Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Tutorial: Six Things You Can Learn about Boundaries from Clear Tape

You created this life by the people you let in and the people you shut out, by giving your time to the quests that matter and by letting hours trickle toward lesser goals, through the pursuits to which you give energy, by the pressures to which you gave heed.  Every decision you've ever made, step by step, brought you to this pass.  In short, your boundaries -- or your defenses -- created a corridor through which your life moved.
~ Anna Katherine, Where to Draw the Line

I seem to always be thinking about boundaries.  Perhaps it's having therapists in the family.  Perhaps it's being vigilant about my own healing and trying to assist others.  I get immensely frustrated with myself that, although I think about boundaries and study them, ask for advisement about boundaries, they continue to be a challenging thread through my life. Boundaries with my work.  Boundaries with what I am willing to give to other people.  Boundaries with the suggestions and criticism. Boundaries with time.  How to create appropriate boundaries.  How to work with people who don't have appropriate boundaries.  On and on and on.  Why do I continue to fail at this?

As a former preschool teacher, I have lots and lots of different ways to do "resist" art, which is basically using one material to resist paint.  I thought I would play around with  this technique while I explored the idea of boundaries.  I began by separating my paper into four quadrants, putting an image of myself in each.    I wrote the following text in each quadrant from left to right, top to bottom.

1.  I allow the world to define me and my choices.  My value is outside of myself.  I am unprotected and exposed.

2.  I build a fortress around myself to avoid pain.  I am in complete control of my environment and I am hidden.

3.  I have fixed barriers.  I can interact with the world and others but my boundaries are static.

4.  I build boundaries that are flexible.  They can change as I change and as my environment changes.  Dynamic!

I then used tape to build boundaries around my self image.  In the first quadrant, I used none.  In the second, I put many layers over  my self image.  In the third quadrant, I used only four pieces of tape to build a box around myself.  In the fourth quadrants, I put horizonal and vertical pieces of tape, some connected and some not, around my self image, but not completely closing myself in.  Now let me lead you through my discoveries.

Can you see the tape on the white paper?  It's fairly invisible.. except perhaps for that second quadrant.  Discovery OneBoundaries are invisible... except when we build a fortress of them around ourselves.

Now take a look at what happens when I begin to add  paint.  I used watered down acrylics but you can use watercolor or gouache.

I used yellow to symbolize me.. my identity, my life force, my energy. The blues and greens and yellows are experiences out in the world.

Discovery Two:  Without any boundaries a cannot tell where I begin and where my enviroment ends.

Discovery Three:  When I build up thick walls, my own light can't shine through, nor can the light from other people come in.  I am encapsulated.

Discovery Four:  Concrete, rigid  boundaries are comforting.  But still  i feel caught inside.

Discovery Five:  With dynamic boundaries, the world and I are in relationship with each other, we can affect each other good and bad.  I can change a boundary as situations change and as I change, to encourage more positive connection.

Here piece, when have removed all the tape....

Interesting.. in quadrant 2.. my brightness does not exist underneath.  And furthermore.. all that tape.. all those boundaries.ripped the paper when i was trying to take it off!  Discovery Six:  Extreme boundaries can limit ourselves and hurt those around us.

I'd love for someone else to play around with this and send me some pictures with their own discoveries!  Please let me know what you think?  Does this ring true with your experiences with setting boundaries?


  1. I have found this a really thought provoking post. I think boundaries are an issue for most people whether we are aware of our boundaries or not. I know I am constantly working hard to define healthy and loving boundaries for myself within my relationships with people and the world. I don't see it as a failure that defining and redefining boundaries is something that we are constantly doing, as I see it, that represents a healthy and conscious way of moving through the world. Life seems to be about change, internally and externally,and with change comes a change in our relationship with life, and I guess that means we are constantly fluid in our boundaries and where and how we feel comfortable. It's a fascinating post, thank you so much for sharing it.

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response M&T. "Constantly fluid"...there's a starter for a painting in those words!


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