The importance of boundaries
Boundaries are a set of rules that we set to protect ourselves and others from unnecessary harm. Imagine if there were no traffic lines on a highway. What do you think would happen? Chaos would ensue from a lack of traffic control. The lane markings in highways serve to establish a physical boundary between drivers to avoid collisions. Similarly to that of a lane marking, we too must establish boundaries in our everyday lives to avoid conflict and despair. Drawing these "lines" in our lives are not selfish acts, but rather are acts oriented in self-preservation and authenticity.
Types of boundaries
Boundaries can be broken into three main types: rigid, porous, and healthy. These types vary in their degree of intimacy and trust. The best boundary to have is “healthy”, whereas the worst type to have is rigid. A rigid boundary feels restrictive and can make us feel unheard, unsafe, and isolated. Porous boundaries are a deceptive form of boundaries. At times, a porous boundary can feel healthy, but it never truly is. A porous boundary is one where our needs are sometimes met, and this feeling of sometimes getting what we need, can lead to our boundaries becoming increasingly ignored. A porous boundary has the capacity to become rigid or healthy. Ignoring our needs can make a porous boundary rigid.
Changing your mind
Nothing ever stays the same for long, so it would be an unfair and unreasonable request to want boundaries to remain stagnant. Old “jokes” between friends can turn sour over time. It is not wrong to change your mind or ask for more. A change of perspective and circumstances are a normal aspect of life. A critical aspect of creating boundaries is understanding that they evolve with our relationships. Changing your mind is allowed in every facet of life, especially in our personal lives. An important real life example of this is sex. Consent and boundaries can change, and others cannot negate your personal wishes. Consent is continuous.
Setting Boundaries within familial relationships
Often, we may feel as if familial ties are sufficient enough criteria to ignore our own personal boundaries and comfort. Though familial relationships are an important aspect to our lives, it is equally important to not allow toxicity to manifest into our lives. The key step in creating boundaries within any dysfunctional relationship is to identify the problem. Often conflict arises not due to a singular event, but due to a slew of events or actions that went unaddressed. Identify what pattern of behavior creates aggression, discomfort, and resentfulness. Addressing specific problems will help create a foundation for creating clear boundaries.
Tips for setting healthy boundaries
Psychiatrist, Abigail Brenner, recommends the following four tips to create healthy boundaries:
- Do not ignore verbal abuse. How people talk to you and about you is not to be taken lightly.
- Learn to identify signs Emotional abuse. Constant criticism, lying, and bullying is not love.
- Do not accept physical violations of your boundaries (e.g., property damage, domestic violence, and sexual violence).
- Respect yourself enough to demand respect.
Brenner, Abigail. “7 Tips to Create Healthy Boundaries with Others.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 21 Nov. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201511/7-tips-create-healthy-boundaries-others.
“Boundaries information sheet” Therapistaid.com, Therapist Aid LLC, 2016, www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/boundaries-psychoeducation-printout.