I highly recommend and support having healthy boundaries. They proactively show people how to treat us so interactions are positive, help protect us when actions or choices are abusive, and foster trust within ourselves  and with others so we can unfold ourselves fully and participate with the world. But boundaries are not one size fits all and just having boundaries in general isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Boundaries which are too flexible, which don’t actually draw any line in the sand but suggest that there may be a line if everyone else agrees provide no protection and instead tend to invite violation and unfair advantage. Overly restrictive boundaries hamper and even prevent not only relationships of all kinds, but healthy interaction with the world.

Restrictive boundaries can be taught to children by their family of origin. These are usually fear based and exclusionary such as instructions not to play or interact with people who are “other” in some fashion. This can be as broad as learning to hate other races, other religions, or sexual orientations. It can be as narrow as trusting no one other than a specific clan, tribe, or even biological family unit. Restrictions can also develop from personal experience. “Once bitten, twice shy” as the saying goes. A traumatic experience or series of experiences can cause us to create protections in the form of avoidance which over time harden into “that’s just the way it is” perspectives about life.  Avoidance of specific situations, of types of interactions, of types of people then becomes part of our personality and takes on the status of universal truth like gravity or the sunrise occurring in the East.

However, restrictive boundaries, while keeping us safe, also keep us imprisoned. The wisdom they contain becomes a jail cell and we see the world through very secure bars. Instead of taking time behind protect boundaries to heal, incorporate our experiences and transform them into wisdom which we can then use to create a better life, we instead memorialize the negative event and it’s message in a wall which has us forever facing our fear while never moving beyond it.  In the end restrictive boundaries mold us to fit their shape rather than giving us the support we need to unfold.  Boundaries should an invitation to engage with the world containing our ever becoming definition of self rather than defining who we must be.