• nataliecherrix

B is for Boundaries

Personal boundaries are the limits or parameters we each have that define what we will or will not do, how close we allow people to get to us (both physically and emotionally), and what behaviors we tolerate from other people. Boundaries are the lines we draw in the sand that we expect others not to cross. Boundaries, however, are different for each person and are often influenced by our childhood and other past experiences. In some ways, there are no right or wrong boundaries, rather they are unique to each of us as individuals. But, boundaries keep us safe. So, the absence of boundaries altogether or ones that are not healthy and appropriate can be a big problem. Boundaries can also be thought of as being one of a few types. Author Nina Brown identifies these four:

  • Soft - merges easily with another person's boundaries rather than having their own well defined boundaries; can lead to being easily manipulated; difficulty saying "no" to others

  • Rigid - closed or walled off from others as a means of protecting oneself from getting hurt, either physically or emotionally; often a result of a negative past experience

  • Spongy - a combination of soft and rigid boundaries because of confusion or uncertainty with what to let in and what to keep out

  • Flexible - the ideal type of boundary in which there is a balance between being able to listen to others' viewpoints openly, but holds true to oneself without being manipulated

Boundaries for survivors of trauma are complex. Child sexual abuse survivors, for example, have suffered a past experience that invaded their personal boundaries at a young age, often by someone they trusted. This type of trauma can damage the sense of self-worth necessary to develop healthy boundaries.

As a result, some survivors have boundaries that are too rigid (not trusting anyone, avoiding relationships) or an opposite path of boundaries that are not strong enough (being in abusive relationships rather than being alone, trusting everyone, confusing sex with love).

Personal boundaries define you as a person. The good news is, boundaries are not permanent and you're the one in charge of the defining. So, if you're not happy with the boundaries in your life...they can be redefined. Draw yourself a new line in the sand.

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© 2017-2020 by Natalie A Cherrix, LCSW

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