RCASA’s Saturday Prevention: Setting Boundaries

In Advocacy, Education, Outreach, Prevention on August 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves.  We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us.  A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves.  That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us.

It is important to state our feelings out loud, and to precede the feeling with “I feel.”  (When we say “I am angry, I’m hurt, etc.” we are stating that the feeling is who we are.  Emotions do not define us, they are a form of internal communication that help us to understand ourselves.  They are a vital part of our being – as a component of the whole.)  This is owning the feeling.  It is important to do for ourselves.  By stating the feeling out loud we are affirming that we have a right to feelings.  We are affirming it to ourselves – and taking responsibility for owning ourselves and our reality.  Rather the other person can hear us and understand is not as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to our feelings.  It is vitally important to own our own voice.  To own our right to speak up for ourselves.

Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation – although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate.  The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is:  when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome.

It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly.  Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves.  It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves – to protect ourselves when it is necessary.

Setting boundaries is about learning to take care of ourselves, no matter what happens, where we go, or who we’re with.

  • Boundaries emerge from deep decisions about what we believe we deserve and don’t deserve.
  • Boundaries emerge from belief that what we want and need, like and dislike, is important.
  • Boundaries emerge from a deeper sense of our personal rights, especially the right we have to take care of ourselves and to be ourselves.
  • Boundaries emerge as we learn to value, trust, and listen to ourselves.

The goal of having and setting boundaries isn’t to build thick walls around ourselves. The purpose is to gain enough security and sense of self to get close to others without the threat of losing ourselves, smothering them, trespassing, or being invaded. Boundaries are the key to loving relationships.

When we have a sense of self, we’ll be able to experience closeness and intimacy. We’ll be able to love and to be loved.

Intimacy, play, and creativity require loss of control. Only when we have boundaries and know we can trust ourselves to enforce them and take care of ourselves, will we be able to let go enough to SOAR. These same activities help develop a sense of self, for it is through LOVE, PLAY, and CREATIVITY that we begin to understand who we are and become reassured we can trust ourselves. Having boundaries means having a self strong, NURTURED, HEALTHY and CONFIDENT enough to LET GO–and come back again INTACT.”

From the book: “Beyond Codependency” by Melody Beattie


“Ego boundary is the internal strength by which a person has an ego barrier to guard his inner space. This is the means the individual uses to screen and interpret the outside world. It is also the structure a person uses to cope with, and modulate his/her interactions with the world.”

From the book: “Bradshaw On The Family” by John Bradshaw


  • Trust       (Hope)
  • Autonomy    (Will Power)
  • Initiative  (Purpose)
  • Industry    (Competence)

The door knob is on the inside of the door which enables the setter of the boundaries to dictate access gained. This is a safe and appropriately protected reality where ego boundaries are concerned. A healthy functioning model.


  • Mistrust
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Inferiority

The door knob is on the outside of the door which in essence gives others free access as they see fit. More or less open access to you with weak ego boundaries. Less safety than in the case of strong ego boundaries.


  • Confusion
  • Helplessness
  • Powerlessness

When one has broken ego boundaries, or essentially no ego boundaries then one is like a house whose doors have no knobs. Essentially then there are no boundaries and there can be no sense of control or safety from inside or outside. This is a wide open and not so safe position to be in. It is from here enmeshment can easily occur and or the lines of individuation between self and others may quickly get blurred.

Setting boundaries and being comfortable voicing them is one of the best prevention strategies we can employ.


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