• Gemma McCabe

Boundaries






If you have ever attended therapy with me, or anyone else, you will have heard this word used time and time again. I remember the first time I heard this word, and had absolutely no idea what it meant! I often see this reaction in the clients that I work with. People who give too much, take care of, enable and carry, often really struggle to protect themselves with boundaries. I am still so amazed that so few people really understand what a boundary is. What it really is. A healthy defence against people and situations that are either;


  • unknown

  • yet untested

  • proven to harm

  • suspected of harm

  • words not matching behaviour


Let me explain. Trust is the opposite of a wall perhaps. Trust is earned. Over time. And these boundaries that therapists speak about all the time are healthy protective mechanisms while time reveals who or what you are dealing with. Boundaries are staged stepping stones, as you walk the journey towards trust. If you were raised inside an insecure attachment to one or both of your parents, if you have a history of abuse or neglect, if you have a narcissistic parent, or a history of addiction in your family, you need serious boundary work! Unhealthy people, don't like your boundaries. This can in itself be revealing of who or what you are dealing with. Boundaries include;


  • the word no

  • not defending yourself in conversation

  • not engaging in conflict

  • not getting into the wrestling ring of the narcissist

  • staying true to what you know to be true

  • staying calm

  • not gossiping

  • not agreeing

  • staying happy

  • doing your own thing

  • beginning a creative project

  • not seeking permission

  • having an opinion that is unpopular and misunderstood

  • using discernment

Yeah, unhealthy people don't like any of that. So your boundaries reveal people. If someone cannot respect your boundaries, they are not respecting you.


A boundary, or system of boundaries, is not a wall. It is a system of filters. The older you get, hopefully the more efficient this filtration system becomes. People are not kept out. But wise eyes watch, and see, and wait. Taking notice of who and what you are dealing with. Protection is needed, especially if you were raised with people who were destructive and disrespectful of your being.






It is okay, allowed and even encouraged (demanded?) by us Therapist's that you protect yourself from poison and damage, using a healthy boundary system. To keep yourself clear and unpolluted. If you find yourself reading this, and know you really need to work on this stuff, begin with the word No. Can you learn how to say it? It is a full sentence. No. I remember learning this. I thought I would burst into flames with the guilt. The sense of selfishness, because you might actually say No. Nowadays, I am well able. You can get there too. Practice. It will begin to clear up the mess inside. Help you get some space and clarity, so you can find yourself. Love yourself. Be whole.



Not everyone who disrespects your boundaries mean you harm. And simply keeping your filtration system intact, will demonstrate to them, how to treat you. A healthy person learns fast, what you need. Most of this, all of this perhaps, is done through behaviour. Again, see this list above, all behaviour based, not wordy. Sometimes a word 'is' needed. You know what it is...


So try this, try reflecting today on how you are taking care of your eco system inside. How polluted are you. Who's been dumping? How many flies are buzzing? What do you need? Ask yourself, quietly, how do I clear my water? The answers will come. Some silence, some listening, and you will hear your small voice inside speak with what it is you need. Good luck! Gemma.




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