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  • Caleb Birkhoff

Why Therapy is Essential in Setting Emotional Boundaries

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Life is a rollercoaster ride, and it is no secret that it can knock us off our tracks. When life gets tough and overwhelming, the need for emotional support and stability becomes more apparent. However, setting emotional boundaries and maintaining them can be a daunting task. It is easy to get carried away, give in to every situation and compromise our emotional well-being; or on the flip side we over correct and become disconnected emotionally from those around us. But what if there was a way to learn how to set healthy emotional boundaries? This is where therapy comes in.


Setting emotional boundaries is all about learning to take care of yourself and your emotions, so that you can be in full control of how you respond, act and feel in any given situation, which will give you the ability to avoid just reacting to situations. It's important to remember that emotional boundaries should be respected by others as well as yourself; it's not just about saying "no," but also recognizing when you're feeling overwhelmed or emotionally drained. Though the following sounds straightforward, be ready to re-set them.


1. Understanding Emotional Boundaries


First and foremost, it’s important to recognize your own feelings and acknowledge them. If something feels wrong, chances are it is wrong for you. Listen to your gut feeling - it is there for a reason! When setting an emotional boundary, be clear about what’s acceptable for you and what isn’t. Communicate your needs clearly to the person involved; speak up when needed and don't let anyone push their feelings onto you if they are not comfortable with yours. These boundaries are fundamentally about demarcating where you end and others begin, to avoid a Ven diagram type experience.


The first step to setting emotional boundaries is understanding what they are and what they entail. Boundaries set limits for what we are and are not comfortable with, what we will and will not tolerate. These boundaries help us protect our emotional and mental well-being from toxic relationships, negative emotions, and overwhelming situations. Additionally healthy emotional boundaries will foster autonomy and independence, along with being the foundation for healthy relationships. However, setting boundaries is not an easy feat, and it can be a challenge to understand what our personal boundaries are. Start with them far out and strict, you can always soften them and make them more permeable as you build trust or get more comfortable.


2. How Therapy Helps Set Emotional Boundaries


Therapy provides a safe space where we can explore our feelings and learn how to set healthy boundaries. A therapist can help us identify our likes, dislikes, and clarify where we stand on specific issues. They also provide guidance and support as we learn how to communicate our boundaries in healthy ways. Therapy is a tool that helps us understand and respect ourselves while also building strong relationships with others. In therapy you can learn how to effectively set a boundary, implement a consequence, and re-set boundaries. Maybe the most important thing you will learn in therapy is why it’s important to have boundaries, mostly so we get to have our own experience and let others have theirs.


As much as possible, try not to absorb other people's emotions - instead practice self-care techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness activities which can help put some distance between yourself and the situation at hand. Make sure that you also have a support system in place - friends or family members who will listen when necessary and offer advice without judgement - and only spend time with those who respect your boundaries. Finally, try not to view setting an emotional boundary as a negative thing; rather see it as taking charge of your life and being assertive while still remaining respectful towards others.


3. Building Healthy Relationships


When we set healthy emotional boundaries, we build healthy relationships. We start to attract people that support us, respect our boundaries, and have similar values. Therapy helps you identify what is important to you in a relationship and how to communicate your needs effectively. It provides an opportunity to examine past relationships and to recognize unhealthy patterns that may have contributed to relationship breakdowns. With recognition and acknowledgement of these old and maladaptive patterns, we can avoid repeating them moving forward.


Setting an emotional boundary can be difficult, especially if you are not used to expressing your feelings and asserting yourself in difficult situations. Nevertheless, establishing clear emotional boundaries is essential for healthy relationships.


4. Overcoming Barriers to Setting Boundaries


Many people find it challenging to set emotional boundaries due to external and internal factors. Some of these factors include fear of repercussions, guilt and shame, and the possibility of losing relationships. However, therapy can help us navigate these fears and build our emotional intelligence. It provides a judgment-free space that gives us the necessary support to overcome these issues and set healthy boundaries without fear of judgment.


One of the first steps to setting an emotional boundary is to recognize what triggers your emotions. This means paying attention to how people make you feel, identifying patterns in the way they act and reacting differently when it happens again. Once you have identified these triggers, it will be easier for you to set a limit and establish a new behavior that best suits the situation.


5. Empowering Yourself


Therapy is a powerful tool that can help you realize your worth and empower you to build a strong sense of self-esteem. Setting healthy emotional boundaries is an act of self-love and respect. It tells people that you care for yourself and that you expect the same treatment from them. Therapy helps you identify what is essential to you, what you can and cannot accept, and build confidence in your decisions.


Another important step is understanding what kind of emotions are appropriate for certain situations, and which ones are not acceptable. With growing confidence and self-esteem you will be able to discern what is right sized emotion for situations. For example, expressing anger in certain instances may be considered inappropriate or out of proportion and should therefore be avoided as much as possible. It's also important to remember that setting an emotional boundary requires self-awareness and self-control; it’s about being able to calm down, think objectively and respond with balance instead of reacting impulsively with intense emotion.


6. Set Your Boundary


Finally, if/when possible, communicate your boundaries clearly and calmly with those who have been making you feel uncomfortable or disrespected. Explain the situation in detail (if appropriate or safe) so they understand why it’s important for them to accept the boundary you’ve set; this helps them appreciate your perspective better while also allowing them to resolve any potential issues between both parties. Ultimately, setting an emotional boundary is about taking responsibility for your own emotions while respecting others' feelings too – doing so will bring more balance into all relationships in your life.


Get Started Setting Boundaries


Setting healthy emotional boundaries is a vital aspect of our emotional and mental well-being, and as reviewed above- having healthy relationships with ourselves and others. Therapy can provide us with the necessary tools to set them and reinforce them in our daily lives. It is an empowering and life-changing experience that helps us build healthy relationships while also respecting our emotional and mental health. So if you're struggling to set healthy boundaries, therapy might be the way to go. Consider finding a therapist in San Francisco, or wherever you are to support you in developing and setting boundaries.


I hope that this blog helps you feel better equipped to start setting boundaries in your life ad consider support through therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still finding yourself full of questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear what is happening for you, what you’re looking for and provide some direction to finding the right therapist for you.


If you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!




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