Boundaries and sacred personal space

I lost my boundaries. It was a soul destroying experience, over a number of years, underpinned by people who felt entitled to use me any way they liked and expected me to be grateful. Looking back I see parallel things happening in a number of relationships, not all of it domestic and some of it deliberately caused by professionals. I learned not to have an opinion, nothing was private, nothing was mine. I had no right to refuse, and therefore no way of holding boundaries.

As I became conscious of this, I locked down in every way I could. We had very few visitors to the boat, and in part that was because I did not like sharing it. That was my safe space, I guarded the threshold fiercely. I created emotional distance from everyone except my husband and child, and I reinforced that with physical distance. I was profoundly uncomfortable with even the idea of most people touching me, and made sure opportunities did not arise.

I held my boundaries very close, very tight. It felt safer that way. I felt stronger and less afraid, I’d built my castle and I could sit in it and resist efforts to besiege me if necessary. I was not going out to be bloodied in combat again.
And then we moved.

All of a sudden we had an address people could find, and it was reasonable to expect me to show up. I’d planned a gentle, cautious return to normal life in which I would lower my defences in gradual, carefully considered ways, and never so far as to feel exposed. Life apparently had other plans for me, with a startling rush of human contact, places to be, jobs to do, and most of all, people who put hands on me. People I did not know well. It’s been a bit of a system shock.

I can’t live where I was, it was a straightjacket as much as a defence strategy. I don’t actually know how to handle normal situations with normal, friendly, tactile people, and that’s not a comfortable realisation. I’m never entirely sure what’s ok, what’s too much, where I could reasonably draw lines. I can’t have no edges, I can’t be more wall than person, there’s got to be something in between and I need to figure out where that is.

I suspect what I have to do, is figure out what I want. For me. For whatever reasons strike me as being important. I know, logically, that I have a right to hold whatever boundaries I wish, and for whatever reason. It is evident that I’m not clear of my past because I still don’t feel that entitlement to do what I need without having to justify it. I still expect people to take issue and demand I do differently. I still find it hard to say ‘please don’t put hands on me’ when perhaps it would be ok to do so. I don’ trust people to hear that and not get angry with me, and again that’s history speaking and nothing to do with the character of any given individual.

The road back to some kind of viable, non-anxious, not-depressed life is a long and complex one. Every time I think I’m there, I find a new thing I have to deal with and unravel. One day, this will stop. In the meantime, I’m going to hold that thought of personal space as sacred space as best I can, and try to bring something a bit more spiritual to this need to sort out where my edges need to be.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Boundaries and sacred personal space

  • RavenSeven

    I can fully understand what you mean here. In the past, when I have found myself feeling a bit too open, I have used my silence as a form of sacred space. If I watched other people and what they said, it gave me insight into where they were coming from. Some were defensive, some aggressive, some nice and some just delightful. But watching people comment and listen to the types of words and language they used proved very enlightening. Also, I started to ask general sorts of questions i.e. what part of the country are you from? etc. These mechanisms did allow me a buffer zone between open me and other people. I love reading your posts as they always resonate so clearly with my druid path too.

  • Idadh Crone

    i agree it is often almost impossible to cope with constant changes that affect our lives and this impacts on our own personal sacred took me a good while to sort out my space within the staff where i work at one point the atmosphere was so bad that i felt it drain any energy from me as soon as i got to work my only defence was to withdraw into my space for protection. watching and listening to people to allow me space enough to learn how to deal with the situation.

    three years later that is all sorted though i still watch a listen a good deal but that is me.

    more recently i have had to withdraw into my own personal sacred grove again and i am still there a good deal of the time especially when it comes to my spiritual path but i will learn and grow from this experience……

  • Little Green Footsteps

    I agree with both replies above, thank you for sharing! I can relate in terms of awkwardness in social situations, I never know what’s the right way to react or the right way to say things. Too often I’ve found conversations die stone cold after I’ve put my two pence in… it’s a horrible feeling and destroys my confidence. My personal challenge at the moment is learning to not care what others think and be myself, as in my extreme concern for how others see me I sacrifice too much of ‘me.’
    Love and light x

  • Terra Maple Forester

    It’s easy to feel we are wrong on this. On one, side, it’s easy to feel we are not assertive enough, to feel that we let people take advantage of use. On the other side, it’s easy to feel that we are too uptight, too selfish, too standoffish. It’s easy to feel both sides at the same time. It may not be so much a matter of your being messed up by your past. It seems to me that it’s pretty normal to feel these kinds of things. It’s normal to be afraid of offending someone by saying “please don’t put hands on me.” I think often we move to one extreme for fear of the other extreme: we are to accommodating for fear of being too standoffish, or we are too standoffish for fear of being too accommodating. But all we can do is trust our instincts to guide as us we stumble forward.

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