(A) Personal Boundaries

All prob­lems in life may be divided into ones we can do some­thing about and the prob­lems we have no influ­ence over. Every one of our prob­lems is either within the sphere of our con­trol or it is not , e.g. it is inside or out­side our per­sonal boundary.

Your per­sonal bound­ary marks the line between what you con­trol and what you don’t. Solv­ing prob­lems begins with the cre­ation and famil­iar­ity with a healthy, mature and inte­grated per­sonal emo­tional bound­ary, so that you can eas­ily dis­tin­guish what you can con­trol, and LET GOof what you can­not. Spend­ing your emo­tional energy on what you can­not con­trol is called emo­tionalSUFFERING.

Space inside your per­sonal bound­ary is your safe space, your COMFORT ZONE. That’s where you feel com­fort­able and in con­trol i.e. per­form­ing rou­tine tasks, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple you know well about things you are knowl­edge­able about, etc. What lies out­side of it is unknown, you feel UNCOMFORTABLE  and that pro­duces FEAR. Applied to your rela­tion­ship, if your com­fort zone is deter­mined by your rela­tion­ship, you will nat­u­rally fear a break up.

We often allow our bound­aries to develop HOLES. When­ever you get afraid of some­thing that is not an imme­di­ate threat to your life, your per­sonal emo­tional bound­ary has been punc­tured; you have allowed an out­side influ­ence that you have no con­trol of press your but­tons and let your bound­ary be vio­lated. When­ever you use the word SHOULD, you allow the out­side cir­cum­stances that you can­not have con­trol over pull your chain. Some typ­i­cal exam­ples are: “She should not leave me”, or “He should love me.” (Feel free to add those hun­dreds of your own.) Instead, con­cen­trate on what YOU can do about it now (within your con­trol and INSIDE your bound­ary) instead of what should be or, even worse, what shouldHAVE BEEN. What dif­fer­ence does it makes if you think that she should not have left or that the earth should be flat? Yes, you may wish, but you, unfor­tu­nately can­not change the past events or the present real­ity. So, con­cen­trate on what you CAN do about it and CREATE the future by expand­ing your per­sonal bound­ary. You can­not pre­dict  the future no mat­ter how hard you try. There are too many unknowns out­side of your boundary.

Your per­son­al­ity is deter­mined by your pref­er­ences, i.e. say­ing YES to some things and NO to oth­ers, con­sis­tently. Your likes and dis­likes deter­mine your per­son­al­ity. If you are wishy-washy about your pref­er­ences and what you like and dis­like you are open to punch­ing holes in your bound­ary, thus hav­ing a “weak per­son­al­ity”. Your per­son­al­ity is being invaded from out­side and that trans­lates into SUFFERING. When your per­sonal bound­ary is solid, capa­ble of say­ing NO and hon­or­ing NO (this is where your per­sonal integrity comes in, see The Game­less Rela­tion­ship on integrity), you are well pro­tected from STRESS. SayNO to stress and it goes away. Stress orig­i­nates in uncon­trol­lable envi­ron­ments, out­side your bound­ary. You can say no to any influ­ence from out­side of your bound­ary. Holes in your bound­ary are the places you have trou­ble “say­ing NO” or “hear­ing NO”. Say­ing NO to things that you don’t pre­fer and being able to take NO for an answer will only strengthen your bound­ary. Peo­ple who have “their but­tons pushed” or let­ting oth­ers “get under their skin” have very porous bound­aries. If you are being vic­tim­ized in any way, your bound­ary has been pen­e­trated. Peo­ple whose but­tons can­not be eas­ily pushed and peo­ple with “thick skin” have strong per­sonal bound­aries. Peo­ple who can eas­ily be manip­u­lated by SHAME, or made to feel GUILTY need to start seri­ously work­ing on their bound­aries. But, be care­ful. You may build imper­me­able WALLS around you.

Bound­ary WALLS may be just as detri­men­tal to your rela­tion­ship as bound­ary HOLES. Some­times we learn our lessons “the hard way” and plug the bound­ary hole too tightly. If your pre­vi­ous rela­tion­ship was “bad”, say, you were emo­tion­ally manip­u­lated, you might have promised to your­self “never again” and close your­self to inti­macy with ANYONE. Post-traumatic Stress Dis­or­der is a good exam­ple of how men who came from com­bat are “unable to feel” any­thing. It is not that they are unable, they just say NO to inti­macy and feel­ings. They have been hurt too many times and now build thick walls around them­selves that even the most lov­ing part­ner or any mem­ber of their clos­est fam­ily can­not pen­e­trate. You’ve also heard peo­ple get into gen­er­al­iza­tions such as: All men are_____, or women are______. That’s how walls are bul­let: mak­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions out of you own nar­row expe­ri­ence. Being a her­mit is just as bad as wear­ing your heart on your sleeve, as Paul Dobran­sky, MD would say.

In con­clu­sion: it is mat­ter of your integrity, men­tal health, and per­sonal devel­op­ment to con­stantly expand a healthy per­sonal emo­tional bound­ary that will not have holes in it, but be able to will­ingly open to pos­si­bil­i­ties that will allow growth of your per­sonal bound­ary and thus enlarge your abil­ity to influ­ence your life. The size of your healthy and mature per­sonal bound­ary will deter­mine how suc­cess­ful you are in all areas of your life, includ­ing your rela­tion­ships with loved ones.