Here are some pagan approaches to building and reinforcing notions of personal boundary. These are simple exercises, ones that I’ve worked with for a while.
As ever, it’s best to begin with the practical. It’s hard to hold physical boundaries unless you have a clear sense of your physical self. Tuning out awareness of the body is a normal response to pain and invasion. Any activity that makes you more aware of yourself is worth consciously exploring. Activities that use the whole body are best – such as dancing and swimming. Undertaken with the intention to listen to the body and be aware of its edges, this can help rebuild a sense of the physical self. Washing also gives an excellent opportunity to address this issue. When you wash, take the opportunity to pay attention to your skin and shape, how you feel and look. Work on that awareness through taking care of yourself and paying attention to your own needs. This helps reinforce self-care and insight. Get into the habit of treating yourself kindly and it becomes easier to expect the same from others.
Meditation offers a number of ways forwards. Taking the time to breathe deeply and be aware of your body is productive. Hold an image of yourself in your head, recognising your completeness and your right to be in control. As a human being, you do not deserve unkindness, cruelty, invasion of space or intrusion into self from others. You might want to try visualising yourself inside a safe space – you could see that as a ball of warm, affirming light, as an eggshell holding you safe, or a place that gives you comfort – a room, a woodland grove etc. Find out what helps you to feel whole, in control and secure, and work with that imagery. It’s important to do this regularly and at times when you feel reasonably calm. Then, in times of difficulty, you have this mental tools at the ready, and can summon them up. Being able to hold the mental image of your defined space and safety can, in my experience, help with times of distress and challenge. I find it depends on having enough time to mentally summon those defences during a hard patch– which isn’t always an option. However, turning to such visualisations after a distressing episode can help re-build sense of self.
Some people find it helpful to visualise items of costume or props that give them a feeling of strength and courage – a robe, a pointy witch’s hat, a suit of armour, a really big sword – anything that reinforces and helps you focus on holding your ground is worth exploring. When I am feeling especially vulnerable, I envisage myself with huge, black, scaly dragon wings, big enough that I can fold them about me and hide in them. Having such an image to focus on diverts my attention from fear and distress, and that in itself is also useful. It’s difficult to think about lots of things at the same time. If I am concentrating on the scalyness of dragon wings, it is harder to be overwhelmed with fear.
Creating and holding boundaries is an ongoing process, one of the many things we live out from moment to moment. Putting up a wall to hide behind is not an answer, there is no simple one off solution to fixing feelings of vulnerability, and difficulty in holding your own space. It’s a thing to work on, from one day to the next. Look for people who will work with you and support you in the process by offering kindness and respect. Be conscious of who violates your personal and mental space. Sometimes the only answer is to get away from the person causing the harm. Once you have clarity about your own boundaries and worth, it’s far easier to see where that’s not respected, and to do something about it.