Where there is centre, there is inevitably boundary. Boundary defines the point at which the qualities, purposes and essence of the centre no longer holds sway. Inside the boundary the system is required to work in relationship with the central principle one way or another. This may be more or less optimal and harmonious depending on a number of factors. Beyond the boundary, other influences hold sway and the central principle no longer determines the tone of what happens.
The boundary is always a place of emotion. This is a very important aspect that we work with a lot in Centre Edge. Usually we are unaware of the emotion but because the boundary defines what is in and what is out of any system, there is always some emotion provoked when we relate to boundary. This emotion can be activated when something moves in or out over a boundary. Or when we are unsure whether someone or something should be inside or outside – do they belong? Even situations where we consider approaching a boundary (for example considering leaving a job or relationship) create considerable emotion.
For example the human body has a boundary which is our skin (there are of course other boundaries in the body too, most systems have a series of inner and outer boundaries). We don’t go around every day thinking that our skin is particularly emotional. However if we get cut by a knife (something comes from outside to the inside across the boundary) this is quite emotional. Similarly if we break a bone and something on the inside pops through the skin to the outside, there is a strong emotional reaction. In essence this explains why people are squeamish about seeing blood, bones, organs etc. We don’t like to see what should normally be tucked away inside out of sight. We place a great deal of emotional energy into having things be in and out, but usually we do not notice that until the boundary is breached or provoked in some way. We tend to just think that is how things are, or should be. Then when the boundary is disturbed, in the case of a broken bone, or vomit, or an injection piercing our skin, it can be quite emotional.
A simple cup of tea is another example. Nothing emotional about that, until my hand slips and suddenly what is inside comes outside, onto the floor or my trousers. Or a fly drops into my tea, something from outside comes inside. It is all pretty irritating. If my digestive biscuit enters and comes out again, that is ok, that is what is meant to happen. But if it gets too soggy and a bit drops off when I remove the biscuit, again, how irritating! Even these trivial examples highlight the universal emotionality that arises across boundaries of every kind.
Boundaries in groups, teams and organisations:
In human systems such as groups and teams, boundary principle helps us understand important dynamics such as inclusion, exclusion, marginalisation and openness. The anxiety of not knowing whether we ‘belong’ in a group or team is an expression of boundary. The resistance of a leader or organisation culture to acknowledging different perspectives or ideas is another. There is much to be learned and gained from exploring how boundary is operating – for good and for ill, in any social system, group or team. Many attempts to create change can benefit from exploring current boundaries. Remember that the boundary is defined by, and in turn helps define, the centre. So expanding or opening boundaries is one way of stimulating real change. At the same time, because it is in continual relationship to the centre doing so also threatens the status quo at the centre.
Boundaries and our sense of self:
At the personal level, we all have aspects of our own lives that we would prefer not to be there. These could be aspects of our history, or parts of ourselves that we feel embarrassed by and ashamed of. Aspects of ourselves that we do feel fit with our core sense of identity, what we believe to be our centre, are allowed within the boundary. Things that we are semi conscious of, but which we also resist are hovering about the boundary. Anything hovering around a boundary carries underlying emotion – conscious or otherwise. This relates to Jung’s idea of Shadow. These are qualities we have but which we are not fully in touch with. Very often we then experience those qualities in other people as very triggering, upsetting or annoying.
Finally, there are aspects, qualities and potentials in all of us which we are simply unaware of. We cannot believe at all that we have these qualities (positive or negative). They are, for the time being, entirely outside the boundary of our identity. Awareness practice is very much about opening up to greater and greater truth about the whole of our experience. This is why Jung famously said he would rather be, “whole than good”. Much Centre Edge work on the personal level is to help us question who or what we currently believe is our centre as well as to gradually enable us to open up the boundaries of who we think we are, and allow a little more of the world in.