Badass Boundaries for Healers

In this post, I will be using “healer” to mean anyone who works in the capacity of energy reading or providing an alternative therapy/healing service of any sort. And I’m using badass to mean fierce and powerful. So I hope you’ll excuse my word use and stick around when I say this:

We need badass healers.

Healers unafraid to protect themselves from manipulative or detrimental behavior. Healers unafraid to stare monsters (real or figurative) in the face and stop the harm they cause. Once you feel the call to serve the greater whole, you’ll realise at some point that a burned-out healer benefits no one. While rest time helps, healers also need to know how to be badass maintaining their energy and boundaries. This is important both for self-care and the sustainability of their work, beyond the ethical boundaries that counselors and established therapists are trained to handle.

Not surprisingly, healers can have favorite clients as well as dreaded ones, the latter being individuals who may sap more from the healer than they have to give. This shouldn’t be surprising because healers aren’t usually serving people who are already whole. Everyone’s seeking either healing, or information that will help them on their healing path. You may expect to serve broken and wounded people, but you don’t want individuals who see you as an easy tap providing free support and time.

If you’re an energy worker and healer, you’re going to need some badass boundary maintenance. I’ll outline why boundaries will help you and your business, then suggest some tips on enforcing them.

1. You’re an empath (probably).

Being sensitive to suffering and emotional pain is probably why you’re doing what you do. If you’re a psychic reader, you may get some of your information through both emotional and physical sensations during a reading. Receiving such information means porous borders on your own energy, even if this is by choice during a reading. In short, to perceive is to be affected. (Extreme cases:

2. Sensitivity takes a toll.

Discomfort generally keeps the mind and body on alert, ie. out of the relaxed state, and with the mind trying to solve the problem of the discomfort. There is a link between pain and fatigue, that scientists continue to study. (Interestingly, scientists have found testosterone can help “block” fatigue for a pain-sufferer, which may explain why it’s mostly women with fibromyalgia.) Think about empathic or sympathetic pain and how this could drain a healer beyond the obvious outward physical and mental toll of their work. An effective healer needs to be aware of this.

3. Our desire to help or sympathise needs limits, or it can start to harm or disempower.

Pain sucks. In trying to relieve pain in others (physical and emotional), some healers and empaths may choose to withhold difficult diagnoses or avoid calling out self-sabotaging BS for what it is. Granted some clients may only want affirmative swathing in cotton balls. But avoiding difficult yet necessary steps, even to be kind, prolongs an un-whole, unhealed state.

“Love & Light” healers sometimes do no favors ignoring obvious wounds or patterns just because illumination and disinfection will hurt in the short-term. People-pleasing and continued avoidance could compromise our professional integrity; sometimes creating and prolonging a draining relationship where the client returns again and again for ineffective band-aids. It’s going to up to both parties if such a path is truly desirable.

What works better is a relationship where both sides get what they need and want. For your clients, that will usually be self-understanding and an action plan for their own healing and growth. For you, you want the satisfaction, energy and business sustainability to keep doing what you love, and effectively.

Story Time

When I worked as a history guide, I followed the schedule as much as possible because it’s what the participants paid for (usually 3 hours of sights and riveting stories following an agreed itinerary). If a tour went overtime, everyone paid extra with their time and energy. Some individuals may be able to afford to, but it’s rude to expect that everyone there can and wants to. (Communication and consensus were key considerations before I took more time.)

If you’ve ever attended a public talk, you may have experienced the annoyance of someone in the audience “asking” a question that isn’t a question, or (I’ve seen this) taking up the entire Q&A segment with their tangential story-telling. Moderators who are too nice and unable to control such disruptions are basically failing at the job; and it can ruin the experience of other audience members who came and respected everyone else involved.

As a healer, you moderate your energy AND your sessions, your time, and your clientele.

When nice people fail to identify and stop assholeish behavior, everyone suffers in some form. Instead of being doormats or fighting assholes with assholery (yay for  this finest hour in my writing), I prefer enforcing boundaries. I do this usually with reminders as to the preciousness of everyone’s time and energy, my own included.

I spent one year at the University of Wisconsin. I’ve lived this.

Here are the tips:

1. Be clear in the nature and terms of your service beforehand.

If you’re doing readings, keep to the time (whether you promised 20-minute or hour-long readings) and deliver what was promised in that time. Set reasonable expectations for what your clients get in a session with you. (So being able to explain this clearly, or to directing them to clear information, really helps. Do it in an efficient way, because education is still energy expended.)

If you’re likely to go overtime in a session, bring it up and ask if the client is willing to pay more for more. If they’re not, don’t. It’s easy to be impulsive and give extra (especially for givers) but you’re only as effective as how well you control your own energy and its effects.

2. Be clear in what you allow for follow-ups.

Some questions may be inevitable, but it will be unfair to entertain questions that take hours or detailed notes to answer, when a client may have only paid for 30 minutes of time with you. Small clarifications may not take much and you could allow them within a set time-frame or number of questions. When a client seems to be asking for more beyond that, invite them towards another session or paid arrangement.

Again, make these limits clear at the time of booking or the session, because you do want to avoid the clients who expect the moon, or simply to discourage this freebie/attention-chasing behavior from those who don’t know better (or who do know and who want to push their luck).

3. Say no when you want to say no.

Some potential clients give you the heebie-jeebies. Some may ask for something you haven’t offered or don’t even offer, and your gut could be heaving at the thought. You can turn them down. This isn’t an allowance for sexism and racism, but if anything makes you uneasy, or puts your safety or integrity at risk, say no. Trust and honor your instincts.

4. Expect victims and their stories.

Some people will come asking “why did this happen to me?” and already have their own answer, making it your job to guess it (if you’re a reader) and take their side. Everyone needs a good ranting session sometimes; getting paid to listen actually isn’t bad work.

The tricky bit is when advice or healing is expected from you, when the client shows no desire to change their behavior or do anything proactive to help their situation, or when they expect you to fix everything or provide all answers at a snap of their fingers. Think of the “Askhole”—the person who always asks for advice but never takes it. Taking action means taking responsibility for the outcomes. You’ll get people who avoid that, or, some may act on advice, but still want a scapegoat in reserve.

Handle such sessions and clients with caution. Be clear on your clients’ responsibility for themselves. Don’t put yourself in rescuer position, tempting as it may be for empaths.

5. Expect manipulators and their stories.

Being even lightly informed on manipulative and abusive behaviors can help us identify potential issues and protect ourselves. Manipulation does not have to be just lying; it includes “love bombing”—overwhelming a target (ie. you) with attention, affection, compliments, and gifts, in order to gain trust before exploiting that one way or another.

Narcissists, for example, can be very charismatic, but often distort information or outright lie (convincingly) to get what they want. And I bring them up here because they LOVE rescuers and empaths! They crave an audience and the attention. People with grandiose stories about themselves may rarely admit they need healing, but you may nevertheless get such people approaching for some sort of ego boost. They need to be special in some way, and in return for their initial and strategic love bombing, seek time, adoration, loyalty and subservience (also known as narcissistic feed) from their targets.

Ultimately, it can take time and a lot of heartbreak for the uninitiated or gullible to see through all of a narcissist’s constructs. These relationships usually end in tears. People with strong boundaries don’t bother trying to please narcissists, because it’s a never-ending task to satisfy their egos.

Pro-tip: If you haven’t guessed yet, narcissists can play victims too. They’re very good at it.

6. When you’re done with work, you’re done with work.

Learn how to cleanse your energy, or in pragmatic terms, leave work problems at work. Don’t give them head space when you’re not working, and be wary of relationships outside of work with your clients. This is where mental discipline and compartmentalizing skills really pay off.

In short this time:

  1. Be clear with what you offer.
  2. Be clear with your terms for follow-ups.
  3. Be clear with your “no”s.
  4. Be clear with your responsibility and theirs.
  5. See asshole behavior clearly.
  6. Be clear where your work stops.

The Take-away

I know the image of the ever-positive, ever-calm and never-angered healer is pervasive, but remember that healing work sometimes needs a spine of steel. Take inspiration from the wrathful bodhisattvas and deities of Buddhism and Hinduism—the most fierce-looking are acknowledged as the most powerful healers and protectors—sometimes it just takes that kind of fierce. Badassery isn’t about looks or hurling abuse, but holding firm to your boundaries and convictions.

Bet Mahakala wouldn’t let egotists hog the mike at public events.

As healers becoming whole ourselves, we need the entire wardrobe of archetypes as our tools, and sometimes, it may be good to put on the spikes and black leather. (Figuratively, I mean, unless that style appeals to you. I like it on Fridays.)

The best and most effective healers maintain firm boundaries in their professionalism and energy given to their clients. This ensures their best work is consistent, and shared with those who are proactive in their own healing. This way, everyone wins.

About Janet

Janet is the artist and creator behind the Self-Love Oracle. Drawing fantastical subjects since childhood and holding a B.A. in Journalism, she's worked in tourism and publishing, and is currently studying Counseling Psychology. After her experiences with motherhood, divorce, Tibetan Buddhism, healing, and the supernatural, she pushes others to heal through self-exploration and self-expression. She can be booked for her readings here.

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