virtual boundaries

Physical boundaries in life are generally easy to spot – there is a wall, a fence, a closed door, a large DO-NOT-ENTER sign, and other manifestations of lines that one does not cross without permission. Learned boundaries include not touching another person unless invited, walking on the sidewalk, and only eating off of your own plate.

We have emotional boundaries. The rules are not quite so obvious and clear. Our sense of closeness and comfort with another person and their role in our lives usually govern how much of any emotion we might reveal. Reading the emotional boundaries of others takes time and experience. Some people hold their emotions so closely, we always have to guess what they are feeling. Some people wear their emotions like a disguise. Still others are emotional fountains that are overwhelming. Most of us fall in between. We learn to respect when and who to ask: how do you feel? And how much we trust the answer.

The majority of us learn the appropriate boundaries of times, places, events, and people that evoke specific emotions. We learn to smile and be joyful at weddings and to be sad and grieving at funerals. We learn to have emotions regardless of whether we might truly feel them. We learn to deny that we might have certain emotions because those emotions make others uncomfortable. We learn through the customs of our society and through trial and error in relationship to our parents and teachers as we are growing up.

We have virtual boundaries, too. It is impolite and a transgression of etiquette to use another person’s computer without their permission. The computer may or may not be their property. The virtual information stored on the computer is. The emotion evoked in a person whose virtual boundary has been violated is not virtual. For that person, their digitized life is very, very real as are their emotions. If all the electricity went out in the world, there might be a few people who would actually cease to exist.

Because of people who have no respect for certain boundaries and cross them without hesitation, we tuck our binary information behind virtual boundaries of passwords, PIN numbers, and authentication codes. Just like thieves who slither inside your home or your car to grab some piece of you, virtual thieves silently sneak inside your virtual world with keyloggers that copy down the key strokes you make to enter your accounts and when you walk away, they siphon off your assets. Some of them get so much information, they can go out into the world and pretend to be you.

When anyone crosses our boundaries uninvited with intent to harm, whether those boundaries are physical, emotional, or virtual, it is a violation of everyone’s well-being. In our karmic world, the harm they caused will revisit them with a vengeance. Whatever we focus on will grow.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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8 Responses to “virtual boundaries”

  1. sandiwhite Says:

    AAaarrgghh!! You’re scaring me!! Not that I have so much that anyone would go to a great deal of trouble to take it from me, but what I have is all I have. My persona, the one I show to the World at large, is of the simple woman, living a simple life. Because that is exactly who I am. I don’t wear bling, I do not flash, I do smile a lot. I don’t spend to much time concerned about my belongings, I do care about my safety. Thank you for bringing up a valid point, you do not have to let the robber in your house to be robbed.

  2. Barbara Kass Says:

    Hi, Sandi – I hope I didn’t scare you too much. This was about boundaries and violating boundaries, where we end and other people begin. Even though we are interconnected, boundaries are required for a peaceful, safe existence. What is interesting is that most of them are learned (thieves learned to disrespect boundaries somehow). Once of my next blogs will probably be about deflect and defense.

  3. holessence Says:

    Barbara – You’ve really given me a tremendous amount to think about. I never really gave a lot of thought to virtual boundaries (Len, who takes care of our technology does, but not me).

    My personal boundaries are “by invitation only” — and while they are “posted” in a sweet, loving, kind, and thoughtful manner, if someone crosses them without invitation, woe unto them.

    Naturally, those virtual (internet-type) boundaries can be crossed without an invitation and there’s probably not a lot of retribution, unless caught, and then maybe not even then? I don’t know how that aspect of things works.

    Lots of food for thought here — thank you for making me think, yet again.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — well, you know I worry that you won’t have enough to think about! 😀 Boundaries have come to my attention because of the violation of my online game and, because I believe in the karmic world, I have to ask myself: in what way have I knowingly violated another person’s boundaries with the intent to get something for myself even if it caused another distress?

  4. ntexas99 Says:

    about those virtual thefts and restoration – any theft (virtual or not) creates a real sense of loss and a feeling of having been violated. Restoration of the data may help to repair in a virtual physical sense, but the remnants of that violation of trust can leave behind an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. Finding a balance between acknowledgement and acceptance can be tricky.

    I know we’re talking about two entirely separate things here, and I don’t intend any disrespect by comparing the two, but I remember mourning for the permanent loss of a false sense of safety after September 11th. After that day, I could never wake up without the knowledge that we are vulnerable to attack. No matter how much I wish it otherwise, I cannot protect my children from this possible threat. Of course, the truth is that we were always vulnerable, but until that day, we were able to live in a quiet space where such vulnerabilities didn’t have to be openly acknowledged and accepted.

    Again, I know we’re talking about two entirely different things here, but to me, they speak about the same basic truth – we have to acknowledge and accept our vulnerabilities, and then figure out how to move forward in this knowledge. Knowing that anyone can, at any time, come in and steal our virtual information or property means that I’ve had to learn how to live with being okay with that knowledge. Not always an easy thing to accept. What’s mine is no longer mine, in a sense.

    Sorry, I know I’m rambling. Your whole virtual theft and restoration and examination of the associated experience left me pondering and turning it over and around in my brain. A violation of trust is still a violation of trust, no matter what the circumstances. We can’t deny that basic truth.

    Let me sum it up by pointing to your words: “whatever we focus on will grow”, (and karma is the ultimate act of balance). Both good things to remember, and rely upon to be true. This also reminds me to pay attention to where I place my focus.

    And also, “in what way have I knowingly violated another person’s boundaries with the intent to get something for myself even if it caused another distress?” That last question rolled around in my head and actually prompted a dream in the wee hours of the morning night before last, in which I recalled an uncomfortable incident from eons ago. My dreaming subconscious reminded me of that incident to underline that even if we deny to ourselves that we violated someone’s boundaries, that does not make it true. My subconscious mind reminded me that I have to take responsibility for having violated someone’s boundaries. I can offer an apology and a sincere acknowledgement, and I can use the experience to be ever mindful of how our actions should be in harmony with those around us. Violating a trust is bad karma. Virtual, or otherwise.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking series of posts about the subject of virtual boundaries. In a way, examining the virtual aspect helps to clarify the physical (and emotional or psychological) aspect as well. A trust violated, a boundary crossed, and damage is done. Acknowledgement, remorse, and restoration are possible, although sometimes we have to make do with none of the three to follow, and rely on basic acceptance instead. Thanks for that reminder.

  5. Barbara Kass Says:

    hi, Nancy — I would never consider anything you say here as disrespectful so just put that concern aside. When my virtual items were stolen, I tried to keep a perspective that they were just virtual items, not my bank account. I keep that under severe isolation and password that I change regularly. Still, during those days when I did not have my virtual stuff, it was the same as if someone had broken into my home and stolen my stuff. The sense of vulnerability was keen. I am a little more aware of the karmic value. For example, if at work, I spend an hour of my time dealing with personal matters instead of work matters, am I guilty of stealing time? Or the money that is paid to me during that time? I try not to violate the work/personal boundaries, but sometimes it just happens. To balance the scales, I often check my work e-mail while I am at home. At some point, though, someone needs to declare the karmic account full and balanced. I so enjoy reading how you process these thoughts. Boundary issues are tricky, because some people invite us to cross them and we know it is not good for them for us to do that. Saying “no” sounds like we are withholding ourselves, but saying “yes” would just damage them and their sense of self.

  6. ntexas99 Says:

    barbara, your brain (and the heart and soul behind it all) just makes me happy to witness. By the way, I meant to say something about being sorry that you had to experience the virtual theft. Especially after one of your posts made it clear that someone around you had failed to acknowledge that your feelings about the violation of your boundaries was a valid response. I apologize for not saying something sooner – I hope you’ll understand that I was just in too dark a place to reach out in your direction with a few kind words (how selfish of me). I sometimes get lost in the darkness and struggle to find my way back. Please forgive my ability to reach out, even if only to acknowledge that I heard you and felt empathy and compassion for your loss.

    About that dream that I mentioned that your words prompted … it was a dreaming video of a situation that never actually happened in real life, (at least not in this specific sequence), but it was so vivid and real that it could have been something that happened a long time ago. It was about someone who I genuinely liked and enjoyed being around. Someone I would have called a friend at the time. In the dream, I had a conversation with a third person in which I said something to make myself be seen in a better light, but did so at the expense of my friend.

    I remember awakening with a feeling of remorse and shame, wondering why I would feel it necessary to undermine someone else in order to gain favor myself. I carried that ugly feeling around for a while, trying to figure out why this dream had decided to visit me. I’m not sure I got it sorted out in my head, but think it had something to do with feeling a little desperate about a particular situation, and the creeping knowledge that there is a fine line between being willing to do ANYTHING to resolve a situation, even if that means doing it at the expense of another.

    I am not the kind of person who wishes harm to others, or who would want to make a person feel less than they are, so it really bothered me. At least, I don’t believe myself to be that way. This dream made me look back and accept responsibility for those times when I allowed myself to believe that no harm was done, even though in reality, boundaries had been crossed and trusts had been broken.

    Some days you probably think your words land on the page and never have any life in them after they have been carefully arranged and placed on your blog. If so, think again. Your words about boundaries crept into my brain, where they simmered in my subconscious, where they prompted a disturbing dream, where they sat with me for several days stewing and roiling and bubbling, and where they ultimately unlocked a truth that needed to be set free. One more piece of baggage that I no longer have to carry around, weighing me down.

    Thanks for unlocking the door to an unexpected journey. You have some mighty powerful words at your disposal, and you are certainly gifted at using them to their best ability. You are a generous soul.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      first, Nancy, don’t fret another moment about not sending your condolences about my virtual theft . . . although I think we could probably come up with a new virtual greeting card for people to send. I just had such a weird reaction to being robbed: real feelings to a the theft of nonexistent items. Your dream fascinates me. I believe that in “real” dreams (at some point, I will explain the difference. Like Laurie, I somtimes have travelling dreams where I feel I have actually been somewhere else all night . . . like the time I got to visit with Hades in the underworld), anyway, in real dreams, I believe that all parts and people represent you, the dreamer. What came to mind as I was reading was the question: what part of you do you discourage other people from seeing? I sensed a vulnerability in you about the third person who you spoke against . . . and something about not wanting to be seen. The part of you that spoke is confident enough to be seen, and I wonder if the person you allow people to see is camoflage or a decoy (and you will even speak against) a very real part of you, in a way to keep you safe. That you felt badly about it upon awakening is a way of getting your attention to stop doing something that makes you feel bad. You may not even have been aware that you were making yourself feel bad. But now, you seem to have discovered that boundary of respect for this third person who you are and will no longer cross it.

      I am glad that other people read my words and find themselves. It is just another nail in my belief that we are all One, connected, eternal, and present to each other in all sorts of ways . . . even virtually.

      Namaste.

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