Here are some frequent questions I get asked about boundaries and the process we go through to arrive at a rigid boundary. While they may not be specific to a real situation, I hope you find them helpful.
What is a boundary? A boundary is NOT a directive or a threat for other people, it is a rule you set with yourself that tells you how you will respond to your own anxiety in a certain situation. “When I travel on planes, I get anxious. Therefore, I will take a Xanax. “
How do you know you have the right boundary? You must experiment with different healthy alternatives to what you usually do and you will feel a reduction in anxiety when the boundary works, even in a difficult situation. “Next plane trip, instead of medicating, I will wear headphones and an eye mask since that works best in cars.”
Do you tell people your boundary? People who are important to you are more likely to want to help you feel comfortable. Thus, I like this simple formula to determine if I will say it or just do it: a) do I want to nurture the relationship? No, then just do it, Yes, then say it-but get these in order first: b) can I clearly state the issue that causes anxiety? c) can I clearly state what will help reduce anxiety to replace what exacerbates it? “Because I want us to have fun on our vacation, I want to let you know that I get anxious on planes. Therefore, instead of talk, I will wear headphones and an eyemask during the flight, but we can chat once we land. Will that be okay?”
What if you have competing boundary needs with someone else? You MUST negotiate. It is important to ensure that both your needs will be met before settling on the revised boundaries. Make sure you offer ideas and modify suggestions. Say your traveling companion prefers distraction to your deprivation for travel anxieties: “Perhaps (a) we can chat the first 20 minutes and last 20 minutes of the flight but/and (b) I can keep silent during the middle 2 hours, and watch a film or play games on my phone to keep me busy. Does that work ?” “The worst times for me are take off and landing, so how about we flip the process? I can chat easier in the middle or perhaps we can watch that film together.” “PERFECT!”
What if they don’t respect your boundary? Assume they do not understand or forgot. Repeat your boundary gently. If that doesn’t work and it is not a close relationship, just execute the boundary without their assistance. If it is a close relationship, you are going to need to talk about feelings and maybe even work up some consequences—NOT THREATS.” “I want to remind you, I am not okay to talk right now as I am managing my flight anxiety, we can talk when we land. Thanks for your help.“ Ignore other talking attempts. Or “When you don’t respect my boundary, I feel like you don’t care about me. What would make me feel loved is if you make every effort to let me manage my anxiety in peace until we land as I am trying to keep my shit together. Otherwise, I will need to see about moving seats.
What about chronic violators? If it isn’t a family member or coworker, let them go. But if you are ‘stuck’ with them, take ownership for your wellbeing and don’t leave it to them to be okay. I use the “poop break’ boundary to help me manage: go to the bathroom for as long as you need to find a boundary you can execute all by yourself to relieve the anxiety of the current situation. Ask yourself ‘What is making me anxious? Is this a pattern? What is my typical response? Does that help or not? What might work better for me?’ “Excuse me, I will be right back. >>> Okay, when my _______ refuses to acknowledge my boundary, I will go to the bathroom as many times as I want instead of just sitting there and taking it because that always makes me feel powerless and more anxious.”
1. What part of boundary setting is hardest for me?
2. How do I usually respond when someone pushes my boundary?
3. Do I have any chronic violators in my life? What are my current boundaries like with them?
I can protect my emotional well being with boundaries when needed.