The term boundaries can seem unclear and even confusing at times. What does the term ‘boundaries’ mean? And how does it relate to psychological wellbeing? Are they the same as ‘walls’? And in this context what are walls?
What I am describing here are psychological boundaries. So here I will describe my current understanding of what they are. I will also look at what stops us from developing healthy boundaries and as a result, causes us to create walls in there place.
I think that the best way to understand both of these terms would be to see them as metaphors.
What Are Walls?
So, if we go along with the metaphor; a wall would be something that not only stops anything coming in, it also stops anything from going out. And as we are human beings, what I am talking about here, in a literal sense, are the interactions with other human beings.
Having walls is a coping mechanism that doesn’t allow for flexibility, for life to flow, to come and to go. A way to understand this would be to first bring to our awareness the dual nature of the mind; how it likes to see everything in black and white.
A consequence of this could be to always say no or to always say yes. We can have a hard time using discernment, during moments when it is important to say no and we end up saying yes or vice versa. Saying no could be a real struggle and create an incredible amount of stress for us.
What Are Boundaries
On the other hand boundaries are having the ability to not only say yes, but to also say no. To feel safe and accepted no matter what the reactions of others are or what they expect us to say, be or do.
To be able to engage with life from a place of trust and presence. To know that there will always be people who don’t accept or approve of who we are and upon realising this, still coming from a place of self integrity.
What Creates The Walls?
Based on my own experience and awareness, I would say that these ways of behaving are formed in our younger years. And only exist due to associating our sense of safety and survival around these patterns.
This is where the associations were formed and laid down for that which we hold onto today. During these moments it is probably correct to say that it was the best option for us to take, when it came to our own survival and safety.
As we grow and progress as human beings, what was safe for us as a child and what we depended upon for our own existence, has likely changed as we have grown.
An example that comes to mind is that of a parent or caregiver that is self centred and emotionally cut off. With their only focus being the fulfilment of their own needs and agendas without any care, interest or even awareness as to whether the child is being compromised and possibly even abused by there actions.
Of course there is the healthy process of instilling responsibility and that all actions have consequences. The above example exemplified an extreme case of what one parent might call discipline, but is ultimately the result of tyrannical behaviour.
Another example is of the old paradigm that children are just objects; this of course has been largely fazed out and replaced with a more functional or true view of children. However, in certain parts of the world and society this still exists.
There is also the outlook that parents or caregivers are always right and therefore by definition the child must always be wrong.
These are just a few examples of what can cause present day problems when it comes to standing up for oneself.
Being able to stand up for our selves not only requires self belief, but also when we do stand up and speak our truth – we will be heard.
And a great way stop this from happening is through the constant negative criticism of someone in their younger years. Whether this be what they say or what they do, it will end up blocking there healthy flow of self expression.
I mentioned above about someone that always says ‘yes’ when they should be saying no, but out of there fear of rejection and upsetting another, finds it incredible difficult.
So on one side there is the individual that out of there early oppression finds it hard to say no. They can then become people pleasers, constantly looking for the approval of others, while on the inside they feel incredibly resentful and angry at never being able to say what’s on their mind.
This is the consequence of them still identifying with the past and in there past if they did stand up for themselves, they would be rejected and or abandoned.
And as our mind holds onto what is familiar, it will continue to not only create, but also interpret situations in the same way. This perpetuates the prison and the inability to express oneself. They could be classed as the victims.
The Other Side
On the other side of the scale we have the individual that will never be told what to do. They are also likely to end up turning into the perpetrators and out of there own childhood frustrations, display behaviour that oppresses others, in exactly the same way as they were
An Extension Of Themselves
When I think about the behaviour of individuals that have no problem controlling others or in taking advantage of others, it is clear that they have no boundaries themselves.
As a result of having no boundaries (not knowing where they start and begin and where others start and begin), this then leads them to see others as an extension of themselves. The consequence of this is that others are just objects to be utilised for there own benefit. With no conscious awareness as to whether they are compromising another. Perhaps an inability to empathise is also involved here.
These two types of behaviour are not always black and white, with the victim having moments of being the perpetrator and the perpetrator having moments of being a victim. I would say this is the result what the other person or people are like who they come into contact with and what trauma is triggered within the individual’s memory or unconscious reservoir.
The two examples above were two sides of the same coin and both the consequence of unconscious behaviour.
To express ourselves and stand in our own place of power and truth, we have to rise above these two options.
Having a healthy model of what it means to stand in ones power is vital; when it comes to growing beyond our conditioning. This can be from friends, family, or mentors.
Awareness is the first step, as without that, we will never move beyond the patterns that keep us trapped in our past.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.