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Setting Boundaries with Your Inner Kids

By Dr. Phyllis Stein
April 24, 2008

Learning to set inner boundaries is just as important as setting outer boundaries for the creation of an inner world of compassion and loving kindness.

Setting loving boundaries is an important part of being a loving adult.  Our loving adult, out of deep compassion for ourselves, does not allow others to treat us badly.  We have decided that we do not deserve to be treated with anything but loving kindness and do not tolerate abuse.  What has become clear to me is that this needs to be applied on the inner level too.  The loving adult acts as the loving parent for what turns out to be a whole family of inner children of different ages.  As we do the Inner Bonding process, we re-parent these younger selves, healing their false beliefs and providing the love and safety that they so deeply need.  However, in many, if not most cases, some of these wounded inner children are acting out.  They are, literally abusing the younger ones - judging them, shaming them, blaming them, hating them, causing intense pain.  Some of them are literally harming the body they share with the others.   Many people believe that until we can dialog these wounded selves into healing, there is no alternative to putting up with their actions.

If this were a real family, and you were a real, loving parent in charge it of, would you allow some of your children to abuse or harm their siblings?  I don’t think so.  Would you yell at or otherwise abuse the child who is acting out?  I don’t think so.  So what could you do?   First, after realizing that you deserve to have loving kindness on the inner level too, you could set a clear inner boundary with this wounded, acting out child.  “This behavior is hurtful and will not be tolerated.”  This is equivalent to sending this child to his or her room or maybe to “sitting on” it.  This is refusing to listen and walking away.  This is a firm boundary.  “You are not allowed to do this, and I will not listen to you when you try.”   But at the same time, just as with the outer actions that we learn to take, it is a loving boundary.  You have love and compassion for this hurting child and for the ones that he or she is hurting by acting out.  You are willing to discover and take the job that he or she is trying to do.  You are in the intent to learn with this child, but you are NOT willing to allow him or her to hurt the others.

An interesting thing can happen when our loving adult is able to send this child to its room.  It can create space for something else, for guidance, for the loving action.  It is as if this wounded child’s energy has been taking over the whole system, like a bully on the playground, and drowning out every other possibility.  Indeed, that is why people often feel like this part is too strong, that they cannot control it.  Again, I come back to the real parent in a real family.  If a child were acting out and hurting the others, you would not allow it to continue and give up because the abusive child seemed too strong.  You would know, at the deepest level that your job is to keep all of your children safe and learn to do whatever it takes to make that happen. So setting loving boundaries is an inside as well as an outside job.  We need to fully accept that our inner kids deserve to feel safe and that the lack of safety also comes from the inside, from our not setting any boundaries.  Then we can take the sacred job of setting internal boundaries, of stopping the inner abuse and creating an inner world of compassion and loving kindness for our beloved kids.


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Today, try an experiment. Focus all day on everything you are grateful for, and choose to have compassion rather than judgment for yourself and others. At the end of the day, notice how terrific you feel!


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Today, try an experiment. Focus all day on everything you are grateful for, and choose to have compassion rather than judgment for yourself and others. At the end of the day, notice how terrific you feel!



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