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ParentingPanicButton » Blessings, Featured, gratitude, parenting advice, parenting help, parenting teens, parenting tips, Relationships, self confidence » Boundaries vs. Barriers

Boundaries vs. Barriers

Boundaries mark the healthy space we put in between ourselves and other people in normal daily social interaction.   We share an understanding of our boundaries with other people we encounter by giving them verbal, nonverbal and visual cues.  Shared and communicated boundaries enable us all to feel comfortable within the definitions of our particular relationships.

People who do not learn to set, share and express boundaries often have problems with other people overstepping, taking advantage and literally walking all over them.   People who are reluctant or reticent to set their own boundaries often invite into their lives just the kinds of people who can be invasive, inappropriate and even abusive.  It is good to be a door-opener, but not a door mat!

Some people are challenged by being unable to detect social cues and boundaries which have been clearly communicated to them.  These missed cues can result in socially and physically inappropriate comments, gestures, or behaviors.  The impact can range from the subject feeling uncomfortable to more serious consequences.

Clearly a certain level of “social compliance”, (adherence to accepted norms and  mores) is an important key to success in human relationships. In these times with frequent issues of political correctness, laws have been enacted to protect those whose boundaries are violated in the workplace as well as in educational institutions.  We have all become more sensitive to violations or incursions into our “personal space”.

The downside of legislating social compliance and behavior is that we become self-conscious, hesitant and even reluctant to have meaningful conversations, to get to know folks better and put feelers out for deeper relationships. One of the biggest casualties of political correctness and legislated social compliance is our participation in and enjoyment of humor.   It has become so essential to self-censor before making a quip or telling a joke and to err on the side of caution. A bad, misinterpreted or inappropriate joke can end up in the loss of a job or a friendship as well as a lawsuit.

As we move through our lives, our  experiences can inform and help us in setting and holding new and essential boundaries.  Sometimes our mistakes and injuries can be so extreme and painful that the well-intentioned boundaries they engender become rigid, and inflexible barriers.  These barriers can make it difficult for us to participate in meaningful and healthy relationships.

In our personal lives, when boundaries become barriers, we suffer a loss of intimate relationship, which is indeed our own loss.  When we bring these barriers to our workplaces, to our children’s schools, to the committees and boards we serve on and to every day social situations, our barriers can become challenges, detriments and impediments to those we encounter.

So what is an example of a boundary that becomes a barrier?   Many of us have had the unfortunate history of being bullied or harassed in our younger school years, and have never really resolved that pain.   When we work our feelings out, resolve and move on from those early traumas the result is the development of clearer boundaries that we model and teach our children by example and healthy communication.  When we have to show up in support and or defense of our children we must leave behind the reactivity, defensiveness and passive aggressive behaviors that are likely to prevent resolution.  An example of a boundary-turned-barrier would manifest as the inability to see one’s own child as having any  responsibility in the conflict; “No one bullies my kid, not after what I’ve been through. I don’t care what my kid did or said.”

The barrier can also be subtler than the above example and can come in the form of social aloofness, disengagement, or passive aggressive comments.

So how do you hold the boundaries and break down the barriers?  How do you tell them apart?

It is important to observe boundaries set by other people and even to be aware of their barriers and respect them because they are theirs.   You have a choice to discontinue the relationship are respect the boundaries.  Violating the boundaries and barriers of others is not up to you.  It can only frustrate you and get you into trouble.

The only boundaries you can set are the ones that you set for yourself and the only barriers that you can break down are your own, the ones you’re ready to work on.

By Rick Concoff c2013

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Filed under: Blessings, Featured, gratitude, parenting advice, parenting help, parenting teens, parenting tips, Relationships, self confidence · Tags: , , , , , ,

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