Unfortunately, we aren’t born with instruction manuals or have a go to book we can open, when we hit technical difficulties. For many of us, Personal Boundaries (PB) are leaned because we discover we really need them. Healthy ones can be pretty tricky to master, especially if you’ve never been taught.
There are different types of personal boundaries, but the psychological ones are what we use most in relationships. They are basically like an imaginary line, which either prevents or allows entrance, to cause us personal harm. Not many people realize there are 4 different varieties; rigid, porous, non-existent and healthy. It’s helpful to know which type you have and how to make some adjustment.
Often referred to as “having a wall up”, people with these boundaries find relationships difficult. They won’t allow anything to flow in or out, like having a blocked filter.
People of this type have a penetrable boundary. Others are able to push through it at will; however, boundaries are set for themselves; like how much they choose to share. Regardless of this, they allow themselves to be hijacked and can suffer the consequences of others. If you’ve ever let someone make you fell guilty, you may have a porous personal boundary.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, to rigid boundaries, non-existent types are equally as harmful to a person. There is no filter of what comes in and what goes out. Therefore, the imaginary line is completely absent. Without a filter, they can offer too much personal information about themselves; which can lead to others taking advantage of them. Plus, they often lack the capacity to say no. This can be a dangerous combination.
Described by Psychotherapist Joyce Marter, LCPC, as the “midway between Diva and Doormat”, healthy boundaries are the key to fulfilling relationships. It’s much like a dual doorway which lets others in to take a peek at who we really are and allows us access to get to know others. The difference between this and unhealthy types, is the filter. Careful screening of what goes through the filter, is achieved.
How to adjust your Personal Boundaries
Luckily, personal boundaries are adaptable. The first step is recognising which type you have. Only after acknowledging this, can it be altered. Secondly, achieving a healthy PB, is relative to how far from healthy it is. For example, if you have a non-existent PB, you have some way to go. Less, if its porous or rigid.
The third step, to achieving a healthy balance, is to clearly define the boundaries you want to set. This works with all un-healthy types. If it’s too rigid, boundaries need to be relaxed. Working out what can be divulged and accepted is the key. If porous; applying the boundaries set for themselves, to those around them, is effective. These people understand personal boundaries, but loved ones can sneak past them.
What will be most significant with non-existent PB, will be shifting from the comfort zone to a zone which is unfamiliar. PB develop over time, therefore, change will take place slowly. Identify opportunities which cause less discomfort and set boundaries; working toward more uncomfortable situations, as time passes. Practice, time and a gradual exposure to change is the easiest, most effective way to achieve a health balance.
By Kim Chartres