As a consequence of interacting with others we sometimes encounter thoughtlessness. Boundaries help us protect ourselves when we come across meanness so that we can continue to feel safe and secure. They help us identify for others our emotional, spiritual, physical, sexual and relational limits.
We set boundaries to let people know this is how we would like them to treat us and how far we will allow them to go before we feel violated as a result of their comments or actions. Most of us are aware of these limits on what we will permit people to say or do before we become offended.
To a certain extent, boundaries are established by the culture we are in. Specific factors that touch on our values such as: tradition, formality, obedience, and loyalty help us to define the perimeters we insist that others recognize. Professionally, boundaries help us separate ourselves from others if necessary. They help us to properly interface with our clients, patients, superiors and our associates in our work life.
Everyone has their own set of boundaries and although, we do not intend to, on occasion, we can be insensitive to these differences. Sometimes, without even knowing it, we may, inadvertently, cross over another person’s boundaries without thinking. Each of us interprets the world in our own way. Our perceptions are formed not just by our personal backgrounds but by our objectives and our specific concerns.
We begin determining our boundaries when we are young children. They are formed as we start to experience our uniqueness and develop a separate sense of ourselves. If for whatever reason we are not permitted to individuate and our boundaries not honored, we have little or no understanding of what our boundaries are. People who do not know their own boundaries all too often are forced to go against their natural inclinations and act contrary to their internal feelings sending out the wrong messages to those who they interface with. Not knowing one’s boundaries can cause splits within a person and cause damage to their relationships with others.
Boundaries are a way to field off inappropriate inquiries, how we are allow ourselves to be touched, and, most importantly, how much control we will tolerate from another person, particularly, one who tries to impose upon us how we should think, believe or feel.
When we claim our boundaries and articulate them to others we are less vulnerable to emotional and physical violations. We set our emotional boundaries by the reactions we get from others. Condemnation and harshness from people teaches us to betray our boundaries and to suppress our true feelings. Emotional boundaries can be acknowledged by listening to others remarks, noticing which ones we identify as inappropriate in the context in which they are being shared, and by evaluating how we instinctually react to these statements. Context is everything. A subtle shift in context and our boundaries might end up being compromised because the person we are conversing with may have crossed that line and be attacking our way of thinking or, we may come across as doing so. When our emotional boundaries are crossed we feel as if our individuality is being challenged and we are less certain of our value and this is reflected in our defensive words and in accordance with our actions.
References: Katherine Anne, M.A. Where to Draw Line and her other book, Boundaries, Where You End and I Begin