Boundaries are limitations set in place to mark where one thing ends and another begins. When we talk about boundaries, imagine yourself in a bubble. Certain things can be allowed in the bubble and certain things should slide off. You get to decide on what goes in and what stays out.
The bubble allows you to maintain a healthy space between yourself and others. It allows you to clearly set a limit and provide a structure that you and others can work with. You may need to set boundaries for relationships, physical contact, physical space, time, money, activities, and actions, just to name a few. Setting these boundaries, acknowledging what our personal boundaries are, and making the decision to uphold them or move them, can work to greatly decrease your anger and miscommunications. Think of boundaries as a line drawn in the sand. These lines can be fluid and flexible. At times we need these lines to be solid and firm. Take personal space for example. Picture yourself at a concert with people all around you. You may be okay having stranger inches away from you. Now picture yourself sitting in an empty park. How would you respond if a stranger came and sat inches from you? Boundaries can be dependent on your relationship with another, the environment you’re in, how you physically feel (maybe you’re sick, in pain, or healthy), how well you know the person, past experiences, and many other things.
Boundaries can also be set with yourself. For example you may want to set a limit or a boundary for yourself concerning to whom you give your personal time. If someone expresses themselves in unhealthily ways, is frequently negative and leave you feeling drained, then you may choose to set a boundary with yourself on how often you hang out with them. You may even set a boundary with your own thoughts, setting the intention to not allow negative self-criticisms to dominate your mind.
Consider the following:
Carol is on the phone with her brother, Joseph. Joseph often comes to Carol to vent his feelings of anger or discontentment about his relationships and his workplace. These phone calls always occur late in the evening. Carol finds this exhausting and has decided to put in place a limit. Carol will allow Joseph to speak but only for a set amount of time.
When Carol feels she can no longer listen attentively to Joseph, she tells Joseph she must get off the phone because it is late.
Figuring It Out
In the previous section on resolving conflicts at home, we spoke about setting priorities and knowing what you are and are not willing to compromise. This is another way of saying that when you do this, you are expressing your boundaries. Boundaries mean you are assertively communicating what you are and are not willing to accept from yourself and others. It means meeting your own needs so that you can be more fully involved in healthy relationships with others.
If someone is crossing a boundary, assertively communicate that you cannot accept their behavior. Assert your expectations for their behavior, and if necessary, let them know the consequences if they do not stop the behavior.
For instance, “I find it unacceptable that you do not pay me when you say you will. If you do not pay me then I can no longer continue to work with you.”
Or, “I find your yelling unacceptable. Please speak to me respectfully. If you continue to yell, I will not continue this conversation.”
Establishing and maintaining boundaries allows more control over yourself and situations you may find yourself in. Assertively maintaining your boundaries will effectively reduce the situations in which you find yourself getting angry.
Be sure to assertively communicate your boundaries. It may strike some people as surprising and can easily be misconstrued as rude, especially if you are using aggressive communication. Keeping your responses direct and to the point gives others confidence that you know what you’re talking about. It means they will be more likely listen and respect your boundaries.
Think of three situations when your boundaries recently were crossed. Maybe you felt like a doormat after you agreed to give someone money, even when they knew you didn’t have it. Maybe you felt overwhelmed after your boss volunteered you for a weekend conference. What boundary was crossed? Clearly define this boundary for yourself. Rewrite these scenarios as if you assertively maintained your boundary. How would this revision change your feelings that followed the situation?
Create a list of boundaries you have or that you would like to establish. Make this a work in progress, continuously adding to it. The list could include “I will not drink more than two beers at the bar” or “I will not buy everyone’s lunch at work”
Continue practicing assertive communication. It is a huge piece to managing anger. Clear, assertive communication can effectively resolve conflicts, communicate your unmet needs, and establish empathy and connection with others.
Check in with your body at least twice in the next day. Check in when you are feeling upset or anxious. Check in again when you are feeling calm and patient. Write down the differences in your bodily experience.