I’m reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, I’m learning a lot about myself, what troubles me, what ails me and what I’m doing wrong.

There are four kinds of boundary-problem types Cloud and Townsend identify: The Compliant, The Controller, The Nonresponsive and The Avoidant.

The Compliant: Feels guilty and/or controlled by others; can’t set boundaries
The Controller: Aggressively or manipulatively violates the boundaries of others
The Avoidant: Sets boundaries against receiving the care of others
The Nonresponsive: Sets boundaries against responsibility to love

What am I? Total compliant, hands-down. I don’t do some of the compliant things, i.e. pretend to like the same things as others just to get along — well, not always. I tend to do that with people I don’t know to be agreeable. For the most part, namely with people whom I know, I have my own mind.

The significant compliant problem is the inability to say "no." Reasons that Cloud and Townsend provide:

  • Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
  • Fear of abandonment and separateness
  • Fear of punishment
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
  • Fear of being unspiritual
  • Fear of a person’s overstrict, critical conscience (experienced as guilt)
  • A wish to be totally dependent on another

"Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid." – Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries

I’m still trying to figure out what’s me being "compliant" and me doing what I really want to do — i.e. managing organizations, freelance writing, living where I currently live, etc. My compliant personality doesn’t need to be with a dominating personality, although I tend to feel worse with those kinds of people.

Example: Paying my mother’s $1,000 eye doctor bill when really, it’s not my responsibility at all. Talk about compliant: I took on the task of paying down the student loan she took out for me even though I’m not legally responsible. But it wasn’t getting paid, I felt bad and decided it was my education she invested in me so I took her financial responsibility on me. All $8,000 of it.

Another recent example: I felt pressure from a job recruiter and my mother-in-law to take a job I was iffy about but the calls were scarce and patience and money were running low so I said, "yes." Now I’m a bit unhappy — for a number of reasons, but now I realize I didn’t really want the job — I just said "yes" because other people wanted me to.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to pass the buck — I take FULL responsibility for my decisions, influenced by others’ opinions or not. Admitting compliance no longer means shifting blame; it’s learning that my inability to say "no" is really my problem and that I brought some of these problems on myself. Knowing that I’ve got a compliant personality is the first step to overcoming it.

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