Last week, I dove into the subject of boundary setting - specifically how writing music has helped me when it comes to setting boundaries in my relationships. Here's a quick refresher ICYMI:
Life is difficult - being a teenager is difficult, being a parent is difficult. Being human is difficult.
Psychologist Dr Nicole LaPera, who talks a lot about the aftermath of unresolved or unhealed childhood trauma, and its impacts on adulthood made a tweet recently that said the following:
Lorelai and Rory are the classic codependent mother and daughter. Rory is parentified by her emotionally immature parent. Lorelai uses her as her sole confidant (BFF), and there are no boundaries— Lorelai is over-involved in every aspect of her life. This shows up as: control, manipulation, and withholding. Lorelai projects her own dream of going to Harvard into Rory since childhood. When Rory applies to Yale, she sulks and leaves a dinner. Rory hides things from her for fear of how she’ll react. They never openly communicate and often give each other the silent treatment during conflict. Their dramatic relationship makes for an addictive show and leaves out the true pain, dysfunction, and shame that comes from codependent relationships.
I replied to said tweet:
Also: important to note that Gilmore Girls glorifies parent-child codependency as a good thing. I used to watch this show and marvel at how closely it simulated my life. Now: in my 30s, I've done a LOT of work to establish clear boundaries. I love my mum. But I love me too.
Healthy boundaries are essential for healthy relationships, and for our mental health.
Boundaries can be physical, emotional, or psychological, and they help us to establish a sense of safety, security, and self-respect for both ourselves, and our relationships.
Setting and respecting boundaries in relationships [whether that's platonic-, parent-child-, romantic relationships - or even family relationships] can also help to prevent issues such as emotional abuse, neglect, and manipulation, and instead lead to increased trust, respect, and mutual understanding.
There are at least 11 types of boundaries: Time boundaries, Physical boundaries, Conversational boundaries, Relationship boundaries, Personal boundaries, Content boundaries, Intellectual boundaries, Financial boundaries, Sexual boundaries, Workplace boundaries, and Material boundaries.
In the last blog: I discussed time, physical well being, and emotional boundaries, and how I've discovered the art of songwriting and music have been instrumental in helping me to implement and maintain those boundaries in my relationships, but before we go into the next three boundaries that I've been blessed to use music and songwriting to help me maintain: I want to first dive into HOW exactly music and songwriting have been so helpful for this endeavor.
Using Music to Set and Maintain Boundaries
I've been writing music for as long as I can remember. Making up songs to express my thoughts, feelings and ideas - in ways that didn't feel threatening, overwhelming or stressful. Quite the opposite.
Music actually reduces our levels of cortisol, and increases our levels of oxytocin [happy hormone] and dopamine [bonding hormone - essential for socializing and connection], so that we are generally less stressed when we're listening to music, let alone when we're writing or performing it.
Here's the catch though:
The thought of establishing and implementing boundaries in relationships [especially with our parents, partners, colleagues or bosses] can be SUPER stress inducing. So how do we build up the courage to create healthy boundaries and implement them?
My specific approach to songwriting is one that strongly emphasizes two key principles:
The KISS principle [Keep It Simple, Songwriter], which leads to
The BURR principle: [Breakdown, Understand, Reframe and Respond].
What do I mean?
Let's Look at Emotional Boundaries Again as an Example:
It's easy to get overwhelmed by our emotions. Quite often, it can feel like you're a mouse on a hamster wheel, with your thoughts circling over and over in your head, without any sense of making progress, let alone leaving the hamster wheel all together.
So: we do an exercise in simplifying the overwhelm.
Write down anything that comes to mind that is potentially overwhelming or anxiety-inducing. That might include everything from not forgetting to feed your dog and water your houseplants, to the pending divorce of your parents, to a recent death in the family. Whatever it is that comes to mind: write it down.
Chances are, several of the themes that you've written down have involved a boundary that you are working hard to address, implement or maintain. Here's where KISS comes in - set a timer for 5minutes and write down everything you can focusing on this one point. It doesn't matter what you're writing down, as long as you are directing all of your energy on this one boundary that you want to implement. Keep it short. Keep it specific. Keep it simple.
This focus on the one boundary does one main thing: makes your point clear - to yourself, and to whomever it is that you're communicating that boundary with.
This is when the fun really begins, because this is when we break down, and break into what we really mean with regards to that specific boundary you're trying to implement. For example: let's say you're trying to establish a boundary with your friend when it comes to them borrowing money from you. Who are you writing this song to - them? Or yourself? What are you really trying to say? "I need to stop lending you cash"? Or "You need to learn to stand on your own two feet".
Help yourself to help the audience understand. We do this all the time in essay writing for college - say your point in your introduction, repeat and build on your point in the body of the essay, and then hammer the point home in the conclusion. It's the same thing with songwriting:
The first verse introduces the topic or boundaries you're about to discuss. The chorus hammers home why these boundaries are important. The bridge emphasizes - yet again - why this boundary is imperative.
What's your tone of voice when it comes to establishing your boundary? There's a huge difference between "leave me the Hell alone - I hate being around you" and "I need to some space to figure out who I am and what I want". To get even more creative: there's a distinct difference between "I need you to get out my head [dear person]" and "[dear emotion]: can you please leave me alone" We need to be super clear about who or what we're talking to, what's we're talking about, and what the key feelings or ideas are that we're trying to communicate about that person or topic.
And this is when we can - finally - respond creatively through the songwriting framework.
To give you a more solid concept of what exactly this looks like with songwriting, let me demonstrate with some of my own original music.
I Am is a song to myself about how the most powerful two words in the human language are "I Am" simply because whatever I say after those two words essentially shapes my reality.
The KISS method comes in to play because the song is very specifically talking to myself about how I'm the one that gets to dictate how I show up in the world. It's one point. One issue. One topic: a sense of self worth.
Once we've established that one topic: we get into BURR
I break down self worth by pinpointing every perceived negative comment or judgment that I've historically felt or received
I take the time to understand how I can process or transmute these comments or judgments into something that either agrees with the narrative, or claps back [I clap back].
I then analyze how I can cognitively reframe those negative stereotypes or disempowering thoughts and ideas into a more empowering, self affirming light.
Finally: I respond to those comments with my own mantra [clap back] of positive affirmations and self love.
In other words: I Am allowed me to set boundaries with myself, emotionally, by giving me the creative space and permission to turn potentially damaging thoughts and ideas into something that I could use to empower myself.
Even better: with that mantra now turned into a song - it's letting other people know that I'm not going to be toyed with emotionally when it comes to issues of self worth or self esteem.
... And I did the same with drawing sexual boundaries
KISS: what's the song about in simple terms: Sexual Assault. My own experience within the #metoo movement of the music industry.
Break it down - who am I talking to? Someone in the music industry - and I wasn't going to be another pawn in their game when it came to positions of power.
Understand my position - I can either play into the game... or draw a boundary, and make that boundary very clear. I chose the latter: emphasizing that I'm worthy of respect because I'm somebody's daughter. That mere fact, alone, means I'm valuable.
Reframe and respond - did I want to respond to this situation with fear? Anger? Volatility? Strength? Or sadness? I chose strength - and a well established sense of self.
And Then There's Relationship Boundaries
Now, to be clear: there are many different kinds of relationships: friendships, parent-child relationships, teacher-student relationships, romantic partners... each and every relationship we have will come with it different boundaries.
Later this year, I'm releasing a "new" song that I wrote as part of my boundary setting with my mother when I was a teenager called "The Way I Am", and I'm not going to lie: it was one of the most difficult pieces I've ever written.
But because the same principles applied, it was a creative and effective way for me to start building the confidence and verbiage to communicate what boundaries I needed to put in place with my mother as I was learning to build and develop my own identity.
In saying that, until the song is released and public: I'll give you another example of a song I wrote to help me communicate and implement healthy boundaries in relationships, and that's: Save You From Yourself
KISS: The simplistic breakdown of this song is recognizing that each and every one of us is the only one that can truly control our mindset, our actions, and how we show up.
Break it down: Therefore, in a relationship that feels as though we're having to bare the wait of the other person's struggles, stressors, expectations or judgments: it needs to be made clear that I'm not the one in control of their life. They have the pen and the remote control.
Understand my position: I can only control me, just as you can only control you. I can only save me... and you need to be bold enough to recognize that only you can save you.
Reframe and Respond: here's the plot twist - writing this song wasn't just an exercise in implementing personal boundaries with someone else... it was also recognizing that in order to have boundaries in my relationships... I needed to take more ownership of the role I was playing. If I'm not going to bare the weight of someone else's trauma, I can't expect them to bare the weight of mine.
Okay.... That was A Lot
But - as we know - setting boundaries is an essential practice for self-care. It involves recognizing and communicating your personal limits, needs, and priorities to ensure that you are taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Boundaries serve as a form of protection, helping you maintain a healthy balance between your own well-being and the demands of others or external circumstances.
When you set boundaries, you are prioritizing your own needs and asserting your right to self-care. It allows you to allocate your time, energy, and resources in a way that aligns with your values and promotes your well-being. Setting boundaries also helps you manage stress, prevent burnout, and maintain healthy relationships by fostering clear communication, respect, and mutual understanding with others.... all benefits we receive from songwriting as well [fancy that!]
I've been using music and songwriting my entire life to not only empower myself, but equip myself with anthems that help me to feel empowered, strong, and resilient.
Each and every song has served as a reminder that I'm able to set and maintain healthy time-, physical- and conversational- boundaries that ensure my own safety and sanity.
Because - quite simply - setting healthy boundaries helps us to ensure we're safe, healthy and able to hit our goals in life. And who doesn't want success?
Want to Know More?
If this blog post hit home with you at all, I'd love to discuss in more detail with you about how music and songwriting might be what you're looking for when it comes to establishing, implementing and ensuring your own boundaries in relationships.
Simply click here to book a free strategy session, and let's chat about turning your struggles into songs that will serve as anthemic reminders for your time-, physical- and conversational- boundaries as well.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
~ Emma G