Psychological boundaries are central to personal development and healthy functioning. Sometime the trouble we get into when relating to others involves “blurred, confused, or fused” limits when we, or others, violate the established boundaries. To be healthy, it is vital that we know how to maintain our own, and respect the personal boundaries of others.
Boundaries are lines that mark a firm limit. They are not fuzzy. They are clear and specific. It is vital that clear boundaries be maintained for each individual. To do this, you have to believe you are an adult who is allowed to have these boundaries.
These limits are ways in which we define our personal space, and how we relate to each other in healthy ways. Our personal space is the area around ourselves that is private and helps to define your own unique individual identity issues. This private space should not be violated by others, and we should not invade the private space of others. We must also honor our personal space and boundaries by not letting others take advantage of us or invade our space.
Boundaries are invisible lines that can be rigid or flexible. Families can define boundary limits; some allow very few to enter and others have difficulties allowing family members to leave. If the boundaries are fuzzy then we don’t know who we are.
Some boundaries are too open to others; we feel complete only if we let others move into and invade our boundaries. Some feel that it is allowable to invade others’ boundaries whenever they feel like doing it.
Weak family boundaries can cause unhealthy relating patterns from generation to generation. In a healthy family, individuals choose their own roles, and one is allowed to change roles when and if he/she want to do so. In unhealthy families, there are few individual, independent, separate boundaries–everyone is involved in everyone’s feelings, needs, decisions, and life. There is no separate identity so no individual security or knowing real limits.
Boundaries are limits that define how far we can go with comfort in relationships. Boundaries define where “I and my physical and psychological space ends and where you and yours begins”. It is critical to know that my boundaries and limits are real and that others’ boundaries and limits are also real.
Being aware of boundaries and limits helps one discover “who I am.” Until one can define “who I am,” it is extremely difficult for one to have healthy relationships. When one lacks “boundary awareness,” it becomes difficult to sort out who is unsafe, or unhealthy, to be around.
Violation of Boundaries
Violation of boundaries can happen in several ways. One may “invade” another’s boundaries by interpreting, manipulating, telling or invading in some other way another’s life. Mental and emotional boundaries include many important things in our lives, such as our beliefs, thoughts, ideas, feelings, decisions and choices.
Your boundaries are “invaded” when you are “told” how you “should” believe, think, feel, decide or choose. When someone criticizes you because you did something different from them, they are invading your boundaries.
Active “co-dependents” have few or no boundaries, or have overly rigid boundaries. They “flip flop” tending to focus too much attention outside of themselves, becoming less aware of their own inner life and their boundaries.
Boundaries, Happiness and Living in the Now
The concepts of boundaries and happiness are closely related even though they are not well understood by most of us. Boundaries are the limits, values, morals and decisions of our lives. They include how we relate to others along with how we remain emotionally and physically healthy.
In our “search” for happiness, we frequently cross (and violate) our boundaries because we are searching in the wrong places. We spend time “searching” outside of ourselves hoping that relationships, work, chemicals, others and our possessions/things will bring us what we had hoped for in life.
We come into conflict at predictable stages of life when we find that the achievement of an age, honor, job or relationship does not bring us what we had hoped “it” would. Instead, we tend to continue our search looking for that “perfect feeling” where all our worries, doubts, needs, and desires will be taken care of once and or all.
We need to stop the “climb of the mountain” in our attempt to find some mystical truth, answer or formula that will “resolve it all” for us. We have to slow our pace and start to listen inward to ourselves. This takes discipline, time and allowing for a process of growth that can only happen when we “stop our mad rush for success.”
The reality is that it is our struggles themselves that have led us to a new place of freedom because they have strengthened us, clarified issues and focused our efforts in new directions. As we struggle, we develop more confidence in ourselves and the experiences of life.
However, true happiness requires that we stop even more. We need to learn to relax, focus inward and listen within ourselves where the true answers are actually found. Until we take time to experience and enjoy who we are, the joys we deserve, then we will never find the answer. The answers are “in the now” and found “inward.” The journey we need to travel is much different than we had ever thought.
Once we develop the discipline to look inward at ourselves, explore how we deceive ourselves, and sit amongst our fears, longings, and needs without “action”, then we will truly start our “journey of awareness.” As we do this, we will no longer blur or violate our boundaries because we will start to be “true to ourself.”
We will no longer “jump boundaries” hoping that something, or someone, is on the other side that will bring us the fulfillment we have been searching for in life. At first this “inward journey” will be difficult and hard to comprehend. With time, and through the process of “doing it,” we will come to understand this journey in a kinder, more gentle, manner.
The Philosophy of Right Change
In order to truly change, we have to first let go of our need to control others. We have to stop trying to “save them” or to “blame them.” As we stop doing this, we will come to see that the answer is not in them, but within ourselves. Doing this takes a real philosophical understanding of life that is different from our usual “accomplishment mode” of responding to life.
This philosophy of “Right Change” will seem more passive and reflective as we observe ourselves and life around us. It will allow us to truly understand that we are separate individuals in our own right and that each of us are on our own special and separate journey, to know ourselves and our purpose in life.
As we do this, we will come to realize that we cannot violate others’ boundaries just because we have come to honor and admire their own journey. Our own journey is one that must be focused inward, rather that requiring something from others. As we do this, we will become gentler, let go of our anger, our impatience and resentments, and carry on the search for peace that can only be found within ourselves.
Other people’s personal struggles with anger and resentment may throw up roadblocks to our personal journey. However, we need to continue our own journey regardless of how others act. In this way, we can discover love, kindness, openness to relationships, and concern for others that is beyond our attempts to create it for ourselves and others.
This is a different philosophy and a much different journey than that what we have been trained for by society and our families. However, it is the best journey that helps us to clarify our happiness and boundaries.
Making this decision to change our focus is critical to our happiness and enjoyment of life. Humor, laughing, enjoying the simple things, and having true enjoyment with others is what it is all about. Learning to listen to ourselves, quiet our bodies and slow our minds can only happen when we stop using the “yes, but…” excuses and to start giving ourselves permission to enjoy what we are doing in the moment.
We need to act as if the entire universe depends on what we are doing, all the while laughing at ourselves for mistakenly thinking that anything we are doing really makes one bit of difference. The real purpose of life is to be happy. For some, it is an easier journey than for others. However, it is only possible once we stop our rush to “find it out there” outside of ourselves.