It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa – everywhere you go….

In the US and around the world, December marks the time of seasonal holidays that symbolize many religious and family traditions. It is a time of joy and merry making, hustle and bustle and most importantly family. And mixed with the happiness and pleasure we all hope to experience during this festive time of the year, it is often marked by apprehension, anxiety and trepidation, especially when we think about the dreaded family get-togethers.

While we may love our families, why can these events be so difficult? Usually, it is because it is during one of these fun filled family functions that our boundaries get crossed, trampled on or completely run over.

So what are boundaries? Boundaries define limits. It can be likened to a border that demarks where we end and another begins. In health, boundaries help us to be clear about who we are, what we think and how we feel. They are defined and expressed in our relationships with others. We create boundaries to protect and care for ourselves. They allow us to establish our line in the sand, where we can ensure that we are treated with honor, dignity and respect. When we express our boundaries, they let others know how we want to be treated as well as when they are acting in inappropriate or in unacceptable ways.

Our sense of self and our boundaries develop in our formative years. If our boundaries are frequently violated during this phase of our life, we may encounter problems keeping and maintaining healthy ones in adulthood. We were taught either that people aren’t safe or that it is ok for people to ignore us. This can create issues in all of our interpersonal relationships.

Unhealthy boundaries are sometimes described as being like a wall around us. The wall may be high, thick and built of strong impenetrable stones or it may be low and weak and easily breeched by anyone. The first type ensures that no one can ever hurt us. It keeps us safe, but isolated from intimacy and support. The second leaves us vulnerable to abuse and manipulation. In the end, neither of these kinds of boundaries truly serves us well.

In relationships where our level of involvement and risk is low, such as with the people we work with or the salesperson at the store, it is relatively easy for us to have boundaries. However, it is in relationships that mean the most to us that it’s much more difficult for us to maintain our boundaries. This is especially true when it comes to close friends, romantic relationships and our families.

As human beings, we want to believe we can trust these individuals and automatically assume they will honor and respect us. This causes us to let down our guard and become a bit more lax about maintaining our boundaries. Unfortunately the reality is, these are the same people who know all our weaknesses and exactly which buttons to push to get a reaction out of us. And instead of saying something which would allow us to hold, maintain or defend our boundaries, we tend to overlook or dismiss their words, actions and behaviors in the name of love, friendship or family.

Understanding what boundaries are and how to apply them appropriately is, to me, one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you are being treated right. Recognizing when your boundaries are being crossed is critical as well. Once we realize that our boundaries have been compromised, it is necessary to let the other person know we feel violated and what steps we will take in the future if the offending behavior occurs again. It is only through an awareness of ourselves: by knowing what we want and what we value that we can even think about implementing the changes needed to convert unhealthy boundaries into one that work successfully for us.

There are four different kinds of boundaries, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

When talking about physical boundaries, what we are really talking about is our personal space. This comfort zone circles the body and is at least three feet in diameter. Think about a time when an unknown or unwelcomed individual stepped in tight and stood very close to you. I’ll bet it made you feel uncomfortable. That person was standing inside your personal space. The feeling of physical discomfort you experienced was an indication that your boundary had just been violated. The same holds true with touching and hugging without permission. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, scared or threatened, recognize the feeling. It is your boundary being crossed.

Physical boundary violations are usually pretty easy for us to detect. Emotional, mental and spiritual boundaries are a bit harder for us to discern. Our emotional space is made up of who we are, what we do, our past, our present, our looks, our personality etc. Making comments or judgments about who we are or how we should feel about an event or situation in our lives is an emotional boundary violation. Mental boundaries are concerned with our beliefs, choices, interests, relationships, responsibilities, respect and so on. Spiritual boundaries in turn relate to our religious or spiritual practice, our connection with our inner self and our connection to our higher power.

For some, when their boundaries get crossed they either don’t know it or chose to not do anything about it. For these individuals, perhaps there are some underlying beliefs that are keeping them from exerting their truth and leaving them trapped in an uncomfortable position or an unhealthy situation. Take a moment to think about a past relationship or perhaps one you are in right now. As you continue reading, think about which of these beliefs may be interfering with your ability to have healthy boundaries.

"I am nobody without _______________ in my life."

"Even though it is not perfect, this relationship is better than anything I’ve have ever had before. “

“Being in this relationship is better than nothing at all."

"If I give this relationship (or this situation) enough time things will change for the better."

If I change myself more, things will get better between us."

Maybe you are trapped by another’s neediness and helplessness and you find yourself sucked in when he or she goes into self-pity mode saying things such as "poor me" and "how tough life has been."

Maybe you get hooked by the sense of being depended upon or needed.

Maybe you are having a hard time differentiating between love, sympathy or compassion where you find yourself feeling sorry for your them - and the warm feelings this generates within you makes you think that you love them.

Maybe you’re afraid to LET GO of the control you have for fear something very negative might happen to them.

Maybe you have a fantasy or ideal about how it is supposed to be and have a difficult time accepting them the way they really are.

My personal favorite and the one I see many people getting trapped in is this: Maybe you are hooked by irrational guilt where you find yourself thinking and acting in ways to insure that your relationship is preserved, secured and nurtured no matter what personal expense it takes out of you.

So, how did you do? Could you see yourself in any of these examples?

One thing that may people don’t discuss when talking about boundaries is our role within them. It is vital to respect and honor ourselves. If it doesn’t matter to us, it will not matter to others. Once we start having a more loving, caring and nurturing relationship with ourselves, everything begins to change. Without thinking about it, we will start to naturally and normally set boundaries with others; begin to speak our truth and own our right to be alive. We will require others to treat us with dignity and respect.

There is a feedback loop between healthy boundaries and self-esteem: self-esteem enables us to have strong boundaries and strong boundaries in turn enhance self-esteem. As one grows, the other grows naturally, healthily as well.

Anyone can create and establish boundaries. There are three parts or sections to a boundary. The first two parts set the boundary. The third is what you will do when your boundary gets crossed. This is the action you will take to defend that boundary.

A boundary looks something like this: If you ___________________, I will _______________________. If you continue this behavior, I will ____________________________.

Part 1] If you - Is a description of the behavior you find unacceptable [being as descriptive as possible].

Part 2] I will - Is a description of what action you will take to protect and take care of yourself in the event the other person violates the boundary.

Part 3] If you continue this behavior I will - Is a description of what steps you will take to protect the boundary that you have set.

Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? If you have children, I’m sure you have found yourself moving through these steps of boundary creation and enforcement on more than one occasion. For most people, establishing a boundary is an easy thing to do. However, it is not enough to set boundaries. For them to be effective, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce them. We need to be willing to go to any length, do whatever it takes to protect ourselves, regardless of who it is. While this may sound harsh, it is the only way in which to be taken seriously by another.

When you set boundaries and do not enforce it, it gives the other person an excuse to continue with the same old behavior. You see this all the time in abusive relationships – where the abuser crosses a boundary and the victim takes the abuser back, over and over again.

No one ever said having healthy boundaries is easy. For many of us, it can be one of the hardest things we are ever asked to do. You would be surprised to know just how many people can not say a simple two letter word - NO!

So with the festivities here, take the time over your holiday dinner to evaluate the state of your boundaries. Start raising your awareness. Our families, while the hardest to maintain our boundaries with, are often the largest mirror we can every hope for. They can help us to identify our strengths as well as our weaknesses, the parts of us that are working and the parts of us that may need some attention.

So as you pass the gravy or the string-bean casserole, feel certain that with your new found knowledge you can begin to take steps to creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. And from everyone here at Body, Mind & SoulHealer, The Institute Of Applied Energetics and Just Energy Radio have a safe and joyful holiday and a happy New Year.

© Copyright Body, Mind & SoulHealer – 2010. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

SoulHealer, Dr. Rita Louise, Ph D is a Naturopathic Physician, the founder of the Institute Of Applied Energetics and the host of Just Energy Radio. Author of the books "Dark Angels", "Avoiding the Cosmic 2x4" and "The Power Within", Dr. Louise, grew up in a haunted house but that is not where her interactions with ghosts, spirits & attached entities ended. Over the years, she has worked with countless clients who have been affected by attached entities, and has helped eliminate them from their lives. Visit or listen live online to Dr. Rita on