Boundaries have been mentioned to me several times lately and I have been wandering exactly what people are going on about as they are implying that I do not respect boundaries, due to having borderline personality disorder. Now, before the diagnosis no-one had ever suggested to me that I had this problem… So, now I am trying to understand exactly what they mean and ‘if’ it really does apply to me. This is what I have discovered…
Introduction – My Issues
The first time I was accused of not respecting boundaries was when I commented on a blog post, suggesting the author should use more up to date sources for inclusion in a blog, especially considering they were a ‘professional’ mental health counsellor. Now, exactly ‘what’ boundary I had crossed was not explained but it seemed to be related to my being ‘confrontational’ on ‘their’ blog, so I pointed out it was a ‘public’ blog and if they didn’t want people correcting them they should get their facts right, there is far too much misinformation on the Internet without those who should know better adding to it. So, this didnt help me understand boundaries and why/how/if I fail to respect them – I was just labelled as not respecting them due to being open about having BPD…
Next time boundaries were mentioned was at my first therapy session (and subsequently bought up again in my third session). At the first session there was just a hint at boundaries in relation to time-keeping, so in my third session due to me having mentioned the blog discussion boundaries came up again. I gained no further insight into how I may have crossed a boundary in relation to the blog but I think I ‘get it’ a bit now with regard to time-keeping. My problem is I am always early for everything, and by being early if others allow me to ‘get away’ with infringing on their time by (for example) starting my therapy session early they are not enforcing boundaries and encouraging me not to respect them. 4 o’clock means 4 o’clock, if I arrive at 3.45 thats my problem and I will have to wait till 4 to be seen – making, keeping and enforcing a boundary… but you see, I personally dont see my arriving early as ‘pushing a boundary’ I am perfectly happy to wait till my alloted time to be seen. I just ‘have’ to arrive early as I can not abide being late, it triggers immense anxiety if there is even a hint that I will not be ‘on time’ so I have to make sure to be early to avoid this – so much so that all my time keeping devices are set 5 minutes fast.
Okay are you with me so far? Am I demonstrating boundary issues yet???
So that evening I discuss the issue with my fiancée. I state that I am not aware of what boundaries, if any, I cross and that I think this is mainly due to not having had any boundaries ‘set’ for me that I am aware of and just how does this relate to everyday life. Is it fair/right to suggest that just because I have BPD I don’t respect ANY boundaries, surely if that were the case people would have been ‘telling me off’ for crossing boundaries for years now? It’s not like I’m a child who has yet to learn, or am I? How can you respect and not cross a boundary if you do not know one exists?
He decided to use ‘relationship’s’ to demonstrate one way in which I have failed to respect boundaries. In this context flirting with other people is one way not to respect boundaries. I wanted further clarification, as I am naturally an outrageous flirt (BPD?) and no-one has ever told me that there is anything wrong with this before, my former husband used to even ‘encourage’ flirting, crossing the line (the boundary I guess?) would be if you ‘acted’ on this flirtation by kissing someone else (or worse, such as sleeping with them). Now, I am well aware that THIS is a boundary I have crossed, I’m not proud of it, but at the times of my ‘actions’ I felt justified as I felt my own ‘boundaries’ had been crossed by others, or I was not as in ‘control’ of my actions as I should be due to going through BPD crises at the time – no excuse for the behaviour but just a fact.
Ok, so are things becoming any clearer? not really… I guess the reason I am struggling with this concept is this – okay, in certain situations I may have failed to respect ‘given’ boundaries, but these were not ‘laid’ out for me as ‘boundaries’; so how do you know when you have crossed the line if you don’t know where the line is? also, how does this convert from crossing a boundary to you not having respect for ANY boundary???
Time for further clarification, reading is usually the best way for me to gain a better understanding of things…
First, I look at a couple of sources online, Wikipedia ‘personal boundaries‘ as I presume the implication is that it is ‘personal’ boundaries not ‘physical’ boundaries that people are referring to. This provides a definition:
‘Personal Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.’
It goes on to explain the 4 types of boundary (Soft, Spongy, Rigid & Flexible) and how Narcissts do not recognize boundaries (hmm, a ‘different’ mental health label…) before discussing rebuilding boundaries. Still not enough for me to really understand…
And actually, ‘physical’ boundaries may be just as important as they are a type of ‘personal boundary’ as you can see from the following definitions of the ‘3 types of personal boundaries’:
~ Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.
~ Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions, beliefs, emotion and intuition.
~ Emotional/Spiritual boundaries help us deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others and relate to our self-esteem and sense of identity.
Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder
I then searched for ‘Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder‘ to specifically address how the issue relates to borderlines…
What I came up with rather than explanations of boundaries was guides for non-bp’s in setting boundaries for the BP in their lives. Helpful? Yes, actually, surprisingly so. I thought I needed to know ‘what’ a boundary was and how/if I don’t respect these but reading about how non-bp’s should set boundaries was actually more useful than textbook definitions of boundaries. I guess it’s because it is more about application in a real world context that ‘fits’ my own dilemmas…?
In ‘The Borderline Dance & the non-borderlines’ dilemma‘ the importance of setting boundaries for your BPD loved one is explained as being an issue of survival. The non-bp needs to decide what their personal limits are with regards to the BP’s behaviour, what they will and won’t tolerate and how they will communicate these ‘boundaries to the BP, along with the way they will deal with attempts to cross these boundaries. It stresses the importance of speaking only of your (the non-bp’s) experience NOT the behaviour of the BP, I interpret this (as it does not explain) as being about explaining why these boundaries are important to you and how it hurts you if they are not respected rather than coming across as a ‘dressing’ down of the BP, treating them like a child or making them feel bad if you put it across in terms that basically scream at the BP “I don’t like your behaviour; you are a bad person; you must not do these things or else!” which is quite easily the way a BP could take it, and even if you are really careful how you put it across you still won’t be able to control the reactions of the BP (which may well be as if you had said it in this mean way, even if you didn’t) because they (we) can’t control our own reactions to what ultimately will feel like ‘bad’ news to us. The post goes on to explain that conflict (or abuse) may ensue from the setting of boundaries and how the non-bp must then consider the ‘future’ of their relationship with the BP – I would like to point out that whilst clearly you don’t want to back-track or relax your boundaries because a BP is distressed by them relationships are about two-way communication, co-operation, compromise and respect, so take time to work together with your BP if they appear uncooperative about your boundaries as it’s not fair to abandon us just because we don’t have the same emotionally capability as you – sometimes we just need extra time to process and understand things before we can accept them…
Another post Do You Have Healthy Boundaries? talks about boundaries in respect of people with BPD having poor judgment of their own boundaries and those of others, with a very good example of ‘drink driving’ to demonstrate how even non-bp’s can have difficulty with boundaries; respecting, setting and keeping them – which was very reassuring to me that understanding boundaries is not just a BPD issue! There is also list of some examples of Boundaries which I found very helpful:
- Demarcation of where you end and another begins and where you begin and another ends.
- Limit or line over which you will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact of its being crossed in the past.
- Established set of limits over your physical and emotional well-being which you expect others to respect in their relationship with you.
- Emotional and physical space you need in order to be the real you without the pressure from others to be something that you are not.
- Healthy emotional and physical distance you can maintain between you and another so that you do not become overly enmeshed and/or dependent.
- Balanced emotional and physical limits set on interacting with another so that you can achieve an interdependent relationship of independent beings who do not lose their personal identity, uniqueness and autonomy in the process.
- Set of parameters which make you a unique, autonomous and free individual who has the freedom to be a creative, original, idiosyncratic problem solver.
This post linked to a forum discussion about boundaries and BPD where it was quoted that:
… boundaries are a commitment to myself – not an attempt to change or control another person.
I think this is a very important message both for those with BPD and non-BP’s!
As result of this research I think I understand better what a boundary is and why they are important, but I still need to understand this topic further. As a result I am going to continue this discussion after I have read some more of my BPD books, including Stop walking on Eggshells, the BPD Survival Guide, Sometimes I act Crazy and Women and Borderline Personality Disorder amongst others (I have quite a library built up but need to read them all now!). I will publish a ‘revisited’ post on Boundaries and BPD once I have completed my readings, until then I hope this post has been a helpful introduction to the issue
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed reading this post please share it with others who may be interested and I always enjoy receiving feedback and comments
- 10 Myths about Borderline Personality Disorder Dispelled (showard76.wordpress.com)
- What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)? (showard76.wordpress.com)
- Borderline personality disorder: 8 dangerous myths (cbsnews.com)
- Pscyhotherapy – My first therapy session (showard76.wordpress.com)