Setting healthy boundaries and expressing your needs

Glastonbury, 28 March 2023—


A recent conversation with a friend took an unexpected turn. She met someone in a social situation that turned out to be an energy vampire. What does that mean? After interacting with that person, my friend felt unwell emotionally, depleted of her energy and was tormented for days. She didn’t realise at first what was going on, until I offered an explanation—because I had been there before!

Basically, she’s been questioned a lot by someone who was very inquisitive, and because of the social setting felt she had to comply and give the answers. But the way it happened was very unnatural, because the asker was someone she’d met for the first time and that clearly was not respectful and burning steps: after all, how can you expect that a stranger will open up to you straight away, no matter what degree of connection you have through your social network?

The asker in that case was intruding into my friend’s privacy without being welcome, and nothing seemed to satisfy her curiosity. Basically, the asker had poor boundaries and felt entitled to know all sort of things immediately. We’ve all come across such people: whether it’s the person sitting next to you in the plane that after 5 minutes of conversation will tell you their deepest secrets, or someone who’s expecting you to tell yours like you owe that to them! Because of social circumstances, many of us feel reluctant to say ‘stop’ to the asker, worried about their reaction or how the group will perceive us. But you should never be afraid to speak your truth. And a lot of our truth is about what we accept and do not accept, a.k.a our boundaries! And when you set boundaries, you make yourself and the other one a favour. Because when someone does not have a notion of boundaries and step onto others’ space unaware of that, they are causing harm without even realising it. By telling them they infringed your boundary, you are raising their awareness. And, it’s likely they are doing that with other people too. If they are mature enough, they’ll reflect about their behaviour and adjust it.

A lot of our emotional wellbeing is about establishing solid boundaries and knowing what’s OK and not OK. People will feel unconsciously when we have poor boundaries and that invites them to infringe them, disturb our peace and reveal the problem if we follow the trail. In testing our boundaries, they help us to master the lesson. Yes, setting your boundaries is a life lesson and especially for women who often want to please others.

The second aspect related to boundaries is your needs. Knowing your needs and expressing your needs is equally important. What my friend could have just said is: “I need time to speak a lot about myself, can you respect that please and stop asking so many questions?”. It’s neutral and points to one’s needs versus the other’s expectations. Sometimes there’s a disconnect, but it’s always OK to say ‘no’, to say ‘stop’. By staying silent, we become accomplice to have our boundaries infringed… a sort of implicitly consent.

When you start something new, for example a romantic relationship or a job, your boundaries will be tested and your needs will need to be expressed to create an harmonious relationship. The boundaries and needs of others should not be assumed, they need to be expressed by each individual. Although it’s true that someone with empathy will often guess right. But some people are not even aware of their boundaries, even less their needs and that’s OK for a time, but that’s an important step in knowing thyself.

We all require conscious efforts to find where we fit inside a social group, and that takes time and the process is messy. There’s no set rule, and it’s all about how people adjust to each other. There will be moments of tests, of tensions, of dramas, but actually those moments are healthy in the long run. What’s not healthy is a lot of unspoken truth, backstabbing and gossips. Some people are devoid of empathy, while others are very sensitive and feel a lot. You need to adjust your boundaries against each person, and the group as a whole. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

Back to the energy vampires. Those are people who unconsciously (often) or consciously (sometimes) feed off the energy of others. That is not fantasy and is a very real situation, because every interaction between 2 persons is an energy exchange and there’s room for an intrusion into one’s energy field. When you have weak boundaries, you allow others to get into your energy field. Sometimes the intrusion is so violent that it’s equivalent to an energetic rape that will leave you in shock. You may not relate the events at first, but if you ask yourself the right questions you’ll find the source of discomfort. Now, most offenders are not even aware they do that because they fill a need in their own psyche by doing so. They need attention, they need to know, they need to speak, they need to share etc. But there’s the next level: the sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissistics of the modern world. They are people with an altered sense of empathy and ability to feel emotions, but are often camouflaged behind the appearance of normality… They are basically energy predators and the worse in all of this is that they seem very attractive, self-confident and irresistible at first. Coming across their path is a life experience. But there’s only one self-preserving strategy… run away!


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