Boundaries. Many use that word, but few truly know what it really means. On April 28, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop centered around physical safety, emotional boundaries, and situational awareness coupled with the importance of firearm safety. I didn’t really know what to expect walking in, however, following these ladies on social and the interactions I’ve had with Maria, owner of The Southern Squeeze, I knew it would encompass necessary topics that may seem uncomfortable. This recap took me a while to write….I had an “emotional hangover” after it was done. As much I believe I have pretty good boundaries, there was still so much to learn.
The workshop began with a discussion around boundary types led by Erin Brown. She defined the four general boundary behaviors.
-Soft (passive, empathic)
-Rigid (aggressive, closed off)
-Spongy ( passive aggressive, a combo of soft and rigid)
-Flexible (assertive, navigates boundaries with authority)
I find myself, these days, pretty flexible. However, that hasn’t always been the case. I struggled for a long time with spongy boundaries. For example, I would get overly empathic (taking on the emotions of others) then I would get to a point where I was emotionally vexed, so I adopted rigid boundaries. It was cyclical. Of course, in theory, we all know that is not the healthy way to handle others and our boundaries. In practice, however, it can be more challenging and layered than that.
Many of us have had some type of trauma in our lives, be it physical, sexual, emotional or mental. There have been some not so positive experiences that have shaped the way that we view ourselves and the world around us. Unless we come face to face with that trauma, we lead lives that put us in the same position over and over again. We find ourselves around the same types of people, taking on the same types of emotions and ultimately, having the same results. Isn’t it fine time to get out of that vicious cycle and mindset?
There were definitely many highlights from this portion of the event. One of them was understanding the body’s response to certain emotions. You may not notice it if you’re not grounded, but we all have nonverbal responses to things that make us uncomfortable. Acknowledging those moments, will only help with the processing of those emotions as we experience them. Also, IT IS NOT OKAY TO TAKE ON THE EMOTIONS OF OTHERS. That was a tough one for me. I like to make the problems of others my problems. Not only is it unfair to me….it’s also unfair to the person who needs to experience and unpack their emotional journey. Listening doesn’t have to mean taking on extra emotional weight!
At some point or another, we’ve all had uncomfortable moments in conversation. The best thing you can do for others in any situation is give them grace. Seek to understand first, but also make sure you’re understood. The fine tipping balance between the two can be tricky. In the workshop, we navigated how to handle tough conversations. In that, where values and views are different, it’s imperative to understand perspective and to tackle conversations head on. Tiptoeing around a topic or viewpoint that makes you feel uneasy is only harmful for you and the other party.
I’m telling you, we talked about it ALL.
Interweaved in the content were some exercises. A couple of note were the practice of non verbal, verbal, and physical cues to enforce your boundaries. When you’re really firm in your boundaries and personal space, you can literally send energy that spreads around you like a shield. It was so awesome to experience the power in the women there. You could just feel the shell of strength as we yelled “BACK OFF!” to one another.
The most impactful portion of the workshop was the sister circle. We formed two circles within each other and faced one another. At that point, Erin read affirmations that we were to tell one another. “Dear sister” left not a dry eye in the room. Sometimes hearing things from other women and looking them in the eyes makes all the difference. We held hands, we connected, we learned and most importantly, we released.
Maria led a self defense piece to the workshop. I know many of us have taken self defense type classes at some point or another whether from school or otherwise. However, coupled with the content around boundaries, it took on a different life. Once the self defense portion begun, we were ready to really release all the trauma and emotion from the boundaries work.
My favorite part of this portion was the old school hand slapping game. Remember that game we used to play as kids when you put your hands on top of someone else’s hands and try to slap them? Yeah, we did that. We partnered up and stood with our feet together and took turns playing. Then, we stood with our feet wide. Last, we stood with our feet under our hips. This was to establish our strong stance. She added even more layers to it, foot stomp (taps in this case) and shoulder touches. We did the exercise with our eyes open, then with our eyes closed. Surprisingly enough, doing it with the closed eyes was a lot easier because you had to trust your instincts and not the sense of sight.
She then showed us how to establish a strong “fighting stance” by placing the dominant foot in the back. Utilizing that fighting stance, we practiced getting out of difficult physical situations like someone grabbing your arm or from behind. She was very thorough in explaining each move and the why behind it so that it was engrained in our memories. Some of the foundational knowledge can easily be translated into other situations.
Participation in the physical portions of the workshop were optional, but no one opted out! That’s how fantastically relaxed the facilitators made us feel.
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS/FIREARM SAFETY
Tig brought it home with a crash course in situational awareness and firearm safety. For anyone who’s ever had a situation that started off one way and took a turn to the left quickly, this portion of the workshop was just for that. Also, basic education around how to handle a firearm, independent of feelings about gun control and laws, was surprisingly well received and calming.
Tig did a great job of setting the stage with stories from her personal life. She talked about finding herself in a tough situation on an evening out, even though she thought she thoroughly prepared for said night. She then introduced us to the situational awareness acronym: POET.
-Prepare: Prepare for the situation you’re in, no matter what it is. Preparation can include taking classes, gaining knowledge of the area, letting people know what’s going on in advance just in case. Find the appropriate preparation for the situation and get it done!
-Observe: Look at exits where you are, think about your daily routines (are they too uniformed?), be aware of who’s around. Preparation occurs beforehand, observation is ongoing.
-Execute: Whatever plan you’ve curated for any given situation….stick to it!
-Tell: In the event something does happen, acknowledge that you did everything right and TELL SOMEONE. Don’t take responsibility for other’s ill behavior. Tell authorities, family, friends, whoever you feel needs to know this information.
With the situational awareness piece as the base, we moved on to firearm safety. We had the option of working with a plastic gun to go over some simple safety steps for handling a firearm. (Please consult with a professional before handling a firearm, this is for recap purposes ONLY!) We learned how to hold it, when to point and squeeze the trigger (if necessary) and information about different types of firearms.
In the Q&A portion of the workshop, Tig talked about her views and why she made the choice to pursue teaching firearm safety to women. She also made it very clear that it is important to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. The most important thing is understanding state laws and if that is a choice you make, practice is key.
This was just a surface level synopsis of the Powerful Boundaries workshop. The three women involved were inspiring, courageous and informative. If there is ever an opportunity to partake in an event like this…I would highly suggest you step out of your comfort zone and go for it!
For more information about the presenters, follow them on social
Erin Brown @iamerinbrown
Maria Bascetta @thesouthernsqueeze
Tig Washington @triggerfirearminstruction