Personal and relationship boundaries, as parameters and limits, serve two primary functions:
Boundaries Create Safety
There are two ways that boundaries create safety. The first is when you protect yourself from other people’s unconscious, boundary-less, or offensive behavior.
The second way boundaries create safety is when you protect others from your inappropriate or boundary-less behavior. When you are protecting others from you, it’s sometimes referred to as “containment.” You are containing parts of yourself that are not relational at best, and offensive at worse, in the interest of creating connection and experiencing intimacy with other people.
Personal choices around creating safety are different for each person.
What is absolutely necessary for one person to feel safe may not apply to another person. For example, some women choose to never get on an elevator alone with a man she doesn’t know because she doesn’t feel safe doing so. Choices around creating safety are influenced by our gender, race, age, trauma history, and many other factors. When it comes to using boundaries to feel safe or protected, there is no right or wrong, provided that our choices don’t violate the boundaries of others.
Boundaries Define Who We Are
The second function of boundaries is that they define who we are through our choices around how close we allow others to get to us either physically, sexually, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. Like a physical fence or barrier, personal and relationship boundaries communicate that “this is me/mine.”
Your choice of clothing, the personal information you share about yourself with others, and how accessible you are to other people—in person or virtually—are all examples of ways in which you use boundaries to define yourself and establish your identity.
In order to know what boundaries you want to set, you must know your reality—or what is true for you.
Your reality at any given moment is your physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. When you know your reality, you can better identify, express, and get your needs and wants met.
Knowing Your Reality is Step 1 of the 5-Step Boundary Solution process I created to help you identify, establish, and maintain healthy, effective boundaries. You can get a downloadable, fillable 5-Step Boundary Solution Clarifier here. The Clarifier walks you through a step-by-step boundary-setting process. In future posts I will cover each of the 5 steps and how to work them.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)