The barnacle is one model for personal boundaries. Boundaries are central to our sense of ourselves and our relationships with others. They mark where one ends and the other begins, and how much is shared between them. Healthy boundaries are not rigid, we adjust them to suit ourselves as circumstances require.
In every facet of life you should have a boundary: financial, spiritual, sexual, physical, emotional, or psychological. Unless we are unaware of our boundaries, or neglect them, we choose how how much of what we share with others. In respectful relationships this is accepted and returned, and it is OK to pull back at times. I like the image of a jellyfish pulsing open and closed. At one moment it is open to the environment, the next it closes down. It moves through the sea gently opening and closing.
Our boundary reflexes develop early in life. If a person’s boundaries are not respected when they are young they learn that they do not have a right to say ‘no’, or to ask for what they want, or hold an opinion of their own. They confuse others’ emotions with their own. This can be described as co-dependence. I picture the pour vulnerable crab in the period after it sheds its shell and before a new one has grown. It can hide or get eaten.
But then some people protect themselves barnacle-like. Their rigid boundaries are like walls that keep out too much of life for it to be satisfying. Self awareness is stifled and interpersonal connection is limited since a barnacle can only be known on the outside. Still, the tide may turn. Personally, people grow to know themselves better as their range of emotional tolerance expands. In a relationship the interpersonal boundary can become an intimate place where two are joined.
Anger, guilt, resentment, trouble saying ‘no’, feeling smothered by others, and big reactions to criticism can all be signs of trouble with boundaries. If you are interested here is a link you can follow: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-are-personal-boundaries-how-do-i-get-some/
‘Assertive’ describes the behaviours of people with good boundaries. Practising assertiveness helps develop self-esteem. You can begin acting assertively before you feel it – just know that it is different than being pushy or demanding. I’ll write more on assertiveness at another time. I’m setting a boundary.