Personal boundaries, too soft or too harsh? (Part 1)

Recently, I have been receiving many inquiries about personal boundaries which are appearing to become more and more blurred in our interpersonal relationships. One of the reasons for this cloudiness is the growth of technologies, namely social media and globalization, which do bring a variety of opportunities but unfortunately deliver frustration as well. No longer limited just by time and space, today it’s unclear to people where their personal “territory” ends and where the “territory of the other person starts, and where is the line in people’s relationships that cannot be crossed.

When working with boundaries, it’s important to consider two directions: the first is the protection of one’s own territory, the second is to respect the territory of others. For example, in a close relationship the other person tends to think that we are part of them, that boundaries may be violated, and they can venture into our “territory” as if  it is their own. And it’s us who allows this behavior.

Boundaries that are too soft or too harsh illustrate the extremes of relationship building. When boundaries are too soft, we become vulnerable and it’s as if we are an open border without any “customs”. When boundaries are too strict, any sincere interest or any desire for closeness can be perceived as a threat. It is best when boundaries are flexible when a person can choose who to let into their personal space and who is not allowed.

Any person of any age has a right to personal boundaries, which may include the following:

– the right to their own thoughts

– the right to their own feelings

– the right to their own body

We enter the world without boundaries, but start learning them from an early age through communication. Those of us who were taught by our parents or caregivers to establish adequate boundaries are the luckiest ones. Such people in adulthood will experience less problems with self-service, find it easier to build relationships with others and manage their dependencies with greater responsibility. However, these people are a minority and more often we encounter “adult children” who can be divided into two categories — those who don’t identify their needs, desires and don’t believe in themselves, or those who do not recognize and do not respect the boundaries of others. Within the first category, people do not have a sense of their own boundaries and identity, which develops vulnerability which in turn may result in attachment to someone who will think and decide for them. People within the second category are manipulators who cannot establish a good relationship, which results in constant dissatisfaction and stress. However, within both categories people are in need of similar things — intimacy, recognition, attention, sympathy, warmth and love.

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