Let’s talk about boundaries, a challenging yet extremely common topic in Psychotherapy.
I think social media has really oversimplified this topic to our detriment. It’s not as simple as “My mother treats me poorly, so I’ll cut her off, and that’s that.” The ramifications are enormous even in isolation, and require delicate working through. Let’s first explore why people establish boundaries, and then I’ll get into the technical and emotional complexities of it.
It’s important to first acknowledge to yourself why you’re creating or reinforcing a boundary:
- Self-Preservation: Boundaries can help protect one’s health on every level. They ensure that individuals aren’t constantly drained or overwhelmed by others’ demands or behavior.
- Respect: Boundaries communicate a person’s self-respect and self-worth. They set the standard for how they expect to be treated by others.
- Clarity: Having boundaries creates clarity in relationships, reducing confusion about expectations and behaviors. It helps define roles and responsibilities.
- Individuality: Boundaries allow individuals to maintain their autonomy and individuality within relationships. They help maintain a sense of self outside of the connection with others.
- Emotional Health: Setting boundaries can prevent or reduce emotional manipulation, control, or abuse from others. It encourages healthier and more balanced relationships.
- Empowerment: Establishing boundaries empowers individuals to take charge of their lives and their relationships. It encourages assertiveness and self-advocacy.
- Learning and Growth: Boundaries enable learning from experiences and encourage personal growth. They provide opportunities to understand one’s needs and communicate them effectively.
- Conflict Resolution: Clear boundaries can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts by clearly defining what is acceptable and what isn’t in a relationship.
Now let’s explore the emotional practicalities around setting boundaries
When someone sets a boundary that another person doesn’t like, various reactions might occur for whatever reason. Whether its’ their personalities, the context of the relationship, or their understanding of boundaries, here are some issues that may arise.
- Resistance or Pushback: Some individuals might resist or push back against the boundary. They might feel it restricts their freedom or challenges their expectations, leading to initial resistance.
- Anger or Frustration: There might be a display of anger or frustration, especially if the boundary disrupts their usual behavior or requests. They might feel personally attacked or rejected.
- Negotiation or Testing: Some might attempt to negotiate the boundary or test its limits, trying to find ways to bypass it or convince the other person to change it.
- Guilt-tripping or Manipulation: There could be attempts to guilt-trip or manipulate the person who set the boundary. This might involve making the boundary-setter feel responsible for the discomfort caused.
- Dismissal or Ignoring: In some cases, individuals might ignore the boundary altogether, acting as if it doesn’t exist or isn’t valid. This can be a form of dismissing the other person’s needs.
- Acceptance or Understanding: Not everyone reacts negatively. Some individuals might understand and accept the boundary without much resistance. They might appreciate the honesty and clarity provided.
- Reflection and Adaptation: Over time, some individuals might reflect on the boundary and adapt to it. They may come to understand its importance and adjust their behavior or expectations accordingly.
In Psychotherapy we’re processing the emotions that arise when your boundary meets the Other’s expectations. It’s often quite messy, evoking complex feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, worry, confusion, and anger. We sit with these painful feelings and slowly put them into context, figuring out their credibility, validity, and proportionality. It’s so easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong when someone tells you your boundaries are hurting them, but there’s often more to it than that. We explore the complex multilayered elements of these dynamics to better understand them and improve your ability to think about them. We’ll also work on your ability to communicate them and work with the different parts of yourself that are activated through this process
Our therapists have a variety of different approaches to help you explore how to not only set but maintain healthy boundaries so you can heal and grow.
Reach out today to start with a free consult to find the right therapist for you