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Boundaries: What Falls Within Our Boundaries?

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“Boundaries are personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and influence all areas of your life.”
(Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, front flap, 1992).

internal boundariesOne of the big areas of learning healthy boundaries (besides establishing consequences that we will enforce if someone trespasses our personal boundaries) is learning and owning what falls within our boundaries.  In other words, we must take stock of what we are responsible for in regards to boundaries.

1. Feelings

Feelings are not to be dismissed, nor are feelings to rule our lives.  We need to be aware of our feelings and own our our feelings.  Awareness of feelings can help us pause and look at the thoughts driving our feelings. Feelings can also be a good gauge of the status of our relationships.  “But the point is, your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to” (p 40).

2. Attitudes and Beliefs

“Attitudes have to do with your orientation toward something…Beliefs are anything that you accept as true” (p 40).  We often blame others for our attitudes, but we need to own them ourselves because we are the ones who feel the impact of our attitudes and beliefs and we are the ones who can change them.  “People with boundary problems usually have distorted attitudes about responsibility” (p 41). One such distortion is the belief that to hold others responsible for their own attitudes and beliefs is mean.

3. Behaviors

“Behaviors have consequences…To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless” (p 41).  How we behave results in certain consequences – if we are loving towards others, we have closer relationships; if we are caustic towards others our relationships suffer.  We must own our own behaviors and not blame-shift responsibility for our actions onto others.

4. Choices

“We need to realize that we are in control of our choices no matter how we feel” (p 42).  To say that someone “made us” do something is to live in the illusion that we are not in control of our decisions.  Others may influence our choices, but ultimately we make the decisions and are the ones who must live with the consequences.  Establishing boundaries means owning our choices.

5. Values

“What we value is what we love and assign importance to” (p 43).  One big area where boundaries are crossed in the area of values is when we seek the approval of others, thus compromising our values, or when we value things that are temporary and don’t have a lasting value.  Boundaries help us to own our healthy values and see our harmful values so that the latter can be changed.

6. Limits

We can set limits on how much we expose ourselves to people who are behaving poorly (since we cannot make someone change).  For example, you can say, “You can be that way if you choose, but you cannot come into my house” (p 43).  We can also set internal limits that allow us to think, feel, and desire certain things without acting upon those impulses.  “Internal structure is a very important component of boundaries and identity, as well as ownership, responsibility, and self-control” (p 44).

7. Talents

Our particular talents are within our boundaries and are our responsibility to cultivate.

8. Thoughts

“We must own our own thoughts…We must grown in knowledge and expand our minds…We must clarify distorted thinking” (p 45).  Since our thoughts dictate our feelings, are our thoughts are often colored and distorted by past experiences and unhealthy patterns, we must learn to own our thoughts and challenge the reality of our thoughts.  Healthy thinking in relationships means taking the initiative to check to see if our thoughts may be wrong and then collect new information to readjust our thinking in line with reality.  Healthy boundaries in thinking also means that we should not expect others to read our minds nor assume that we can read the minds of others; rather, we work on healthy communication skills.

9. Desires

Our desires are within our personal boundary lines.  Often our desires are distortions or masks of what we are truly seeking – so we must do the hard work of digging deeper.  For example, some people follow destructive sexual desires because they do not realize that their true desire is love and affection – something their destructive actions will never give them in the long run.  Other times we desire something that we want but do not need resulting in disappointment, envy, or anger.  Owning our desires allows us to see what is healthy and what is unhealthy.

10. Love 

“Many people have difficulty giving and receiving love because of hurt and fear…Our loving heart, like our physical one, needs and inflow as well as an outflow of lifeblood...We need to take responsibility four this loving function of ourselves and use it.  Love concealed or love rejected can both kill us” (pp 47-48).

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If you would like help in taking responsibility for your own internal boundaries &/or help in allowing others to take responsibility for their own internal boundaries, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459.3003.