Wow, consider this: Your body contains something on the order of 34 trillion cells, each one consisting of cytoplasm contained within a semi-permeable membrane. These cellular membranes dictate the types of substances that move into and out of your cells. Substances that are healthy and contribute to the life of your cells can come in freely, but harmful, inappropriate substances are kept out. Physiologically, you have this marvelous ability to nourish and protect the integrity of each and every cell in your body. boundary
As you interact with the world around you, you likewise have the capacity to nourish and protect the integrity of your entire being. That’s because there is another kind of “semi-permeable membrane” at work. This one is invisible, but no less substantial, and it’s called your interpersonal boundary. This boundary is what enables you to feel safe in the world. It creates a sense of protection, and it is also what makes healthy closeness and intimacy possible. The effectiveness of this boundary depends on the degree to which you are in touch with your physical, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as your skill in conveying your needs and limits to the people you encounter in your life—those near and dear to you, those who are less well known, and those who are strangers.
One way to assess the health of your boundary is to consider whether it tends to be too open or too closed. If it’s too open, you may find that you let people into your life who are unhealthy or even dangerous for you, or perhaps you take on too many responsibilities and thus feel exhausted. “Bad” ends up coming in with the “good”. Having difficulty saying “no” is an indication of a boundary that is too open. Persons whose boundary is too closed, have difficulty in saying “yes” to life and being open to people and experiences that would be helpful and enjoyable. Persons with overly-closed boundaries may have a difficulty trusting people, accepting help, or trying new things. They end up keeping out the “good” along with the “bad”.
If you have boundary-related problems, you may wish to consider talking to a therapist. A therapist can help you understand why you developed the boundary style that you have and can also create a safe and supportive environment for experimenting with new and healthier ways of relating to others.
Written by Elena Walker, MA, LPCC
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