Being able to set and understand boundaries is vital in recovery from trauma. However, this important ability is often lacking in many trauma survivors. When you are living with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) it is crucial that you set boundaries. However, it is not uncommon that those recovering from trauma struggle with feelings of guilt, shame and low self esteem, all of which can make standing up and setting boundaries a serious challenge.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are what allow us to have a sense of who and what we are. They give us the ability to see how we differ from other people, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually. They exist to protect us. Our boundaries are never really fixed, they change depending on how we feel and who we are with at a certain time. When we have boundaries that are intact we can understand that we are separate to others – we have separate thought, feelings and realities.
Healthy boundaries are generally developed throughout childhood and adolescence. At this stage in your life you don’t have the emotional intelligence to already have healthy boundaries set, so you will have looked to your caregiver to provide you with them. If your caregiver, for whatever reason, was unable to uphold healthy boundaries with you as a child. It stands to reason that as an adult, you would not have been able to develop your own healthy boundaries. There are various reasons boundaries may not have been developed properly. Rokelle Lerner explores these more in her paper Boundaries for Codependents. She also makes it clear that “No parent consciously destroys a child’s boundary system. In fact, boundaries are often damaged in the name of love by parents who lack a clear sense of themselves or do not understand the importance of allowing their children to set limits.”
Our boundaries inform us as to who we are in relation to others around us. Having healthy boundaries enables us to behave appropriately and stops us from offending other people. Having healthy boundaries also lets us know when we are being abused. Someone without boundaries will not know when someone is physically, emotionally or intellectually abusing them.
The importance of setting boundaries as a trauma survivor.
There are a number of reasons boundaries are important for suffers of trauma. Firstly any sort of trauma that you may have been through will have been a transgression of your personal boundaries, even if that trauma was not caused by another person – say if it was due to a car crash or some other accident, your personal boundaries will still have been violated. We often think of a violation of boundaries as only happening if it was an intentional act towards you from someone else. Sexual assault, for instance, is an example of your personal boundaries being violated by someone else. But even trauma caused by fire burning your house down is a transgression of your boundaries. You weren’t threatened by someone who intended to harm you, but that doesn’t change your feelings and reactions to the trauma. Your personal autonomy was taken from you and you were still forced into a very frightening situation. If you have experienced a trauma that terrified you and made you feel helpless, being able to set boundaries and have them respected is essential for your recovery.
Boundaries make you feel safe.
When you are in recovery from trauma, your boundaries will have been broken. Because of this, the first step you will need to take is to ensure that you can feel safe again. Boundaries will play an important part in helping you to feel safe again. Setting healthy boundaries will help you communicate your own individual limits and allow you to express your comfort levels. A good way to start developing these boundaries is to enter into a therapeutic relationship with a trauma specialist. With that person you can work on reducing some of the worst symptoms of your trauma experience, such as the flashbacks, nightmares, disassociation etc, whilst also learning how to have a relationship with another person. You will be able to practice setting boundaries and relearn about self-care.
Boundaries help with feelings of low self worth.
Boundaries are especially important for survivors of trauma because they will challenge the negative opinions trauma survivors have about themselves. Often trauma survivors will feel like they don’t deserve to be respected or valued. For some survivors of trauma, what they experienced will have been a continual violation of their own desires, personal space, emotional, and intellectual boundaries. Setting clear boundaries in recovery from trauma is a way to combat your intense and overwhelming feelings of low self worth and insecurities.
Stop the cycle of merry-go-round treatment and find the solution you’re looking for in trauma treatment. Through effective residential treatment, Khiron Clinics can help you find the path you need toward health and wellness in recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).