Kinhost dot Org

Boundaries and Empathy (011) Transcript

Audio Episode New

<voices overlapping, music in background>
Oh! Good morning — oh! Do we have to get up?
Keep it down; I’m trying to sleep.
Yeah, we want to make that recording.
What are we going to record today?
What? What recording?
You know, the one about multiplicity.
You know, the usual — we’re trying to make a difference in the world or something.
Oh, yeah.
Well — I just really wanna help people!
I have no idea what to say.
I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who have really good questions, and need really good answers.
Why talk to them? It’s not like anybody gives a shit.
Well what makes us an authority?
I don’t really think it matters how long we’ve been multiple, or how long we’ve known we’re multiple — we’re multiple!
<Aliessa laughs richly>

Welcome to Many Minds on the Issue, the podcast about Dissociative Identity Disorder, by and for multiples, hosted by The Crisses.

Boundaries and empathy. Everything we have in life, on the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and energetic fields of energy or physical matter — if you want to look at it that way — has "where it starts" and "where it ends." Everything does. You can have an everyday boundary of a glass, your friend across from you has their own glass, and these two glasses are full of water. The water inside has a boundary of the glass and my glass delineates where my water is and your glass delineates where your water is. We have boundaries like this everywhere in life. My House has property boundaries that may be visible with a fence, or may be invisible and just drawn on a map that tells me where what I own is separated from what you own.
My House has walls inside. It separates the bathroom from the bedroom, the kitchen from the living room, and so on. So there are boundaries everywhere we go. Boundaries have different qualities. There are permeable boundaries, like when I drink the water, it goes into my stomach and gets absorbed through the stomach lining, so that's a permeable boundary and the water can pass into my cells through other permeable boundaries. And then there's flexible boundaries that change shape — a water balloon, the water's inside the balloon, the balloon continues to stretch to accommodate more water. That's a flexible boundary, but that's an impermeable one. Impermeable. Or a not-permeable boundary.
There are rigid boundaries, like we were talking about the glass; it's very hard. It's solid, it's not flexible, it's not permeable. And then there's hole-y boundaries. When you put water into a colander, it's meant to go through it, so it just goes right through. And then there's just open boundaries where there's an opening such as the glass, there's an opening there, and when you drink you can just get the water right out of it and it's meant to be open. It doesn't have holes in it in a bad way. Same thing with the colander. It has holes in it for a reason, but we've chosen those holes. Sometimes we end up with holes that we didn't choose.
So let's talk more about how it translates into our personal energetic, emotional, physical boundaries. So last week I put up a podcast episode on As Inside, So Outside and Vice Versa.
We already have this concept of "things that exist in the outside world also exist in the inside world." Boundaries are no different. We have boundaries within our interpersonal or intra-personal system. We have boundaries between people's emotions, people's physical bodies. We have boundaries inside of our system between the entities, the fragments inside of our mental landscape. Whether you have a visual, internal landscape or not, you still have something up there in which everybody dwells. There are delineations between these different people and they can be flexible, inflexible, permeable, rigid, hole-y, open. So all of these same concepts apply inside in our mental world. It applies to the emotional world between people, and between the entities inside of us, and it applies in the spiritual world, &c. So I can't think of — I can't say "there is no" — but I cannot think of a system that has no boundaries where things just are each other, unless you think of energy itself. That's getting over into quantum physics where it's a very difficult territory for me to go to.
So we have boundaries between our internal and external reality, which I was talking about in episode 010 last week. That's As Inside, So Outside and Vice Versa. And in that we talk about, um, the osmosis, the passing of different paradigms and different ideas and concepts and energies between the external world and the internal world. We also have very weird boundaries as people who dissociate. We have weird boundaries with our body. So I talk about dissociation from our body and re- owning it in episode 007, and one of the other things I had noticed recently is my whole resistance to conformity. This whole resistance where I've put up a boundary between my social self and other people's social ideas and morals and concepts and what they do in Conformity; so I talk about conformity as a trigger topic for myself in episode 004.
So that's where this kind of starts tying in to other things that we've been talking about. So boundaries are very important and as people who I — I'm just going to make the assumption for a moment that the vast overwhelming majority of people who are listening to this have experienced trauma in their life. At some point, you've probably, you know, seen or experienced bullying on some level or some kind of abuse, witnessed a car accIdent, whatever it is, you've probably been exposed to something that challenged your boundaries. So when something comes at your boundaries, the type of boundary it is can have a drastic effect on how you respond to the impact of a trauma. Well, it's trauma once it gets through your boundary, really, so it's the impact of an event and we'll just call it an event. It can be abusive event, it can be an accident. Once it's outside of you, it's an — it's just an event. It's a thing. It happened. It's outside of you, right? It is not trauma yet because it's outside of you.
So our boundaries are what protects us from these other things. Inside of our system, outside of our system, from the culture, from people's emotions, from people physically fighting us and so on. It's hard to punch you when there's a wall there, right? That's a physical, hard, impermeable boundary, at least impermeable as far as a fist goes, so you're not traumatized by them punching the wall. Probably didn't even know that they throw a punch, especially something like a brick wall. You're not touched by this. They've hurt themself, so the types of boundaries and walls can affect the impact of an action. Whether or not it even impacts you, depends on the walls and the boundaries between you and it.
This has all kinds of implications across the board. There are places where hard and rigid boundaries are necessary, and then there's other places where hard and rigid boundaries are not necessary and can actually hurt you. When you have a hard and rigid wall between you and your spouse or your partner, your lover, or your boyfriend, your girlfriend — [when] you have a hard and rigid wall between you and them, whether it's emotional, physical, whatever, that can be hurtful. When there's distance separating you, it can be hurtful. When there's a rigid wall between it can be hurtful. So it's not always appropriate to run around with excessive boundaries. It's also not appropriate to run around with insufficient boundaries. There's there's a range of these boundaries and finding the sweet spot given each situation is very important.
So today somebody was discussing trust, and this is part of trust. This is part of the larger conversation that I'm having with you, the listener, on trust. Boundaries have to be appropriate to the situation: if you're bringing a bigger boundary, if you're bringing a more rigid, inflexible boundary to a situation than necessary, it's impossible to build trust. You can't even get to the other person through that boundary — on either side! — boundaries have the quality of blocking things in as well as keeping things out.
So there's different ways of visualizing your boundaries. There's different kinds of healthy boundaries given each situation, and there's different ways of visualizing them, and I prefer (because I kind of lean towards fantasy and medieval kind of stuff) I prefer picturing armor. There's walls, there's castle walls, built of stone, there's brick, there's mortar, there's these big, huge, distant, fixed-in-the-landscape kinds of boundaries, and then there's armor which I carry all my person. There's armor on me, and it can be hard, rigid armor, or it could be something more flexible and more permeable like chain mail. Heavy, but at least it's permeable.
Somebody can still hug me while I'm wearing chain mail. It won't be pleasant, and it certainly won't be warm [chuckles], but they can hug me and you know, it'll give when they hug, and they'll feel me hugging them back. And so chain mail is more flexible, more permeable, than a hard, rigid, solid steel armor. Another thing I really love to visualize (as far as armor and stuff goes, and different ways of looking at these boundaries and seeing them in my system) is shields. Shields are so useful because there are times you need a rigid boundary, you need something hard and inflexible, but it's agile. It only covers a certain area so you can spot something coming at you and with a flick of your arm you can have this shield in the way. I also tend towards the fantasy side of medieval, so sometimes I picked an energy shield, right? A magical shield, not a physical one touched my arm, so I have shields that are like magical shields. They're part of my personal space, my aura around my body. They move around me and, when needed, just with a little flick of my energy — or my mental energy or whatever you want to call it — they're in the way they're in the way of whatever it is that I don't want to get to me. So I consider that to be better than running around with a solid suit of armor on.
Again, there's different times where different things are necessary. If I know I'm going into a horrifyingly abusive situation or if let's say a situation degrades sufficiently that it becomes scary or frightening. Yes. I certainly might imaginarily don a suit of armor to protect me on all sides at all times, whether it's a magical suit of armor or physical steel kind of armor that I'm picturing in my head, I might run into the castle where the walls will help protect me and I have my armor on it and I have my walls and okay, I'm good. Nothing can get to me. So, these are different ways of looking at boundaries internally.
Where boundaries get in the way (internally) is when we picture, let's say, an internal landscape that's hard and rigid. We each have our own walls and doors and so on. And it's one thing to have your own room to retreat to when you need to, but it's another thing if they become prison cells. There are systems where they lock away people who are misbehaving. I go into internal misbehavior more in episode 009, which is Welcome to DID: We Are Not Your Enemy and it's very, very important to realize how much that hurts the relationship between the jailer and the jailed. So locking people away in the system — that's enforcing a hard, rigid, impermeable, inflexible boundary between people in your system. It is a drastic measure that cuts off communication in your system.
It also probably frightens the other people who have not misbehaved because they think if they cross a line or misbehave, they'll also end up in jail. So it can also disturb other relationships in your system to see somebody being excluded and punished and isolated, all of which are very, very frightening to people who have been abused. So within a system, sometimes everybody is isolated in some way, and that can be reflected visually, the internal landscape — or not — but if everybody is isolated from one another and still fighting over front, then that's usually when you end up switching and losing time, because there's no way to share between those impermeable, rigid boundaries. You can't share awareness. You can't share information. You can't share consciousness through these rigid hard boundaries. Sometimes, whether you can see your internal reality or not, sometimes you need to start working on revamping it, and in this case, the very first step I would suggest is installing a communication mechanism. Okay, whether it's a PA system (public address system), intercom system, telephone system, even cups with strings, whatever it takes, mouse holes that you can whisper through and pass notes to each other, windows, doors, anything that allows the possibility of things passing through — but not just tearing all the walls down because there may be people who would be as equally frightened, being suddenly exposed, as they are frightened being entirely alone, if that makes any sense.
So the name of the episode isn't boundaries, it's Boundaries and Empathy, so you might be wondering what is it that empathy has to do with this? Obviously there's a lot to do with boundaries and internal reality, but empathy is not only within our system, but usually it's regarding an external person and our internal emotional reality.
Empathy is the normal skill of being sensitive to other people's emotional states. Does that make any sense? Empathy is a normal skill of being sensitive to other people's emotional states. So a normal person should be able to say, "Ooh, that kid is crying," and feel a little bad. Okay, so they, they understand the pain of a child, or they understand somebody is angry, etc. So one of the things that kind of relies on, empathy is watching movies. They drag you in with emotional content and you sympathize with the characters. That's normal empathy. You get drawn into the story and you feel a little bit of what they're feeling, and that's normal. It's evocative, so you're sensitive to other people's emotions. Being empathic is a good skill to have. That's the skill of making accommodations for other people's emotions. That's making way for them.
It's: they're not feeling too well today; they're depressed. So I'm going to change a little bit of what I'm doing just to make a little room for them to have their time to feel, to — let's say — for grief, that's a really great time. Being empathic, would be making some kind of accommodations because you know somebody is grieving. And then there's a complete lack of empathy. Somebody who doesn't understand, doesn't feel anything when someone else feels pain or suffering, that's more on the dysfunctional end of empathy, the complete and utter lack of caring. You know, it's not even lack of caring — it's being unable to actually sense what somebody is feeling. You can sense when somebody is feeling and say, ah, whatever, and that would be still normal range of empathy, but somebody who completely lacks empathy and cannot empathize, cannot be empathic with others, is on the dysfunctional end.
There's two kinds of empathy that I want to address in particular for my audience. Going to the other end of that spectrum, not "not feeling," but "feeling too much." So this is where boundaries and empathy clash. When you have a damaged boundary system, when you have been emotionally abused, your emotional boundaries are wrecked. They may have holes in them, they may be inappropriate to a situation, you may have wide-open places and then other places where they're rigid, where everything bleeds through, where when somebody is angry, it feels like your getting hurt by it. Where you pick up other people's emotions and you can't tell where another person stops and you begin. "I'm feeling angry. Why am I feeling? Angry? I have no reason to feel angry. Oh, so and so feels angry. That's why I feel angry."
And I've had this so I'm speaking from personal experience. I've had this problem myself and it took many years to recognize that this wasn't a skill or a gift from the universe will though it can be turned into one, and I'll talk about that in a moment. This is not a gift that I'm unable to block other people's emotions out. I mean, it's nice and all to feel what other people are feeling, but when you can't tell what you're feeling because everybody else's feelings are louder than your own, then there is an issue and it caused me such an issue that I was on a crowded subway train, in 1986, and I had a panic attack. I couldn't tell where I ended and other people began. All of these, well forgive me for saying, all these humans, we're pressing up against me. Not just crowded physically, but I was completely crowded out emotionally and spiritually.
I almost didn't exist for a moment, and I started having a panic attack, I started feeling really threatened. All of these hard negative emotions, you know, the apathy on the subway train because everybody's pulling their internal, uh, their um — everybody's trying to tighten up their personal space because there is no room for personal space when you're packed like sardines into a crowded subway car during rush hour. So everybody's pulling into themselves, right? and being very apathetic, they're not extending any kind of empathy to others because they can't afford to in a situation like that. They have to draw in. And I was pulled so deeply inside of myself by all these other people doing that — I had to leave, I had to get out of the [subway] car and I walked from that exit, the next exit to my destination, um, and it was not close. [laughs] So I walked several miles because I just was like, I can't do this. And I was freaking out. I was shaking, I was trembling. I mean, it was, it was bad.
So that's the end we don't want you to be at. We don't want you to be in a place where other people's stuff becomes your stuff and becomes overwhelming to you. That's why I'm pointing this out as something that's very important. And it's going to have an effect on trust issues because while your system is still being pulled to and fro by other people outside of your body, it's much harder to trust your own emotions. "Is this mine? I don't know. I don't know if it's mine. Are other people outside of my body pushing this on me, or is this me?" So what I'm trying to teach or show to you here is that that level of empathy is too much. It's too much. It's raw, it's untrained, it's unskilled, it's — there's no control in the situation.
And for a long time I kind of patted myself on the back: "Ooh, I'm wonderful. I'm an empath. I can feel everybody's emotions; isn't this wonderful?" but at the same time I was lost in the conversation. And I had no skill. I had nothing to bring to the table when it came to these emotions, I just experienced them and couldn't do anything useful with it. So skilled empathy. If you feel like you fall into this raw empathy category, this is you taking it to another level. This is you actually crafting it into something beautiful and special and where it is something you can pat yourself on the back for if you have one of those immodest moments. So skilled empathy is where you tune in to people and you make adjustments, so you're practicing normal empathy and being empathic because you put up some boundaries.
You find ways to make very flexible boundaries so that when people's emotions push against you, there's still a boundary there like that water balloon, OK? So that balloon's towards you and you can feel it, and you can sense it, but it's still separated from you. There's that rubber between you and their emotions and you can still tell this is where I end and this is where you begin. Where you can hold the space for that person's emotions. Where you can still sense it and you can still sympathize with it and you could still be empathic about it without taking it on as a burden. Without it littering your emotional constitution. You know: what emotions can you consist of.
So my realization of this is where I started working with boundaries, and I started examining, "What are my boundaries? Where are my boundaries hole-y?" Like where people have punched holes through by force. My father was very angry when I was a kid and he was probably an empath himself on some level, but he was projecting, so strongly, his anger and other emotions that it tore through my childhood boundaries and left me with very damaged emotional boundaries. My mother was emotionally manipulative. My mother was blackmailing me and all kinds of things. She had much more subtle subterfuge kind of ways.
So my father is very obvious and my mother was more sneaky and that left all kinds of back doors and entrances and guilt and all sorts of littered emotions in my system that were introjected from my mother, so I had to clean house — which I'll talk about in another episode on cording — I had to clean house, figure out what was coming into those boundaries that shouldn't be and get rid of it, so that I could find myself again and figure out, "Oh, this is me. These are my feelings here. These quiet feelings (compared to my father's anger and my mother's — whatever). These are my feelings here. These aren't other people's feelings. This isn't my friend, my neighbor, my boyfriend, my, my, whatever, you know, this is me!" And it was very liberating and I did so by starting to visualize other kinds of boundaries.
That's where I started talking about, you know— clothing! Like picturing I just have emotional clothing is a very healthy, permeable, flexible, very soft, not rigid boundary between me and someone else. It's very giving. It's very comfortable. It's lightweight. It's not bothering anybody.
My magical boundaries, right? My visualized as magical, flexible boundaries, the golden aura around my body, the shields, and so on. These are very flexible, very magical, very lightweight. They don't take a lot of energy from me because it's just part of my aura. I'm not extending energy out in order to keep them there. It's just my aura. It's very gentle, but if somebody comes, tries to step on my toes: shield! I'm sorry, that's not allowed here — and if necessary, in my system, in my internal landscape, we protect one another. Some of us have stronger boundaries. Some of us have weaker boundaries, so it must have flexible, some of us have hard boundaries — our protectors obviously have much harder boundaries than others, so if a situation warrants it, we switch. It's one of the, I think, healthy ways that we — take advantage of? — our multiplicity in order to handle outside life and be the varied landscape of who we are. Yes, one person could have this wide variety of boundaries and employ armor when needed — but we actually like having people to help us out and step in and say, "Uh-uh, no [laughs], you're not doing that, you're not going there; this is wrong."
I urge you to consider what it is that you have going on, and I'm going to put links in the show notes for a bunch of articles that I have on boundaries, cleaning them up, looking at them, etc. The cording and de-cording I'm going to leave for another episode because I'm about 30 minutes in to this episode and cording is a very deep subject — but it's vital to understanding how it is that people get their hooks into us, how it is that they get — we get these attachments and why we get drawn back to perpetrators and why we have such a hard time saying "no" to certain people and so on. But this foundational episode on Boundaries and Empathy is 100% necessary to get to that, and to get to System Trust Issues. So it's gonna fork from here, I'm going to deal with external people with the cording and we're going to deal with the internal people with the system trust issues.
We're going to put some more information in the show notes on this topic, some articles we've written and so on. Very important that you get good education on this and that, if needed, you can turn to trusted professionals. You can turn to your healthcare consultants and say, "Look, I heard this podcast episode that went into boundaries, and I realized I've got these horrible boundaries. I really need to work on this. Can you help me?" Get help to work on boundaries, and make sure yours are healthy and in good condition. And discuss with others in your system: have meetings about boundaries. Say, "Hey, you know, we got to look at our system boundaries, the boundary to the whole system. How's our boundary between external and internal reality? How's our boundary between work and home? How's our boundary between our inner world, you know. How's this working out?"
But work towards it. Don't — this isn't overnight stuff. Okay. Work towards healthy boundaries, work towards comfortable boundaries, work towards boundaries that allow things in and out, when appropriate, and keep things in or out when not appropriate [laughs].
Oh, here's an interesting one. I know somebody who is on the, he's on the autistic spectrum. He may be dissociative and he's a bit hyperactive at times, right? So he may be ADHD and so on. He has a boundary issue between what he thinks and what he says. So when he thinks something, it comes out of his mouth unchecked. So that's another kind of boundary problem. When you think something and it comes out of your mouth without ever saying, "Is this something I should be saying here? Is this something I should say to this person? Is this appropriate here and now?"
There is no checkpoint between the internal, the external world. Like if you think about checkpoints between countries. Right? So you have your like border patrol and and you have customs and things like that where they check your luggage, you know, [laughs] they make sure things like agricultural products aren't being transferred from one country to another and introducing new diseases and things like that. So they check to make sure that what's passing through is appropriate.
Well this person's internal and external territories do not have a custom check at the border. [laughs] So there's no customs, like everything just goes right across the boundary. So that's another kind of boundary to keep an eye on is you know, that's why boundaries keep things in and keep things out. It's not just one way, it's both ways. So sometimes you have something going on inside. You don't necessarily think this is the time and place for it, and you wait until later and talk to the right person, you know, somebody that you have a better trust with — that's appropriate monitoring of that kind of a boundary.
So that saId, keep in mind that, as we've been traumatized, our boundaries may not be very healthy. They may be inappropriately hard, they may be inappropriately hole-y, and we need to figure out a way to get them to a place where what passes through is what's supposed to pass through, what passes through is safe to pass through, and that goes both from the inside to the outside and from the outside to the inside: "As Inside, So Outside (and Vice Versa)" right here in boundary-land.
And good luck with this. Let me know if you need help.

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Many Minds on the Issue. Your Patreon support will keep this podcast coming. You can find more information, resources, and our Patreon link at K-I-N-H-O-S-T-dot-org