Boundaries are something we talk a lot about as Counsellors but I wondered if I was making an assumption that people who are not involved in the therapeutic world would know what they are, and then I wondered whether even as therapists we could explain what they are.
I’ve done a lot of wondering 😏
So what are boundaries? Boundaries are rules we use and establish ourselves to determine what we will and won’t permit in terms of behaviour towards or from us.
We learn boundaries in the family system, and sometimes that’s not as effective as it could be and we end up with undefined boundaries. This is especially true in abusive, neglectful or absent family systems.
So learning to establish boundaries is really really important to our mental health and even physical health. Setting a standard for ourselves in what we permit to be done to us, and how we react or respond to someone else is vital.
To help learn new boundaries, it’s much like the habit of saying ‘no’ I talked about the other day. We have to think about our needs. Our needs have to be considered first, and then we have to decide whether we are willing to compromise that need.
The best thing to help you with this is your gut. Instinct rules. If you feel a little tug, a twisted heartbeat, an unexplained flutter of butterflies, a momentary feeling of panic or sadness, LISTEN. Your body is trying to tell your brain to stop. To take a moment and think. It’s asking you to ask yourself a question:
‘Is this acceptable for me?’
When you have answered that question, you can take the next step to establishing the boundary. You can say no, yes, maybe.
We can often feel guilty when we start trying to establish new boundaries. Those who have been inconsiderate of ours get angry and try to beat us back into the undefined, malleable shape we were, when they could take advantage or use or abuse us. It is THEIR stuff. THEIR behaviour is unnaceptable. You are merely requesting respect. From them and yourselves.
How hard do you find it to establish and maintain boundaries? What could you do differently?