Do you too frequently feel resentful, under-appreciated or misunderstood? Do you have a difficult time saying “No” or conversely do you have a difficult time saying “Yes”? Do you ever feel like you’ve created huge walls protecting you but end up feeling lonely and isolated? All of these things might be indicators that your boundaries are either to loose/non-existent or too thick/impenetrable.
This promotes the “angel on one shoulder, devil on the other” proposition that SOMETHING is wrong with your life and you need help. Are you too thin or too fat? Do you suffer from diarrhea or constipation? Maybe both? Gotcha!
What are boundaries?:
- Boundaries establish where you and I begin/end. They prevent what harms us and allow what benefits us. Boundaries also help us to communicate with others what our limits are and what needs we have.
1. Healthy Boundaries:
- …are like a cell membrane that let’s certain healthy and desired things in while keeping other harmful or undesired things out. It helps us to feel safe, free and yet connected where we want to be connected. Oh yeah! It’s that magic umbilical chord again, that allows for infantile illusions. We know that this statement is mere word “magic” because neither “safety, freedom nor connected” are used in a way that defines what they mean. That is, in an article on boundaries, the language avoids boundaries but is used to trigger emotion.
- Boundaries allow us to know & then take responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Magic nonsense! Boundaries are not “beings or forces” that control how we behave. “They” cannot save us from doing the work that changes our mind (reactions) and interactions with the environment. This is a classic sales pitch: buy the T-shirt that says, Save the Forests, and forests are saved.
- They increase our self-respect because we’re being in better integrity with what’s authentic for us. OMG! A big whopping clue that this BS isn’t understood by the author and proof that no one ought to be given a college degree without courses in basic writing and critical analysis.
- It’s important to recognize that boundaries can shift/adapt over time depending on the context, our needs and safety. So, boundaries are “real entities” and can adapt like humans, animals and plants while at the same time, looking out for the needs and safety of individual humans? Sloppy language that reflects the author’s sloppy thinking.
Either / Or clichés characterize neurotypical beliefs. This nonsense “makes sense” when a person is afraid to think or has no intellectual tools with which to analyze the environment.
This presentation is typical of what I call “Packing a Suitcase Thinking”. The person starts out with a rational plan: makes a list of clothing, toiletries, gadgets, etc. Selects the items and carefully places them in the bags; looks adequate – matches the list. But then a type of terror sets in: I forgot shoes! I forgot my prescriptions!
A cascade of irrational fear sets in, and the person begins randomly stuffing the suitcase with the contents of the closet, chest of drawers and the medicine cabinet, trying to “counteract” the either / or loop. It MIGHT rain; take an umbrella. It MIGHT be sunny; take sunscreen. The suitcase isn’t capacious – another larger case is dragged up from the basement. It’s why we see people at airports dragging sofa-size baggage to check-in. Some people just don’t believe that toothpaste can be purchased at their destination.
We see the irrational thought process in published articles: just “pack the suitcase” with magic words that cover any possible angle on the topic. This reveals a high state of self doubt about what the writer is saying: what if there is an exception somewhere? (Of course there is) I’d better cover that. What if a reader is so stupid, he or she doesn’t understand my idea? (Beat it to death with repetition)
2. No, Limited, or Porous Boundaries:
- …we’re unaware/unconcerned with what your own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and needs are. Who is we?
- We may feel responsible for other’s feelings & spend an inordinate amount of time trying to meet others needs but fail to assert our own.
- We may have difficulty saying “No” for fear of rejection or abandonment
- We may also share too much information too quickly
- This is why editors exist and ought to be employed by any person who claims to be professional.
How many examples must I (the author) present in order to look like I thought about this, but really didn’t, so I’d better not say too much. A few “specific” clichés ought to “resonate” (How I hate this word!) with the reader.
3. Rigid, Inflexible or Impenetrable Boundaries: (Rigid means inflexible)
- If our boundaries are more like walls that keep everything out, (this is impossible – magical thinking) even the good stuff, then we may prefer being lonely than vulnerable Yikes! Language.
- These kinds of boundaries are about self-protection at any cost.
- It’s more like a defense that keeps everything out and therefore we miss out on feeling close/connected with ourselves and others because it feels too unsafe to do so.
- It’s like we’re an isolated castle with no draw-bridge to let certain people and experiences in. Could the clichés be anymore black / white and magical?
Types of boundaries:
- There are various types of categories of boundaries, including physical, emotional, sexual and relational boundaries. Magic again: all of these “categories” are physical: there is no supernatural realm outside of the human brain. More specifically, there can be boundaries related to time, communication, arguments, gossip, intimacy, holidays, celebrations, culture, ending relationships, dating, possessions, privacy, parenting, politics, religion, spirituality, cleanliness, dress, food, body shape/size, internet use, and yes, boundaries between therapist and client. This is what I call the “kitchen sink” list: throw everything into the suitcase, including the kitchen sink. The list could go on FOREVER. It’s preposterous and reflects an inability to: Know your subject. To organize information in a reasonably sane way and to edit for effective communication.
- Examples of situations that you might need to set boundaries with, include: Yikes! Language!
- Intrusive questions
- Over-sharing or under-sharing depending on the context & relationship
- Over-talking or frequency of contact OMG!
- If someone is consistently flaky or on the other hand demanding you be perfect OMG!
- If there’s a significant lack of reciprocity in a relationship
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Any kind of devaluing/shaming of who you are
How can I create new boundaries?:
1. Increase self-awareness:
- what are our usual relationship patterns?
- what boundaries do we set and why?
- insight helps us to see things more clearly & thereby decide how to take corrective action when necessary Sounds like a ‘sound bite’ from a psych textbook and inconsistent with “dumbed-down” entries.
- Get clear about ownership/responsibility Of what?
2. Take action: assert needs and boundaries
- We might need to let people we already are in relationship with know that we need to change the “social contract” with them, that’s either explicit or most often, unconscious. Language!
- Be open to feeling what it’s like to set new boundaries (scary, want to acquiesce, fear of rejection/invasion, etc…) The kitchen sink again.
3. Self-reflect: how did it go?, anything could have done differently? Language!
4. Repeat as necessary:
- may need, or probably will need, to set boundaries repeatedly when changing them with someone
- boundaries require maintenance and updates Don’t forget to check the oil.