Usually when I talk about trauma, I come from the perspective of what happened in childhood to create the woundings.
Today, I’m going to do it backwards and talk about one of the manifestations of unhealed trauma and unprocessed pain: problems with boundaries.
Think of boundaries like fences around a beautiful garden. They help protect the garden from predators while still allowing the lushness of the flowers and plants to be visible.
Boundaries are meant to be flexible and fluid. We can pull them in closer if needed or relax them when there is no danger or threat. The rub comes when as children we experience people who either have no boundaries ( ie, everyone and everything is allowed in whether it is healthy or not), or are actually too boundaried ( ie, nothing and nobody gets in, healthy or not.)
The result of this is that as adults, we become too permissive or too rigid. We lose the ability and choice to reign in boundaries when we need to or let them out when it’s appropriate. Or we do a combination of the two.
So let’s talk about some signs that you fall more in the camp of having poor boundaries- the kind where everything and anyone is allowed in no matter what. If this is you, you tend to:
Feel bad about letting people down, or even the belief that you are letting people down.
Have guilt when you take care for yourself/put your self first in some way.
Say yes when you really want to say no. Or I don’t know. Ot let me think about it and get back to you.
Hand over your power by being overly agreeable, compliant and pleasing so others will tolerate you, like you or not be angry with you.
Have trouble making decisions, even over ” minor” things
Remain silent when you are angry or hurt.
Feel responsible for other people’s moods and feelings.
Feel used, taken for granted or taken advantage of.
What about when you have rigid, inflexible boundaries? What does that look like? You can:
Be very controlling and perfectionistic.
Have very high expectations of yourself and others as well. All people are held to an impossible standard.
Feel uncomfortable going with the flow or being present to the moment. There’s lots of forward thinking. Like a chess game, you are two steps ahead of what may happen so that you will be prepared.
Don’t like it when plans change, especially at the last minute.
Keep people at arms length, sometimes to the point of being overly suspicious that people are out to get you in some way.
Have a very hard time relaxing and allowing for the mystery of life.
Need to have everything laid out in specific detail. Insist that other people do things your way or they are wrong.
People describe you as hard to get along with or inflexible.
Many of us toggle between being too permissive, then feeling depleted or drained and moving straight into rigidity in order to find a sense of balance or respite. This is actually an incredibly painful way to live and exhausting on both sides of the coin. People who have poor boundaries often feel resentful and overwhelmed from allowing all kinds of stimulus, information, treatment and behavior past their fence. It is equally as tiring and burdensome to believe you have to be perfect and on constant alert that everything is ok and nothing and nobody can hurt you.
he good news is that this is so fixable. It is possible to live a life of more steadiness and ease and allow your boundaries to serve you rather than strangle you. If you are ready to take a deep(er) look at how your childhood experiences shaped your ability to create healthy boundaries as an adult, I’d love to support you. It’s what I do best.