An Overview of Boundaries
Let’s begin by reviewing what boundaries are all about. Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written extensively on the topic of boundaries.
The following overview is taken from the book by Cloud, Changes that Heal. He devotes a chapter on boundaries.
HEALTHY BONDING WITH BOUNDARIES:
Boundaries are the ability to maintain one’s own identity and selfhood while connecting with others.
An intimate relationship needs both vulnerability and closeness as well as the freedom to move apart and be separate.
In a healthy relationship, each person is supportive and encourages the uniqueness and
growth of the other.
In other words, closeness does not equal sameness.
FUSION / ENMESHMENT
Thinking about a relationship with no (or few) boundaries will help us better understand boundaries.
An enmeshed or fused relationship is an unhealthy bond in which boundaries are violated and any individuality, separateness, or differences are viewed as a threat and are not easily tolerated.
Dependence may be exaggerated and the ability to function independently is limited.
- IF A PERSON DOES NOT DRAW BOUNDARIES:
If you have difficulty setting boundaries in general, here are some feelings you may experience.
1. You feel as if you are owned by others and feel like a slave. You live by this lie: “If someone asks anything of me, I must say yes. I can’t say no.” (Never disagreeing or always saying “yes”, may have been required in your childhood home, but as an adult we need to learn to say “no” at times.
2. You will be confused over who’s responsible for what. You will assume responsibility for others feelings, attitudes, and behavior. You may also believe that others are responsible for how you feel and behave.
3. People who have problems with boundaries often feel they have the power to control others emotions. They think, “I can make everyone happy if I just try hard enough. If others are not happy it is always my fault.”
SYMPTOMS OF BOUNDARY PROBLEMS
Here are some symptoms you will notice as an adult if you did not learn to say, “no”, think for yourself, make decisions and develop your understanding of who you are.
1. You may have a sense of confusion of disorientation toward life feeling scattered, double minded, and confused. You will allow others to be the master of your life.
2. You may feel trapped with few choices, often in a “no win” situation. If you think about it you are probably very afraid of rejection.
3. Over time your “over-giving will cause anger, bitterness and resentment.
Sometimes, resentment may be manifested in health problems. While you are always doing for others, you receive little in return. As an adult, your ability to know what you need and ask for it is lacking.
4. You may experience depression, panic, or become exhausted if you cannot set boundaries. A person without boundaries often does not confront problems or set limits on the bad behavior of others. Tolerating way to much from others can bring on negative emotions over time.
WHAT KEEPS US FROM SETTING BOUNDARIES?
1. Fear of aloneness. Perhaps you may have experienced abandonment and will give up many parts of yourself to keep from feeling alone.
2. Idolatry. Another person becomes indispensable and when one feels rejection is intolerable.
3. Guilt. Others may know how to manipulate you and withdraw love if you n any time I make a move toward separateness. If being independent in any way is tied to a loss of love, you may feel guilty if you try to be separate.
4. You believe you are loving when in fact you are enabling. Enabling is taking responsibility for another’s feeling, behaviors or choices that is rightfully theirs. You may enable another to be irresponsible by controlling and taking responsibility for their attitudes, feelings and actions. Giving to an abusive person who denies responsibility makes the problem worse. If you don’t set limits on evil it only gets bigger.
TASKS TO LEARN TO DRAW BOUNDARIES
1. Learn to choose non-controlling people to bond too. Have more than one supportive relationship so when I you feel rejected for setting limits you will have people who can support you through it.
2. Learn to say no! Postpone an immediate yes. Rather say, “Let me give it some thought and I will get back to you with my answer”. If you have children teach them to say no and allow them to make decisions and mistakes. That is how we learn.
3. When you begin saying no, you will have an abundance of this strange new possession; time for yourself! Use this time to develop yourself, your interests, and the talents God has given you.
4. Establish a sense of separateness with those you love. The goal is supported, guilt free, separateness. Separateness and individuality does not equal loss of love. Ideally, separateness should create a longing, missing, and desire to be together.
Milan and I find that each of the love styles, the avoider, pleaser, vacillator, controller and victim have different struggles with boundaries. We will take a week to explore each one.
Thanks for listening,
Love and blessings,
Milan & Kay
Next Week: We will discuss some of your e-mail questions.