Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Signs Of Unhealthy Boundaries

We all need healthy boundaries. Our boundary defines who we are and
determines how we are able to interact and relate to the world,
physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My boundary lets me know
where I end and you begin. My boundary allows me to express who I am
and allows you to do the same. If we grew up in a dysfunctional
family, inconsistent and various forms of abuse influenced our
ability to form and maintain our boundaries. We also have
difficulty identifying the boundaries of others.

Damaged boundaries is another symptom of codependency.

A primary cause of conflict and difficulties in relationships lies in
unhealthy boundaries. My boundary is my container. When I am too
contained or not contained enough, then problems in relationships
result. Healing and restoring our boundary is a part of the recovery
process. It does not happen overnight.

Our physical boundary

Sets our need and right to physical space and safety; including our
needs and rights in sexual interaction with others.

Our emotional or internal boundary

Sets our emotional needs, rights and safety; including our right to
our thoughts and actions.

If I develop an overly protective boundary, my ability to be in
healthy relationships with others is compromised. It like being in a
shell, like a turtle. No one can get it and I can't get out. The give
and take, back and forth flow in a relationship is hampered.

The other extreme is a lack of a sense of boundary. I cannot
experience myself as separate from others. My container is faulty and
all the contents spill out just like an egg when the shell is broken.
It becomes difficult to distinguish myself from others. I feel my
feelings and all of your feelings too. I begin to define myself
according to your definition. I lost my own identity. My
feelings are your feelings, my thoughts are your thoughts, and I
behave the way I think you want me to.

A healthy boundary is like the permeable membrane of a cell. It
controls what goes in and out. It determines what it needs and goes
for it. There is a back and forth flow.

As our self-esteem increases in recovery,
so will the health of our boundaries.

In review:

*The rigid boundary is like an impenetrable wall.
Nothing can go in or come out.

*No boundary - The person is unprotected.
Everything can flood in and flood out.

*Partial boundaries work sometimes but are not reliable.
*Healthy boundaries protect the individual,
and the person can choose what comes in and goes out.

Other Signs Of Unhealthy Boundaries:


1.. Having sex when you do not want to
2.. Falling in love at first sight. Actually this is impossible.
You cannot love someone you do not know. It's actually infatuation.
3.. Intimate sharing on first meeting
4.. Using sex as a reward or punishment
5.. Inability to distinguish between love and sex.
6.. Manipulating another person through sex
7.. Feeling a need to always be in a sexual relationship
8.. Attaching self-esteem to sexual attraction
9.. Forcing sex on someone who does not want it
10.. Sexual abuse


1.. Touching others without asking
2.. Physical intimidation
3.. Not allowing others privacy
4.. Not protecting your own need for privacy
5.. Physical abuse


1.. Verbal abuse
2.. Making threats
3.. Assuming I know what someone else feels
4.. Assuming others know what I feel
5.. Expecting others to know my needs and meet them
6.. Assuming to know the needs of others
7.. Over-reaction to feelings or behaviors of others
8.. Insisting others tell us how they feel
9.. Not respecting the rights of others
10.. Intolerance to differences of opinion
11.. Dependence on others for my sense of well-being
12.. Inability to ask for help
13.. Personalizing
14.. Need for constant reassurance from others
15.. Going against personal values and morals to please others
16.. Unclear preferences
17.. Accepting gifts that I don't want
18.. Making material gifts the measure of another's caring
19.. Over giving
20.. Frequent advice-giving with expectation that others follow it.

Descriptions of Boundaries

Rigid Boundaries: Physical

1.. Stiff body posture
2.. Stoic
3.. Uncomfortable being touched
4.. Avoids touching or showing affection to others
5.. Avoids physical closeness
6.. Does not reach or under-reacts
7.. Stone face
8.. Very predictable behavior

Rigid Boundaries: Emotional

1.. Appears insensitive to the feelings of others
2.. Appears aloof and disinterested
3.. Does not show feelings
4.. Does not talk about feelings
5.. Seems emotionally numb
6.. Attempts to meet needs and wants by themselves
7.. Has difficulty asking for or accepting help from others
8.. Does not react or under-reacts emotionally
9.. Has difficulty giving or receiving from others

No Boundaries: Physical

1.. Does not like being alone
2.. Touches others without asking
3.. Allows others to touch him/her
    even when it uncomfortable or inappropriate

4.. Is not aware of own need for privacy
5.. Imposes on the privacy of others
6.. Allows physical space to be invaded
7.. Over-reacts to the feelings and behavior of others
8.. Personalizes
9.. Behavior is influenced by others
10.. Is unpredictable

No Boundaries: Emotional

1.. Feels everything
2.. feels the feelings of others
3.. Cannot contain feelings
4.. Over-discloses, tells too much
5.. Is dependent on others for emotional well-being
6.. Gets too close too fast
7.. Feels like a victim
8.. Experiences prolonged resentments
9.. Is overwhelmed and preoccupied with others
10.. Says "yes" when he/she wants to say "no"
11.. Feels responsible for the feelings of others
12.. Identity tied to being in an intimate relationship
13.. overcompensates
14.. Expects others to meet needs
15.. Gives too much
16.. Takes too much
17.. Unable to respect the rights of others

Partial Boundaries: Physical

1.. May have extremes in need for physical space.
2.. Shows characteristics of fluctuation in boundaries
3.. May have rigid or healthy boundaries in some circumstances
    and fragile boundaries in others.

Partial Boundaries: Emotional

1.. Has mood swings
2.. Is indirect, e.g., Shares feelings about marriage with mother
rather than with husband. Is emotionally inconsistent. - May have
rigid or healthy boundaries in some circumstances and fragile
boundaries particularly in intimate relationships.

Healthy Boundaries: Physical

1.. Makes physical boundary clear to others
2.. Respects and is sensitive to the needs and rights of others
3.. Is able to negotiate and compromise
4.. Asks permission before touching others

Healthy Boundaries: Emotional

1.. Shares feelings appropriately and directly
2.. Is assertive
3.. Is interdependent
4.. Identifies choices
5.. Is able to make mistakes without damage to self-esteem
6.. Has an internal sense of personal identity
7.. Can allow "differences" in others
8.. Tolerates and accepts differences of opinion
    without altering their own
9.. Is sensitive to feelings of others (empathetic)

My Boundaries:

What kind of boundary do I have?
Where in my life is it the hardest to have a healthy boundary?
What changes would I like to make in my boundary?
What do I need to do to make these changes?

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