“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Relationships make the world go ‘round. Like it or not, we are in this together. In any type of relationship, we often find ourselves in dilemmas of asserting who we are, what we are willing to say or not say, do or not do, and how to not compromise ourselves. Relationships live and thrive or become damaged and even die by the way we deal with boundaries. Boundaries bring definition to who we are and what we need from others. Defining healthy boundaries for yourself and in your relationships is crucial.
When we have experienced boundary violations, especially in our formative years of childhood or in our most intimate relationships, we have a tendency to not learn how to set, recognize, or articulate them. Boundary violations can include: any kind of abuse or neglect, thoughtless comments, invalidated feelings, being touched when you don’t want to be, abandonment, anything that’s forced, intimidation and manipulation tactics etc. The list goes on and on of how we hurt each other. Dr. Bruce Perry said it well,
“Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut.
And so it is with human relationshps; we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other.”
Oftentimes, people recoil and isolate themselves from relationships by thinking that it’s easier to be alone. “I’m done with relationships.” “Why do I even bother?” “People aren’t safe.” “I don’t trust myself with others.” Overprotection, isolation, distractions, and escapes become the norm. In an opposite way, people sometimes respond by attempting to get their needs for relationship met by people who unfortunately do not treat them well. Having self-worth and strength may seem impossible or unattainable to the point where people sacrifice themselves for unhealthy relationships.
Fortunately, there is hope for people who struggle with asserting healthy boundaries. Boundaries CAN be learned. People can learn how to do articulate them in a practical way that works for them.
Anne Katherine stated, “Boundaries bring order to our lives. As we learn to strengthen our boundaries, we gain a clearer sense of ourselves and our relationship to others.” They are worth taking the time to figure out. Your relationships will improve. You’ll figure out how you fit into this crazy world. You’re worth the effort and strong enough to do the work to get your boundaries where they need to be. Where do you begin? It starts by being vulnerable with one trusted friend, a counselor, a supportive person. If boundaries are confusing for you, please take the step to figure it out.
For more information, read Anne Katherine’s or Cloud & Townsend’s books on Boundaries.