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  • Fe Robinson

On being boundaried

In several contexts this week I’ve been reminded of the power of being clear about boundaries. The word boundary is a noun, and it’s meaning is ‘a line which marks the limits of an area’ or ‘a dividing line.’

I have been noticing the need to be clear and consistent about boundaries with myself, for example in sticking to the time I have available for different roles in my life, and with where my time and energy goes. I have also noticed and responded to the need to hold boundaries with others I am in relationship with, both personally and professionally.

So why do boundaries matter so very much?

We each have our own sense of congruence, of knowing what we are and are not comfortable with. When we act in ways that reflect our values and sense of what is right, we feel aligned and at peace. When, however, we act in ways that do not reflect what is right for us, there is disquiet and dis-ease. When discomfort is attended to and we return to the balance of holding our boundary in place, all is once again well. Sometimes though, we do not act, and the discomfort grows.. It may be that we find another influential or persuasive and we get blown off course. Or, we may choose to ignore our intuitive sense of what is right for us in order to perceive we are maintaining harmony, or to stay in relationship fearing what will happen if we do not acquiesce.

However it arises, the most common response to our boundaries being over-stepped is anger. We tend to feel resentment if our integrity is threatened in this way. We may not feel these emotions live in the moment, depending on what else is happening emotionally (for example fear), but often after we have allowed our boundary to be transgressed we may regret and resent. We may later ruminate and feel angry with ourselves, or project our anger out on to the other and blame them.

Boundaries are relational constructs. They define the relationship between two or more things or people. In relationships they need at some level to be negotiated. It can be helpful where this negotiation has been implicit to bring it to the surface consciously and talk about it. Boundaries can be re-drawn where they are not working for those they impact. The process of exploring what is OK for each person, of learning what can be shifted and what is not moveable, can be enriching for those involved. It helps us come to a deeper understanding of each other, and to demonstrate a deeper respect for each other.

Where relationships or roles cause you to feel uneasy, take some time to observe what is happening. What has been consciously agreed? What has been unconsciously implied and accepted? How do you feel about the current situation? Are the boundaries operating beneficial for you, for others, and for the situation overall? If not, how might you open up dialogue about this? What kind of boundary placement would work for you?

All relationships are fluid and dynamic, including the one with ourselves. It’s been a potent week for me of re-drawing boundaries with myself, and entering into dialogue with others. It feels like a coming home to myself as I am right now, knowing that with time I and mine will again flex and change, and our boundaries will once again need our loving attention.

For support with boundary making and keeping in your life, reach out to a qualified psychotherapist.


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