Setting Boundaries

As an infant, I was unable to set boundaries except in my own way (as an infant, crying, spitting up, etc). As an infant, I wasn't aware of how to set boundaries in an adult way. As an adult, I am able to set boundaries (in that adult way), that I had to originally given up to someone, who I thought knew how to do that. I was wrong. I can choose to learn something new about setting boundaries in a healthier way.

To protect all that I am (the discovery of myself), I can choose to set boundaries that protect me. Boundaries are clear and quick. Clarity is important. Over explaining is control for approval's sake. I can choose not to control by "over" explaining.

Anger is a tool I use to set boundaries. Anger is not control. Anger warns that action will be taken to protect myself. 

Examples of Boundaries with Anger

  • "That Hurts! . . . , don't do that!" (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).*
  • "That pisses me off! . . . , don't do that!" *
  • "No!" *
  • "Stop! _____________ you're pissing me off!" *
  • "Stop! _____________ now!" *
  • "Quit! _____________ now!" *
  • "Don't call me that!" (in response to a name, a label, etc.) *
  • "Don't touch me!"* "Don't! _____________ Don't do that!" *

* Remove the control (the victim or victimstance) and the fear from the anger in the presentation (your voice and body language).

NOTE: The use of threat or destructive bargaining i.e. "You'd better not, or else . . . . . ," or "If you do this, I'm gonna have so and so . . . . ," is a part of coercion and not a part of anger. Because, it denotes control which is a part of rage. Rage is anger with control and/ or abuse.

Examples of Boundaries without Anger

  • "I prefer _____________ "(and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away). * *
  • "No. . . , I don't like that." *
  • "No. . . , I don't need that." *
  • "No. . . , I'd prefer not to, but thanks for asking." * "I need you to quit what you're doing. . . ., It's pissing me off." *

* Remove the control (the victim or victimstance) and the fear from the anger in the presentation (your voice and body language).

Special Considerations

"Taking my inventory is a boundary violation."

Note: To someone taking my inventory,

"You're not allowed to discuss my behavior with me or discuss my behavior with someone else in my presence. If there is something about your own behavior that you wish to talk about, I'll listen; but I won't listen to you talk about me."t;

And if they continue . . . .

I say, "Don't!" - or - "Excuse me, what is your question?" ; * (what is it that you would like to know about me that you presume to know)

* To divert the invasion and allow them to take responsibility for (own) their own perceptions in the form of answering a question verses an attack.

Performance appraisals, credit checks, scholastic grading, personality tests or profiles, and intake interviews may all be distorted into a dehumanizing type of inventory taking. If someone needs to know something about me, they may choose to ask me and not presume. "Presumption" is a block to communication. The difference between inventory taking and non-inventory taking is the difference between an attack and a question. Forced presumptions and forced helping are both boundary violations. The key word is "forced;" the use of force. Forced listening (being forced to listen) is also a boundary violation. If I'm forced to be present in an attack of me, I can choose not to listen.

Examples of Last resort Boundaries

(With or without anger as needed)
  • "I need you to go now!" (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away). *
  • "I need you to go. I need time to myself." *
  • "I need to go." *
  • "Excuse me." (And walk away).
  • Physically leave the room.
  • Physically leave the conversation.
  • "I don't want (see examples below) "


  • To have a relationship with you (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away). *
  • To do this *
  • A drink *
  • To eat this *
  • Any *
  • Talk about this *

* Remove the control (the victim or victimstance) and the fear from the anger in the presentation (your voice and body language).

Examples of Extended Space Boundaries

(With or without anger as needed)

1- "______________ is not allowed in my house, apartment, car, office, room, etc." (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).

Examples: drinking, stealing, gambling, smoking, spanking, snooping, fighting, food, candy, running, throwing things, breaking things, a person (their name), drawing on the walls, etc.

2- "_____________ are not allowed in my house, apartment, car, office, room, etc." (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).

Examples: guns, weapons, drugs, cats, dogs, pets, you, fireworks, explosives, etc.

3- "Don't touch that."(and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).

4- "I need you to ___________."(and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).

Examples: turn down your stereo, stop that, call before you come, take that somewhere away from me, take that outside, stop calling, etc.

5- "Don't call after (insert time) ." (and continue until it is acknowledged).

6- "Don't call before (insert time) ." (and continue until it is acknowledged).

7- "Don't call me ___________." (and continue until it is acknowledged).

Examples: here, at work, etc.

In each of the cases above, I move from a non-victim stand point (non-victimstance). I do not try to project guilt or shame as a way to control and maintain a boundary. When people feel guilty or ashamed, they react in angry and hurt ways. This is not caring for myself (by I approaching boundary setting from a victim's point of view). I go slow and learn over time. In childhood my boundaries were shamed and violated. The terror persists and needs to be cared for in a nurturing way (like going slow and taking time to practice).

Below is a list of boundary violations, which I consider to be important for me to set boundaries.

Boundary Violations (against me or my children)

  • Violence
  • Rage
  • Coercion
  • Shaming or abusive language used with the intent to humiliate
  • Forced helping (trying to fix) without permission
  • Giving feedback without asking permission to do so
  • Someone demanding me or my children to meet their needs (examples: forced fed, forced scholastic achievement, forced sex, forced compliance, forced intimacy).
  • Excessive probing
  • Invading my privacy or the privacy of my children without permission.
  • Taking my inventory or an inventory of my children (as an attack) without permission.
  • Projection (as a type of attack or loading onto the listener).
  • Anyone doing the "victim" role from a victimstance to cast guilt or shame on me or my children as a way to control, injure, or vent.

When I recognize one of these destructive control behaviors in use, I set a boundary to protect myself and my children. Addict parents or other addicts in general will continue to use me until I've mastered boundary setting. I accept the times I am unable to set a boundary. I accept the time it takes to practice.

Two , three, and four-year-old children are usually great teaching resources for setting boundaries. When a child in this age group is touched in an uncomfortable way by another child or adult, they usually respond almost immediately with, "Don't!" or "No!" They'll even hit back in a way to say, "Stop what you are doing!" And if someone removes something that they consider to be theirs, they let that person know that a boundary violation has occurred by hitting, crying, spitting, biting, sticking their tongue out, etc. Boundary-less addict parents or other adults will inadvertently train or socialize this natural and intuitive boundary setting skill out of a child in order to get their own needs met (not the child's needs). In this way they are unknowingly using the child as a drug to "feel better." When I need to remind myself of the natural and intuitive boundary setting response available to me, I can observe young children socializing together.

In situations were the boundary is an emotional or spiritual requirement, I imagine a thick pool of water surrounding my being entirely. The water whirls about me in an un-ending spin. As words (or hostile/disapproving body language) that are un-kind, or loaded with bad energy, hit the outer borders of the water, they are swept out to the waters edge and then spun out into the universe (like setting a golf ball on a spinning record, it is thrown out to the outside of the record and does not stay in the middle). The words are thrown clear of ever reaching the thought processes of my mind. Any words that might get through are also returned to the water to be thrown out into the universe or can be batted with a baseball bat back out to the universe. It takes practice to visualize either of these ideas, but is possible with time.

next: Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) Homepage
~ all Art of Healing articles
~ addictions library articles
~ all addictions articles

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 14). Setting Boundaries, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info