Boundaries are the markers that allow us to function in everyday life in a way that is satisfactory to ourselves and those around us.  Boundaries involve the behaviors that protect our values and the people with whom we associate. Boundaries are not negotiable if one wants them to remain meaningful.  Personal boundaries allow us to set guidelines or rules for ourselves to let people know what is safe, reasonable, and permissible ways for others to behave around us. They define us as individuals and include “physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual boundaries” that involve our “beliefs, emotions, intuitions, and self- esteem.”

Nina Brown defines four main types of psychological boundaries.  They include:

  • soft
  • spongy
  • rigid
  • flexible

Soft boundaries allow us to be easily manipulated.  It is not unusual for one to merge their boundaries with others when they have only soft boundaries in place.  Spongy boundaries are a combination of soft and rigid boundaries. Spongy boundaries make us unsure of what to allow in and what to keep out.  Rigid boundaries are best described as “closed or walled off” so that no one gets close to the individual, physically or emotionally. Flexible boundaries are similar to selective rigid boundaries but allow the person to decide what to let in and what to keep out.  This boundary set is difficult to exploit.

Healthy boundaries

What do healthy boundaries look like, physically and emotionally?  A person with healthy physical boundaries makes the boundary clear to others. This individual will ask for permission before touching another person. Physical boundaries involve respect for and sensitivity to the needs and rights of others.  A person with healthy boundaries is able to negotiate and compromise.

Emotional boundaries involve sharing feelings appropriately and directly.  This is very important for effective communication between partners. Emotional boundaries also include assertiveness vs. aggressiveness, interdependence, and the ability to identify choices.  This person is able to make mistakes without damaging his/her self-esteem and has an internal sense of personal identity. The individual is accepting of “differences and differentness” in others and is tolerant and accepting of differences of opinions while holding on to his/her own.  Finally, he is sensitive to the feelings of others and has a well-developed sense of empathy.

Let us help you explore personal boundaries by contacting us.

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.