Healthy Boundaries Prevent Emotional Abuse

Establishing Healthy Emotional Boundaries

Article written by Randi Fine

Many of us do not understand the importance of having emotional “boundaries” in our interpersonal relationships. Many of us do not even understand what the term “boundaries” means in that context.  And many of us do not even know whether the emotional boundaries in our life are healthy or not.  We can suffer life long emotional pain and never know where it stems from.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I so giving to others yet I’m always getting stepped on and/or rejected?  Why don’t others ever appreciate what I do for them? Why do I always find myself being taken advantage of?” These are boundary issues.

This concept was foreign to me for the first forty years of my life.  When a therapist explained to me that the problems and emotional pain I was experiencing stemmed from undefined emotional boundaries, I thought she was way off the mark.  It turns out that she was right on it.

Healthy boundaries are taught to us starting from day one by our parents.  Besides love, this is the most important emotional responsibility that parents have to their children. It is up to parents to teach their children how to be secure and independent adults.  Parents should encourage their children with positivity and support as they go through each stage of autonomy, on their way to complete independence.  Whether or not we are raised with clear and healthy emotional boundaries largely determines how happy and successful we will be in our adult lives.

So what are emotional boundaries and how do they affect our interpersonal relationships?

Healthy emotional boundaries are an important aspect of self-esteem.  They are the limits we set in all our relationships that keep us from being needy, overly empathetic,
controlling, or overly pleasing. They protect us from emotional abuse, manipulation, or enmeshment with others. If we are healthy in this area, we know where we let off and others begin in terms of our relationships.

When we have clearly defined boundaries and a healthy self esteem we know how to recognize the signs of physical and emotional abuse, and when to leave an abusive relationship.  We can have healthy friendships without being a user or always being used. We can avoid the tendency to bully others or avoid being bullied by others.  We can set limits with our parents and family members to keep them from pushing our emotional buttons or crossing the line.  We can define how we choose to be respected in the workplace and in all other dealings of our life.

Since boundary issues are at the root of so many problems, I urge you to examine your relationships to see if this is a deficiency that is negatively impacting your life in any way. Be aware that no one, under any circumstance, should be subjected to physical or emotional abuse.

The good news is that it is never too late to learn to define our boundaries or build our self esteem.  The first step is recognizing that we lack clear boundaries and that they are impeding our ability to be happy and/or successful.  The next step is to address the problem and take steps to correct it . The result will be a profound change in your life.

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