Have you ever walked up to someone and they took a step back? That’s because you invaded their physical boundary. We have physical, emotional and even spiritual boundaries. The problem is that most of us don’t let the other person know when they are being crossed. It is easy to assertively let someone know without hurting their feelings, but some people who have been physically or emotionally abused have a hard time being able to do this. I ask before I hug someone for the first time because I don’t have knowledge of their past. I love hugs. How could I not, I am from a big Italian family and if you leave to go get a loaf of bread, you hug and kiss everyone in the room and when you get back, you hug and kiss everyone in the room. That’s just my family. We also say “I love you” to each person. Because we do! I used to do a group on boundaries and I would start out by asking for a volunteer to come to the front of the room. Then I would walk toward them. It was amazing to see the difference in where their physical boundary was.
Emotional boundaries are crossed every time an ugly name is called. That is a “no-no!” You cannot imagine how many couples I have had in counseling that called each other ugly names. What does this accomplish? Hurt feelings? You have seen me write in other writings, before you say something, ask yourself, “Am I doing this in love?” If not, don’t say it!
Shaming is another invasion of emotional boundaries. Please do not shame your children. Most of my adult clients were shamed as children. Believe me, it stays with them for a long time. We were in a restaurant one day and a little boy about 4 years old came in with his grandfather and grandmother. They sat at the table next to ours and the grandmother got up to go to the salad bar. While she was gone, the little boy knocked his water over. The grandfather tried to get it all cleaned up and I helped with my napkin. As I was sitting back down, the grandmother came back to the table and asked what happened. The grandfather said, “He spilled his water.” She said, “Did you spank him?” He said, “No”. She started fussing at him and shaming him. The little boys lip started trembling and he looked at me and said, “Pawpaw spilled his coffee this morning” and I said,” Isn’t it funny that when an adult spills something it’s an accident, but when a child spills something, it’s bad. You’re not bad baby, you just had an accident.” If looks could kill, I would have been dead. I suddenly lost my appetite. My husband Doug (who passed away in 2008) was with me and he said to the lady (as we were leaving), “Do you have any idea how many years in therapy it took for me to get over all the shaming I had as a child? Please don’t do this to him.”
Spiritual boundaries are usually crossed when someone wants to convert you to their beliefs. I’ve never been big on discussing religious beliefs because it usually causes conflict. I think everyone should believe what they want to believe. It is their spiritual journey. It’s kind of like Doug used to say, “we are all trying to get to the store (heaven), only some of us are going in Fords, some in Chevrolets and some in Chryslers!
Toni True-Wills, Ph.D.