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Setting Boundaries

Posted January 1 2016

Have you heard about boundaries in the talking therapies?  Have you ever wondered just why it's good to have them in human relationships? Here's a good article which explains why by Sharie Stines.


Boundaries are decisions you make for yourself, not decisions you make for someone else. In order to set a boundary in a relationship, you can only control yourself. If someone else’s behavior is destructive to you, then in order to set a boundary, the only thing you can do is ensure that you take care of yourself. For instance, if you have a loved one who uses drugs, you cannot make that person quit using drugs no matter what, it is purely their decision; but, what you can do is refuse to be around them while they are under the influence. The point to remember is you can only control yourself.

Another point to remember is that your boundaries belong to you. Other people cannot tell you what your boundaries should be. Each of us is unique and we each have a right to decide what we will or will not tolerate in our lives. In addition to this, sometimes we know what we need to do but we aren’t ready to do it. We can only set boundaries when we’re ready, not when someone else thinks we should.

The only way to make significant changes in your life in the area of boundaries is to set a clear, firm, line in the sand, which is not blurred by compromises or a lack of resolve.

Here is an acronym of the word Boundaries, which describes what you need to do in order to take care of yourself when dealing with difficult or addictive personalities.


The first step in setting boundaries is learning to challenge your old belief system, and begin a new way of thinking about yourself, others, God, and your situation. Remember, our biggest captor is our own belief system. Here is an example of a belief that you might want to challenge: “I can’t kick him out, he’ll be homeless.” Perhaps a healthier belief is, “I will not live with an active alcoholic. If he chooses to keep drinking and ends up homeless, then that’s his choice.”


In order to overcome the fear of setting boundaries it is helpful to take baby steps and practice. Set your boundaries in small chunks. For instance, instead of completely refusing to see your difficult mother-in-law altogether, give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself, “I’ll only see her once a month for one hour. If she starts criticizing me then I’ll leave earlier.” This way you can practice setting “safe” boundaries for yourself, learning to take care of yourself one day at a time.


You have probably been spending way too much time trying to understand the other person – the one whose behavior is driving you crazy. Instead of pouring all your energy into understanding why he does what he does, turn your energy inward and notice how you feel and learn why you spend so much time looking outward. Remember, as long as you care more about your loved one’s problem than he does, he won’t have to. Take your focus off the other person and place it on yourself, a place where you can actually effect change.


You do not have to say yes to every request. In fact, only say yes to those requests that you genuinely want to do. Learn the art of saying, “No.” Remember, practice makes perfect.


Develop your boundary setting skills. Read about boundaries. Learn what experts and others have to say about how to develop your boundary-setting muscle. Practice one new thing every day to build your confidence. Remember, boundary setting is all about self-care. Develop the skill of self-care, through education, support groups, therapy, and practice.


Live in the truth. Do not continue to live in denial as you turn a blind’s eye to dysfunction. If someone is causing you harm, you need to look at the truth of the situation in order to set good boundaries.


Boundaries are all about recovery. People who need to set boundaries must unlearn old, dysfunctional patterns of relating, and are in a process of recovery, where they are recovering from these old, ineffective strategies.


Write them down. Think about what really matters in your life and how you can help yourself have a healthy lifestyle. Be honest with yourself and what you will and will no longer tolerate. It is okay to change your mind. If you have been “putting up” with something, it is okay to make the decision to stop putting up with it. Writing will help you sort these thoughts out.


Aren’t you tired of this problem? Hasn’t your enmeshment with it caused you more heartache than help? Tell yourself, “Enough already!” Instead of giving your loved one a lecture, give yourself one. Tell yourself two things: “Enough participation in this nonsense!” and “I am enough.” You do not need this person to change at all in order to have a good life. Tell yourself little pep talks all day long; reminding yourself of your value and worth and that you don’t need this other person to change in order for you to have a fulfilling life.


Stop doing what you do to contribute to the problem. If you nag, lecture, point out, hint, react, cry, whine, fight, argue, manipulate, try to get others to help, or do anything else that involves trying to get someone else to change, stop. No longer use any of these strategies to get someone else to do or not do what you want. Change yourself. Walk away. Don’t engage in insane behavior. Let it go and surrender. Remember, we all have a right to our choices. Focus on your own life and stop your part of the dysfunctional “dance.” Give yourself permission to change.


About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at Anderson Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California ( Her therapeutic approach is based on attachment theory, neuropsychology, and schema/modal methods. She places a strong emphasis on reality-based and resiliency interventions as well.




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