May 7th 2019

Posted on May 7, 2019

May 7th 2019

Today I want to start you thinking about your boundaries and how you interact with people. In the previous blogs I discussed feeling lonely but not being isolated. Other times, a person can be isolated but not feel lonely.

The worse is if you are alone and feel lonely and are socially isolated.

One issue that people with loneliness face is often poor boundaries. Boundaries serve several purposes. They help us to teach people how we want to be treated. Boundaries come from who we are and our values. Boundaries also help us to learn about people. Mentally healthy people have boundaries. When we know and have healthy boundaries, we can see other people’s boundaries. However, if we have poor or nonexistent boundaries, we will not see other people’s boundaries and are likely to break other people’s boundaries, leading to confusing interactions with people that can make us feel alone.

Other times, people who don’t have boundaries, put up walls. Walls may keep you safe from getting hurt from people, but they also prevent you from having any kind of relationship with people. People use walls of silence, fear or anger. These walls keep you safe from harm but will make you feel very lonely.

Walls are different from boundaries. Walls are about being completely cut off from people. You can be in a room of people and yet not be connected to any of them. How do people put up walls?

The wall of silence is just that. You don’t make eye contact, you don’t smile, and may even look grumpy or angry. People will sense this wall and stay out of your way. They will not invite you to do things. You may leave early work events or not even attend them in the first place. You simply do not engage at any level, verbal, emotional or physical.  You may often say people are crap, can’t trust them, and what is the point. You may even convince yourself you don’t need people or friends. Education and income are not a factor here.

Another wall is the wall of anger. You keep people away from you by being very angry. Anytime you feel threatened or in an emotionally unsafe situation you blow up. You rage or get disproportionately angry. This makes you unpredictable and keeps people away. People will back off and be weary of you. Another consequence is that because you are unpredictable, you won’t be approached or invited out as much.

The wall of fear is where you just sort of get absorbed into the wall or the furniture. You may go out to social events. You may be at company parties. But somehow you just fade into the background. You observe. You may be looking down. People may call you shy. You may explain it as shy. You are probably really concerned about doing something wrong or screwing up. You will probably leave without saying goodbye to people. You are probably more comfortable in one to one setting than group settings. You may often cancel when invited to group events.

Do any of these sound like you? Do you long to be with people and yet at the same time they scare you? Are you afraid of screwing up and saying or doing the wrong thing? Does thought of being with people produce so much anxiety that you throw up a wall? Some people use a combo of these type of walls. Other people fluctuate between no boundaries and walls, more to be discussed in future blogs.

If you said yes to any of these, you may lack healthy boundaries and use walls to keep you safe. This will contribute to your sense being alone or loneliness. You may long for friendship and romantic partnership but are very fearful of people and just don’t know how to do it in a safe way. Learning healthy boundaries is key to being safe and being with and among people.

We’ll talk about other types of boundaries in the future blogs.

For now, think about how you feel when you are in social situations? How do you know people’s boundaries? What if any are you aware of having? When you get hurt or fear of getting hurt, how do you handle it? Anger, Fear or withdrawal?