4. Communicating Effectively with your Relative and Setting Limits


Personal boundaries

A personal boundary is the shield we put around ourselves where one person stops and the other begins. It includes a person’s physical, emotional, sexual and social safety zones. For example, think of the role that clothing plays as a personal boundary. Clothing protects us physically from the cold and from damage due to sun. But clothing is also a sign to others that we have boundaries and that we are protecting ourselves. We cover our bodies more when we are more at risk and need more protection, such as in the winter. Doors can also be a form of protection. Doors are a way of keeping people in or out, either literally or figuratively. When we need privacy, we close doors; when we feel at risk, we may lock or double-lock them. On the other hand, when we feel safe and friendly, we open doors to allow people in.

woman timidly opening door

Maintaining boundaries and setting limits can not only help you, but also those around you. Boundaries can help by:

    ensuring that you do not burn out or become resentful
    modelling appropriate boundaries
    helping people learn to respect others’ boundaries and limits
    encouraging greater self-sufficiency.

Empowering Families Affected by Substance Use © , CAMH.