Zoey, my cat, came to me in August of 2014 by way of the local animal shelter. Her story is a sad one, but essential to my point. She was found wandering in an apartment complex in the summer of 2013, severely dehydrated and not doing very well. And so the medical treatment and the wait for a forever home began. I found Zoey on the shelter website in July of 2014, eleven months after she was first brought in. At the point I found her she had been moved to foster care due to her declining health and need for solitude and quiet. Her foster mom and I began to correspond, and it was revealed to me that she had renal failure. It is fairly common in older cats, but it's a death sentence. They didn't know how long she would live, but I felt so strongly about her. Still, I had to ask myself could I deal with the grief and loss should it come sooner than later? After careful consideration, there was no question, I was smitten with her and so I did a meet and greet. The moment I walked into the room, Zoey came running up to me, meowing. I started to pet her, and she just collapsed on the bed and I learned her first boundary. She only wanted her head petted. But, when I went to leave, she was smiling at me as if she was saying, "About time you found me! I've been waiting!" A week later, all the necessities taken care of, a full 350 days after she entered the shelter, Zoey moved in. Let the lessons in discovering boundaries begin.
Given Zoey's backstory, she has trust issues with humans. As a result of her not immediately trusting, she has very strong personal boundaries which keep her safe. Zoey has been front declawed by her previous owners. I guess the very same ones that left her defenseless when they abandoned her. She needed to develop other defenses, and so she is a biter. That is her only physical defense mechanism. It's been an interesting journey to this point. But as I sit here with my morning coffee I realize that she has taught me so much in the way of having personal boundaries and learning to trust again.
As a person who has been victimized through psychological abuse, it might seem that you had no boundaries, but I believe you did. The psychopath knew how to break those boundaries down without you noticing. It's part of their of their ability to gain control. With strong boundaries you are firmly in control, so a breaking down of your boundaries is one way a psychopath works to gain control over you. They view you, not as a person, but as an object that they can control. They play to your weaknesses, fears and vulnerabilities to chip away at your strengths and boundaries are part of your strengths. Boundaries keep you safe, and psychopaths know this.
As you begin to heal you once again begin getting to know what those boundaries are. Just as I had to discover Zoey's boundaries slowly and one by one, I also had to set boundaries with her. Biting me is not okay. As normal functioning people, we recognize when we have unknowingly crossed a boundary, and we make sure that we respect that going forward, that is also building trust with another person. Setting boundaries for yourself is also essential in learning to trust yourself again. As I began to define those boundaries and set them in place, I also began to trust my reactions when those boundaries were crossed. Those that truly care about me, and my wellbeing, respected and wanted to understand those newly enforced boundaries. Those that didn't I removed them from my life.
The first time I crossed a boundary with Zoey was when we were meeting each other for the first time, and I tried to pet her down her side. For an old woman, she's fast! She swung her head right over, nipped me and gave me her meow of "Uh, no!" I stopped, and she laid her head back down and went right back to purring. It has at times been slow going. I had to learn what was acceptable behavior for her. Still, if she's having "a day" she will politely let me know that spot isn't okay, and I respect that because we have built a mutual trust of each other. It wasn't overnight but over the course of 10 months.
With Zoey, I've had to earn her trust and rightfully so. It wasn't just automatically given to me. As a psychological abuse survivor, I've had to learn that people don't automatically get trust. Trust is something that has to be earned, through mutual respect, communication, and understanding. Before the psychopath, I bought into the notion that everyone is trustworthy until proven otherwise. Why should it be that way? Trust is huge and something that is earned through consistency of actions, not just words.
Which brings me around to the final point, that trust when earned makes for a relationship that is authentic and fulfilling. The ability to fully trust someone makes that love deep rooted and sure, be it a friend, partner or family member. Zoey just a couple of weeks ago gave me my first forehead bump, and just this morning took my hand in her front paws and wanted a belly rub. So as I sat there, gently rubbing her belly I was crying because I knew the significance of that. Zoey being the intuitive that she is just looked up and smiled at me.
Lessons in Trust and Boundaries from a Cat
Psychopaths know how to break down your boundaries without you noticing. It's part of their of their ability to gain control. But we can rebuild these.
Article Author: LuckyLaura