Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quick Article - Tending the Fences: Setting Healthy Boundaries

As promised here is my last post on boundaries. I like lists. I find they’re easy to see a variety of possible aspects and pin-point where we do and don’t need to put a little effort. Reading down this list it’s pretty easy for me to spot which things I do and where I need to put in a little more work than with other things.

So take a look at this article I found and see if you can relate to any of these:

Tending the Fences: Setting Healthy Boundaries

“Good fences make good neighbors.” So goes the old proverb from the well-loved Robert Frost poem.

Likewise, good personal boundaries make for good relationships. Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself.

They let people know your limits on what is acceptable for you. Healthy boundaries give you freedom in relating to others. Make them too solid and you build walls, too weak and you allow other’s actions to harm you.

It’s not always clear where our boundaries are or need to be. Recognizing and studying the signs of ignored or ineffective boundaries is a good place to start, as these “symptoms” give clues to the needed boundary. See if any of the following ring true for you.

Aloofness and distance

When you are unwilling or fearful of opening your space to others, or when you build walls to insure that others don’t invade your emotional or physical space, this may be a defense against cruel behavior, abuse or neglect that you allowed to happen. A person with healthy boundaries draws a line over which they will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact of its being crossed. They recognize their right to say, “No!”

I can’t tell you how long I let this method rule my life. I’m talking years, and years, and years. I didn’t have walls so much as castles, with a moat, and at least one dragon.

Chip on the shoulder

This kind of attitude declares, “I dare you to come too close!” and is often the result of anger over a past violation of or ignoring of your physical or emotional space by others. Healthy boundaries mean you are able to speak up when your space has been violated, leaving you free to trust that you can assertively protect yourself to ensure you are not hurt.


In this game, the rule is that everyone must do everything together, and everyone must think, feel and act in the same way, without deviation from group norms. Healthy boundaries acknowledge that you have the right to explore your own interests, hobbies and outlets. Invisibility. The goal here is not to be seen or heard so that your boundaries are not violated. Healthy boundaries are in effect when you stand up for yourself—be visible, be heard—so that others can learn to respect your rights, needs and personal space.

I’ve certainly had some problems with this, especially in my more abusive relationships and the ones I was most afraid of losing.


If you “blank out” or “go away” during stressful emotional events, it results in you being out of touch with your feelings and unable to assert your limits. Healthy boundaries allow you to assertively protect your- self from further violation or hurt and to choose to end relationships with those who will not respect them. With healthy boundaries, you can begin to feel your feelings again.

Yeah, I do this a lot, often, and for extensive periods of time. Learning to reconnect, and stay in touch with my feelings, in the moment, while I’m feeling them, has actually been a difficult process. I still do have some problems with connecting to my feelings, but I’m getting much better.

Smothering and lack of privacy

When another is overly concerned about your needs and interests, or when nothing you think, feel or do is your own business, it can be intrusive into your emotional and physical space, leaving you feeling overwhelmed or like you are being strangled. Healthy boundaries ask that others respect your uniqueness, your choices, your autonomy.

I actively try not to do this, but I know Zoe and ex-friend with BPD Riot used to do this A LOT (And I won’t lie, if I’m in an especially hard fit of paranoia or fear from abuse I’ll fall into this as well). Riot especially would have complete melt downs when she felt she was being shut out of people’s emotion space and didn’t recognize that other people have a right to not share absolutely every single thing.

Applying Boundaries

Once we see where our limits need to be clarified or put in place, we can begin to install fence posts or patch holes, to keep unwanted critters out. Here are some strategies for applying limits when your boundaries are intruded upon:

-          Calm yourself and take deep breaths.
-          Remind yourself of your right to set limits.
-          In a firm and composed manner, tell the other person how you feel.
-     Communicate clearly what your limits are, especially when you are extending a new boundary.
-          Ask the other person to respect your boundaries.
-          Make decisions about the relationship according to how the other person responds to your request.

So that’s it! Don't forget to check out my post from earlier today as well.  I hope this series has been helpful for you and provided some insight. If you want to discuss it more there’s always the Comments and I believe there’s a thread in the Forum started.

I’ll be posting a little sporadically this upcoming week due to the holiday and travel, but I have some great topics lined up and I’ll try not to lose too much momentum! Cheers! 

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