Boundaries, Not Limits

What are “appropriate boundaries”? What is “functional behavior”? Many people do not know.

While I certainly can’t provide the “definite answer” to these questions, I think about these topics and I have some opinions as to what the discussion could include.

A boundary is that which sets up a perimeter. It could be a permeable perimeter (like a fence with a gate) or a flexible perimeter, like a floating line of buoys in the water, or it could be rigid, like a stone wall. It is something that sets one thing (or person) apart from another. Sometimes, in close relationships, it can be hard to separate ourselves from another. Where do you leave off and I begin? That’s the opposite of being in a relationship where it’s impossible to develop a sense of closeness or “unity”. Neither works very well. In losing oneself in another, it’s very easy to also lose a sense of personal autonomy and responsibility and become trapped in “us” with no sense of “me”. In being in a relationship in which it seems impossible to bond, there isn’t any sense that a true partnership exists. A healthy psychological state allows for both “us” and “me” and allows, too, for flexible boundaries. Sometimes its a negotiation, but negotiation is a sign of health.

Functional behavior, in a broader sense, operates according to certain criteria — and, within those,  individuals either function well or they don’t. If as an adult you can take care of yourself, (stay healthy), and support yourself (have a source of income), and provide for yourself (a residence and nutritional sustenance) and if you have friends or family that care about you (a social group), then our society considers you to be functional. If you have trouble with these things all the time (everyone has trouble with some of them now and then), then you are dysfunctional, whether you think so or not, in at least some areas. As one becomes more psychologically healthy, (functional) it is possible to increase trust, take moderate risks, investigate new activities and expand the possibilities of having more of the good things in life. A functional person can also weather life’s adversities and survive to go on to recover and move forward.

If you sing, you need to have good vocal boundaries and be vocally functional. That means you need to know what your voice can and cannot do, and the only way to really know that is to engage in technical study and develop its capacities over time (years). The way to discover what it can do is to explore all possibilities. As you study you might have to compromise by choosing less demanding repertoire, but you can understand that more challenging songs or work will be within your voice’s grasp in time. If you do not know what a healthy sound is, or how your voice operates when it is both healthy and strong, you will find it difficult to make adjustments, and can easily get derailed when it is not well or when you have to sing something demanding.

Vocal function, when optimized, is about vocal health and vocal behavior. It depends on your overall health, upon use (time and amount) and upon the choice of material you choose to sing. Not knowing  about and experiencing these things first hand makes keeping clear vocal and artistic boundaries difficult. It makes vocal function mysterious. You can become lost in the material or the experience of singing (in a solo performance or with others) and over or under-estimate what is best, or you could expect someone else to tell you how much to do and in what way, becoming dependent instead of independent.

Just like your psyche, your voice needs flexible but clear boundaries in order to behave in a way that is   functionally optimal.


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