[Spirituality]

Control Your Anger By Setting Your Boundaries [How To Make The Wall Crumble]

I often felt the urge to exert control, the need to get people to listen to me. What happened when I resorted to violence to be in charge? I discovered obsession.

I left home and school at the age of eighteen and went off to work in the theatre, far away from home. I was rebelling against what I felt was a restrictive background. I was shy, not at all sure of myself, and not in control of myself.

The Need to Take Control

I remember a friend I had when I was 14. I used to go round to his house regularly to play. I remember coming home one day in tears because he hit me. I do not remember why, just being upset and unable to hit back. I remember enormous frustration.

I also remember being out riding my bike one day, around this time, on my own. This was common, I spent lots of time on my own. I was pushed around by a group of boys who hung my bike up in a tree. Not really bad stuff, but it went inside, deep inside.

This became wrapped up in being the youngest of three boys and the son of a dominant father. I felt pushed down, unable to express myself or take control. I did not understand how to change this, how get people to listen to me or be interested in me.

I became obsessed with this, the need to take control, to be in control.

Being in Charge

In my second job in the theatre, when I was nineteen, I was in charge of the technical running of the stage and in charge of the temporary stage crew. This was amazing for me, I was the boss — or so I thought.

The crew were all older than me and more experienced. I had not had any experience working with people, so I found I was out of my depth. They could see this and joked around, ignoring me. I felt, again, enormous frustration.

My instinct took over, what I had learned from the boys who pushed me around took over — I hit out. I hit one of the guys in the stomach, to my surprise and his. It had the immediate effect I desired, I got their attention, but I was diminished in their eyes, even though I made them listen to me.

I thought being in charge was about taking control. I was exerting control over others to force them to do what I wanted.

I Can Only Control Myself

What took many years for me to discover was that I could only control myself, not others. To lead others I needed to be seen to be in control of myself. Learning to control myself, I realised, is about setting boundaries, something that is not as simple as it seems.

I love this image,

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. ... Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.\

Ursula Le Guin 'The Dispossessed'

I can imagine the wall being built, crudely, before the builder had any skills. It was rough but it was confident. When it came to the road, the way that was open and used by many people, it lost its strength.

The idea was there, the imaginary line, but it had not been marked, either with wall or gate. The line did not really exist.

This is what boundaries were like for me. They were built early because of childhood events. They were built before I understood their significance. They fell apart as I interacted with other people. I lost confidence and I became upset.

What I forgot was what the wall meant to those on the outside. I knew the inside, I saw it all the time, but I forgot that it looked different on the outside.

What I found difficult was how to see my boundaries from the other side. I resorted to blaming others for what happened. I knew my side, I knew I was justified in what I was doing, I knew the world was against me.

The world I saw, the world out there, I discovered, was the world I created. I saw the world as against me because I only I saw things from my point of view. I only saw the inside of the wall.

Emptiness, the emptiness of non-attachment, is where a thing that exists has no meaning in itself, it is just a thing. Meaning is attached to it when you associate it with something in your mind.

I attached meaning to the world I experienced. I reacted to the world I saw and created an inside world of anger in relation to it. What I didn't realise was that I created that meaning from inside myself, from where I was hurting.

I needed to take control of myself, of my thinking and of the meaning I gave to things. To take control of myself I needed to take responsibility for what I did and how I reacted, I needed to see the other side of the wall.

I create my world myself, it is not created by the actions of others. This is a crucial issue, one that is at the heart of boundary setting.

I decide what I will do, not others. If I am doing what others want it is because I have decided to do so. I cannot blame others for what happens to me, and I can not punish them for it.

Boundaries

To set our boundaries we must be aware of who we are and how we have become the person we are. We then need to know where we want to go, what we want to be.

We need to understand what we need on a personal level and what we want, and need, to give to others. This should be clear to ourselves and clear to others. Bridging the wall is achieved through communication.

When I find myself getting angry, which is rare today, I know the wall has started to crumble. I know the way is no longer clear. It is time to get out the mortar and re-build my wall, on both sides. I need to take responsibility for what is happening and clearly communicate that.

I talk, I listen, I explain, I hear and I re-create my boundaries and, as a result, I am now a happy man and others respect me and enjoy my company. I no longer need to control others because I no longer attach meaning to what they do and I no longer react to them.

How To Set Boundaries

To see what this means let us look at three men and their experience.

Adam

Adam had years of conflict with his parents. His father wanted him to go into the military, to follow in his footsteps. His mother wanted him to become an artist, something she had failed to do. His parents were in conflict with each other and avoided the issue.

Adam wanted to please them both. He loved them but was confused about how to establish what he wanted. He ended up leaving home and travelling the world. He was unhappy and unable to show any strength. His relationships failed.

He found it difficult to set any boundaries because he wanted to please other people all the time. He found himself unable to see himself as being important.

Ben

Ben was a strong person who came out of the terrible two's in charge. He got what he wanted all the time. His parents thought the world of him and spoiled him.

He became a businessman who created empires and made money. He created companies and employed people who did what he wanted. He ruled his creations with a rod of iron.

His relationships failed and he found himself rich but unhappy. People avoided him, afraid of his sharp tongue. He had clear boundaries but got angry when other people crossed them. He did not understand why people did not enjoy being with him.

Chris

Chris was taught by his parents about right and wrong. He grew up discovering himself and understanding the effect he had on the world and on other people.

He knew what he wanted out of life and he knew what he wanted to contribute. He became a doctor who dedicated his life to saving people from disease and teaching people about wellness. He was able to create balance in his life between his personal life and the demands other people made of him.

He knew that saying no to one thing was also saying yes to something else. Crucially, he was able to balance yes and no in a way that people understood and accepted.

Critical Issues

It should be clear, from these stories, how to build your wall and how to see it from all sides. Before you do there are some critical issues for you to resolve inside during this process

Inside World – Outside World

It is easy to slide over this and blame others for what is happening.

The world you see, out there, is the world you create.

Buddhism talks about emptiness, the emptiness of non-attachment. A thing that exists has no meaning in itself. It is just a thing. Meaning is attached to it by people who see it and associate it with something.

When you attach to the world you give it meaning, your meaning. You then react to the world you see and create an inside world, of anger, compassion, love, hatred etc, in relation to it. But you forget that you have created that very meaning from inside your soul.

Responsibility

We need to take control of ourselves, of our thinking and of the meaning we give to things. To take control of ourselves we need to take responsibility of what we do and how we react.

We create the world ourselves, not others. This is a crucial issue, one that is at the heart of boundary setting.

We decide what we will do, not others. If we are doing what others want it is because we have decided to do so. We cannot blame others for what happens to us.

Maintaining Boundaries

I talk, I listen, I explain, I hear and I re-create my boundaries and, as a result, I am happy man.

To set our boundaries we must be aware of who we are and how we have become the person we are. We then need to know where we want to go, what we want to be.

We need to understand what we need on a personal level and what we want, and need, to give to others. This should be clear to ourselves and clear to others. Bridging the wall is achieved through communication.