A few years back, I lived with a dear friend of mine. We had been through some rough times together, and she was an important support system to me, and vice versa. I should also mention she shines so bright, she is an energetically addictive and magnificent being. This made the way she viewed herself that much more painful. She had struggled with depression for a long time, and I was always able to be a supportive friend to her.
However, when we started living together, this support became something different. I was always so sad that she couldn’t see her own light. I am an extremely empathetic, compassionate person. I am able to take on the pain of others fairly easily. This allows me to deeply care for people, but also has caused some emotional turmoil in my life. As she spiraled down, I was the one there everyday, and I began to spiral down with her. After a while I knew I it wasn’t healthy to act as therapist anymore, I didn’t know what else to say or how to lift her up out of this place. We were so connected that I started to take on her pain. She would get drunk and push me and yell at me but really I knew it was because she wanted to do this to herself, and thus I became an extension of her pain. Then we would cry together, I would hold her, and I swear I would FEEL her pain like it was my own.
After a while of this, I knew I had to set my boundaries. I tried to pull myself away from being this emotional crutch. I told her I wouldn’t drink with her anymore, I stopped trying to help her all the time. I had to accept she was on her own journey. I tried to be supportive, but with boundaries. This was hard. But what I definitely realized during this time, is that I was an energetically porous person with a healing aura. People were drawn to me for this reason. I had to be careful and be sure to set boundaries in order to protect my own emotional being.
I love when things in nature remind me of how natural it is to be porous. Even trees set their boundaries! Nature can teach us so many lessons if you are able to look and connect it to your own life. When I first saw this phenomenon I wasn’t sure what it was. But then found this article about “crown shyness”.
This is a phenomenon where the branches that grow at the top of trees avoid touching, creating these really lovely patterns with cracks of blue sky shining through.
Image by Zack Zayne
It is not confirmed exactly why trees do this. But a couple theories have been proposed:
“Some believe it occurs to reduce the spread of harmful insects. Others believe that trees are attempting to protect one another’s branches from getting cracked and broken in the wind, and it’s also been suggested that “crown shyness” happens so that trees can optimize light exposure in order to maximize the process of photosynthesis”
Whatever the reason may be, I found this so fascinating that indeed even trees are so porous and reactive to their environment, that they have to set these “boundaries” to protect themselves from harmful environmental factors and encourage optimal health. I also found it amazing that while it is their priority first and foremost to protect themselves, they also do this to protect the other trees around them. Trees set boundaries to do what is healthy for them but also for those around them.
As energetic and porous beings, this can show us why it is not only important to set our own boundaries, but why it is also okay to set them, something I always struggled with. Even in those moments when our compassionate hearts want to dive in, it is important to protect ourselves from pain and negativity that is not our own. And maybe by protecting our own energy, this is actually how we can be the most helpful to friends who need us. By being fully ourselves in our truth, and not taking on anything that isn’t ours, we can inspire others to find their own light.
Image by Dag Peak
Feature Image by Tom Cowey