Setting Boundaries
Join 1000's of Authors at StreetArticles Today!

Setting Boundaries

Have you ever had a moment when someone asks you to do something and you wanted to say ‘No’, but felt obliged and said ‘Yes’? It then bothers you for the rest of the day and you begrudgingly do the task.

Have you ever had someone make an underhanded remark and it plays on your mind for the rest of the day, week, month or even year?

Have you ever had a family member just show up at your door unannounced and start to burden you with all their problems?

Have you ever had a friend who was disrespectful but you never told them to stop?

Have you ever felt depressed after being in the presence of a strongly negative person who tries to drag you into their unhappiness?

Have you ever have friend treat you badly and then you feel compelled to check if they are ok?

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions then the chances are you struggle with setting boundaries.

Understanding Boundaries

A boundary is the point where you end and someone else begins; it represents the separation between you and other people. Strong boundaries represent independence, a strong sense of self with the freedom to do and say as you please without fear of repercussion or of what people might think, the freedom to not let the anger of others bother you.

At the most basic level boundaries are all about the word ‘NO’. NO to negative thoughts, NO to invasions of personal space, NO to selfish demands. Just NO.

Setting boundaries, like so many other skills, are first learnt at home, i.e. how your parents or caregivers reacted to a boundary being established. In a healthy family system where everyone can look after their own needs it’s ok to say no, in fact it is often encouraged. Relying on their own resources, the family could respect the response and move on to a different solution. The self esteem of both parties is not threatened and mutual respect can grow.

On the other hand in an unhealthy family system, no is either non-existent or heavily discouraged. For a needy family member who doesn’t trust themselves or their abilities, no is just not acceptable. The very notion that someone rejected their demands may infuriate them. Often they could see the rejection as an attack on their self. They might react with passive aggressive communication such as guilt tripping for example reminding you of all the things they did for you or ignoring you. These examples cross cognitive boundaries as you may ruminate over their words/non-words and give to it mental energy that would be better served doing something more practical.

It is particularly tough when toxic family members revert to tears in an attempt to pull at your heart strings and get you to change your decision. Only a narcissist would be able to walk away from this predicament as it crosses the emotional boundaries of even the mostly insensitive person.

The worst reaction of all is physical abuse, crossing over a line which leaves a scar so deep that the victim lowers boundaries to the point where they don’t know who they are. At the mercy of the abuser, they may live in fear to the point where they start to identify with them and lose touch with their own human existence.

Boundaries extend beyond human interaction. Alcoholism, drug addiction and food addiction are all examples of poor boundaries. The wounds of childhood can be carried forward into adulthood and manifest themselves in the practice of types of behaviour which many will struggle to change and these addictive behaviours can have life damaging affects.

The types of boundaries

Physical boundaries

A physical boundary is anything which protects your personal space i.e. wherever you are whether at home, in work or in the car, etc.

Mental boundaries

A mental boundaries is the ability to block out specific thoughts. This could be cognitively focusing on something different; changing the stream of thoughts away from a bad memory; to not reflect on an experience or to rationalize a fear or worry.

Emotional boundaries

An emotional boundary is when we protect our emotive state. This could for example involve withdrawing from someone who is crying as it might trigger your own tears or keeping your distance from an angry person as it evokes feelings of anger within yourself. People who pull back like this can appear uncaring or dis-passionate but the truth is emotional boundaries are the hardest to enforce and we all have our own emotional triggers.

Why it is hard to say no

Fear is the true enemy. Irrational thoughts and fear of what others might think of us if we say no is a key part of why boundary issues exist. Fear that something will happen to the person if we don’t succumb to their needs. Fear of what others would say if we told of the abuse. Fear we will not be loved if we don’t put others first. Fear that the guilt trips will continue if we don’t succumb to their demands.

Fear can turn to guilt as we believe the fearful inner critic and start to beat ourselves up. Unable to deal with the attack on our conscience, we “give in” and allow the needy person back into the circle.

How to set boundaries

Step 1: Own your emotions

Have you noticed you carry a great deal of anger, guilt or fear inside? These emotions could be an inheritance of your childhood, the baggage of negative experiences growing up. These emotions are part of your psychological make up and could be triggered by any event. By not facing these emotions, they in turn might come to control you forcing you avoid certain situations,to avoid saying no.

Its time to reflect on the feelings. How deep do they run? How quickly do they pass? Can you remember the first time you felt this way?

Rationalising the feelings helps separate then from the external triggers, giving you space to process and ultimately empowering you decide how to react when they reoccur.

Step 2: Control your palette

“The control of the palate is a valuable aid for the control of the mind.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Developing will power is a key part of controlling how you think. Depriving yourself of treats, i.e. sugary or fried food helps to control your automatic impulses as well as lose weight.

Step 3: Set aside “worry time”

Worrying is human nature and is an extremely difficult behaviour to change. However setting aside a period to allow yourself to worry on a daily basis can actually help you to prioritise what’s going on in your mind without it interfering with your entire day/week/month/year. I suggest writing down each worry and applying the ABC model referenced in my article on Overcoming Claustrophobia. When doing this exercise also try including worst case scenario’s; let you mind run free and then review the actuality of each fear and decide the likelihood of them actually occurring. Limiting worry helps to control our cognitive processes and strengthen our mental boundaries.

Step 4: Control the Yes impulse

Its time to use the word no. Start small and practise not answering a request immediately. It’s ok to say “Let me think about it”. Give yourself time to feel how you feel, be completely honest yourself about what you want to do but more importantly be brave.

Step 5: Reflect on the aftermath

After each time you say no, cross reference the outcome against the potential fear. Was there any need to be afraid? Was the boundary respected? Learning from the experience and separating fear from reality helps us to develop into our best possible version.

Step 6: Be patient

This is the more important step in any recovery plan. We all have pitfalls; bad days when we struggle to say no. This is what it means to be human. Being patient with yourself will help you to let go of mistakes and get back on track to strengthening your will with the view to becoming you true self.

Unstoppable force vs Immovable object

Imagine being a rock made up of the hardest stone, untouchable by the strongest wind, immovable by the hardest gale or roughest storm.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Nothing. The boundary of stone cannot be shaken. It stays exactly as it is, was and always will be. Life will never stop coming at you but that doesn’t mean it has to knock you off course. Boundaries ensure you can stay focused and achieve great things; they will allow you to relax with the sense that everything is ok and most importantly will drive you help others; not because you fear the consequences but because if feels right and it is what YOU want to do.

Hope this is of some help and welcome any comments or feedback. Please check out my website for more articles.

-Karl (Toxic Escape)

Street Talk

No comments present
You May Also Like
Ken Wilber & Integral Philsophy
Ken Wilber & His Philosophy by Miriam Pia Ken Wilber is one of the dominant and ‘game changing’ American philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. His work broke with the status quo of academic philosophies of both the West and the East. Because of that, his work,…
By: Miriam Pia in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Jun 04, 2016  
  Likes: 1

Procrastination And Time Mangement Tips
I may have very well been the best procrastinator in the world at one point in time in my life. It was always the question of now vs later. I would always be the kind of guy that would say "heck I'll just do it later. Later would turn into…
By: Brad J in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   May 17, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Taking out the trash - Eliminate the negative in your life
There comes a time in all our life's when it's time to do a bit of house cleaning. I mean some deep down elbow grease, on your hands and knees, sweating it out. They say we are what we eat. Well I truly believe we also are who we hang…
By: fudgey in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   May 13, 2016  
  Likes: 0

6 Causes Of Procrastination Among Online Entrepreneurs
I wish I could say that at this point in life, I have conquered procrastination. I have made progress, but there are days when my motivation is low, and I can find a whole lot of things I want to do, except what's on my to-do list. How about you?…
By: Juan Rademacher in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Apr 29, 2016  
  Likes: 2

Compassion And Bonds In Music
Music, in substantial part made by Hellish people, is not entirely okay, meaning that its influence upon the subconsciousness of listeners is not too good. And before I say some details about it, as usually I have to point out that Hellish people adapt to what I write about them…
By: Pavel Kastl in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Apr 04, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Understanding Trust
We all possess some level of this important emotion already. Even if there are trust issues currently in your life there are certain things that you can continue to trust. You trust that the sun will rise in the morning, you trust that the traffic will stay on the other…
By: Gemma Bailey in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Mar 29, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Letting Go
Sometimes us human beings are so shaped and influenced by our will and desire to succeed and make good of every situation that life throws at us, we forget that there is a real reward and skill in letting go and moving on. It’s as if letting go and moving…
By: Gemma Bailey in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Mar 14, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Manage Your Time, Time Your Manage
Manage your time They say time is fleeting, and that time flies. It seemed like just yesterday I had all the time in the world, . Time is a gift that is given to all of us. We all have, for the most part, a good measure of time to…
By: Paul Andresen in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Mar 10, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Why People Believe In Soul's Transmigration
Do you know that southern European Christians believed in transmigration until the Council of Nice banned such beliefs in 553 A. D? Have you ever heard that Drupe sect from Lebanon entertains a notion of a succession of lives with improvement in each?Are you introduced with the statistics which show…
By: georgechantibet in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Mar 07, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Reincarnate Me, Please
"Either he [Dr. Stevenson] is making a colossal mistake or he will be known as the Galileo of the 20th century." is what Dr. Harold Lief stated in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. Probably the most respected collection of data that seems to provide scientific proof that reincarnation…
By: georgechantibet in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Mar 04, 2016  
  Likes: 0

God, Chi And Energy Integration
Finding God is exactly the same thing as feeling and increasing chi in the body. When your body assimilates more energy from the universe you automatically will be healthier and feel better. Being able to take in, increase and transform energies from the cosmos, the planets (especially the sun) and…
By: David Kyle in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Feb 13, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Fear AND Reason
We have all heard the apparently separating comments that trepidation is ordinary and irregular, and that typical apprehension is to be viewed as a companion, while unusual trepidation ought to be annihilated as an adversary. The truth of the matter is that no supposed ordinary apprehension can be named which…
By: Hussein Taleb in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Jan 21, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Self Improvement, Self Development And Growth
How to Gain ability to self Improvement. Self Improvement, it is the characteristic right of each person to be self improved and developed to escape the agonies of life. Satisfaction is the typical condition, as common as the scenes and the seasons. It is unnatural to endure and it is…
By: Hussein Taleb in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Jan 21, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Improve Health Of Your Elders With Senior Day Care Miami Services
Senior day care is used to reduce the parental figure or his or her commitments for the day while ensuring that the thought recipient will at present get the best conceivable care in a secured, welcoming environment. These concentrates regularly work in the midst of commonplace business hours five days…
By: Nana's Adult in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Aug 04, 2015  
  Likes: 0

Do Not Make Unfounded Accusations
No one likes to be accused of something whether they are doing it or did it. It is very unfair to always think someone is doing something wrong or they are out to hurt you. There are a few good honest people left out there in the world. I think…
By: Julie Larralde in  Self Improvement  >  Personal Growth   Apr 11, 2012  
  Likes: 0

Article Views: 992    Report this Article