Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boundaries and BPD: Where they’re needed. And. Unhealthy Boundaries.


Now that we’ve gotten the “obvious” out of the way, lets delve into other things that people expect us to know intuitively but don’t realize that we don’t always have the same kind of emotional intuition for ::deep breath::.

What areas of our lives should we have boundaries in? or Where? Whichever.

If you have a human relationship be it family, friends, lovers, co-workers, passing stranger on a train, you should have boundaries. Random hobo on a train does not get to come up to me and sit on my lap on the subway after a night out (hey, I live in New York) while my best friend is totally allowed to get away with this.

Distinct Areas where we should have Specific Boundaries:
1.      Work
2.      Family
3.      Intimate Relationships
4.      Friends
5.      General Daily Living

Some Boundaries apply across the board no matter where you are or who you’re with. For example, it doesn’t matter if I’m at work, at home, or taking the train out of the city, you don’t get to stab anything in my immediate vicinity without me exercising my right to move somewhere else. Period. I’m just not okay with stabbings in my general area. It makes me uncomfortable. We’ll call this a boundary for General Daily Living.

Other boundaries are situational and/or more flexible. I’m very open about my sexuality and mental health struggles with my friends and family, but discussing this at work is inappropriate for me, in the type of professional environment I work in.  I refrain from bringing up or participating in discussions of these subjects if they’re brought up at work.  Work Boundary: If others want to discuss this, that’s their right, but I don’t have to participate because it makes me uncomfortable.

I think the boundaries we’re most concerned with are our personal relationships though. Health boundaries are important for a healthy relationship. Which let’s face it, we don’t typically have. So working on creating healthier boundaries is one way we can work to being healthier healthier in our relationships. This takes a good deal of self-awareness and knowing.

First let’s talk about Recognizing Unhealthy Boundaries. It’s often easier to see when others are crossing boundaries, but it’s especially for us to increase our own self-awareness and learn when we may be engaging in unhealthy boundaries as well.

In 2010 Steve Safigan wrote his Five Warning Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries. “If you've been living with unhealthy or nonexistent values boundaries for most of your life, you may struggle to recognize whether your boundaries are healthy. Here are 5 warning signs for which to watch”:


1. You feel like you are covering something up or keeping a secret. Not only is this a sign that your boundaries are unhealthy, but it's also likely that you are enabling another person to engage in unhealthy or unproductive behavior. A classic, dramatic example is a woman who hides the physical abuse she suffers at her spouse's hands by making up stories about how she bruised herself by falling down or running into a doorway. Yet secrets can be much more mundane. For example, you might tell your neighbor that you're cleaning your teenage son's room because he's been so busy with school and athletics, when in fact, he refuses to clean and you've decided it's less stressful to do the work yourself.


2. You have to do something a certain way or modify your behavior so that someone else can continue an unproductive or unsafe behavior. For example, you must regularly work late and miss family obligations because a co-worker keeps missing her deadlines. Or you can't turn on the television to watch your favorite morning news program because your husband is hung over after yet another late night carousing with friends at the local bar.


By modifying your behavior, you become an enabler -- you make it possible for someone else to continue a negative behavior. Instead, you should establish and maintain your boundary. Doing so will cause the other person discomfort, perhaps enough that he or she would be motivated to examine and change the unproductive behavior.



3. You ignore your own discomfort, anger, anxiety or fear so that someone else can be happy and comfortable. For example, when your partner yells at you, do you request her to not yell at you and offer to talk when emotions aren't as heated, or do you bite your tongue, figuring that it's easier to swallow your anger at being treated disrespectfully vs. possibly angering her even more? Anger, anxiety, fear and other uncomfortable emotions are hard-wired into human beings to help us recognize when our boundaries are being violated. Ignoring your own uncomfortable emotions sends a signal -- to yourself and to others -- that you don't respect yourself. It may work as a short-term strategy for avoiding conflict. But ultimately, it will lead to bigger problems.



This will also lead to a buildup of anger and resentment in us, and lead to the Nons in our lives being extra confused when we “suddenly snap after things have “been so perfect””.

4. You sacrifice your own goals, projects and self-care to help others. The root cause of boundary issues is fear. When you have a hard time saying "no," it's typically because you fear losing something, such as approval, status, friendship, future opportunities and the like. If you've reached the point of being resentful when people ask you to do things for them -- even if they are things that should bring you joy -- your boundaries are unhealthy and need to be toughened up.


5. You manipulate to get what you want. This warning sign will resonate with you if you regularly push or violate other people's boundaries -- that is, if you can be honest enough to admit it to yourself.


A few extras to keep in mind:

6. Settling for less than you know you really need or desire.
7. Staying in a relationship that you know is passed its deadline.
8. Smothering the person you're dating with excessive needs or control.
9. Going back to a relationship that you know is over.
10. Entering a relationship to avoid being alone.






Here’s an exercise that I’ll bring up variations of again later. It’s a good exercise in Self-Awareness.

For each Situational Arena try to think of ideas where you have experienced (either by doing these things yourselves or by causing others to do them) any of these types of Unhealthy Boundaries. They don’t have to be huge. They can be small things that just make you uncomfortable.

The bottom line is: If it makes you uncomfortable take note of it. Everything that makes you uncomfortable won’t necessarily end up being a capital letter Enforced Boundary because there is a level of discomfort that comes with being human (we do have to be realistic in our boundaries), but it’s a way to discover which things are worth being enforced and what things are situational or more flexible.

So give it a try. It’s important to start figuring out our boundaries.


a.       Work
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

b.      Family
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

c.       Intimate Relationships
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

d.      Friends
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

e.      General Daily Living
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.


Know that we’ve recognized Unhealthy Boundaries, tomorrow we’ll start trying to figure out our Healthy Boundaries. 

3 comments:

  1. Love the series. And the homework. :)

    Qton

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haven, I would be appalled if a hobo sat on my lap also, but if you did, I would live with it. I would question it at first, that is, until I found out it was you, then I would be okay. I'll send you my answers. This series of posts applies to OCD as well. I pray that this finds you well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stumbled here a few days ago and been riveted. Thank you for the insightful articles which have helped me see much more clearly into the motives and reasons for the way the BPD person in our life reacts.

    ReplyDelete

Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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