There are many different types of boundaries — physical, emotional, and energetic are just a few. This article, written by Rev. Connie L. Habash, MA, LMFT, explains how we can use the concept of “Me/Not-Me” to create emotional boundaries that protect our energy and help us preserve our sense of self rather than becoming entangled in other people’s beliefs, feelings, and problems. This concept is especially useful to those who tend to people-please, have codependent traits, are empaths, or are highly sensitive. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
Ever had this experience – you’re having a great day, feeling just fine, and suddenly you feel like crap? What happened? Where did those upsetting emotions come from? Well, it’s possible they may not have come from you!
Emotions are contagious
All of us have had the experience of being affected by someone else’s emotions. We know what it’s like to be around someone who is in a fit of rage, and it isn’t pleasant. We’ve probably also experienced being in the presence of another who is in the depths of despair. It can be uncomfortable and awkward; but more than that, emotions can be contagious. Even the ecstatic joy of someone getting married can uplift us as much as a friend’s depression can dampen the mood.
Occasionally, we experience more than just picking up on someone else’s emotions: we may feel that we’ve absorbed them like a sponge. This isn’t limited to feelings, either; if someone else’s beliefs, opinions, or ideas are strong and persistent, we may unconsciously take on the stress, attitudes, and perspectives of another.
Boundaries distinguish what’s you and what’s not you
If you have challenges setting boundaries, are codependent, or are a highly sensitive person, you may find it particularly difficult to deal with other people who have intense emotions, opinions, or just a strong presence. It may be challenging to discern what is really you and what is someone else’s influence on you. You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed, invaded, angry, or confused at the incoming energy of their mental or emotional “stuff”.
Ringing any bells? If so, it’s time to explore a whole new awareness of boundaries. Setting boundaries isn’t just about speaking your truth or establishing limits. It necessitates a more subtle, different kind of awareness.
That awareness is described by a practice known as “Me/Not-Me” that I learned years ago while studying Bioenergetics. This is a method of separating out your own energy, emotions, and thoughts from anyone else’s. It is declaring boundary around your sense of self and maintaining it.
Boundaries protect our “energetic space”
Think of yourself as a house. Your home is your personal space: you wouldn’t allow anyone to just waltz right in, would you? How would you feel if someone simply walked right through your front door, over to your refrigerator and starting eating your food? Bathing in your shower? No way, you say! But when we aren’t maintaining our own personal energetic space, we allow other’s thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and influence to take over ours, and we feel similarly invaded and confused.
“Me/Not-Me” helps you declare your own personal, energetic space, and keeps out what isn’t yours. When you practice “Me/Not-Me”, you’ll tend to feel more safe, stable, and strong in almost any situation. It prevents the tendency to take on the emotional content from others, clarifies your own thoughts and feelings, and allows you to respond to relationships more effectively. It will also support you in creating overt boundaries, such as setting limits, because you’ll feel clear about who you are and what you stand for.
Applying the“Me/Not-Me” concept of boundaries
A great description of “Me/Not-Me” can be found in The 5 Personality Patterns by Steven Kessler, but here is a simple practice to get you started:
- Sit or stand quietly in a safe place where you can be alone. Close your eyes.
- Say your name to yourself. Feel the sense of “Me” (i.e., you) when you say it. Attune to the feeling of being truly yourself.
- Imagine a circle of light around you, in any color, about 2-3 feet in all directions. This serves as your energetic boundary. Declare to yourself and the Universe that the space inside this is your space, just for you alone. Anything that is “Not-Me” is not permitted entry into this space, and needs to stay outside of the circle.
- Say your name again a few times, and clear out anything “Not-Me” from your personal space. You can imagine it leaving in any way you wish; I like to visualize grey smoke blowing away, leaving my space clear.
- Then, when you are out and about around other people, regularly declare your “Me/Not-Me” by visualizing your energetic boundary, and that other people’s energies bounce off it. You can meet their thoughts, feelings, and emotions with understanding and compassion out at the edge of “your space” in your imagination, but their energy isn’t allowed entry!
It takes practice, but if you work with this a while you will find that you’re less affected by other people’s psychological issues, and you stand more steady and clear in knowing who you truly are.
About the author:
Rev. Connie L. Habash, MA, LMFT, is passionate about spiritual awakening in everyday life. She brings together body, mind, heart and spirit as an ordained Interfaith Minister, Yoga and meditation teacher, and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with a practice in Menlo Park, CA. Find more inspiration by Rev. Connie on her website, AwakeningSelf.com and her Facebook page.
Copyright ©2017 by Rev. Connie L. Habash
Photo by Richard Jaimes via Unsplash.com