Why You Should Set Boundaries with Family and How to do it

Do you have trouble setting boundaries with family and friends. Sometimes if we get a little shock from someone calling us on our thinking it can help, especially when we are in a hypnotic state.  This interaction I’ve had with many a client (including myself) may help you.  Pretend you are my client and know that I only have the best of intentions for your happiness. Even though I am a little tough here.  

If this doesn’t help you, you may need some deeper work done, but don’t worry, this is 100% fixable in most cases.  

CLIENT: I am so tired.  It’s my mother and my sister.  My mother always tells me how badly my sister is doing.  My sister is always short of money.  I just paid her car note again.   I worry about her all the time.  And,  I fell so guilty, like it’s my fault when things don’t go well for her. Everything seems to be up to me.  I am so tired of it.

ME:  Why are you so cruel to her? 

CLIENT:  What?

ME:  Why do you give her the message that she is weak and can’t do it on her own?  Why do you have to show everyone that you are the Hero?  

CLIENT:  I am just trying to help!

ME:  But you don’t believe in her.

CLIENT:  Well I’d certainly like her to do things on her own, but she always messes everything up.

ME: How do you find out that she messed up?

CLIENT: She or my mother calls me.

ME: What do you do then?

CLIENT:  I feel scared she will go into a deep depression and since I make more money than she does, I feel guilty if I don’t help her out.   So, I call her as soon as I can and tell her I’ll find the money somehow and not to worry.

ME:  How long after you hear about her problem do you call  to comfort her?

CLIENT: I call her just as soon as I can.  I love her!

ME:  Wait.

CLEINT:  What do you mean?

ME: Wait a few hours or a few days.  See what happens. Do an experiment.  You might be surprised.  Have you ever given her time to figure it out herself?    When you talk to her, tell her you believe in her.  Tell her from now on you are going to be so happy to hear how well she fixes her problems.  And apologize.

ClLIENT:  Wait, what?

ME: Tell her you have been wrong and that you are sorry that you didn’t believe in her. Tell her that from now on you are going to watch how smart she is and how strong she is.  Tell her you can’t wait for her to show you how amazing and capable she is.  Tell her it might be hard, but that you know she can do it.  

CLIENT:  Oh my God,  that is a good idea!  I never say any of that and I don’t wait at all. 

ME: Yeah.  I have a sister just like her.  And I was just like you.  I wanted to be the hero in the family.  I finally realized how cruel that was.  I also realized that I wasn’t God. 

CLIENT: I don’t understand the God part.

ME:  A greater power than you and I put her in this life.  She is his responsibility.  He knows the challenges your sister needs so she can grow.  All I was doing was meddling where I shouldn’t, in God’s stuff.

I learned a lot from a grandmother I spoke to once. She said “you have to let children get bloody.  They have to fall.  They have to get scraped by trees and concrete.  They have bang their heads sometimes. And they definitely, definitely have to cry.”  

I was a bit stunned , because she said it in such a callous way, but then she went on to say something that had a  profound effect on me.  She said, “They have to get hurt like that  because, believe me, I’d  rather clean up blood than drool.”

What did she mean?  You see babies, the sick, and the weak people lie in their beds or sit in their wheel chairs and drool.  They need constant care.  You gotta spoon feed them, clean up puke and wipe their bottoms for them.  Do you want to clean up drool for the rest of your life?  Drool can go on a long time as you baby somebody, but blood, you just wipe it up and put a band-aide on it.  They’re  good to go. 

CLIENT: Uh, wow. 

ME: Let your sister grow up.  And stand up to your mother.  

CLIENT:  Stand up to my mother?  How?  

ME: Just say, “Mom, I am going to believe in Dina’s ability to take care of her own problems and I hope you will join me.  We have actually been hurting her and that is cruel.  We have given her the message that she is weak.  That isn’t love.  We certainly have not been believing in her.  Mom,  I’m stepping back from Dinas life.  I’m not going to be there for her in the same way.  I might give her encouragement, or advice, but that’s about it.  I hope you’ll join me, but either way, I am going to be much kinder to her.  So, I don’t want to hear about her problems anymore.    It doesn’t help anyone.  And it’s been hurting my mental and physical health to constantly worry about her.  From now on I”ll be reminding you and you can remind me to just change the subject.  

CLIENT:  She’ll weave Dina back into the conversation.

ME: Stop her.  You have to train her.  Tell her as many times as it takes that you really don’t want to talk about this and that you are going to hang up now because it goes in circles and makes everyone feel bad.  You can even say, “I’m going to hang up now, but I’ll call back later and we’ll try again then”.  Say it in a very nice and loving way. 

CLIENT: I can do that.

ME:  In life you train people how to treat you.  Be kind, but be firm and train her.  Your mother wants you in her life.  After she learns you are going to consistently cut her off and may even hang up, she’ll stop.  Your leverage is that she doesn’t want to lose you.  Time to talk about positive things. And in this way everyone will begin to have to look for and think of positive things.  Then, more often positive things will be attracted to all of you.  Life will improve for all of you.

CLIENT:  I’m done being cruel.  This is kind of exciting actually!

ME:  It’s going to be fun too.  It’s going to be fun to see your Mom and sister grow and to know you had a hand in it will make your relationship much more fulfilling for you.  

Now, just one more word of advice.  There may come a time when it would make sense to help out.  I’m not saying don’t ever help out.  My sister has mental and physical problems that can make life difficult for her.  She really does have challenges, but she also is capable of doing a good deal for herself.  So long as she is really putting effort into taking care of things herself, I’ll help a a bit when it’s just sensible. 

Sometimes it can be very hard to figure out when to step in and when to hang back.  So, every once in a while, when she has an “emergency” I do still help her out, but never as a knee jerk reaction.  I wait.  And I believe in her.  Since I began to do that she has astounded me with the creative ways she now takes care of her own problems.    In the end, all I am trying to say is, sometimes doing less is the most you can do to help someone. 

Celeste Hackett