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What are personal boundaries?

Dr Henriette Smith. June 2019

· Mind

“Boundaries make it possible for us to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do. Intact boundaries are flexible—they allow us to get close to others when it is appropriate and to maintain our distance when we might be harmed by getting too close. Good boundaries protect us from abuse and pave the way to achieving true intimacy. They help us take care of ourselves." (lifeesteem.org)

Boundaries are invisible layers of protection separating us from others; that layer is fluid, and can be adapted as needed.

We want and need to exchange some emotional energy with people if we are to connect with them.

We can determine how much or little of our psychic (emotional) energy to share in specific situations and with different people. We also decide how much or how little emotional energy we will accept from other people.

When someone shares more information that you are comfortable knowing, s/he has crossed a boundary. By saying “Okay – TMI (Too much information) – that's all I want to know”, you have set a boundary.

By refusing to answer questions in detail – only sharing what you feel comfortable with – you are setting a boundary.

Often we do not establish good boundaries because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, or aren't comfortable dealing with what we perceive to be a confrontation. When this happens, we are at risk for being taken advantage of or even abused.

This can happen by allowing people to say things to us that we don't like, or by not saying 'no' to requests that we really don't want to do.

When we don't set clear boundaries about what we will accept from others and what they can expect from us, we are sending the message about what behavior or requests are acceptable.

Sharing feelings 'openly' (unguarded) with a loved one may be appropriate. However, when interacting with people at work, the level of emotional sharing and closeness will likely be very different.

If at any time you begin to feel emotionally vulnerable or unsafe, you can 'close off' (guard) or 'shut down' (withhold) your thoughts and feelings.

In new dating relationships, boundaries are critical. You are setting the tone for how you will be treated later, and the behavior you are willing to accept.

Finding the right balance of what is enough and what is too much takes practice. You will naturally let down your guard/boundaries as you get to know and trust a new dating partner.

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.