How To Set Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries protect what needs to be protected. Such boundaries say a “no” that makes possible a deeper, more authentic yes.

Of course, we can be overbounded, overly protective of ourselves, defended to the point of cutting ourselves off from what we need, overbudgeting for defense. And we can also be underbounded, not standing up for ourselves, letting others in in ways that do not serve us.

But beyond these two positions, beyond neurotic exclusion and neurotic inclusion, there is a healthy boundedness, one that protects with fitting power while at the same time remaining permeable and flexible enough to let in enough of what we truly need.

Letting go of or dissolving our boundaries so as to include the other is not the same as EXPANDING our boundaries to include the other!

In conventional or typical romance (with the often intoxicating swoon of false oneness), boundaries are not expanded, but rather collapsed, abandoned, forgotten.

In immature relationships, boundaries tend to be shoulds, to either be obeyed (as in conventional monogamy) or cast aside (as in “open” forms of relationship).

In mature relationships, however, boundaries are not shoulds, but natural givens, liberating rather than entrapping us.

The boundaries of a great relationship make possible an ever-deeper relationship by safeguarding the relationship, resolutely protecting the “container” of such deeply shared mutuality and intimacy.

Don’t view your boundaries as walls, but rather as semipermeable protectors of what is vulnerable, tender, sacred, soft, young in yourself. It’s as if you're a parent holding your child, protecting but not overprotecting that little one, providing such a sense of safety that they feel secure in going beyond their usual zones of safety as they venture out into the world.

Consistently apply this to yourself, protecting what needs protecting in yourself, without disconnecting from it, so that you become like a deeply unified nation of many interconnected states, compassionately overseeing them all — and cultivating intimacy with them all — while making sure that they have sufficient autonomy and room to evolve.

Excerpted from Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of Your Emotions by Robert Augustus Masters, PhD. Copyright © 2013 Robert Augustus Masters. Published by Sounds True.

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