What Kind of Boundaries in your Family?
One of the things families typically don’t talk about is how boundaries work within the family. We are talking about psychological and social boundaries, although in principle they are the same as physical boundaries around one’s property, city, state, or country.
When thinking of family, there are three types of boundaries:
1.) Individual boundaries. Our personal boundaries are those which define who we are in relationship to others.
2.) Intergenerational boundaries. These are boundaries that help us define who the parents and children are. For example, when these boundaries are blurred, the children often become the parent to the parents.
3.) Family boundaries. These are boundaries that define our family and make it distinctive from other families.
Within each type, we can have three boundary states:
1.) Rigid boundaries, which are too strong, can be likened to walls without doors. They are often impenetrable. We cannot move back and forth across the boundary.
2.) Diffuse boundaries, which are too weak, can be likened to defining our property by drawing a line in the dirt with a stick. It does not take much to wipe out the boundary. People with diffuse boundaries may say no to something, but they change their minds with a little encouragement.
3.) Flexible boundaries, which are healthy, can bend when they need to. If the circumstances warrant it, the no can be changed to yes, but never out of guilt or a sense of being ordered into something. Flexible boundaries allow the other people who asked the question to then be able to accept the no and find another way to accomplish the task.
The way boundaries worked in your family has a lot to do with how you relate to your world today.
Question: How would you describe your family’s boundaries?