A Beautiful Mess

A Sexual Abuse and Addiction Recovery Blog

Learning to Set Boundaries

on December 3, 2010

“Let your heart guide you.  It whispers, so listen closely.” – Molly Goode (20th-century American writer)

Healthy boundaries are flexible, safe and connected.  We should be able to be both close and distant depending on a situation.  We should set them to keep some distance between those that are not good for us and at the same time, allow for connected’ness’ with those that are good for us.  We want to be able to protect ourselves, but not completely cut ourselves off from being able to feel connected with the world or a few good people!

I have had a difficulty in saying ‘no’ in relationships, giving way too much, getting connected too fast, staying in relationships much longer than need be, and trusting people too fast.  I’ve also had difficulty with isolating, feeling lonely and distancing myself from people who care about me.

Boundary problems are a misdirected attempt to be loved.  When we give too much, too soon, by trying to win the affections of others, we actually teach them to exploit us.  And by not giving enough to others, we don’t allow ourselves to obtain the support that we really need and desire.

Healthy boundaries can keep us safe.

Setting good boundaries prevents extremes in relationships.  We can avoid the extremes of a relationship by not being on one end of the spectrum or the other.  Such as giving too much vs. not enough.  Neither way is good and balance is crucial.

It is important to set boundaries with ourselves and others.

Situations where we can learn to say “no”:

  • refusing drugs and alcohol
  • pressure to share more information than we want to
  • going along with things we really don’t want to
  • when we are taking care of everyone but ourselves
  • when we do all the giving in a relationship
  • when we make promises to ourselves that we do not keep
  • when doing certain things take away from the focus of recovery

Times when we can learn to say “yes”:

  • asking someone out for coffee
  • telling a therapist what we are really feeling
  • asking someone for a favor
  • joining a club or activity
  • calling a hotline
  • being vunerable about our “weak” feelings
  • letting people get to know us
  • soothing “young” parts of ourselves

The thing about the yes is that we can open ourselves up for rejection and we have to realize that.  It’s normal and life goes on.  Let go of that and move on.

Practice, if possible, so that when we do attempt to connect with others there may be a bit more comfortability.

Choose safe people, and know that it’s normal to make mistakes along the way.  Start with small things first.  And when choosing to connect, focus more on what you have in common with people and less about what you don’t.

Things to try this week to commit to moving our lives forward:

  • in a real life situation this week, try setting a boundary with a person or ourselves
  • memorize three great ways to say “no”

One response to “Learning to Set Boundaries

  1. Lisa says:

    Definitely a problem for me. Thanks for the insightful post. Happy New Year and I hope your Christmas was good!

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