In life, we are connected to various individuals – family, friends, life partners, colleagues, and most importantly, ourselves. Have you ever paused to consider the ‘boundaries’ in these relationships? Even in the healthiest interactions, we craft boundaries to shield our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Debra Fileta, a seasoned relationship counselor, shares her insight on the integral role boundaries play in our lives, common myths, and how embracing them could make us more wholesome individuals.
What are boundaries? Why do we require them?
Boundaries are often misunderstood. Many believe that they serve as a decree for others to either halt or commence a particular action. For example, “Do not call me at 4 a.m.” But this is a skewed perspective. Boundaries aren’t about controlling or dictating the actions of others.
Instead, boundaries are about your reaction to others’ actions. For instance, rather than demanding that someone stop calling you at 4 a.m., it is more about what steps you’re going to take if someone does call at that time – such as switching off your phone or activating the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. The power of boundary setting lies within our control over our reactions.
How can we communicate boundaries in a way that does not exude control?
The key lies in expressing your feelings and needs in a relationship. Consider the shift from “you” statements to “I” statements. Rather than telling others what they need to do, or stop doing, talk about what you’re feeling and what you need. Discuss how their actions impact you, and express your expectations, needs, and desires.
Boundaries often become necessary when an area of our life isn’t functioning optimally. However, we sometimes measure the efficacy of these boundaries based on the reactions of the individuals involved. This is a misguided approach, particularly if the relationship isn’t healthy. Their reaction may not necessarily be healthy or conducive. In fact, there might be resistance when you initially implement boundaries.
So, how can we identify areas needing a boundary reassessment?
Your emotions are the greatest indicators. Christians, especially, are often hesitant to embrace their feelings, adhering to the “feelings are not faith, I choose faith over feelings” notion. However, ignoring your emotions isn’t the solution. While your feelings might not always be accurate, they are certainly revealing.
Feelings of frustration, irritability, resentment, depression, or anxiety are not negative. They are signals from your body, alerting you to pay attention. These signals might hint at needing to establish a boundary with someone in your life or to undertake some healing work.
As an example, recurring frustration could signal that you should have set a boundary sooner. Our bodies, in their divine wisdom, guide us toward our needs. We must attune ourselves to our feelings, as they provide crucial insight into our internal and external worlds.
Navigating through life’s relationships, it’s essential to establish healthy boundaries. Rooted in respect and consideration, boundaries can fortify relationships and ensure their health and longevity. By incorporating this understanding into our lives, we can build stronger, more fulfilling connections – with ourselves and others.