A healthy boundary with others is important for our well-being

Many clients of mine complained about their friends seldom initiated chats or gatherings with them.  They felt that their friends only contact them when they were in need and intended to seek help or support from them.  They had a feeling that they were not important to their friends because they did not prioritize to check on them regularly.  Is it that in the era of cyber-communication, people tended to detach themselves from others and only contacted others when in need?  Or is it that there are some issues in those clients of mine who’s needs were frequently ignored by their friends?

One of the possible reasons for these clients of mine feeling ignored by their friends is their lack of boundaries with their family members and friends throughout their lives.  In front of ones’ friends, they have a need to present “niceness” in their relationship with others.  In order to be nice all the time, these clients do not say “no” to others.  They will feel guilty for saying “no” and even apologise or explain too much when they cannot fulfill others’ needs.  In fact, they compulsively trying their best to please others and define ones’ self-worth basing on the opinions others have on them.  As a result, their friends treat them as helper or rescuer and have no authentic connection as a friend with them.

The possible underlying factor contributing to these clients’ lack of boundaries with others is their enmeshed relationships with their parents.  In their childhood, boundaries are lacking in their relationships with their parents.  For instance, a mother overshared her relationship issues with her seven-year-old daughter.  The mother told the daughter that she sent her close friends to confront the father’s mistress.  The mother also kept telling the daughter the unfaithful behavior of the father.  This oversharing was detrimental to the daughter’s mental health because it was beyond the daughter’s ability to understand relationship issues of the adult world.  The daughter also needed to take side to support the mother and reject the father.  The daughter learned that she was responsible for caring about the mother’s emotional disturbance and the relationship issues between the parents.    The mother, on the contrary, never fulfilled the daughter’s emotional needs and protected her boundaries.  As a result, the daughter did not know how to set boundaries with others in her adult life.

For many of my clients who felt their family members and friends frequently ignored their needs.  It is very important for them to explore whether they have difficulty in setting boundaries with others.  They may tend to ignore their own needs and desires.  They also tend not to tune into their inner voices to get in touch with their own viewpoints.  By starting to tune into ones’ inner sensations, usually bodily sensations, they can gradually improve their sensitivity to their likes and dislikes.  Whenever ones realise a lack of boundary is occuring, they need to change their behavior towards others in order to make them feel safe and secure.  As a result, they learn how to say “no” to others to protect ones’ boundaries.  When they learn how to set boundaries with others, their family members or friends may also learn to respect their boundaries.  This may result in a more authentic connection between each other. 

With healthy boundary setting in our mind, we show others our true self more and let others to choose to connect with us authentically.  They may not only relate with us by treating us as their helper or rescuer.  They may treat us as their true friends.

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