We all have personal boundaries. Our boundary defines who we are and determines how we are able to interact and relate to the world, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My boundary lets me know where I end and you begin. My boundary allows me to express who I am and allows you to do the same. Boundaries exist for our protection. When our boundaries are intact, we know that we have separate feelings, thoughts and realties. We are able to say “I” when others are demanding “we”, we are able to contain our reactivity to the reactivity of others, be clear about our own values and goals, to maintain a non-anxious presence in the face of anxious others, and take maximum responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny rather than blaming others.
When we have a lack of boundaries it becomes difficult to distinguish self from others. I feel my feelings and all your feelings too. I begin to define myself according to your definition. I lose my own identity. My feelings are your feelings, my thoughts are your thoughts, and I behave the way I think you want me to. I lose my own sense of self and cannot define myself. I live my life through you.
You need an internal boundary so you can detach enough to accurately hear what another person tells you about who he or she is, and you can separate that person’s feelings and thoughts from your own. With a good internal boundary, you can be in a relationship without projecting your own skewed interpretations onto the other person or allowing that person’s fear or pain, for instance, to become your own and overwhelm you. And an intact internal boundary is especially helpful and necessary when someone is confronting you.
Emotional boundaries protect us like an internal shield, helping us determine which emotions are ours, and letting us deflect emotions that are not ours. When we have healthy emotional boundaries, we can honestly determine our feelings about any situation, person, place, or thing and not lose ourselves. If we take responsibility for expressing our emotions and notice the impact of our behavior on others, we have healthy emotional boundaries.
With healthy boundaries you can truly detach from other people while staying in caring relationships. You can begin to choose your own behavior, thinking, and feeling. Your relationships will improve. Learning to set healthy boundaries usually takes time, practice and patience and does not happen overnight.
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