In sessions with my clients, we often circle back to the psychological pain of not being able to establish boundaries in their personal lives.
When I say boundary, I am referring to the personal limits and rules that we set for ourselves within relationships. These boundaries act as guidelines, rules/limits that we create to establish safe and meaningful relationships. We use these guidelines to determine how we respond to people and communicate our limits. Establishing your personal boundaries is an essential component of a healthy relationship with yourself. It can be described as a form of self-care. When we cannot establish our personal boundaries, we may feel emotionally depleted. We may feel we are being taken for granted or our feelings are not valued or respected. This may lead to resentment, anger, hurt, and the eventual breakdown of the relationship. There might be several reasons why we may struggle to establish boundaries in certain relationships. Some of the reasons might be;
Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
Fear of abandonment
Fear of being on the receiving end of someone else’s anger
Fear of punishment
Fear of being shamed
Some of these reasons may be born out of an unspoken rule in our family of origin, or it may be due to a form of trauma. By the time clients attend therapy, they are in so much pain and are filled with anger/resentment towards the person (at times people)they have not been able to establish boundaries with and towards themselves for not achieving this feat. A considerable part of the work that goes into establishing boundaries is highlighting without judgment how not upholding their boundaries may have protected them in the past. Though it is at the core of their current pain, at some stage, it was instrumental, and in fact, it served an important purpose. Perhaps it protected them from conflicts or it helped them feel connected for a while. Being aware of the purpose can be one of the first steps in establishing your boundaries. It is a way of extending empathy to yourself. When setting boundaries with family and friends, you may experience pushback. This can be extremely uncomfortable. I have listed some tips below to help you establish boundaries.
Be clear in your message and state it clearly.
Use “I” statement, “I want this” or “I would like....”
Focus on how it made you feel; “When you said ……, I felt …..”
Repeat if necessary; “I would like a refund….Yes, but I would still like a refund… I’ve heard what you said, but I still want a refund.”
Remember, to be in a meaningful relationship, we need to be able to say; “No”, “I do not agree”, “I do not like that”, or “Stop”. Please note if you are really struggling with establishing and maintaining boundaries. Please do not only rely on this article and seek help from a professional.