Boundaries: the basics in recovery.

The New World Dictionary defines boundaries as "any line, or marking a limit"-or a border. In in the period of recovery, we in the 'field' often use the phrase "boundary issues" to describe a primary characterstic of co-dependency. This means a person has a difficult time defining where he or she ends and the other person begins. Adult children often enter relationships with an all or nothing attitude. 

During the process of recovery we learn that we are no longer willing to mindlessly lose everything for the sake of the relationship, appearance, or in the name of love. We can learn to make appropriate choices concerning what we are willing to give in our relationships. Having boundaries does not complicate life - boundaries simplify life. We need to know how far we will go and how far we will allow others to go with us. Once we understand this, we can go anywhere and do anything. 

Growing up in a home where there is chemical dependency or other compulsive disorders can result in 1) having no boundaries or 2) Having boundaries with holes in them, or 3) having built walls instead of boundaries. Sometimes we protect ourselves as we are growing up with walls only to come to a place where the walls come down leaving no boundaries. We have gone from the extreme to the other. The goal in recovery is to develop healthy boundaries  not too pliable and not too rigid. Children may have weak or non existent boundaries if they were emotionally or physically neglected or abandoned. Abuse, humiliation, or shame damages boundaries. It leaves gaping holes where the violation occurred. As adults we will be vulnerable to invasion in that area until we repair and strengthen that part of our border. 

Controlling people invade territory. They trespass and think it's their right to do that. If we lived with someone who tried to control us, our boundaries may have been damaged. If our rights to our emotions, thoughts, bodies, privacy, possessions weren't respected, we may not know we have rights. We may not know others do too. 

We need to learn what hurts and what feels good-what is ours and what is not and what we are willing to lose. We need to learn to stop incessantly controlling and taking care of others. 

Many of us have developed a high tolerance for pain and insanity. Sometimes it takes a long time to recognize when something hurts. Many of us don't have a frame of reference for what is normal and appropriate. How can we tell someone to stop hurting us if we are not sure it hurts?

On a last note, be aware - Setting boundaries is not an isolated process. It is intertwined with developing a closer relationship with the Los and dealing with our feelings. It is connected to detachment. Shame is connected to boundaries. We may feel ashamed when we allow people to invade or trespass on our boundaries. Shame may try to block us from setting the boundaries we ultimately need to set for our health and survival.