We won’t ever have perfect boundaries, but we can have healthy boundaries.
There are basically four kinds of boundaries:
- healthy boundaries
- damaged boundaries
- collapsed boundaries
- walled boundaries
Let’s compare these kinds of boundaries to a room in your house.
What Kind Are You?
Healthy boundaries would be like living in a room with intact walls. It also has a solid door, but the doorknob is only on the inside. That means you can pick and choose who gets to come into your room, and who must stay outside. Healthy boundaries help you keep out toxic people, emotions, thoughts and beliefs. Why does that matter to you as a writer? Because healthy boundaries mean that you can set goals and keep out those things that would stop you from achieving those goals.
Damaged boundaries would be like living in that same room with intact walls and a solid door. However, the doorknob is now on the outside. Others have the ability to control what goes in and out of your personal room. They are free to hand you their emotions to fix, their problems to solve, their opinions to rule your life. Because they are free to come and go as they please, they always have the ability to throw you off course. You are forever adjusting to someone else’s plans, trying to be flexible, and writing at odd times because it’s the only time you are left alone.
Collapsed boundaries mean, of course, that you have no protection at all. The walls have crumbled, and the doors are broken down. Raiding parties come and go at all hours of the day and night. Collapsed boundaries are marked by excesses. You are overwhelmed by the emotional load, the physical work, and the mental aggravation dumped on you. You may be enduring abuse of various kinds, and eventually may turn to an addiction to help you cope. These are the famous writer stories you hear where they die young from drugs and alcohol or walk into the sea and drown.
Walled boundaries would be like a room with thick walls, but there are no windows and no doors. Because of past scarring, you suspect everyone and fear everyone. You become emotionally unavailable so no one can hurt you again. This eventually results in lonely isolation and a disconnection from your feelings. For the writer, this numbness can be devastating. When you lose connection with yourself and others, you will find it impossible to truly connect with readers either.
Most Writers Are a Mixture
Sometimes it is hard to assess the damage because we can be a mix. We have four kinds of boundaries, remember. It’s unlikely that you will have the same degree of damage in each boundary area.
You might have very healthy physical boundaries, adamant about your daily exercise, eating right, and using ergonomic office furniture when you write.
However, your mental boundaries might be damaged. From incidents growing up, your self-confidence has endured some denting. You believe what you’ve been told—that you’re not smart enough or creative enough. As a result, rejection from editors or negative critiques from a writing partner can set you back for a week.
Your emotional boundaries might have collapsed. You are worried sick about a grown child or a senile parent, taking on their pain to an excessive degree. You have too much worry and concern over too many things you have no control over. Writing goals go out the window because your time and emotional stability are up for grabs.
Your spiritual boundaries might be walls. You know what you believe, and you won’t listen to anyone with a different idea, even people who could help. Past scars cause this, but it can make you afraid to reach out and be vulnerable or ask for help. You struggle along with your writing problems alone.
There is Hope!
The subject of these posts and my upcoming e-book “Boundaries for Writers” is dear to my heart. I have come from a place of collapsed boundaries all around to healthy (or nearly healthy) boundaries. It has taken work, as any kind of recovery does, but it is rewarding work in the end.
I know that these blog posts can only show the tip of the iceberg. My e-book will have checklists to help you identify boundary damage in each of the four areas. Until you assess the damage accurately, you won’t know how to move on to the next step of repairing and rebuilding the boundaries.
Stay tuned! And if you missed the early boundaries posts, here they are: