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Boundaries are Like Fences*

I have made this analogy before, and it's still true- boundaries are like fences. For some this can be difficult, it can be that all your boundaries are brick walls where no one is allowed in or your boundaries can be picket garden fences where every weed is let into your personal garden. Everyone knows your personal business and being your best friend just comes with the territory of replying to your "hi" at a coffeeshop. As you can imagine neither is healthy or effective. Each person in your life deserves a different type of fence. Having teaching DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness for years this seems to meet with a lot of shock and questions, so how do you create boundaries for others?

1. Assess your current relationships: for some this is something I have had clients write down. Sounds silly but write down the name and relationship of everyone. Some start small, just family or just friends or even just your top three people. This list doesn't need to be best friends or people you are super close with.

2. Gut Feeling: Let me start with it's hard for many to do this piece as "gut feelings" are sometimes difficult with mental health issues. Look at the name and take a few deep breaths and think about the relationship in the current state; what was the last conversation you had? What was the experience like? Did you feel safe and comfortable? Did you dread the interaction? Do they respect your current boundaries? For some this may include journaling, talking it through a (non-mutual) friend, think about it on your own or chat with your therapist. If you find this still really hard or feel like this is going to end with not putting yourself first, here's a list of Interpersonal Rights, it's also in the green DBT book.

3. Take Action: Start with one name, might be easier to choose an acquaintance over your best friend or mom, at least to start. This is an ongoing process and not something you will complete in a day or week or maybe even year. Think about what the new boundary would look like. This isn't about extremes or forcing a boundary in one day. A new boundary could be not answering calls at 2am from someone who uses you for rides, or telling a friend you want to be closer with that you would like to hang out this week. Yes, new boundaries aren't just about cutting people off or moving them to arms-length (or moving 8,000 miles away) but sometimes moving people closer. Start small and the new rules ideally will be mutual- not ignoring someone or ghosting someone. Having a conversation would be great but you can create a new boundary and get the other person on board.

Looking for DBT skills to help have these potentially difficult conversations, an explanation of all the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills can be found here

4. Keep it up: This isn't a one-time thing, you can't just put your phone on mute at 2am, or hang out with a friend you would like to be closer once or tell a friend you need some space right now and call this a 100% success (although KUDOS! working on boundaries isn't easy.) It's about creating this new boundary again and again and again, every day. This may look like a text, "Hey I need to start sleeping more, so muting my phone at midnight, call if it's an absolute emergency" or invite the new closer friend again to go out.

5. Repeat

*These rules don't apply to any relationship where your safety is at risk! Please stay safe and seek help <3

©2018 by Online Coping Skills

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