To create boundaries or not to create boundaries, that is the question…
I can tell you from personal experience about living with an open heart (without boundaries) and living with boundaries. I fell into the trap (as do others) of believing that living with an open heart is the epitome of love and/or spirituality. I learned it from my “boundary-less” mother and through spiritual teachings I encountered as I lived my life.
I had a significant other for several years who started off sweet and devoted and slowly became emotionally abusive and philandering. After each insult, disrespectful act, and lie, I would say to myself, “I refuse to close down my heart. I am committed to living with an open heart.” It wasn’t until I broke up with him that he began to respect me. I had a small inkling about something then, but couldn’t exactly define what it was.
After learning about boundaries through my Equine Alchemy Life Coaching training and my Dynamic Emotional Integration® licensing course, I’ve come to realize that living with an open heart (without boundaries) is NOT empathic and is actually detrimental to self-respect and earning the respect of others.
Developing horse sense
I’ve come to realize that living with an open heart (without boundaries) is NOT empathic and is actually detrimental to self-respect and earning the respect of others.
Every herd (as long as there are 2 or more horses), has a leader. If the herd is lucky, it will be a lead mare or a benevolent gelding.
What quality is most important for a lead mare? Strong boundaries. These strong boundaries allow her to have a protected area around her, giving her confidence, self-respect, and a sense of peace.
How does she set those boundaries? By making it very clear to others in the herd where her boundary is.
At first, she flicks her ears back, and flares her nostrils. If that signal is ignored, she flattens her ears back against her head and moves toward the offending herd member. If that doesn’t work, she bares her teeth and gives a nip.
For stubborn boundary offenders, she turns her butt toward them and kicks. They always get THAT message.
What emotion would you call that? It’s our boundary defender, anger. I think it’s worthy to note that she starts with the smallest action first, and only escalates her actions when needed. After everyone in the herd agrees she’s the lead mare… A single movement of her ear or eye contact will make boundary incursions a thing of the past.
Thank you, Anger! Setting good boundaries keeps peace in the herd … And it works the same way for families or other groups.
When we have no boundaries, the emotion of fear (whose job it is to alert us to something new around us) has to patrol everything that is in sight. That requires a LOT of energy and we live on our tippy toes, taking shallow breaths, waiting to react.
When we set a boundary and are willing to defend it (so our psyche knows and trusts that we will do our part), our fear only has to focus its most intense protective energy to the edge of our boundary. It still patrols to the outer edges of our awareness, but uses less energy for that. This requires much less energy and helps us be more calm and inviting to others.
Thank you, Fear! You keep us safe!
That is how the lead mare becomes the lead mare. Her calm energy, keen intuition, self-respect, and demonstrated ability to defend herself invites the other horses to trust her.
The lead mare, because of her appropriate balance between self-care and inviting presence, leads the herd to the best grazing land and the cleanest water source, and she provides discernment between what is dangerous and what is not.
My passion (and my business) focuses on teaching others to successfully work with their emotions and create balance between self-care, boundaries, and empathy. If you are interested in learning more, contact me.
Bobbi McIntyre is a Licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® Trainer. She lives in Nokesville, Virginia, and offers workshops throughout the Mid-Atlantic and South East areas. Bobbi is a certified Equine-Assisted life coach and a retired US Navy Captain with over 35 years in corporate leadership. Her DEI teaching focuses on empathy and empathic communication skills to promote healthy relationships at home and at work. Her engaging and interactive workshops focus on the wisdom in emotions and how to work with them to create a balanced and healthy life.