Having healthy boundaries and maintaining our own identity is an important part of being healthy individuals-- and being a healthy individual means having healthier relationships with others. Today we will finish discussing another important areas of establishing healthy boundaries and how having poor boundaries can impact us in the areas of choices and limits. Choices:
To own and make our own choices, we must be aware of all aspects of ourselves (attitudes, behaviors, feelings, desires and thoughts) that go into any decision. In addition, we must be aware that we are making a choice about almost everything we do. In fact, refusing to make a choice or deferring to others to make choices for us-- is making a choice! There are certainly things in life over which we have no control, but we always have a choice about how we respond to these things. Our choices determine our direction in life.
The essence of boundaries is taking responsibility, and at the hub of responsibility is choice. God has given us the ability to choose. Whenever we make someone else's choices for them, or whenever we think they are responsible for making our choices for us, our boundaries are crossed. When we allow this to happen, it puts us in the role of being a victim, when we are the ones who essentially are responsible for making our own choices and owning our own happiness.
When we examine our boundaries, we discover our limits. Just as our yard has physical boundaries, so our lives have emotional, psychological, and spiritual limits as well. We all possess a finite amount of ability, time, money, energy and so on. It takes time to learn our limits in the various areas of life, but they can be learned if we are aware of our feelings, attitudes and behaviors. At times, we may overextend ourselves. Or at other times, our limits may be too narrow. We can err in either direction. It takes much grace, truth and practice in time with others to discover our limits and to take responsibility for them. This is balanced life.
Crossed boundaries work the same way with limits. We must own our own, and not others. WE decide what limits we will set on ourselves and let others be responsible for the limits they set on themselves. If we have limitations of time, money or energy, we must set those. If we extend them too far, it is our fault. At the same time, we cannot decide where someone else's limits are. If a family member chooses to not limit their behavior (for example, drinking), this is their responsibility. However, other family members can set limits on how they will be affected by it. They can limit their exposure to the behavior by removing themselves from the situation until the behavior is changed.
Did you recognize any areas of boundaries that might be in need of work? Recognizing our boundaries is difficult work, but rewarding and important to be healthier and happier in our lives and relationships! For more information, we encourage you to check out Dr. Henry Cloud's book, Changes That Heal. It's an excellent resource for learning your separateness as an individual and learning how to set healthier boundaries with others. As always, thank you for joining us this week. Check back next week, when Imagine Hope therapists will be discussing the impact of divorce on children of different ages.
Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.