Updated: Aug 9, 2022
The general idea when it comes to the concept of boundaries is that they are important for establishing a sense of identity, well-being, and autonomy.
Whether or not you understand them, or consciously practice setting them, there are easy clues that can help point toward your need for them. Reacting in anger, for example, can speak to a line that has been crossed. Boundary lines can also become visible in the areas of our lives and relationships where resentment or bitterness lingers.
However, simply setting better boundaries is advice that I think is bypass-y and very unhelpful. There are deeper and more nuanced layers to boundary work. Creating healthy boundaries is not only about finding the right words or mustering enough courage to speak up because it does not consider the larger picture.
To build a strong and stable foundation when consciously working with boundaries, you must consider the state of your nervous system.
The decision not to set a boundary (or when they are made weak or unclear) has to do with fear - what we fear will happen next. The consequences of our truth, if you will. And our bodily response to fear is held within the nervous system.
If you reflect back on a time when saying Yes or No was uncomfortable; What was happening in your body? Were there feelings of vulnerability, lack of safety, or discomfort? And what was the next action you took because of those feelings? Did you want to take it back? Did you make yourself or someone else wrong? Did you engage in self-sabotaging behavior?
Attempting to set a boundary without understanding or considering the state of your nervous system (and what it actually has the capacity for) could backfire or produce little or no effect. You could be left feeling that you were wrong. Wrong about speaking up for what you truly want or need. Additionally, attempting to assert a boundary over top of a nervous system that is dysregulated is dangerous in that it could cause further dysregulation, and perpetuate further self-doubt.
Cultivating healthy boundaries needs a nervous system that has the capacity to hold that new territory. A nervous system that has the ability to hold the new empowering choice.