Boundaries have a bit of a bad rap. When we think of setting them, sometimes we imagine fences or big blockades that we need to put up between us and the ones that we love and naturally, that may seem like a bad thing. But in truth, they are absolutely necessary if we want to have a healthy mental and emotional state.
Why We Need Boundaries
Boundaries are a way of marking where one thing ends and something else begins. In the case of boundaries between people, it marks where your wants and needs end and someone else’s begin.
The physical equivalent to boundaries would be our immune system. The immune system is designed to protect us from foreign invaders. If our immune system let down its natural barriers, all sorts of viruses, bacteria, parasites, and pathogens would take over the body. We would be sick, lose energy, and eventually die as a result. Thus our physical natural barriers are integral to a healthy body, and emotional boundaries work much in the same way.
It is essential for us to keep our needs at the top of our priority list; when they aren’t, we feel stressed, unhappy, and eventually get sick.
What Happens When We Break Our Boundaries
When we don’t have boundaries, we lose touch of our own wants and needs because we’re too wrapped up in everyone else’s. This can cause us to become resentful, depleted, and exhausted, and sometimes can cause us to avoid relationships altogether in an effort to protect ourselves.
We also lose touch of who we are. The soul’s main goal is evolution and growth. No plant, animal, bacteria, cell, or any other life form wants to struggle. Our soul’s aim (like every other living being’s) is to thrive, and in order to thrive, we must know what we want and what we don’t want. This gets complicated very quickly without natural boundaries.
How could you know what you want to do with your spare time if everyone else already has plans for your day?
How could you ever get around to fulfilling your desires if you’re too busy fulfilling everyone else’s?
Not having boundaries can cause emotional problems like depression or anxiety and is extremely exhausting. We eventually forget our dreams.
We forget our needs.
We come last on our list of priorities and sadly, this can last for years.
Without boundaries we lose our sense of purpose and instead focus solely on fulfilling the wants and needs of everyone else.
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This will cause all kinds of emotional, mental, and physical stress. So, to get ourselves and our relationships back into a healthy state, we must change by adopting healthy boundaries.
The Ten Laws of Boundaries
According to authors John Townsend and Henry Cloud, there are ten laws of boundaries:
- The Law Of Sowing and Reaping – Actions have consequences. If someone in your life is sowing anger, selfishness, and abuse at you, are you setting boundaries against it? Or are they getting away with not reaping (or paying the consequences for) what he/she sowed?
- The Law of Responsibility – We are responsible TO each other, not FOR each other. This law means that each person refuses to rescue or enable another’s immature behavior.
- The Law of Power – We have power over some things, we don’t have power over others (including changing people). It is human nature to try to change and fix others so that we can be more comfortable. We can’t change or fix anyone — but we do have the power to change our own life.
- The Law of Respect – If we wish for others to respect our boundaries, we need to respect theirs. If someone in your life is a rager, you should not dictate to him/her all the reasons that they can’t be angry. A person should have the freedom to to protest the things they don’t like. But at the same time, we can honor our own boundary by telling them, “Your raging at me is not acceptable to me. If you continue to rage, I will have to remove myself from you.”
- The Law of Motivation – We must be free to say “no” before we can wholeheartedly say “yes”. One can not actually love another if he feels he doesn’t have a choice not to. Pay attention to your motives.
- The Law of Evaluation – We need to evaluate the pain our boundaries cause others. Do our boundaries cause pain that leads to injury? Or do they cause pain that leads to growth?
- The Law of Proactivity – We take action to solve problems based on our values, wants, and needs. Proactive people keep their freedom and they disagree and confront issues but are able to do so without getting caught up in an emotional storm. This law has to do with taking action based on deliberate, thought-out values versus emotional reactions.
- The Law of Envy – We will never get what we want if we focus our boundaries onto what others have. Envy is miserable because we’re dissatisfied with our state yet powerless to change it. The envious person doesn’t set limits because he is not looking at himself long enough to figure out what choices he has.
- The Law of Activity – We need to take the initiative to solve our problems rather than being passive. In a dysfunctional relationship, sometimes one person is active and the other is passive. When this occurs, the active person will dominate the passive one. The passive person may be too intimidated by the active one to say no. This law has to do with taking initiative rather than being passive and waiting for someone else to make the first move.
- The Law of Exposure – We need to communicate our boundaries. A boundary that is not communicated is a boundary that is not working. We need to make clear what we do or do not want, and what we will or will not tolerate. We need to also make clear that every boundary violation has a consequence. A boundary without a consequence is nagging.
Adopting new changes to our existing relationships is challenging, no doubt, but worth it. If you want to keep your sanity and even save existing relationships, you absolutely must respect yourself. There will be people in your life that don’t like the new changes but those that are worth keeping in your life will stick around.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Gautama Buddha
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