7. Develop Healthy Boundaries
In this Practice:
- How can boundaries help you change your life?
- Identifying areas that need new boundaries
- Assignment for Practice Seven
Think carefully about what behaviors you’ve been engaging in which are problematic to you and your well being. Specifically think about sexual behaviors which are unhealthy, disrespectful to yourself or to others.
- What behaviors are the ones you want to change?
- When are those behaviors happening?
- Where are those behaviors happening?
- With whom are those behaviors happening?
Now, after thinking about those specific areas, picture the whole lifestyle you’ve sculpted which allows (or demands) you to engage in self-disrespecting sexual behaviors. This is the lifestyle you want to change. And to change your lifestyle, these are the areas around which you need to develop new boundaries or yourself.
You may be tempted, like I certainly was, to think of boundaries as a negative, as limits. And boundaries are limits, for sure. But they are the limits that lead to life and health and goodness. Healthy boundaries—both what we keep out and what we keep in—lead to life.
Those of us who’ve become compulsive—and especially with our sexuality—have to work really, really hard at re-working our boundaries. It is for our own healing and well being.
Establishing new boundaries is our way of getting our lives back. And there is no short-cut around healthy boundaries.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s say you’ve fallen into is cruising websites (what) late at night (when), and this behavior often leads to surfing porn and masturbating, then it will be very important for you to develop a new boundary of not going on the Internet—not even using your computer for any surfing or even work—after nine or ten at night.
Seem remedial? Too radical? Right. It is radically remedial. That’s the point. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get well, and putting healthy limits in place is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it and we wouldn’t have problems.
You can do this. And it will allow you to develop different and healthier uses of your time.
Here’s an absolutely essential point about developing healthy boundaries. Don’t just take away a behavior. Replace it. So if you’re not going to use the nine pm to sleep time for surfing the net, then what are you going to use it for? Come up with something that will be rewarding and healthy—a positive.
For me it’s quieting down, not watching television and definitely staying off the computer. Even though my software monitoring effectively keeps me from looking at porn, just being on the computer and surfing creates the same restless mind channel surfing on television does.
So I read mystery novels. I have cultivated a number of favorite writers and I read their books. That may not work for you. But there’s something and it’s your job to find.
It’s important to cultivate a practice of surveying your patterns and habits on a regular basis (that’s why this is one of the Practices—it’s a thing we repeat doing so as to get better at it). Develop a routine of looking for areas in your life where you see yourself moving back towards addictive thinking and behaving.
Whenever you identify a behavior that is taking you backwards or wasting your time, make specific changes to what you are doing, when and where and with whom. Be specific and make commitments you will keep. Tell someone about them.
As you change your boundaries, and therefore how you spend your time, you’ll begin to change your thinking habits, reallocate your energy for useful rather than selfish purposes and strengthen your spiritual acuity. It works, it really does.
Assignment for Engaging the Seventh Practice—Develop Healthy Boundaries
1. Spend some time thinking about your compulsive sexual behaviors; look back over your schedule, think about the different seasons of your life, really review your life to find what are the behaviors you want to change, when are you engaging in them, where and with whom?
2. Come back to this over several days and write down everything you can think of (like earlier Practices, this is only for your eyes)
3. As you identify what you want to remove, what healthy, positive behaviors can you replace them with?
4. Write out the specifics of what you want to change (what, when, who, where) and what your positive replacements are
5. Share your boundaries with a safe person, preferably someone who is also working on this recovery; they need to have some understanding of this compulsive behavior and they need to be confidential and safe; it’s important to voice our intentions to someone else as a way of strengthening our commitment to them
6. Here is a prayer I recommend you pray daily:
Father of the Heavens, all of my days belong to You. I have not used my days and hours well. Help me to change the way I use the time you have given to me in ways that are good for me and honor You. Amen.
© 2017 LivingIntegrated