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Monday, May 8, 2017

NYC Psychotherapy Blog: Are You Setting Boundaries That Are Too Rigid?

In a prior article,  Setting Healthy Boundaries, I discussed how to set healthy boundaries.  In this article, I'm focusing on how to overcome setting boundaries that are too rigid.

Are You Setting Boundaries That Are Too Rigid?
Most of the time when we think of setting boundaries, we think about boundaries that are too loose.

But there are some people who set boundaries that are too rigid and they end up having problems in their interpersonal relationships.

Signs That Your Boundaries Might Be Too Rigid
  • You spend most of your time alone.
  • Your plans don't include other people.
  • You feel lonely, disconnected and alienated from others (see my article: Overcoming Loneliness and Social Isolation).
  • You don't get to know other people because you don't open up to them or allow them to open up to you.
  • You're unhappy because you feel that others don't know the real you, but you also fear allowing them to get to know the real you (see my article:  Overcoming the Fear That Others Won't Like You If They Knew the Real You).
  • You've alienated others because you keep them at a distance.
  • Family or friends complain that you keep them shut out emotionally because you've built a wall around yourself.
  • Other people seem to dislike you, misunderstand you or feel put off by you because you're emotionally cold towards them.
And so on.

What Are Some of the Reasons Why You Might Be Setting Rigid Boundaries?
Generally, people who set rigid boundaries have often experienced prior emotional trauma that makes them fearful of allowing people to get close to them.

This can include an early history of physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and other forms of abuse (see my article: Adults Who Were Traumatized as Children Are Often Afraid to Experience All Their Feelings).

Are You Setting Boundaries That Are Too Rigid?

If you're setting rigid boundaries, you probably don't feel safe allowing others to get to know you beyond the surface, so you might use maladaptive coping strategies or defense mechanisms that include keeping yourself walled off and shutting others out (see my article: How Therapy Can Help You to Gradually Take Down the "Wall" You've Built Around Yourself).

What Are Some of the Problems You Might Be Having As a Result of Rigid Boundaries?
We are all hard wired for emotional attachment.

Everyone has a basic need for emotional connection, even people who deny to themselves and others that this is what they need.

As I mentioned earlier, if you're setting rigid boundaries with others, you probably feel lonely a lot of the time.

You might not make the connection between your loneliness and the rigid boundaries that you set with others.  You might not even realize that you're setting rigid boundaries because it might be unconscious on your part.

You might feel like others don't like you or they're the ones who are avoiding you--when, in fact, what's really happening is that others sense you want them to remain at a distance.

This isn't always something that is clearly defined--it might be a vague sense that others have to keep away from you.

Rigid Boundaries: Others Sense You Want Them to Keep Their Distance

Due to this dynamic, there is a spiraling effect:  You signal to others, either consciously or  unconsciously, that you don't want others to get too close to you.  Then, others respond by keeping their distance from you.

But just like everyone else, you need emotional connection, so you end up feeling lonely and then wonder why others are keeping their distance.  This, in turn, can lead to you're feeling annoyed or resentful, which further signals to others to stay away.

Overcoming the Need to Set Rigid Boundaries With Others
The first step in overcoming this problem is self awareness.

Without self awareness, you won't know that you're creating this dynamic with others and there will be little to no chance of changing it.

The next step is getting help in therapy to overcome the original problem that created the need for you to keep people at a distance.

Getting Help in Therapy
Often, people with rigid boundaries come into therapy because they feel lonely, misunderstood or alienated from others.

Even if they're missing having close connections with others, they might not know how to make those connections.

The underlying problems that lead to forming rigid boundaries often starts at a young age.

It's hard to change from having rigid boundaries to having healthy, flexible boundaries without professional help.

Getting Help in Therapy to Overcome Unresolved Trauma That Results in Rigid Boundaries

A skilled psychotherapist, who is trained in trauma therapy, can help you with unresolved trauma to work through these problems so you can learn to trust and form healthy relationships.

This isn't easy or quick, but trauma therapy has helped many people with rigid boundaries and other similar problems.

I'll be writing more about this in my next article.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping adults to overcome psychological trauma, and I have helped many people to overcome their trauma history so they could go on to lead fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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