As many of you know, I love to use analogies when I am talking about the various effects of exposure to trauma. These analogies will pop up at odd times throughout my day when I am not thinking about my work and when I am occupied with something that doesn’t require a lot of thought. This is just another example of how allowing your mind to rest can help it be more creative.
The other day I was peeling hard boiled eggs for salad and I started thinking about boundaries. Sometimes I take the egg and lightly tap it against the counter and a small break will occur where I can start peeling away the shell. Other times I may be in a bit of a mood and I strike it harder against the side of the sink, resulting in a larger break in the shell and the pieces falling off faster. If the egg is fresh it may be more difficult to peel but there may be more damage to the egg white as pieces of it come off with the shell.
When the egg shell is removed from the egg, the egg becomes vulnerable and we are able to do anything we want with it.
When a child’s boundaries are broken much care needs to be taken to ensure that the crack does not result in larger pieces of the boundary being removed. Protective factors such as family support, education, and encouragement of developmentally appropriate physically and emotionally healthy activities can help keep further exposure from happening, increasing the resilience of the child and limiting future vulnerability.
Many adults with whom we work have had a lot of damage to their boundaries. I have worked with women who have had so many personal attacks against them starting at an early age that they have forgotten or have never known that that they can have boundaries. They have been exposed for so long without protection that they no longer believe that boundaries exist for them. For some of them, the idea of personal boundaries may be an alien concept or they may be fearful of setting boundaries because when they do so someone comes along and tries to break their shell again.
We don’t know what has happened to someone when we first meet them. We don’t know if their shell was removed all at once, in large chunks, or they just have a few cracks. However, we find out soon enough that they struggle with maintaining boundaries and they may need our support. We can help them find the resources and strength they need to further protect themselves. This includes modeling appropriate boundaries and respecting their boundaries.
Unlike the eggs I use for salad, with the appropriate support and building up of community and protective factors, someone who has had their boundaries damaged can rebuild their life.