Dear MU, I just started reading The Book of Boundaries and I’m loving it. I’d like to start setting boundaries with others, but my communication isn’t the best. I come off aggressive and harsh, probably because I’ve been holding in anger and not speaking up for so long. I want to change that, but I don’t know how. —Threat Level Fuchsia
I call this “Boundary Rebellion,” and going straight to the Red boundary (or beyond) when the straw breaks your proverbial camel’s back is a hallmark symptom.
I borrowed this concept from my friend Gretchen Rubin, who talks about Obliger Rebellion in her book The Four Tendencies. Obligers (AKA “people-pleasers”) tend to behave in the same way; they swallow their feelings and needs in an effort to be nice and make others happy, until one day, they just can’t. Gretchen writes:
“Obliger Rebellion occurs when Obligers meet, meet, meet, meet expectations, and then suddenly — they snap. They say, “This, I will not do!” and they refuse to meet an expectation. This refusal can be small and symbolic (like being deliberately late for work), or it can be huge and fateful (like ending a twenty-year friendship).”
From your perspective, snapping is a logical consequence of their chronic and constant boundary oversteps. “Can’t they see they’ve been running me over for years? Of course I’m angry about it!” From their perspective, it looks like it’s coming out of nowhere. “Our relationship has worked this way for years. Why are you taking my head off all of a sudden?”
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