Setting Boundaries Teaches Others How To Treat You (And Other News)

People like me are always trying to make others see the value of setting healthy boundaries in the spirit of emotional honesty. That is expressing what you feel honestly and assertively when there is a feeling that a boundary needs to be set. In my opinion, if this is done consistently and without the fear of judgment, it can lead to a much deeper sense of intimacy in any relationship.

For a variety of reasons, it is very often very difficult for some people to even think about the value of boundaries. Some have never been exposed to healthy boundaries and have no idea when and how to set them. Some know how but are afraid for fear of “rocking the boat” or the reaction that might come from the other side. Some feel they do not deserve to say anything and live in resentment. Some hold back from saying what they think as a way of controlling the response of the other person. So you can maybe already work out that setting boundaries is not as easy as the theory suggests and people struggle badly with it. My advice is don’t be afraid of boundaries… they are extremely healthy and they can tell you a lot about the person you are setting boundaries around. One thing to keep in mind is that your responsibility is only to deliver the boundary in an assertive, honest way and without aggression. How the receiver takes it is not your issue. You are not responsible for the reaction from the other side.

One category not mentioned above are those who can and do set healthy boundaries but have them destroyed by someone who doesn’t accept the boundary or feels that people are not allowed to set them. They are knocked back with anger, insult or gaslighting. Some people then find it difficult to set a second boundary and allow this abuse to happen. This gives some the idea that the setting of boundaries is not worthwhile or useless or is too much trouble and takes too much energy. This is exactly what the other side might want and the resistance of healthy boundaries is abusive and controlling. Many who find it difficult to set boundaries will lament that doing so will not change anything. Boundaries are not set in order to change someone but solely to change their perspective of how you want to be treated. If open discussion does not help and you have maybe tried getting outside help… what is to be done?

Should you ever stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect healthy boundaries and doesn’t allow them to be set? Definitely not. The healthy setting of boundaries is a major part of the 4 pillars of trust, honesty, respect and the mutual meeting of needs that go to making up a solid foundation for a healthy relationship. It deepens intimacy and brings security and stability to the relationship. Without boundaries and intimacy, we can only ever hope to  have a superficial relationship with another person. Boundaries define you as a person and how you want to be treated. We mostly all know how to set physical boundaries. We would never allow anyone to touch us inappropriately or to invade our physical comfort zone. The concept is exactly the same with our emotional boundaries. I always describe it as a house with a white picket fence. You have to decide who is allowed past that fence under what circumstances and who stays out outside. Those who break through need to be pushed outside. It is never too late to start this very healthy process.

The Rise Of Narcissism In The Western World:

You might deem from conversations with people who have come across individuals with narcissistic traits that one lurks on every corner. Narcissism is the relationship  buzzword of our times and is now widely used inappropriately to describe anyone with a self-centered attitude to life. However, it seems that narcissism is a growing trend in western society but has its roots in a concept that has been long encouraged in the west and in the US especially, individualism. A new book by Joseph Henrich, a Harvard anthropologist, “The Weirdest People In The World” states that  people in the western world especially became more mobile as advances  in industry and technology were made. He cites the printing press and the internet (especially social media) as good examples. This increased mobility led to individuals feeling able to leave long established social groups and tribes and forge a way ahead as an individual as these changes fueled growth and innovation. Social media in particular gives us the chance to have our own individual views bounced back at us, making us feel more important as an individual. Providers, using complicated algorithms, make sure we are fed constant input based on what we believe. Individualism, encouraged by education systems and the corporate world has led to an intellectual and financial elite who feel all powerful. Success is deemed as either mirroring or joining this group. Western society has long been based on, and success judged by, the value of “I” rather than “we”. It is perhaps no accident that China is emerging as a superpower where the government imposes a collective will on its people. 

Covid Will Change Our Society Forever

A recent report in the Times of London looked at various surveys on how we are coping with the pandemic and with lockdowns especially. In the UK, 54 % of people felt that the effects of changes in their lives due to lockdown will become a mainstay of their lives after Covid. This was mostly to do with working practices, a desire to work from home and the more casual way of dressing while doing so. Bizarrely, some also found out that they had become more comfortable only showering three times per week and not every day and planned to maintain that. However, some things appear not to be changing. The survey also found that while both men and women are doing the same amount of working hours at home, women are still doing the lions share of housework, cooking and childcare. Individualism seems to be gender related!

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Intriguingly Curious

    “We would never allow anyone to touch us inappropriately or to invade our physical comfort zone. ”

    No, we would not, but sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter, and that is all we have known.

    Some people treat you, how they think you should be treated, and you grow up thinking, that’s just how it is.

    I never even knew about the concept of boundaries until a about 10 years ago. And then I didn’t know what you are supposed to do with them, or how they are set. You have to actually believe you “deserve” to have boundaries, and that comes from self-respect I believe.

    Some of us are just learning all these things still…

    And if you don’t learn them well enough, or they are not very strong, then there are others more than willing to take advantage of that situation.