Boundaries define one space from another, one person from another. A physical boundary helps a property owner to demonstrate the line between own land and other land. A personal boundary helps a person understand where self exists and where others exist. Both are very important.
We hire professional surveyors to define accurately the bounds of our land. There are legal and emotional factors at play in making sure where "my land" begins and ends. Very important!
Yet, few of us think of hiring a therapist or life coach or consultant to help us define accurately where we begin and end, where others begin and end. An example is when we feel completely drained by a personal or work relationship and do not know how to maintain our own sanity in the presence of the other person. Addicts and manipulators are great at violating other people's boundaries.
There are many types of personal boundaries. The word "No" is one of the most important in the language of relationships. Healthful relationships allow us to say "No" when we want to say "No". Healthy people do not force or coerce others. If we cannot say "No" in an intimate relationship, we will end up exhausted and angry. When our boundries are violated by our parents, siblings, romantic partners, or even children, we become cynical -- doubting the goodness of relationships, say "Yes" when we want to say "No", withdrawing emotionally into our own cocoon.
So, if we are to manage our anger and cynicism, if we are to engage others in healthful ways, if we are to be the best spouses and parents we can be, we must do some Boundary work. The book "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is a fantastic, east-to-read introduction to this concept. View www.cloudtownsend.com to learn more.
1. Time Boundaries - We have a right to our time. We can choose how we spend our time, to a large degree. When we have young children, we may have less flexiblity with our time. We have to work to earn income. However, that leaves a great deal of free time. The way we use our money is usually similar to the way we use our time. Think about that for a minute. When others ask for help or assistance, we have a right to say "Yes" or "No", depending on our will. If you are in a relationship or church or workplace that does not allow you to say "No", take a hard look at the effect that is having on you.
2. Emotional Boundaries - Enmeshment is a dangerous dynamic in relationships. This is the process where we have NO emotional separation from another person or our family or our work or our church. When a person you love is hurting, it does have some effect on you. But, it does not have the right to destroy you. If a person you love is an alcoholic or commits suicide, it does not have to destroy you. A person with good boundaries can maintain their own sense of self and purpose, even when loved ones choose to throw life away. You can say "No" in responsible, respectful ways.
3. Cognitive Boundaries - You have ownership of your own thoughts. No one has a right to dominate or control your thoughts. If a lover says, "No one will ever love you like I love you", try to hear the control and irrationality in that. It sounds good, but what is the motive? Only you control your thoughts. We have the power to think what we want to think, to think what we really believe. We must take steps to protect and focus our thoughts.
I hope these thoughts are helpful for you.