The Three Types of Boundaries

Boundaries, you have them or you don’t. Right? Well, not exactly.

There are three types of boundaries:

  1. Unbounded
  2. Overbounded
  3. Flexible

If you tend to have unbounded boundaries, you allow everything in. Positive and negative, good and bad. There is no wall, no force field, not even a little fence around you. You feel everything all the time. Welcome one and all!

I have unbounded boundaries when it comes to my dog. I unconditionally love her and spoil her!

Overbounded boundaries are when the force field is in overdrive. N-o-t-h-i-n-g and no one is getting close to you. Nothing positive or negative will affect you, ever! No good, no bad. You have the walls up, the gate closed, the gunmen in the towers.

I am overbounded with the people who have intentionally hurt me with their actions. The first time you get a pass, the second time we are done. I steadfastly put into place overbounded boundaries when it comes to anyone who has hurt me!

Flexible boundaries allow you to choose what affects you and when it affects you. How much you allow this flexibility is up to you. You can shift to a different type of boundary if you feel threatened or even when you realize there is no threat at all, bringing all of your defenses down to unbounded (like with your dog!).

With flexible boundaries in place, this is the healthiest for you. You are able to gauge what you allow in and when you allow it. If you feel unsafe, you disallow those things to come in. You are making choices at each event, with every person, every minute you interact. Flexible boundaries allow us to change our minds.

When you have unbounded boundaries it is easy to be taken advantage of. When you have overbounded boundaries you may believe you are better off letting nothing and no one have any effect on you what so ever … but are you skittish? Jumpy? Lonely? If you are feeling unsettled most of the time you need to get to the bottom of why you felt the need to put up the overbounded boundary. Define it, remember it, decide if it was the right choice for you.

I’ll be honest, I thought I was completely fine with having some unbound boundaries with a few acquaintances. But I was struggling with that choice. I was jumpy and lonely, depressed and anxious. I needed to go back and ‘fact check’ myself. Were my memories truth or fiction? Once that was done, once I could define the reasons for my boundaries, I was comfortable with my decisions. I was at peace.

After I went back through my memories, I knew what was safe for me and what was just unhealthy to continue with. Flexible boundaries are the hardest boundaries to implement. You will find that is a battle you will fight on your own, sometimes for many years. Then there will come a time for you to ‘fact check’ your memories. You will decide if you are comfortable with the boundaries you have chosen.

In the end, the ultimate decision is yours.