Creating and Understanding Boundaries

Creating and Understanding Boundaries

During your recovery journey, you will learn to rely on a support system consisting of close friends, family members, and peers. Even though it is crucial to your recovery to be able to rely on others, you also have to be able to accept people’s boundaries when they are too overwhelmed to be a shoulder for you to lean on. 

Every person will not be able to be supportive all the time. Sometimes people will have to pull their emotional energy to take care of their own psychological distress. Inversely, you may not always be emotionally available to help your friends in a crisis. Sometimes you will need to use all of your emotional energy to cope with your own distress. Communicating boundaries will help both you and your friends better support each other in times of crisis.

Understanding Your Role

All relationships consist of giving and taking. Even between employee and employer, it’s essential to understand what is expected from both individuals. When either employee or employer doesn’t understand their expectations, productivity could slow down or even come to a halt. 

In personal relationships, it’s also essential to understand your role. Are you close enough to this person to talk to them about emotional topics that may require intense emotional labor? How often have you been emotionally supportive of this person and vice versa? 

Establishing an emotional relationship when you feel level-headed and more secure in your emotions will make it easier for the person to give you emotional support. This is especially true when negative thoughts and feelings are preventing you from understanding or communicating your needs. 

Communicating Expectations 

Discussing emotional expectations should include what signs are present when you may be in emotional distress. Such a discussion should also include what you or your friend might be able to do for one another in these stressful situations. This could consist of going food shopping for you, making you tea, or offering a listening ear when you’re experiencing negative emotions. 

Different people will be able to offer different types of emotional energy and care depending on their strengths and weaknesses. Understanding how the person prefers to take care of their friends will also help you decide the best way that the person can help you in a stressful situation.

Reflecting on How You Can Give Support

Reflecting on your emotional habits when you feel secure and safe will help you better understand your emotional needs when you’re experiencing intense emotions or feelings of not having control. During a time of stability, you can also reflect on the type of emotional support that you can give others. Where do your strengths lie when it comes to emotional support, and how can you use them to give your friends the support they need? 

Being able to reflect on how you can give emotional support—and what type of emotional support you are capable of giving—will help you better react to sudden situations that might require such support. Reflecting upon this will also help you have a clearer understanding of your boundaries, which will make it easier for you to articulate them to friends or family members when necessary.

Checking In With Yourself

However, it’s also crucial for you to check in with yourself when a friend asks for emotional support from you. You can ask yourself how you are feeling at the moment and if you have the energy to do what is being asked of you. If not, is there another way that you can help your friend out? 

If you notice that someone in your life requires emotional support, but you aren’t in a current emotional position to give that person the emotional support that they deserve, alert that person’s other friends so that they can find that emotional support in someone else.

Upholding Boundaries

To avoid being emotionally spent, you must not only create but uphold your boundaries. When you overextend your emotional energy, you can put yourself in danger of not being able to manage your own emotions. This can be especially dangerous if you suddenly experience a triggering event. You might not have the energy to use the management tools you learned in therapy or during treatment. Instead of utilizing these tools, you might resort to old damaging coping mechanisms.

Upholding your boundaries means knowing how to say “no” when you are emotionally too exhausted to be someone else’s emotional support. Remind your friends of your boundaries when necessary, and in such instances, suggest other people or places where they could find the support they’re looking for.