Fence to keep out deer

Internal vs. External Boundaries

Where training is possible, external boundaries can be replaced by internal ones.

I first noticed it with dogs. A well-trained dog doesn’t need a leash or a cage. A well-trained dog can go places that a poorly trained dog can’t go, because it has learned the boundaries and can be trusted.

Animals that can learn not to pee and poop in a house can wander about the house freely; animals that can’t learn that are usually kept in a cage or kept outside. Because of this, most people are willing to have a dog or cat roaming freely in the house, but not a rabbit or parrot.

People aren’t so different. Before children are trusted to be responsible, their freedoms are limited.

I have adult friends whom I love with whom I have boundaries. They may be as incapable of learning to respect my boundaries as a rabbit is of learning to control where it poops. It doesn’t make them unlovable (think of how lovable rabbits are), it just means it’s up to me to hold my boundary and protect my space, unless I’m willing to deal with the consequences (my choices are the equivalent of keeping rabbits out of my house, being willing to clean up after them, or living amidst piss and shit).

Part of getting to know people is finding out what their boundaries are and respecting them. Sometimes people don’t even know they have a boundary until it gets crossed! I truly value people that understand and respect my boundaries, especially if they do it through reading my body language and tone of voice, because I can relax around them in a way I cannot relax around people who either don’t perceive my boundaries or are unwilling or unable to respect them.

Some people don’t like other people’s boundaries, and are resistant to respecting them. Perhaps in their mind, it’s that person’s problem that they have a boundary or a button, and it’s not up to them to worry about crossing the boundary or pushing the button. For me, I do my best not to take it personally. A rabbit can’t really comprehend the concept of being house-trained; even having an awareness of when it is pooping and peeing might be beyond its capabilities, and then distinguishing “inside” from “outside” beyond that would really stretch its brain, and then knowing why pooping outside is ok when pooping inside isn’t just seems beyond the capacity of a rabbit.

Similarly, someone might have a boundary that I can’t even begin to understand, rooted in their deep subconscious or based on axiomatic beliefs that are totally different than mine. What I do have, however, is the basic ability to read body language, to know when I’m pushing someone’s buttons, and to avoid the behavior that pushes those buttons. So whether I understand why their boundary exists or not, I can choose to respect it. It’s true there have been a few cases where it was impossible for me to respect someone else’s boundaries without crossing my own, or, to put it another way, to avoid pushing their buttons without getting mine pushed. In those cases, distance and non-interaction have been my main recourse, because I won’t respect someone else’s boundary more than I respect my own if the two are incompatible.

I guess I like to respect boundaries whenever possible because if I were a dog, I would much rather be the well-trained dog that can have freedom of movement because I’m trusted than the dog that has to be put in a cage or kept on a leash because I will mess shit up if left to my own devices. In that sense, I see respecting boundaries as increasing the freedom I experience, rather than limiting it.

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