Abuse and Boundaries

If we’re abused as children, our personal boundaries are violated in the worst way. Just when we should be learning who we are and how to be safe in the world, we instead learn about being unsafe. And often the perpetrators are the very people who were supposed to take care of us.

This is very confusing for a child, and sets us up for a lifetime of confusion about how to set appropriate boundaries. It could be the boss or co-worker who “just assumes” you’ll do extra work. It could be the father or uncle who keeps making inappropriate remarks. It can be ongoing physical abuse from a spouse or lover. It can be a friend's unreasonable expectations. Those of us who were abused often find it hard to say no or to draw a line.

First I think it’s important to identify and understand what we are feeling. In me, it’s the helpless voice of my inner child that says, “There’s nothing you can do. He’ll get his way. You have no power.” I remember a time when I had obtained a huge grant for my department. A male colleague stepped into my office to ask for money, and as he towered over me, I felt afraid that I’d have to say yes, even though objectively I had the power in that situation. I felt small and shaky inside, although in fact I handled the exchange professionally.

After we identify the old feelings, we can begin to realize that we are no longer powerless and to take the steps to say no.  I start by talking with my inner child and reassuring her that things are different now. However, I’m not saying it’s as easy as a simple inner conversation turning things around. It usually takes the long-term help of a good therapist as well as some serious inner transformation before we can stand up and “just say no” to those who violate our boundaries.


Unknown said...

Hello Jane,

My name is Marilyn Fowler. I recently noticed your blog, and it seems that many of your subjects are similar to mine. I love what you write and I was wondering if you would like to link blogs.

My blog address is marilyngf.blogspot.com, and my email is mgraf9@yahoo.ca.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane

I think for me the problem is not the lack of power, its the strength of my inner child trying to regain power. This is creating me no amount of issues in my relationship and i am currently working to get it right.

If you fancy a read;


Jane Rowan said...

Thanks, Serenity,
I read your blog and I see what you are saying. For me it has been tricky to find the balance of Inner Child and Inner Grownup (see my post on IG). The kind adult in me needs to be able to hold and love the Child, while setting some inner boundaries as well. I love those kids and nurture them, but they are not in charge of what I do.

Thanks for writing. I feel nourished by seeing other people's work.

Amy said...

hi jane,

happened upon your blog just after starting one very similiar. I have two actually, one for my daily life and my family and one for me. i'm having a hard time writing about some of the things that happened to me. i can talk about these things, but when it comes to putting it down in print it's much harder. any advice? i have been in and out of therapy for years and thought i had moved on from a lot of this...boy did that thought come back to haunt me. Anyway, thanks for writing your story and I hope that it has given you some sense of peace. I am hoping writing mine does that for me.



if you are interested those are the links to my blogs...i would love for you to stop by and tell me what you think.

Jane Rowan said...

Hi amy,
I read your blog and wow, so powerful, so many bad signs and kinds of abuse. These things do affect us for a long, long time and we'll never be the people we might have been--on the other hand, I believe we may be more sensitive and compassionate in good ways.

As for writing, I had to write for a long, long time just for myself, before I was ready to put any of this out in the world. It was so important for me to sort through it and understand it, get some kind of grip on it, before exposing my writing to the gaze of the world. I hope you'll keep writing if it is useful to you, and check in with yourself to see when it is right to keep to yourself and when it is right to blog it.

All the best in your journey,