Establishing clear and concise boundaries for yourself is an essential part to living a happy and successful life. It is through relationships we learn about ourselves and what our personal boundaries are. As children we struggle to develop our individuality and begin to establish boundaries. Our childhood provides us with a guide of what is acceptable treatment from others and what is not. In my practice, I have encountered individuals who have been raised in what most would describe as a healthy environment. They come from supportive families who foster growth and encourage self-worth. Others I have encountered were the exact opposite, raised in abusive and unsupportive domestic environments. And just as both of these clients’ domestic situations were drastically different; so were their personal boundaries.
I began to notice that the more abused client struggled more often with loose or soft boundaries. In other words, they were willing to endure more pain in a relationship than an otherwise healthier person. The possibility of abuse was always a concern for the abused person, even despite working on their self-worth and self-esteem and becoming successful at creating change in their lives. Once our brains have been exposed to trauma, we simply can’t unsee or undo it. We may recover from the experience but the experience will always be a part of us. An abused person may set solid personal boundaries but they will always struggle with the possibility that these boundaries may be compromised. This can be compared to the recovering alcoholic who struggles with alcohol. The recovering alcoholic knows he wants to stay clean but struggles with the fact that it is possible to drink again. Over time this problem can improve but will never be completely gone.
A person who has encountered trauma may be more challenged to stay true to their strong established post-recovery boundaries when faced with a similar triggering trauma.
This is something I call bendable-boundaries. Boundaries are bendable based on how well you are able to respond to a person or situation that challenges your limits. Are you able to exert what is expected of others when they are involved with triggering a previous trauma? So as I begin to close, I have one question for you. How bendable are your boundaries?