What are they and how many are there?
There are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, spiritual, sexual, disability, silent, and relational limits. Because we have boundaries there are also boundary violations and limits. We must work through these.
Boundaries are the limits of our personal space. As we grow up in the homes we were born to, we learn about boundaries or not to have them. Our parents may have been very loving with hugs and kisses or they may have shown no affection, or only occasionally told you that you were important or loved. Either actions caused you to react and set beliefs about yourself.
Visible breaking of boundaries can be seen by everyone in the room, whether it be a classroom, home or office. Bullies are noticed.
When I was in school I had many experiences. One was in the 5th grade. The teacher threw chalk, erasers and gold balls at students who either didn’t answer correctly or were not paying attention. Luckily I was never hit, although I didn’t like the confusion of his breaking the physical boundaries of the male students. A lot of dodging, weaving and shouting were the norm in the classroom. Hard to concentrate!
In the 4th grade I had a teacher that came to the school from another city. She had been allowed to man-handle her students. She thought that was how to teach. One day I went to the bathroom and had to stay a little-longer than whiz and wash hands. She hunted me down on the playground, asking me why I had not been in the line at the appropriate time. Then she began hitting me on my back and neck in a closed fist. She thought she would leave no marks or bruises. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I couldn’t understand why she was punishing me in front of all the other children. I told my Mom as soon as I got home. The teacher didn’t hit me after that.
In the 1st grade I had an older teacher. Her idea was that everyone should be able to read when they entered first grade. My mother had not sent me to pre-school or Kindergarten - Neither had Donnie, my classroom neighbor had any preschool. We sat on the floor underneath the blackboard during reading time. She had us stand up in front of the class after reading and she switched us on the back of our calves with a yard stick. At six years old I had a hard time knowing why I was bad and being treated badly in front of the class. Luckily Donnie’s mother had time to spend with us after school and we learned to read and spell quite well.
Some children have the unfortunate placement in the family to be ignored rather than to be praised. If this was you, you know how hurtful that was. You yearned for those compliments and those opportunities to go to special places, like the zoo, with one or both of your parents. You may have been shuffled off to an Aunt, Uncle or grandparent instead of having the privilege of going with them. I call this the Silent boundary. You can’t say anything, nothing is fair, and you are supposed to be kind to your extended family members.
Another boundary breakage, under relational limits, is from the other siblings in your home. It is often physical but it can also be emotional. They say terrible things to you. They may hit, shove, trip, push, or lock you in the dark closet and hold the door shut. Their laughter does not seem humorous to you. It isn’t fun.
Under sexual limits I can only talk about my girlfriends and how they were treated. One friend was sexually used as a young girl. She didn’t know that her father’s advances were wrong. Usually, this is because no one has paid attention to the child and the child seeks affection and compliments. These false words are often easy for the perpetrator to speak. His actions, however, are wrong. The boundary to expect a safe parent is broken.
There is also disability boundary and bad behavior. When you see a person in a wheel chair, especially as a young child, you think they have something wrong with them. You don’t know if it may be something temporary or permanent. The kids tease or avoid the child in a wheel chair. They talk loud to adults because they think they are old and stupid. No one has trained them to be polite, helpful, and tolerate the extra time it may take for the wheeled vehicle to move. Employers may also hold a bad boundary against disabled persons and refuse to hire them. I know many people with different kinds of disabilities and none of them are stupid. They have never asked to have the disability; however, they are coping quite well. We should applaud them. Ask yourself, what you’d do if tomorrow you woke up and couldn’t walk, move your arms, hands or legs, or speak.
Spiritual boundaries are most often provided by parents or spouses against the other person leaving the usual beliefs or actions set. Every parent thinks that they have all the answers for the family. It may be that they were taught a certain way and they feel the children should follow without question. The spouse may have had similar experiences; this adds another stone to the weighty matter. They may feel their parents will object to the new ideas or behaviors. I’m not talking about bad behavior here; I am speaking about religious preferences. There are parents that will disown their children who attend another church. They won’t talk about it or listen to any reason why the choice was made. Some parents cut a child “out of their will” if they change the status-quo. This is a break in spiritual boundaries.
Another boundary area is the believing that every child should be perfect, obedient, never ask questions, or act out. Sometimes unsightly or unlikely behavior is the only way a child can get the parents attention. I knew a mother who would have to clean up the wall behind the crib of smelly, unsightly messes until she started spending more time with the child. All the child wanted was mommy to hold him or her and to feel loved.
Communication does not mean control. Many divorces are sought due to the lack of communication or the loss of trust. Control does not belong in a marriage. Each person has a hobby, talent, ability, profession, or gift that is theirs alone. Sometimes it is an individual resource. It cannot be shared. The spouse must be willing to give space to that gift. It is part of the inner personality locked inside and part of them. Any condemning, threats, punishments, withdrawal, or separation because of it is an abusive boundary.
Another area of problem may come with the married partner depending on their parents or over-coddling their children, or putting them first. This flies in the face of “the two are now one” concept of marriage.
As adults we should be able to function as individuals and not have to hold onto another to keep them from success or harbor bad feelings because they soar free of you in some areas. Get your own life, as my mother would say. Clean up your own space. Keep your nose clean. Empty out your own garbage. Get your hands out of the other person’s way of life. Make your own way in this world.
Be careful not to violate the boundaries of others. Also keep your boundaries secure and be on guard for violations by others. It is OK to speak out and protect yourself. The other person may be unaware that they are encroaching on or into your space.
When visiting Asia there are lots of people. You will notice that people stand closer to you than those in the United States. You are experiencing your requirements for personal space. An American boundary is thought to be about three to four feet away from the next person. If you have grown up with lots of siblings or close neighbors your boundary may be closer or even further away. Each person is different. Take time to be aware of other people’s boundaries. Excuse your self if and when you see a person back-up from you in conversation. Turning away or walking away is another way an individual expresses a broken boundary.
Invite others to share your success or boundary problems. We love comments. A good book to read: Boundaries – Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine, MA Published by: Hazelton
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