. So you loved both yourself and the other by letting her go.

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Anonymous said…
Hello VLB!

If you are a student of the Course, I would answer your question with the following: Relationships, romantic or not, are a topic the Course covers in great detail. The world you see with your eyes is merely an external picture of your inner thoughts and your conscious (and unconscious) belief systems. You literally see and hear only those things that support your belief system, and your ego carefully excludes anything that doesn't support your belief system. You see only what you want to see. The real question to ask regarding your boundary question is:

"What beliefs do I hold about romantic relationships - both consciously and unconsciously?”

The Course in Miracles is a self-study teaching device that often appeals to individuals who recognize that holding a "special relationship" belief system results in great conflict within themselves and between their romantic "special relationship" partner.

The question of boundaries is a result of a "special relationship”. The "special relationship" belief is a symptom of having a mind that chooses the "Ego" belief system. The Course has a different definition of Ego than the world does, so you might want to learn more about the "Ego" definition by referring to the book itself. The "Ego" belief system has caused all the pain and suffering this world has ever known.

The Course in Miracles teaches that the "cure" for the "Ego" (and the "special relationship") is to remember how to think like God. God's thought system is so loving and joyful, so unconditional and beyond limits, that it cannot be adequately communicated to us here in this setting. The Course is designed to teach us how to remove the obstacles we have built between each of us, and between our Creator and ourselves. As this process is occurring, we experience “miracles” that allow us to “know” the Truth. So, we do not “learn” the Truth – we simply return to “knowing” the Truth.

So, VLB, if you are a student of the Course, your question of how to know when boundaries come from love or fear can be answered simply - choose to return to thinking like God. Then, the question of boundaries becomes altogether meaningless. You become aware that you are one with everyone and everything. You exist in a state of unlimited unconditional love. You love everyone with the same level of unlimited love, and the idea of "special relationships" disappears.
jacomina said…
So the only action we need take is inside our heads, not outside of ourselves. Fair enough. So if the neighbours are having a loud party and I cant sleep = where is my healthy boundary? Calling the police is an attack, joining them accepting what is, talking to them is manipulating the effects of my mind, pleading with them is an attack, stewing in anger is an attack. Any action seems fear based. Actually, leaving a relationship (where you stil have feelings for this person) because of a difference of values does seem fear based. And may I add I have observed over most of my life that people who have what is considered healthy boundaries always seem equally as not at peace as those who have none.

This is a very interesting subject.

Liz, can you explain further?
Thank you all.
ACIM Mentor said…
A student in my study group a few weeks ago asked a very good question. If he's driving down the road in peace how does it look different from when he's driving down the road in ego? Of course it doesn't. This is why behavior is irrelevant to inner peace. The body's actions can be the same whether your mind is at peace or in conflict. Behavior is a meaningless effect of the mind. It makes no sense whatsoever to judge it.
Rest in peace and let the body take whatever actions it takes without judging it. If you are at peace the actions come from peace. If you are in conflict the actions come from conflict. In any case, actions have no effect on your state of mind unless you judge them.
jacomina said…
This to me is a brilliant answer and I just love it. Smack right to the point! And I get to go tell my neighbour I cant sleep with all the noise. Suddenly I'm not even angry anymore. You do so much for that peace of mind I seek, Liz, than probably much else I've studied or followed. I always leave this blog excited to try something else Ive learned here. How to thank you.....

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