Setting boundaries can feel scary AF. I’ve been so nervous that my teeth audibly chattered as I was trying to eke the words out. 🫣

It’s easy to beat ourselves up for not finding this stuff easier.

“I’m a grown-ass adult! Why can’t I just say what I need?”

Well, I like to think of every boundary existing within an ecosystem. This ecosystem is populated with the relationships we have with other people and also the relationships we have with different parts of ourselves.

All of those relationships come bundled together with many other factors, things like financial stability—for instance, maybe this person is our boss or a partner who co-pays the bills—or status—maybe they’re the unspoken leader of our social circle, and so forth.

We’re never ​setting a boundary​ in a vacuum, so it helps to have heaps of compassion for ourselves when this stuff feels hard.

For example, let’s say you’re anxious about telling your mom you don’t want to come to dinner every Sunday. You could really use more weekend downtime, and family dinners are pretty stressful. Frankly, it sucks ending your weekend on a frazzled note, because you invariably carry that into your work week.

Perhaps you’re feeling anxious because setting this boundary could upset your mom and perhaps other family members, too.

But what else exists within this ecosystem?

What if your mom is the person you typically call when you’re upset? Maybe you’re afraid of losing this perceived lifeline.

Or maybe your mom pays for [fill in the blank], and you’re worried this will stop if she’s angry with you.

Or perhaps your mom is the unofficial leader of the family, so if you don’t have her approval, other people might follow suit and rebuke you, shut you out, or [fill in the blank with feared consequence].

Maybe your mom sees you as “the well-behaved one,” and this label forms a bigger chunk of your identity than you realize. Who would you be if you weren’t someone who follows the rules of “proper” behavior, and how would you feel about yourself as a result?

I could keep going, but you get the point. There are often many factors contributing to our boundary-setting stress!

That last one is worth delving into deeper…

What happens when one of these contributing factors conflicts with how we see ourselves? 🪞

I find it useful to think of this in terms of our inner parts, to use the language of Internal Family Systems.

Each inner part holds particular beliefs, and it’s not uncommon to have at least one part that carries sticky ideas around money + relationships. Living in a capitalism-on-steroids society makes this virtually inevitable.

Maybe you have a part that believes receiving financial assistance from someone makes you 100% beholden to their needs and directives.

Or maybe a part thinks that accepting even the teensiest bit of money makes you a gold digger. (We also receive a lot of cultural conditioning around this, with people judged differently based on gender!)

If a tangled-up-money part exists within the psyche, there’s a good chance we’ll have blind spots in this area, because parts often seek to hide from our awareness anything that could make us feel ashamed or conflicted.

AI can be so delightfully weird. What is even happening here? 😆

Going back to our Sunday dinner scenario, what if a decent chunk of your anxiety stems from the fact that your mom likes to treat you to shopping trips, and if you don’t go to dinner, she might decide to cancel these outings?

If you have an inner part that believes mixing relationships + money is wrong or shameful, it will work very hard to ensure you don’t see this as a contributing factor to your boundary-setting anxiety.

🔎 It won’t let you explore this dynamic enough to discover that, sure, material stuff is a part of it, but maybe you also feel valued and cared for through these shopping trips, and you understandably don’t want to lose that.

When part of our motivation is hidden from our conscious view, this can be very confusing!

We might have a nagging sense that something bad will happen if we set the boundary, but we can’t, for the life of us, pin down what this amorphous threat is. It’s just…bad. Really bad. Better not go there.

For years, I had a similar set-up with a family member. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was afraid of losing the financial security this person provided, because that must mean I was only talking to them for their money, and that must mean I’m a bad person.

The truth was far more complicated. This person had been a source of (relative) emotional security when I was growing up in an abusive household. The financial security was part of the puzzle, but so was our emotional connection and countless other things to boot.

On their side (at least from my limited POV), this family member appeared to have an inner part who used financial gifts to secure loyalty in relationships, because they, too, were afraid of abandonment.

Our wounded parts were all tangled up, doing their best to keep us safe, all the while making it really hard to set boundaries.

When I got to know my inner part who felt super ashamed that money was even a factor, I was able to see my own behavior—and my family member’s—with greater clarity.

I was able to more accurately assess the potential consequences of setting a boundary…

…instead of getting lost in fantastical worse-case scenarios. From there, it was easier to brainstorm how I might respond, should those consequences come to pass, instead of trying to avoid a shapeshifting fog of “bad stuff” 😶‍🌫️ by doubling down on people pleasing and boundary avoidance.

Importantly, I was also able to identify areas in my life where I needed to make some changes in order to create financial stability for myself. This involved, among other things, ​establishing a healthier work schedule​ and finding a budgeting method that worked for me.

Boundaries exist in an ecosystem.

We can memorize all the boundary-setting scripts under the sun, yet it might feel impossible to actually use them.

It might seem like setting a boundary is just about saying the words, and sure, that’s definitely a part of it, but we can better support ourselves by zooming out and peeping the larger context.

When we think of boundaries as part of a system, we can apply our creative problem solving (and magical techniques) in different ways.

Now, this does not mean we need to understand all of the contributing factors before we set a boundary. Nope. Not even a little bit. And that’s a good thing, because we never will. There are just too many!

But bringing some curiosity to a boundary’s ecosystem can help us identify one or two areas that are realistically under our influence rather than, say, trying to control how the other person will respond, which is out of our hands.

In my example, learning how to budget was squarely under my control.

Ensuring my family member still approved of me after I set the boundary? Not so much.

Tarot + Boundary Setting

Tarot can be a great help in identifying areas within your zone of influence and identifying actions you can take based on that intel.

I like to hold my tarot deck, close my eyes, and take a few moments to focus on my breath, bringing myself to center and waking up my intuition. 🔮

Then, I think of my situation. What is the boundary I wish to set and with whom? I imagine that scenario happening under a spotlight, as if it’s playing out on stage and everything else is hidden in shadows. As the circle of light widens, it reveals more of the ecosystem in which this boundary exists.

Holding this in my awareness, I shuffle the deck at least three times, sometimes more (the deck will feel “ready”), and then I ask, “Within this ecosystem, how can I best apply my energy to help me set this boundary?”

I like to lay out four cards in a grid, but you can just as easily do this with a single card if you’re short on time or reading multiple cards feels overwhelming.

The Cosmic Slumber Tarot

You can also use a pendulum to clarify your interpretations. (I love doing this!)

For instance, let’s say you’re getting the message to expand your social horizons. Part of the resistance to setting this boundary is fear of losing your friendship, even though you’ve been feeling very stifled because you’ve been spending more time with this friend than feels healthy for you.

You can use your pendulum to test out different options, say, between going to the local book club or trying game night at the pub. Let’s say they’re happening the same night or you otherwise don’t want to do both. Ask your pendulum which one would be best for you right now.

You can also use the pendulum to “fact-check” your interpretations. In this example you could say, “I’m seeing in the Three of Cups that I need to expand my social horizons—is this accurate?”

If you’re new to tarot and/or pendulum use, check out Enchantment Lab, included in ​The Portal​.

We did an entire unit on reading tarot cards intuitively (i.e., without being locked into predetermined “meanings”), even if you’re brand new to tarot, and this method can be used with oracle decks, too. I also outlined how to attune with and use a pendulum, which is one of my favorite witchy tools. (More details on how to access the Lab below).

Regardless of the divination method you choose…

…aim to identify an action you can take, not just general concepts or ideas like, “Everything will work out fine.” That’s nice to hear, but it doesn’t help all that much with actually setting the boundary.

You’re looking for actionable insights that will help you get clear on what you need and ​how to communicate that​.

Boundary setting gets easier over time, it really does. There might be things that, right now, feel agonizing to communicate, but with practice, you’ll be amazed at how natural it can feel to clearly state your needs.

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re a jerk. It means you’ve taken the time to get clear on what you need, and you’ve cultivated the courage to kindly communicate that, instead of leaving people guessing or expecting them to read your mind.

It takes guts, but in return you gain energy, peace of mind, and greater intimacy in your relationships.

You’ve got this.

Happy New Moon! 🌑

The magical tarot + pendulum combo

To access the Enchantment Lab lessons on how to read tarot cards + how to use a pendulum to enhance your readings, ​join The Portal here​.

Once you’re in, just make sure you’re ​signed into your account​. (Don’t worry, all of this is explained in your welcome email.)

You’ll then have full access to Enchantment Lab, which, in addition to the divination lessons, contains all kinds of cool Jungian Magic lessons, like working with spirit guides, interpreting your dreams, and advanced spellcasting techniques.

Oh, and you also get access to all previous Portal courses, like Jungian Energy Work, Sigil Magic, and Mapping Your Money Flow, just to name a few. See you inside!

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