What are boundaries?
- Everything we can name has some sort of boundary to distinguish it from every other thing
- Boundaries make the world and our experience knowable and communicable
- We cannot differentiate something that does not have some sort of edge or contrast with its surroundings—whether through our senses, our ideas or our feelings.
Four types of boundary: physical, psychological, social and fuzzy:
- Physical boundaries separate this from that—for humans it is our skin
- Psychological boundaries separate me from not me, this experience from that experience—this extends beyond our skin to personal space and relationships
- Social boundaries separate one group from another, one role from another, one situation and its rules from another—how we understand the implicit rules and norms of our society
- Fuzzy boundaries deal with anything that moves and shifts and is hard to pin down: time, energy, patterns of relationship, indistinct feelings and concepts, etc.
- In reality these kinds of boundaries overlap and are sometimes indistinguishable
- To feel safe and to know what we can or cannot do, we have to know where the physical, psychological and social limits are in a given situation
- Clear boundaries help us understand what is psychologically and socially appropriate and help us decide what is or is not our responsibility
- Boundaries range from hard and unyielding to vague and indistinct: rigid to loose
- Healthy boundaries need to be more or less firm depending on the situation and the relationship—and shift over time
- Natural healthy boundaries tend to be clear and distinct and also flexible and permeable
People with rigid personal boundaries tend to be more:
- Distant, self-contained, inflexible, rule-bound, unchanging, dogmatic, opinionated, unemotional, clear-cut, reserved, stubborn, controlling, predictable, undemonstrative, angry.
People with loose personal boundaries tend to be more:
- Intrusive, effusive, indecisive, ineffectual, unstable, over-emotional, irrational, eager-to-please, attention-seeking, unpredictable, unreliable, demonstrative, anxious.
People with healthy boundaries tend to be more:
- Socially appropriate, clear, decisive, responsive, relational, rational, flexible, assertive, respectful, firm, sociable, attentive, reliable, calm.
Boundary violations include:
- Physical, sexual and emotional abuse; physical and psychological deprivation; unpredictable and inconsistent environments; betrayal and dishonesty; lack of discipline and limits
- Rigid rules and punishment; irrational and inappropriate demands; toxic secrets and unaddressed dysfunction; restrictive and unfulfilling environments.