Boundary Crossings

How Do We Set Healthy Boundaries?



Years ago, when I worked in a psych hospital, I did groups that provided information on the use of coping tools to help increase the patient’s level of functioning.

One day I led a group on boundaries. Some of the patients asked “what is a boundary?” I drew a picture on the board of cows in a field with a fence around them. This made sense to them in terms of identifying where the cows could be safe. But how does this apply to a person’s emotional well-being.

We looked at the definition of boundary and explored how it is a marker for your safe area, like a fence

An emotional boundary is an invisible line that determines when things could become difficult. Emotional boundaries are property lines that distinguish your thoughts and feelings from those of another person. For example, differences in political opinions, disagreements on how to load the dishwasher and varying ways to parent our children.

Think about that imaginary emotional boundary between you and another person. During a disagreement is one of you trying to coax or manipulate the other into agreeing with his or her position? When we talk over the other person, interrupt, raise our voice, use an intimidating posture, we have crossed that line. We are in violation of a healthy boundary.

Other boundary crossings include borrowing items from another and not returning them, talking on the cell phone during dinner, texting while someone is talking to you. When these things happen “the fence around the cows” comes down and a climate of disrespect pervades.

On Sunday our priest talked about the word Civility and encouraged us to be mindful of the tone in our encounters with others. If we could coat, “Civility” around our imaginary emotional boundary, we most likely could experience an atmosphere of understanding and integrity. This periphery would give everyone permission to state their own opinions while keeping their healthy boundaries intact.

Think about your own boundaries or boundary crossings in relationships with people around you on a daily basis and feel free to comment below.


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