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  1. #1
    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Default Appropriate boundaries - defining, creating, and maintaining

    There have been several threads on this forum that bump up against discussing personal boundaries, and I have wanted to have a full-on conversation about this topic (the threads that spring to mind dealt with becoming the "problem dumping ground" or friends who dump their problems on you then move on). In fact, in my recent advice-seeking thread (http://www.typologycentral.com/forum...ivation-3.html), it came up again, and I promised to start a thread about this area with which I struggle in my life.

    So - here's what I'd like to know. Other people have used the question format to begin threads, and I think it's a fantastic way to start.

    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).

    I'm listening and will comment and chime in

  2. #2
    Senior Member Moiety's Avatar
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    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?


    I don't like taboos. I see taboo-free conversation as a real fosterer of intimacy between people. People value boundaries because they are insecure in particular areas. Without taboo, by owning your insecurities, even merely by voicing them...people might perceive it as you being vulnerable, but if you state it matter-of-factly and downplay the shock value of sharing such "secrets", people will tend to respect that and feel like you are a confident person.


    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    I would never say no to listening to their problems. As for REQUESTS, I think that's what can make an INFJ feel like "problem dumping ground". I don't do much favors to anyone. But people don't ask me many favors either. I'll listen and always help with emotional or intellectual problems, but if you need help painting your house, I might help you, but making it abundantly clear that it's gonna be pure hell and sacrifice for me :P

    I kind of frame it as, I like to help people in abstract ways, ya know? How is painting your house helping you? You're the one who wants to paint the house? Is it that important? Now....overcoming emotional and intellectual problems usually teaches you lessons, it betters you as a person. There will always be another thing to paint, and you will always need a hand for that. But you don't need to trust me greatly, you can hire someone, or even ask an acquaintance.....only emotional help do you NEED a FRIEND for.

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?


    What makes my boundaries feel violated. But I'm usually very empathic. I know other people have different needs. I personally never ask much of anyone, so I also don't except anyone to do anything for me.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).

    Hmm, that's very hard to answer. I have a lot more boundaries at home, I know that. We don't share certain things.

  3. #3
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    ]1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?


    I generally will talk about personal matters or opinions with people I like and trust. That's entirely intuitive and on an individual basis. Recently, I trusted someone with specific personal information and she used that to gossip about me. I shouldn't have trusted this person but now I know to not trust her in the future. She wasn't a good friend and I was too trusting. If I like someone and know that they can be trusted, I'm open about most things. I keep most of my personal life to myself though, except with very good friends (just a few people). I relate to Moiety in that I talk about emotional problems only with my sister and my few good friends.

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    I have only a few dear friends and if they ask me to listen, I would not hesitate. If a collegue or family member asks me to help with a problem, I'll certainly listen. If someone needs help in any way, I try to help.

    What makes boundaries feel violated?

    If someone is not a friend and that person asks me personal information only repeat this information for their own purposes, then my boundaries are violated. This doesn't happen often, though. Most of the time I have to be aware of crossing other's boundaries since I like to engage and sometimes others become uncomfortable. If I sense that I've crossed a boundary, I'll immediately drop the subject. I think prying makes an individual's boundaries feel violated. If the person wants to share, they will.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).

    I'm from a large family and we were all expected to love and help each other. We were all very different individuals and we were raised to respect and care for each other, despite our differences. Our boundaries were fairly fluid but a couple of my sisters had more rigid boundaries than I had. I crossed those boundaries at my own risk They tried to set them and I was always trying to cross them. After we all move out, we still liked each other, despite, or because of, those earlier altercations I've talked with people who had much more rigid boundaries with each other growing up. We were just expected to fight and make up. There were too many of us for my parents to mediate arguments. We had to understand the other's perspective and work it out.

  4. #4
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?
    For myself, I think it has less to do with the topic/content, and more to do with the duration / timeliness (or lack of) of resolution. I think that I am a fantastic listener and when it comes to what people share with me, I think I am pretty open as far as what they end up sharing. However, I am someone who myself tries to seek out resolution to my problems and issues, so when a pattern begins to emerge where the person continues bringing up the same topic over and over again without any sign of moving past it or working on making changes in his or her life to address the issue headon, my patience/empathy runs quite short and I will basically not be as affirming or supportive of the other - i.e. 'just a listening ear'. That's not what I do, nor do I have any interest whatsoever in maintaining that passive role. I will either begin gently nudging them, or if I end up not envisioning a mutually beneficial relationship in the long run (i.e. I'm not really getting anything out of it), I'll just extricate myself from it. The latter if it becomes clear that the relationship begins to unravel as a result of my nudging, or whatever.

    Also it bears mentioning that I'm not going to divulge/share to an equal extent as they, if I don't have a good sense of the relationship, don't trust enough in it, am undecided whether I want to put forth effort towards deepening it, etc.

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?
    If a friend needs to talk about something, my goodness, I'm totally there for them. They wouldn't even be a friend of mine if I hadn't already made that 'commitment' and decided they were an important part of my life. I could totally drop whatever I'm doing if I know a friend is in distress or needs help. I think the same goes for my family.

    That said, the reason for this is *because* I am very selective with my friends. I have a small number of friends who are really important to me and who have been in my life for nearly ten years or more, and I don't really expend any energy/effort towards acquaintances - -i.e. my boundaries being crossed is a non-issue with everyone, because those who are in my life I don't consider being boundary-crossing material. I hope that makes sense.

    If acquaintances, or coworkers, or whatever, needed assistance with something or other, I would probably help them out if I had the time and was able to do so, depending on logistics or whatever, but if it grossly inconvenienced me or I would have to rearrange previous plans, or whatever, I wouldn't have any problem saying 'No, sorry, don't have the time,' or something more tactful than that. Basically if it would cause me to become stressed out, I would probably say no. With those I'm close to, I'd be much more apt to rearrange, and cause myself minor stress, to accommodate them.

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?
    I don't know. Probably just self-reflection over the years, realizing that a healthy balance of selfishness (taking care of my needs and self) and selflessness (wanting to incorporate others into my life and giving their needs equal or sometimes greater weight) is where it's at. Desiring relationships of equals, in the sense of both growing and gaining from it, rather than it being significantly unbalanced in either direction. Extricating myself from relationships that I realize is unbalanced on my end - i.e. my not placing as much value on it as I sense the other person does, or vice versa, extricating myself when I realize the other doesn't value me as much as I value them -- all of it summed up with mutual needs not being satisfied and it not being a complementary relationship dynamic as far as personalities and such are concerned.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).
    Extremely significant? haha. I've used the analogy sometimes that we were like four planets spread out in a solar system, each pretty much on our own. My parents cared for me, I know, and I loved them and was really close to my brother also, but I was raised in a pretty self-sufficient (every man for himself, you're strong, you need to learn how to survive in the world...when it came to the intangibles and certain tangibles too - not spoken exactly, more implied), unemotional environment, and none of us really ever disclosed any of our inner world. Seeking help tended to be more of an imposition on others. I only say all of this now after years of reflection; it's not like I was really bothered by any of this, or even would have verbalized it or noticed it, growing up, as I didn't really know anything different.
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    Senior Member Synapse's Avatar
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    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?
    The question for me what are peoples boundaries in relation to their core beliefs and values systems and each individual interprets differently.

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?
    Intuition.

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from? We are consistently given the boundaries brought into our awareness from the people we look up to most and that is our parents and family, friends and more. The list could go on and in those early stages of development we create them as our thought perception of the world and the attitudes we have of them in relation to what constitutes justice, harmony, work, friends, cultures, traditions, negativity, positivity etc. When that's in place we are struggling to come to terms with whats underneath and express our affirmed boundaries, our confidences, our self belief of who we are. And then our boundaries become somewhat categorical, passive, submissive, aggressive, dominant or assertive.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? Irrelevant focus for its a partially formed expression of their own upbringing. Some aspects are appropriate and other aspects inappropriate in their ability to create healthy boundaries. Eg my father is aggressive and dominant in his dealings of boundaries, walks over people, while my mother is submissive and passive in her boundaries the opposite and yeah.

  6. #6
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochajava View Post
    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).
    1. My boundaries usually are centred around maintaining enough physical, emotional, financial, time and resources margin that I can still meet my own needs and have something left to give other people. The rule of thumb for me is that when people start to become disrespectful or want me to do something that endangers me and is not in my best interests, my behaviour towards them needs to change so that I am sending a clear verbal and non-verbal message that their behaviour is not appropriate and won't be tolerated.

    Boundaries are often decided for me by how close I am to the person and what our relationship is. Some topics or information are off limits to some, when I would easily share the same information with others. I think it is important to give clear messages to people about what you are or aren't open to. Sometimes they throw out feelers into the conversation by introducing certain topics. You can choose to go with it, or to block the way, depending on where you want things to go. I think when people are behaving inappropriately it is important to do the opposite of what you would normally do to make a person feel welcomed, accepted and comfortable, or else you are giving them a tacit message that their behaviour is okay, because yours has not changed towards them.

    I'm pretty open about most things within reason. I'd feel comfortable sharing a lot of experiences that some might see as being personal, as long as they were things I had processed and which I had learned from. I see invitations from the opposite sex to discuss sex as a way of them testing interest/openness and so avoid that because I don't want to give them the message that I'm interested in a casual sexual relationship. I don't appreciate people who are not in my inner circle referring to me by pet names or acting overly familiar or touchy. If people try to be overly cohearsive or persuasive about their points of view, without showing sensitivity to my responses, I am unlikely to open up to them and will probably behave much more coldly than I naturally would be inclined to.

    2. Over time, I'm learning to promise less but be more scrupulous about keeping my word. By not being unreasonably accommodating, it forces people to decide whether or not their request is reasonable, it helps me to prioritize better (instead of just responding to the most demanding person), people feel more secure because they know they can rely on me and they better know what to expect, I get less resentful (and don't feel as taken for granted), people are more respectful of my time and resources and they are more thankful for what I do do for them.

    Usually, I give people the benefit of the doubt at first. However, if it seems that constantly they require a lot of my resources, but are not willing to take advice or change their circumstances, I draw back a bit. I also have a few guidelines for myself about not lending anything that I could not do without getting back (my car, bigger amounts of money etc) and never co-signing for anyone, not going into business partnerships with friends or family, etc so that we can maintain our relationship.

    Generally, the closer someone is to me though, the more leaway I give them as far as how far out of my way I will go for them. If they have had a history of investing in my life, I will go to great lengths for them. Their past behaviour also tends to serve as a guideline for how much priority they are given or what I will do for them.

    3. My ideas about appropriate boundaries probably came in part from discussions with my mother and from her being willing to share a lot of real life stories about herself and other people that we knew. She was very good at being pleasant, but drawing appropriate boundaries around herself for others.

    I learned from busking, where I had to script myself on what I would say in certain circumstances if asked to go somewhere with someone I didn't know, if I ran out of time for a person who wanted to keep talking, if I felt uncomfortable or in danger, if someone wanted to play my violin, if drunk people accosted me or wanted to shake hands and wouldn't let go or invaded my personal space, or if people asked for inappropriate information for how well I knew them.

    Watching my parents try to help others and seeing that sometimes you learn as you go about where you should have drawn boundaries informed my views. Living in the north where people asked many unreasonable things of me and were sometimes very volatile, insecure or needy, but were not ready to change made me see the need to protect your margin and your resources enough that you are still able to be effective and contented.

    Watching my extended family and siblings make choices in their lives taught me a lot about boundaries in relationships and about teaching others to respect and value you effectively. Teaching forces me not only to practice drawing appropriate boundaries everyday for my students, but also has made me think about how to teach them what kind of boundaries they need to draw and defend in their own lives. It made me think about a lot of situations where we as teachers and parents and family members can help kids by "scripting" some possible statements or behaviours when different situations come up that they may be surprised by or uncertain of how to react to in such a way that others don't take advantage of them.

    Teaching private lessons taught me that it is better to be proactive and plan for the worst, while expecting the best from people. I learned over time to get people to pay at the beginning of the month, to value my time more (but also give more!), to explain my expectations more fully, to lend things out less, to require a bigger commitment from parents and to be less accommodating. As a result, I have students with more supportive families, I have less problems from a business standpoint and it is a much more pleasant experience all round. It took a number of years with occasionally getting burned by people I hadn't expected to behave in that way before I had the confidence, conviction and courage to do that.

    My last relationship also taught me how some things can kind of sneak up on you over time, so you need a balanced life full of meaningful people and pursuits, other people's perspectives (who have a stake in your life going well), and an equal balance of power and responsibility between both people to maintain a healthy relationship. I learned that you both need to be able to provide for your person's needs and accept provision for your own. When either partner cannot do one of these, it throws the balance of power in the relationship out of whack and it also inhibits closeness and trust. Honesty and vulnerability is a big part of being able to get close to someone. These principles also extend to non-romantic relationships. If an adult relationship is to be a balanced one, both parties need to have something to offer each other and they also need to both be able to benefit from something the other person has (and acknowledge that). To maintain healthy boundaries, people need to choose appropriate candidates to invest in and be involved with who have something to offer and are able to receive what they have to give as well.

    More often than not, things go awry when one person is doing most of the receiving, while accepting little or no responsibility. And yet they remain in an alpha position in the relationship. They cannot appreciate what is being given to them nor admit their need because they cannot trust, so must always look out for their own interests. Because of this preoccupation in getting their own needs taken care of, they are restless and do not feel responsible for giving care to the other person. They see themselves almost as a child, yet want to take the dominant role and are jealous of anyone or anything else in the other person's life that could compete for their affection or attention.

    4. I think both of my parents were pretty easy-going and accommodating. At the same time, I think neither of them got walked all over by other people. Most times when they did get surprised by someone violating boundaries, the stakes were pretty low. Usually it happened as a result of a lack of experience with certain types of people. Once they were made aware of it, they learned from the experience, without becoming cynical. I think they were trusting and had a desire to help others, without being naive about it.

  7. #7

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    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?

    Any topic goes. I'm not really that worried about protecting personal or private things about myself either. If something is inappropriate it is normally about intent or harm caused by the comments. I sometimes cringe when it really isn't the place to chat loudly about certain things, but it is more a "shhh don't destroy the moment" than anything too serious.

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    If a friend wanted me to listen, I'd listen and just adapt other stuff around it. If I figured they were going absolutely nowhere and this was the thousandth whine about the same inane thing, I'd probably point it out at some stage in the conversation and ask why something so irrelevant mattered so much .

    In terms of fulfilling requests, it normally comes down to which I remember . In terms of saying no it normally depends which were reasonable to ask. If I'm in the middle of doing something I consider important that someone else decides is unimportant and asks me to stop and go get milk for them for tomorrow, the response is normally as polite as the question. On the other hand if they were up a ladder and needed something passed, I'd be happy to stop for a minute and assist.

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?

    Not sure. Probably picked it up from my parents, what I know I'd like and dislike done to me, and what other people seem to have taken issue with in the past. It seems to be mainly a game of seeing how actions affect people. I look at cause and effect, whether the other knows the implications of their actions, etc.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).

    Pretty relaxed and open minded, but at the same time principled and aware of etiquette.
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  8. #8
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    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you?

    Boundaries deal with how much you let people into your life. If this were plotted on a line, there would be two extremes:
    1) The extreme of being excessively rigid/inflexible (being too defensive) and keeping everything and everyone out of your life (keeping out both the good and the bad);
    Versus:
    2) The extreme of being too loose/flexible (being too trusting and giving away too much) and letting everything and everyone into your life (letting in both the good and the bad).

    Healthy barriers allow you to find a middle ground; they serve as a permeable barrier that keeps out the bad but allows the good to pass through.

    In life, we usually start out by being too trusting (extreme #2, above). Once we're burned a few times, we migrate over to defensiveness (extreme #1, above). So, in practice, most of us are probably too defensive. IOW, for most of us, learning healthy boundaries will allow us to put aside our defensiveness and live fuller lives.

    Example:

    Disagreements between friends are okay. But it's not okay for the other person to brush off your opinion as inferior. So you practice good boundaries by looking for a pattern of dismissal, disregard, or disrespect. If you notice such a pattern, you back away from the relationship and see how the person handles it when you set a boundary: "Are you aware that you tend to dismiss my opinions? Please treat my ideas with respect."

    So basically the idea is to create a condition of balance: You get as much as you give in a relationship (you show respect for others, and they respect you back; or you provide for others in some way and they provide for you in their way). Or you find a good balance between being able to stick to your own plans and dictates vs. showing flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of others; and so on.

    One of the key ways to measure whether you're getting balance (whether you're getting a fair exchange) is to be clear and complete. And then see if the other person is equally clear and complete with you in turn.

    For example:

    Person A says, "I want X from you; if I don't get it, I will do Y to you." Person B responds, "I don't like you threatening me with Y; but I'll give you X if you'll give me Z." Person A responds, "I'm sick of the entire thing. Just give me X so we can be done with it."

    In this example, Person B is engaging in healthy communication by acknowledging all the elements of person A's message and making a counteroffer (i.e., entering into negotiations). Element Z is the healthy boundary: Person B is willing to be flexible, but only if he gets his needs acknowledged and met as well. Person A, on the other hand, disregards B's counteroffer and simply repeats his own demand. A's communications are unhealthy precisely because he isn't interested in hearing Person B or acknowledging B's needs. He violates boundaries by deliberately ignoring element Z.

    In difficult communications, there are a number of other ways another person can violate our boundaries: Not acknowledging our point; getting overly emotional; misdirection (bringing in and re-arguing old arguments not really related to the topic at hand), playing the victim, etc. Most times these aren't huge abuses; frankly most people don't have a real good grasp of how proper boundaries work, so you don't want to be overly harsh in policing them. Thus, when dealing with minor boundary violations, it's best to observe patterns of imbalance or boundary violations and deal with those, rather than focusing on individual violations here and there.

    Everything so far concerns boundaries between equals. There are other types of boundaries, particularly those between an authority figure and someone with less power (a parent and a child, a cop and a civilian, a boss and a subordinate, etc.). Those types of boundaries have their own rules, usually dealing with setting limits on familiarity/insubordination and use/abuse of power.

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    As described above, I look for longstanding patterns of balance, mutual respect, and good communications. If there are longstanding patterns of balance, I give that person good access to my time and attention. If there are patterns of imbalance or lack of respect, I put limits on how much or where that person can have access to me.

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?

    Trial and error. I tend to err on the side of being generous, and then look for patterns to emerge in how I am treated in return.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).

    They probably tended to be on the rigid side.

  9. #9
    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Sorry I have been remiss in writing, particularly since this is a thread I started.

    I'd like to talk a bit about my experiences with boundaries, starting with a recent realization. I thought that if we were all givers, all being generous and doing favors to those who asked, then we could also ask for favors and things would be balanced. Everyone would be doing an equal amount of giving and receiving, though maybe not the same amount within each relationship.

    Now, let me talk about my family (very odd boundaries). We come from a culture where boundaries are just a little closer than [my understanding of] any Western societies. For us, unsought advice is rife and socially acceptable, comments on one's weight are acceptable, and you can expect to be asked about your salary / marital status / fertility desires by any random passer-by on the street. I grew up in America, but nonetheless straddling two cultures.

    My parents were both very needy. My father would never contribute in our upbringing, unless it was to let off some steam -- beating us when he was frustrated and could find an excuse (when you're a kid, there's always one - did you put your shoes away, finish every last grain of rice, and perfectly execute your homework down to the neatness of each letter?). So he didn't help with our problems. But boy did we know about / help with his. He was too busy, whatever emotional turmoil he was "going through", that my sister and I didn't pay enough attention to him, any problems with his myriad siblings (for whom he felt 100% responsible). I came out of this upbringing not really knowing my own needs. I can barely tell when I'm sad / stressed / panicked because I never had the room to be any of those things growing up. (He really wanted me to be convenient - quietly bringing home fantastic grades, cooking and doing everyone's laundry by age 10, and he would throw a tantrum anytime he had to drive me anywhere... And we lived in suburbia).

    My mother wasn't much better, and she might be the more important parent from the boundaries standpoint. Not only could she not shield me from my father's sudden rages, but she would complain to me about how hard they were on her, all the problems in her marriage, that my father thought she was driving a wedge between me and him, her siblings, etc. Basically, I became the person she called with any emotional issue she had, and she would literally talk about the same thing hundreds of times (how awful my Dad was, how she didn't like who her brother was marrying). I felt bad for her being married to my Dad, and just tried to help (listening, cooking, cleaning, not having needs).

    So I have no idea what healthy boundaries look like in my culture of origin, and the ones here look a bit too tight to me -- pretending to be strong no matter what. The UK kid who killed himself after cyberbullying haunted me after I realized that he HAD NOT TOLD HIS PARENTS what was happening. Now why is that? He was so young.

    The way I act now is:
    -I feel uncomfortable in a relationship, unless I'm being "of service" to the other person
    -I am barely capable of disliking people (though I can say no a little better now)
    -I can't ask for things
    -It takes me forever to notice when a relationship isn't mutual, but I do feel bad about it and wonder why
    -Receiving is the most terrifying thing in the world. I wonder what the other person wants, or when the shoe will drop. For example, I'm in a fantastic marriage (and my in laws are amazing), but without knowing EXACTLY what I bring to the table and how I add value, I can't just relax and enjoy how much fun we all have together.

    I'm now realizing that the world isn't so ideal, like I described it above, with a series of nice pay-it-forward relationships. I'm not sure why my experiences with family (with whom I'm no longer on speaking terms after they treated my in-laws as badly as they treat me) didn't show me that sooner. Now I'm distancing myself in the less mutual relationships (this is fairly easy to do; it's mostly a matter of me not taking initiative or not being as responsive) hoping that more mutual ones will take their place, and they have. It's really hard to live with when some of those non-mutual, unhealthy relationships are your sister. I have heard the term "emotional vampire" bandied about on this forum, and I'd say she fits.

  10. #10
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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    1. What are appropriate boundaries for you? What topics are fair game to talk, when and for whom?

    For me pretty much any idea or topic is open for conversation. I do find it very uncomfortable to talk about my emotions or how I feel to people I do not know. Even with friends to speak of my emotions makes me end up with no words. I really dislike when people pry and try and get information from me about my intimate past, relationships, or my children or my spouse. It feels really strange to have near strangers begin asking questions of that sort. I also tend to be uncomfortable talking about sex for some reason.

    I do realize that when I trust emotionally I will tend to do so in an all-or-none black and white sort of way. I end up being way too vulnerable, then retreat to a defensive position....or maybe I started from a defensive position, thus why it hurts so much to be poked emotionally. I trust far too easily and absorb others into my emotional space far too easily.

    2. How do you decide which requests from your friends / family / coworkers to fulfill, and which ones to say no to? For example, if a friend is asking you to listen to their problems, what would you consider in deciding whether or not to listen right then?

    I will listen to a friend at any point, because I perceive them to often need to be letting off steam-not seeking me to provide them with a solution or guidance. I let them rant and occasionally will provide feedback. With respect to requests from others, I tend to evaluate what they can do themselves, what I have the time to do, what else I am obligated to do and try and find a happy balance. I like to show affection for others via action, but I also know i am very forgetful, thus am hesitant to commit.

    3. Where did you get your idea of appropriate boundaries from?

    The hard way. Mostly I let very few people in. Once I started letting more people in, I got hurt very much. Then I became more selective about who to trust and who to let in. I am a cross between a bitter old women and a naive little kid when it comes to emotional boundaries.

    4. What were boundaries like in your family? (I am asking this question because boundaries are defined very differently in each of the culture I'm part of).

    I cant even answer that question... My ex mom in law says I was raised by wolves. I suspect many of my emotional defensive barriers may be the result of the total LACK of emotional barriers in my family. They were a bunch of FPs and it was like the Fi-puke-o-meter was turned up to MAX. So I ended up being very good at blocking out other people's emotions as a result. I end up feeling as though I must be extremely reliant, thus I expect them to do so as well.I grew up being exposed to a massive amount of emotional pain that was spilled out of those around me-it made me close all the emo doors and windows so to speak, so I could function. To this day, my family will dump massive amounts of emotional pain at me to try and get me to loan them money. They use the pain and unhappiness of my nieces to manipulate my emotions, as I cant feel any emotional response to my mom or sister anymore-just coldness.

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