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Week 1, Session 1: Introduction, & What are boundaries?

Hello everyone and welcome to our very first session of Bloom - Chayn’s trauma support group! You’re here with us. You’ve shown up and started the work towards recovery. Now, together, we can begin our work - in understanding our boundaries and building up resilience.

(Just a quick note: if you haven’t read the Introduction to the course, maybe go back and read it to understand what this course is all about and how it’s structured). 

You might or might not know what needs changing in your life, or what you’re unhappy with. Through this course, we will help you learn, identify, create, set and sustain your boundaries. All from your own perspective and point of your personal creativity. You may well be at the start of your journey to reclaim and recover your power and this itself is a brave, loving act for yourself. Continue to be kind to yourself and take your time.

It will take some work and mutual effort, and won’t always be easy, but don’t feel you’ve failed if this change doesn’t happen overnight. Just by being here, reading, and participating in the homework, you can begin to trust your own voice. (It’s about practice, not perfection.) 

A quick disclaimer: If you are dealing with someone who is physically dangerous or actively threatening, it may not be safe to set explicit boundaries with them. However, if you are in this situation, you can work with a counselor, therapist, or advocate to create a safety plan - and boundary setting may be a part of this.
Consider going through this course, writing down main points and approaching a professional with what seems appropriate and safe from what we’ve learned.
We do grounding exercises at the start of every resource, as well. Grounding exercises are a set of strategies that help us when pain or difficult memories overwhelm us - our first “trick” toward wellness! They’re designed as techniques to stay “present” when we feel ourselves “dissociating” or as though we’re outside our own bodies - which is a common coping mechanism and post-traumatic response.
If, at any point, you feel uncomfortable while reading this session (or anywhere, in your home or on the go), you can use one of these techniques to bring yourself back and away from hard emotions or physical pains.

If you can, please join in. 

**Our first grounding exercise will be…
**Let’s start with an energising exercise! Clap and rub your hands together. Hear the noise and feel the sensation in your hands and arms. Now stamp your feet. Focus on the sound that makes and how your legs feel.
Remember: every one of us is different. A grounding exercise that works for someone may not work for you. That’s totally fine. We’ll be doing a different exercise each session, so we can find the ones that work best for us.

Now, onto our very first goals of the course! 

The goals for this session are:

  • Introduce the course - done! 
  • To define what boundaries mean - and start reflecting on the ones we have.

Fun question: We also like to start out every session with a fun question. As is appropriate for our programme’s name: What’s your favourite flower or plant? 

So let’s get going. This is a “Creating Boundaries” course. Whilst reading through, you might be unsure about what to expect, and we don’t blame you! At least, when it came to putting this course together, we were a bit baffled with where to start. After all, what are boundaries?
It is a bit mysterious, isn’t it? “Boundaries” often feels like a buzzword, commonly spoken, rarely defined. The reason for its mystery might be that it’s not a topic we are all familiar with. We don't usually learn about boundaries in common discourse or in language. Instead, we encounter our boundaries (or the lack of them!) as we come in contact with the world. In our feelings. In our weariness. In that knot that grows in the pit of our stomachs when we feel like something is wrong. Or in our inability to say no to what does not serve us.
Maybe, like us, you are starting to understand the ways your lack of boundaries or maybe your excess of boundaries are disconnecting you from what you want, who you want to be, and the relationships you want for yourself.
Creating boundaries and maintaining them is a skill. It takes learning and practice, like any other. 

But, we don’t want you to feel like our programme is going to be all work and no fun, so we have called this course “Creating Boundaries” - because that’s what we’re going to do. We aren’t “building” boundaries like a hard brick wall. We are considering what they need to look like, for ourselves.
This is the first thing we want to put forward when it comes to making boundaries. They are not just there to keep things out in totality. Instead, think of your boundaries like a cell membrane or even like your lungs. You have to let in what’s good - take in that oxygen - as much as you keep out the toxins and smoke. This is how we properly breathe, live, survive. 

Or, you could also think about your boundaries like invisible fairy lights you set around yourself - internally and externally. They are not barbed wires keeping things out, but lights that keep harm at bay and let other types of light in, that allow us to see. It’s a play of shadow and light. It’s about us learning to make space for discomfort, learning how to trust ourselves, being decisive, and committing to living fulfilling lives.

With Bloom, we hope we can guide you to enact and take charge of the things you do want to let in - or to figure out what those things are, in addition to putting restrictions on the dark. 
The reason we need healthy boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. Having healthy boundaries can have a significant impact on our wellbeing and everyday life. They can affect our relationships, they can change the way we see our routine, they can help us feel more in control of our lives. This means that healthy boundaries are a crucial part of self-care. This is why we will focus this course on finding clear and practical ways of connecting with our needs, so, through our boundaries, we can take better care of ourselves.

When we talk about boundaries, we also can’t just look at ourselves in a vacuum. We also need to think about the boundaries others have with us, and the ways our cultures or societies have influenced our limits. In this course, we will explore both how we create and assert our own limits, as well as how we can identify and respect the limits of others - and the larger, global restrictions that may not serve us. 

The things we have experienced growing up and in our adult life can also affect the way we create boundaries in the present and future. For example, if you come from a family and a culture where work is very important and your parents were very determined that you dedicate your life to finding a good job, then it would be normal for you to have difficulties setting boundaries with the time you dedicate to your job. As another example, if you suffered bullying in your teenage years, this could have an impact on your relationships with peers, friends and colleagues as an adult. Impact can be positive too! Many times we take those difficult experiences and transform them in learning, and placing boundaries is also a resilience outcome.

This isn’t to say there is a perfect formula or a “one size fits all” for creating our boundaries. Your boundaries will and should change over time, within different situations, and may differ depending on the relationship you have with whatever person or relationship you are exploring. 

But, here’s the most important thing we want you to remember: boundaries aren’t just about saying no. They are about enabling you to create the space you want for love, growth, and joy. It’s about making room for moments that you want to cherish. 

This course will help you build a boundary toolkit to make this possible.

In the book, “Where to draw the line: how to set healthy boundaries every day”, therapist and psychologist Anne Katherine describes the difference between “defenses” and “boundaries”. We believe this is a critical difference. As we said with our cell metaphor, you should not have walls. You should not be a fortress. Vulnerability is key to our humanity. 

“Boundaries discriminate... With a boundary toolkit, you pay attention to actions that discount you and limit such interactions with dispatch… Before you call your rejecting mother, you remind yourself to thicken your boundary. If she makes a rejecting comment, you either make a firm statement that sets a boundary or end the conversation immediately. By taking yourself out of situations in which you or your choices are being negated, you send your psyche the message that you are taking charge of self-protection and that it need not be on automatic red alert… Years ago, we controlled weeds on our lawns with a poison so pervasive that it threatened the extinction of certain birds. Now we have weed control that is very specific in action… We have learned that large-scale drastic measures cost more than they are worth.”

She describes boundaries as protecting yourself in “specific and mindful ways” and we think that’s exactly it.

We will look at boundary styles and the different areas in our lives where boundaries can play a big role in the coming sessions!
Thanks for sticking with us! 

The homework for this session is… to begin our thought diaries, or our course journals. Find or buy a notebook, or even just use some scrap paper, or a post-it, or the back of an envelope to write on. By writing thoughts down, we become aware to the content of our minds and the feelings in our bodies. It often feels scary at first, but as we write things down and make sense of our own thoughts and stories, we can become conscious to change. 

In this case, we will begin by identifying 3 situations in the past month where you think you crossed someone’s boundaries or when they crossed yours. Consider what these 3 situations have in common. Do these events usually bother you?
What can you tolerate? Through this course, we will begin to challenge some ideas of what is okay to tolerate and what limits we should have to protect us - but also, what limits we want to let go of to let in the good.

Remember, this is an investment in your own journey to recovery. Give yourself the best chance to build resilience. You can do this. We believe in you.

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