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----more----Mark: Welcome back to the wonders. Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Mark.
Yucca: And I'm Yucca.
Mark: And today we are going to talk about boundaries. Really important concept for relationships and for our mental health, a really important concept for a practicing rituals with one another. Just basically an important concept to be aware of and to have tools in the kit to be able to manifest when necessary in your life.
Yucca: Exactly and something very important to keep in mind. As we move into the season of Beltane. This is something that can come up maybe a little bit less this year when there will be fewer in-person gatherings, but still just to a critical concept.
Mark: Right. And in my experience in going to festivals in the pagan community and so forth there is that kind of American mistake of being really amped about our rights and freedoms and maybe not so focused on our responsibilities. And I feel as though the way that we can have healthy lusty play and all that kind of stuff is for people to get really good with the concept of boundaries. Very, very clear about the concept of consent,
Mark: Because what consent is saying this behavior that we are engaging in together is within the boundary of what I consider to be okay. And that's very different than, well, I'm going to figure that out later or,
Yucca: I'm just not going to think about it.
Mark: going to think about it. Yeah.
All of those kinds of things, which are very problematic and fundamentally mean that that whatever behavior you're involved in is not consensual.
Yucca: and before we go any further, I think that it's worth mentioning that someone else's boundaries is not a reflection on your worth. Right. What's somebody else's comfortable with what they want with their, how they are treated their emotions, their body, despite what decades of social programming tells you, that's about them. That's not you and your worth.
Mark: Right. And it can be very hard to be rejected in some way and not take it personally in that sense. And that's why it's really important that we work on our self-esteem because it helps us to get through those moments when we're not getting what we want and it doesn't feel so great.
Yucca: So maybe a good place to start would be talking about what are boundaries and what are boundaries not.
Mark: Okay. Great. Great. Well, the fundamental idea of a boundary is literally what it sounds like. It's like a fence around you, right? you define a certain amount of personal space and that can be physical space. It can be emotional space can be psychological space and there's a fence around it that you don't feel comfortable letting anyone in without making a deliberate agreement to do so. And if someone pushes their way past that fence, it feels uncomfortable and you feel invaded. and. So it's really important for us to understand what are our natural limits? what are the places that feel comfortable for us and the places that don't feel comfortable as well as how do we articulate those with other people and how do we, what are the techniques we can use to assert that?
And we'll be talking somewhat about that later on. So when you think about boundaries what kind of definitions do you use? Yucca?
Yucca: Sure. Well, there's lots of different kinds of boundaries. There's physical and emotional social, all of those. But I tend to think of boundaries as what you are establishing is not okay to do to you, not what you want somebody to do to you, but what is not okay for them to do to you. It is a boundary to say it's not okay to call me names. Right. It's not okay to use derogative terms. It's not okay to, it's not okay for you to stand that close to me. Thank you. Right. That it's you are using the term limits before, right? That you've got limits there. And it's about your personal safety and that it really is about the individuals about you choosing what your limits are and what your boundaries are.
Mark: Yes. And you can tell when your boundaries have been invaded, when they've been violated by the fact that you don't feel safe. if you feel in some way coerced or threatened or uncomfortable and kind of icky any of those feelings that tells you that somebody has pushed in past your boundaries in a way that you didn't agree to let them do. And that be then becomes a good time to assert your boundary and say, I'm not comfortable with this, or could you stand a little further away or, you know, could you please lower your voice? while we talk about this thing, that's really hard for us to talk about because I'm not going to be screamed at I'm just not.
Yucca: Yeah. Or towered over,
Mark: yes. Right. and What this leads to, however, is that we need to understand what those limits are. And one of the challenges of asserting healthy boundaries in our culture is that our culture is not about healthy boundaries at all. Not even a little bit. We are invaded by advertising trying to sell us stuff in every possible way, all the time, such that we consider it and we don't want it, but it's done to us anyway.
And we're so we're accustomed to having things done to us that we don't want, and that we're expected to accept. Anyway,
Yucca: And advertisements that's a great example. And we could look at other examples too, like the way that we're taught from very young age that you have to give that family member a hug, whether you want to or not, or if grandma wants to kiss and squeeze your cheeks then they get to, and yeah, I don't know if this happens with men as much, but you know, with women, we get told to smile and to, you know, the way that we present ourselves, we get told how to be in what to do.
And that's just.
Mark: it's normal, but it's screwed up. And it's really not, it's not the kind of normal that we are working to try to build in the world because the world that we would like to live in is a world where people are mutually respectful. And that means that they acknowledge the limits that other people put around themselves.
And that means that if a toddler doesn't want to hug grandma, then they don't have to. They don't have to. And it's really on the adult who has who should have a much clearer understanding of all this stuff to go that's okay.
Yucca: that's fine.
Mark: yeah it's I'm not going to take that personally.
I'm not going to assume that I've been insulted I'm just, you know, it's a toddlers whim and the toddlers whim is their right to assert and off they go. So that brings us into this conversation about challenges. I think that the biggest challenge facing people in. Kind of Western cultures and I just can't speak to other cultures.
so I'm not saying that it's better or worse. I just know that it's
Yucca: it's yeah. It's outside of our experience. Yeah.
Mark: is that there is so much encouragement to please one another. That and particularly for women to please men and for children to please adults and, you know, for people on the lower end of a power dynamic to do stuff that pleases the people that are at the higher end of a power dynamic that it can become very difficult to know what your own boundaries are because you're so busy trying to throw satisfying behavior at that other person. And it's a very unhealthy dynamic. It's really just not, it's not the way that we best work together.
Yucca: Yeah. and it gets reinforced because there is reward out of it. Right. You get a little bit, get a little bit back in that power dynamic, but never quite enough that you ended up being equal.
Mark: Right, right. And it establishes establishes patterns. We're now. Okay. Now we're in this, this reciprocal economic relationship, where I give you certain kinds of attention and allow you past my boundaries in certain ways, because because I don't dare say anything and you are nice to me, right. That's that transactional kind of relationship is very unhealthy and ultimately unsustainable, if you're going to be a self-aware grounded mentally healthy person in my opinion so. let's look at some examples of ways that boundaries can be difficult to establish or that unhealthy boundaries can be set up. we were talking about pig and festivals and I dunno how many of our listeners have been to pagan festivals. But I'm assuming a good number have and they to be pretty lively.
Party-like affairs where you'll have a big bonfire and people will be dancing and it'll be in, people will be drinking or using other substances. And and it's all very Dionysiac which is fine. It's great. People enjoy all that kind of stuff. It's fine up until the point where somebody approaches somebody else who doesn't want to be approached.
And at that point, there is the need to assert a boundary and there's the need to receive the assertion of a boundary in a respectful way. Those are the two sides of boundaries. It's not just asserting them. It's also being able to respect them when they are asserted for you.
Yucca: yeah. And recognizing that the boundaries can change.
Right. What started out feeling okay for somebody might shift and it might've started seeming like a yes. But the moment that there's a no, that's it's a no
Mark: That's right. That's right. Yeah, it has to stop. And so, you know, if you're at that bonfire and someone approaches you and says, Hey, would you like to go to my tent? And at the time you're like, yeah, this sounds actually like a super great idea. But halfway to the tent, you realize, what am I doing? I don't even know this person which is not necessarily a bad thing either, but for many people it's a criteria. And I'm going to change my mind about this. The only acceptable response to that is. Okay. let's go back to the fire. Oh.
This is on a kind of extreme level. It doesn't have to be something like we're going to have sex or not. It can be how close you are to someone. What kinds of things you're talking about in the conversation? Are you demanding that they be telling you personal details or sharing their feelings around something or any of those sorts of things?
You know, it doesn't matter how. W what you think of the boundary? That's another challenge that I think is in our culture is that we sometimes look at other people's boundaries and then judge it as being worthy or not to be a boundary. And if we don't agree with it, then we think it's okay to cross that boundary.
And I don't think, I think that's okay. I think that the boundary is for them to decide.
And not for us because we're not in their head. We're not in there. We don't have their experiences.
Mark: Well, not only don't we have their experiences, but because we're pagans, we're really in a different framework than say people who are Christian or Muslim or Jewish. because those religions of the book have a list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that you're supposed to hue to.
Yucca: You have absolutes. Yeah.
Mark: they have these absolutes and like, so if your boundaries are too loose, then you're permissiveness.
and there's just, there's no debate about that. That's just how it is. There's this judgment that goes with it. But in the pagan framework, we choose our own morals. We choose how we want to engage with one another in the world. And that means that we take personal responsibility for how we do that, rather than just pointing to a book and saying, well, that's my marching orders.
The good news about that is that it gives us a lot more latitude. You know, if someone is promiscuous or some other word, that's not as negatively connotated than that. If somebody is very active sexually the community doesn't necessarily turn to them and say shame, shame, shame. You're very bad. instead. the only judgements that I've seen happen have been around. Well, how healthy is this? You know, are you safe? Are you responsible? Do you respect other people's boundaries? Do you you know, do you leave hurt feelings behind you or do you not, you know, those kinds of things. So it's really more a matter of meeting some standards than it is than it is following a script. And if someone is asexual and just, doesn't, isn't interested in engaging with someone at all or with anyone at all, then we also say, okay, that's great too. You know, that's perfectly fine. there's
Yucca: they're interested in many people, but you are not one of them. That's okay.
Mark: That's okay, too. Absolutely. You know, particularly in this kind of festival environment, where there can be a lot of sort of sexual vibe going on and face it, there are quite a number of people that are looking to hookup in one way or another.
Yucca: themes for many pagans of the holiday.
Mark: Yes. Of, of yes, of Beltane of May Day specifically. and you know, for many that is really a sacred thing. you know, it's a part of their acknowledgement of the sacredness of sexuality and of the whole role that it plays in reproduction here on planet earth. so, but it all goes to hell if the boundaries aren't good and I've seen a lot of that and it doesn't help when people are inebriated because if they're. If they're too inebriated, they just, they aren't capable of consent. They just, they,
Yucca: That part of the brain is not present. Should I? Yeah, it's off.
Mark: whatever is coming out of their mouth is not reflective of whether they can actually give consent or not. So let's say that at the outset, beyond that You know, someone who's had a beer or two is still in a situation where the paths get a little slippery. It just, it becomes a little easier to be less inhibited and pay less attention to the boundaries that you ordinarily have. And then you can find yourself in a situation where you actually did fully consent, but you regret. And that's a, just a real unpleasant situation to be in. It's just doesn't feel good.
So on the topic of challenges, another direction to come at this from is some of the challenges that we have when asserting our boundaries. And being really clear and honest with ourselves on whether what we're calling a boundary is actually a boundary or not, because it's a boundary, when you talk about how, what somebody can't do to you.
But it's not a boundary to say that they have to do X, Y, Z to you, or they have to call you by a certain name or they have to do this particular act for you or something like that. And otherwise, if they're not doing this, then they are violating your boundaries. Well, that's not what a boundary is.
Mark: I want to step in for a second though, because I think there are a couple of exceptions when it comes to calling somebody by a particular name,
Mark: trans person,
Mark: should not be dead named. They should be called by the name that they choose. and honestly, I mean, we've just seen an example of this with the first lady of the United States.
She's insisting on being called Dr. Jill Biden with all, you know, with all valid reasons. She is Dr. Jill Biden and she's not, there was some chatter on kind of right-wing news for a little while that she should take the doctor off because she's a doctor of education and that doesn't really count.
Yucca: that's ridiculous. That whole line is ridiculous about what's a doctor, not like, yeah.
Mark: It is. So I do feel that it's important. and I have friends who have changed their names from the name that they were given by their families and their families refused to call them by the names that they've chosen. I think that's a legitimate boundary on the part of the person who's changed their name.
Yucca: Yeah. You know, that's a really good, a good point. That's maybe not the best example for what I'm trying to communicate, because that's, that is a really good point.
Mark: On the other hand, if somebody insists that you call the Lord somebody or blah, blah, blah, blah,
Yucca: That's kinda what I was trying to get at. Right.
Yucca: that, yeah. but basically where somebody should be asking you to do things outside of your own boundaries, right? That, that, that gets into a really tricky place. And that are you setting boundaries as a way of trying to control or manipulate somebody else or are you setting them to try and Be safe and our use.
And another challenge is are you setting these boundaries in order to not look at the painful part of yourself that you maybe don't want to admit is there, right? Is this actually a defense mechanism to be like, well, I'm just going to not have this conversation with you. because I don't want to look at that part of myself.
Right. So that's a place where there's a pretty big challenge.
Mark: Yes, because there's a distinction between having boundaries and being defensive. and being defensive usually means you're defending a wound of some kind and you are you're ensuring that nothing happens that might poke at it. That's not necessarily the healthiest way to approach a wound. Usually the best way to approach a wound is to give it open air, clean it out, and then let it heal.
Mark: And defensiveness doesn't do that. It kind of wraps itself around the wound and preserves it in its current state.
Yucca: And speaking of wounds and boundaries, if somebody doesn't want to open up their wound with you, that's their boundary.
Mark: Absolutely the nobody owes it to anyone else to to have to process with them about the events of their childhood or any of that kind of stuff. This is something that has That has happened in initiatory traditions I know. Where the priesthood of the initiatory traditions as a part of the process of the person going from say first degree to second degree or whatever it is insists on sort of a psychological process with that person.
And if you don't feel comfortable with that person, you shouldn't be forced to do that. In the same way, the sexual initiation is totally inappropriate. In my opinion, you know, nobody should be, it should never be mandated that anybody have sex with anybody ever. I mean, that's a very blunt way of putting it, but that's what I believe.
There's another word for that. It's called rape.
Mark: yes, exactly. even if you believe that you are consenting. Even if you believe that you're consenting simply because the rules were set up the way they were here, you are your second degree. You want to become third degree. You've gone through all this, you know, learning and a year and a day of, you know, whatever the heck happens in there.
And now there's this idea of this sexual index initiation with your high priest or priestess. That's just uncool. it's just, it's not okay. And I know that there are people that will disagree with that. And I vehemently disagree with them.
Yucca: Yeah, I think it becomes very, very treacherous when there's those sorts of power relationships where it's a power over situation. Yeah.
Mark: So we've been talking about what some of the challenges are in terms of asserting boundaries. And
Yucca: Maybe some of the benefits.
Mark: Well, certainly benefits. Just something that we should talk about. but I think that there are some core requirements in order to be able to assert your boundaries. And one of them is you have to know yourself well enough to know what your boundaries are, and we're not really encouraged to be terribly introspective, you know? Self-examining creatures in this society. And that is a terrible shame, I think, because a part of the great adventure of being alive is in discovering who you are, you know, who the universe be the thing. And it's me, what is that thing? what can be said about that thing? I know that. It's not only for purposes of healing and recovery and and growth that I, that I work on myself, but it's also because it's interesting, you know, it's you develop a voice.
In your head, this very removed sort of voice, which will occasionally say, Oh, wow, look at what he's doing. Isn't that interesting? or, wow, he's suddenly six years old, you know, and acting out of something that happened when he was six years old. This is something we need to work on. So I think that having a a religious path, a spiritual practice, having a set of principles and values and, you know, conducting rituals that bring you into contact with yourself so that you're learning more and more about yourself all the time is a part of the way that you come to be grounded in your, in yourself to feel like you've got both feet on the ground and then you're in your strength to assert boundaries that protect you, that keep you from being invaded in ways you don't want to be.
Yucca: Yeah, just to be aware and present enough in yourself to be able to feel those out. Right. And not just be going along with the assumed boundaries of whatever situation you grew up in.
Mark: Right or what you see around yourself. And this, I think is a real problem in the pagan community when it comes to these festivals, because you get newcomers who, since this vibe going on, and there's a lot of this sort of party thing happening, and they may emulate the behavior of other people that they see around themselves. Because that's what humans tend to do when you drop them into groups of strangers, they tend to imitate whatever other people around them are doing. And it's so important at times like that to remain true to yourself and solid in your understanding of what's okay with you and what's not, and what you want and what you don't want.
Those are just, they're really basic, fundamental pillars that help hold us up and take care of us. So let's talk about benefits.
Yucca: Yeah, well, happier, healthier, more present in oneself. And that's pretty, those are some pretty big ones. but also the space and energy. Earlier, you were talking about the tendency to yes, man, that we have, and we can do that to a point where we exhaust ourselves and really. Get ourselves to such a point where we're so exhausted, so fatigued that we can't be doing the things that we really value. And we can't be present for the people that we want. Right. We get to the point where I've said yes, so many times that I can't take care of that person that I am saying yes to in the way that I want to actually take care of them.
Mark: And there's a level of exhaustion too in, in being a yes man, especially if you're being a yes, man, to somebody who is at a higher position than you are in terms of power. there's a way that is it's a tiny, every time you do that, it's a tiny self betrayal and it just kind of chips away at your self-esteem.
You know, here I am, you know, saying yes again, even though I don't think yes. I'm betraying myself and you, it just shrinks you as a person and it may be very frightening with somebody that you have a yes man relationship with to say, you know, I don't think this one is right. I don't. We should talk about this.
Cause I don't really think this is going in the right direction, but yeah. Well, once you've done that, then you really see what you're dealing with. If you get an explosion of rage in response, then this person that you've been engaging with, doesn't really have your self-interest at heart at all. And that's important to know.
Mark: Really important to know.
Yucca: And hopefully you can get out of that situation soon. It may be a situation where they're your boss and you are in a financially stuck in that situation and for the time being but being aware of that is really important because then you can start to take the steps to emotionally protect yourself and eventually work towards towards getting out of that situation.
Mark: Yes. the other big benefit. I mean, we talked about, you talked to Yucca about the benefits to ourselves internally of having good boundaries, because we feel safer. We feel more protected. We feel more assertive. We feel more true to ourselves. but there are also tremendous benefits to our relationship because relationships that feel invasive. They inevitably go sour sooner or later. You know, if your engagement with someone keeps feeling like they're overstepping their bounds and they're demanding more than you're willing to give, sooner or later, that's all going to come out. And it's better to assert a boundary and say, you know, I know we've always done it this way, but I would be much more comfortable if we did it this way.
And once again, see what the response is. If the response of the person is, Oh, I didn't realize that made you uncomfortable. okay. let's do it that other way then you know, that you're dealing with somebody that genuinely cares about you and wants you to be comfortable.
Yucca: And if the response was, Oh, you're too sensitive. That's a pretty big red flag.
Mark: Yes, it is.
Yucca: You are too sensitive. You're too emotional. You're too. Whatever. Because that's a way of breaking past and pushing past your boundary anyway.
Mark: Exactly because it discounts the boundary. That's what it's doing. It's like,
Yucca: It's not a valid boundary. Yeah.
Mark: No, I'm not too sensitive. I'm sensitive. so, you know, those, just those two things that, you know, improvement of your internal landscape and your relationship with yourself and your improvement of the various relationships that you have in your life, that can be a total game changer for your quality of life.
Yucca: Yeah. Massively.
Mark: Yes, it really can. And I don't know. I mean, I just, I can think of so many different circumstances where the application of appropriate boundaries just makes so much of a difference. and that extends even up into like international diplomacy. You know, there are. There are so many countries that don't like one another, but are not at war because they've been able to negotiate mutually acceptable boundaries around not only borders, physical borders, but you know, military levels of buildup and diplomatic activities with third parties and economic activities and all that kind of stuff.
You know, the art of creating the boundary is it's not just some sort of groovy new age California speak. It's It's a fundamental and pivotal skillset of humans in the world. so let's talk some about techniques. People can use.
Yucca: Sure. Yeah.
Mark: the big challenge that I have when I'm in a situation where I need to assert a boundary is that I'm usually really revved up by the time that comes along. You know, I've already been triggered. I'm already ready to say something that's going to be hurtful and not productive.
and so the technique that I feel is most useful is stalling for time negotiating for time. You know, when I'm in that kind of a state, what I, but what I want is not just, we'll talk about this some other time, because that is not the assertion of a boundary. That's kicking the can down the road.
And it's a totally different thing. But if I say I need 30 minutes so that I can climb down off of this big adrenaline spike and, you know, get myself into a more calm and reasonable place. That's asserting a boundary. And if the person that you're engaged in this dialogue with is unwilling to give you that well, that tells you something.
Yucca: Now that sounds to me like you'd be talking about asserting a boundary with someone that you have a closer relationship with in your household or work or something like that, that's not something that you would do with some person that you encountered at a festival or on the street or at a bar or something like that?
That's a more intimate kind of?
Mark: You could, I mean, you could say, I don't feel like I can make a decision about this yet, but I'm open to considering the possibility. let's keep talking and we'll figure that out. And a half an hour or so. Does that make sense?
Yucca: that does. So just adjusting the time or adjusting the, you know, depending on what kind of boundary or how charged things are at the moment.
Mark: Right, right. I certainly think that when it comes to, you know, people negotiating some kind of intimacy after not having known one another for very long it's, it can be very helpful to just say, you know, I'm interested, but I'm not there yet. Let's keep talking. I want to find out more about you.
Yucca: So another technique we've brought it up before. Which I think would be helpful on both sides, right? Because there's the side of I'm going to establish boundaries, but also the side of boundaries were just established with me. And I got to sort through my feelings of that is, is the practice of Grounding and being able to come back to that in a moment, which is probably a pretty charged when you need to establish those or.
You've had someone do that and you got to deal with the feelings of rejection or anger or whatever it is that's coming up, is to be able to take that breath and work through whatever your visualizations are with that of, you know, letting that flow down into the earth, through your feet or whatever it is that you have. And then from there, You can be a little bit more clear-minded in coming up with saying whatever it is that you're going to say. And also having just a moment for that self-reflection to be, to try and be honest with yourself about what you're feeling and what's going on and how much of it is you and how much of it is them.
Mark: Right. And also being able to not take personally what isn't necessarily intended personally to just go, Oh, well, okay. Ouch. That hurt that, that was a rejection. And, you know, some of it obviously is about me because if I was somebody else, then maybe it wouldn't have been hard, but but mostly it's about them and what they want.
And so that's okay. So I can live with that. Ability to sit with uncomfortable feelings is something that our culture doesn't teach at all. In fact we're taught to drug ourselves we're taught to have sugar or alcohol or Canterbury or Facebook or,
Yucca: We reached for a moment, any quiet moment, any slightly uncomfortable moment. And we reached for that phone.
Yucca: for that dis that distraction, whether it's a chemical distraction or a screen distraction.
Mark: Yes, absolutely. But the truth is that life will often present us with things that don't feel good, and it is so much more productive to be able to sit with those feelings and sort of tease out, you know, what can I learn here? What don't, I think is fair, but it doesn't matter because it's their opinion. and what's their stuff. What's, you know, some mysterious reasons that they have nothing probably have nothing to do with me and I don't need to worry about, but the ability to sit with yucky feelings is it's hard come by it. The only way to learn to do it is to practice a lot.
Yucca: yeah, just got to do it. And don't worry, you'll have opportunity.
Mark: Oh, yes. life will present you with those opportunities.
It certainly will.
Yucca: Yeah, but with that practice, you get better at it. And something that might tear you up for days that after learning to be with yourself on that level might be something that you'll be able to in the future, feel it and let it just pass on. Which I think is pretty empowering.
Mark: Yeah, I do too. I mean, it's certainly better than kind of the way that I used to do things. When I had really low self esteem, I would just sort of accumulate this ongoing case file of all these reasons why I should feel lousy about myself. And so every engagement that I had was someone that felt in any way, negative or rejecting was just more piled onto that mound of evidence. And now that I don't do that anymore my life feels a lot lighter and better, and I feel like I make decisions less out of a place of woundedness and more out of a place of power.
Yucca: Yep. So I'd hope that would be one of the real takeaways from this episode is the how healing and powerful, healthy boundaries can be.
Mark: Yes. You will be happier when you have them. you. You will avoid experiences that you didn't want to have of all various kinds. I mean, that, that can be everything from, you know, your friends call you on a Saturday night and they want to go out and you don't want to go out, but you feel like your friends are kind of telling you that you have to, but you say.
You know, I mean, I'm in a stay in state tonight. I'm in my pajamas and I'm not going and they may give you an ear full, but you won't find yourself miserable out at some sort of carousing thing that you don't feel connected to at all being dragged around by your friends and resenting them because you did what they wanted, which isn't really very fair to them.
When you think about it. Cause you made the choice.
So this has been a good conversation. Yucca. Thank you.
Yucca: thank you. Yeah, I think it's a very timely and I look forward to discussing. May Day, Beltane,, whatever you call it with you next week, Mark.
Mark: Absolutely. It'll be great. Have a great week until then.
Yucca: You too.