We now understand the concept of boundaries from Part 1, and in Part 2, we completed a meditation to establish firm boundaries. Today we will look at boundary violations. What is a boundary violation? How can you recognize one?
A boundary violation occurs any time an individual or entity fails to respect or disregards your boundaries. Just like laws vary by country, boundaries vary by individual. So, an action (like cussing) that violates one person’s boundary might be perfectly acceptable or even desired by another. For this reason, it is important to practice humility and awareness when interacting with others.
Your emotional state will indicate if your boundary has been violated. In Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren describes how our emotions clue us in to boundary invasion. So-called “toxic” emotions, such as anger, guilt, or shame, often indicate a boundary violation.
“Creating a strong boundary around yourself and becoming aware of your personal proprioceptive territory can be difficult because the condition of our personal boundary is intimately connected to many of the supposedly troublesome emotions. As a direct result, many of us don’t have a good connection to the boundary-restoring anger and shame that could help us revitalize our personal space….” (McLaren, “Language of Emotions,” 137.)
According to McLaren, anger indicates that your boundary is being invaded from the outside, and is a call to fortify your boundary. When anger arises, she recommends that you ask what must be protected or restored. Guilt or authentic shame indicate that you are violating your boundaries internally (or harming yourself). If you experience these emotions, ask who has been hurt? What must be made right? By being self-aware, you can better understand your emotional cues and take action to end a boundary violation.
In addition, you might feel uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, or start questioning yourself or the situation. Do thoughts about that one guy keep bothering you? Did you feel queasy about something that happened at work? These are signs that something is not right as far as your boundaries are concerned.
This post is part 3 in a multi-part series on boundaries and healing. Part 4 will look at examples of boundary violations on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. Until then, pay attention to your emotions. Notice any anger, guilt, or shame and try to assess the boundary that has been violated.