“Healthy boundaries are like having a front door with a lock on it. You have the right to keep out unpleasant visitors.”

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by, or entangled with, emotionally needy others. Such boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth.

Emotional boundaries are crucial in helping us to enjoy healthy relationship and avoid unhealthy or dysfunctional relationships.

When we see fences, walls or a door, we understand that physical boundary, which states “this is where someone’s property begins”.  Boundaries define us. They define what is mine and what is not mine, where I end and someone else begins.

When I travel I hire a pet sitter. Wouldn’t it be dangerous if I didn’t explain how to care for our home and pets expecting that person to be responsible for our property?  Boundaries help us distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. It is like that emotionally as well.

“Emotion” comes from the Latin word meaning, “to move out”.  Our emotions are an expression of an inward phenomenon known as “feelings”, which are an expression of physical and psychological perceptions concerning our being.

Setting healthy emotional boundaries help us to “guard our heart with all diligence”.  We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside – keep the good in and the bad out! Emotional boundaries help us deal with own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.

Our skin is another example of a boundary as it defines me, it separates me from others. It protects my blood and bones and keeps germs outside, protecting me from many infections and ailments. It also has openings to let the “good “ in like food, and the “bad” out like waste products.  As a veteran colon hydrotherapist, I constantly teach the benefits of “good” food health and consequences of “bad” nutrition which results in a clogged, sluggish colon.  If someone continuously ignores their boundary by consuming processed, mineral lacking foods, acidic foods, than their body cannot maintain a “healthy boundary” and will result in dis-ease.

Boundaries are learned. If yours weren’t valued as a child, you didn’t learn you had them. Any kind of abuse violates personal boundaries, including teasing. You may not believe you have any rights if yours weren’t respected growing up.  Healthy emotional and mental internal boundaries help you not to assume responsibility for, or obsess about, other people’s lives, feelings and problems – something codependents commonly do.

Co-dependents: It’s hard for codependents to set boundaries because:

  1. They put others’ needs and feelings first;
  2. They don’t know themselves;
  3. They don’t feel they have rights;
  4. They believe setting boundaries jeopardizes the relationship; and
  5. They never learned to have healthy boundaries.

Setting effective boundaries is an “art”.  If it’s done in anger or by nagging, you won’t be heard. Boundaries are not meant to punish, but rather for your well-being and protection. They’re more effective when you’re assertive, calm, firm and courteous. If that doesn’t work, you may need to communicate consequences to encourage compliance. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish, its self-love – you say “yes” to yourself each time you say “no” to someone’s not respecting your boundaries. It usually takes encouragement to make yourself a priority and to persist, especially when you receive pushback.

Anger is often a signal that action is required. If you feel resentful or victimized and are blaming someone or something, it might mean you haven’t been setting boundaries for yourself. If you feel anxious or guilty about setting boundaries, your relationship suffers when you are unhappy.  Once you practice setting boundaries you’ll feel empowered, suffer less anxiety, resentment and guilt. You will receive more respect from others and improved relationships.

Unhealthy boundaries are often times a result of being raised in dysfunctional families where maturation and the individuation processes were not properly understood nor the child respected as an individual. In these types of families the unmet needs of parents or other adults are sometimes so overwhelming that the task of raising children is demoted to a secondary role, and dysfunction is the likely result.

Manipulators. We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods.  Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive or abusive tactics.  Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality, it’s to achieve an ulterior motive. Other times, its veiled hostility and when abusive methods are used, the objective is merely power. You may not realize that you’re being unconsciously intimidated.

If you grew up being manipulated, it’s  harder to discern what’s going on because it’s familiar. You might have a “gut feeling” of discomfort or anger, but on the surface the manipulator may use words that are pleasant, ingratiating, reasonable, or that play on your guilt or sympathy so you override your instincts and don’t know what to say. Codependents have trouble being direct and assertive and may use manipulation to get their way. They’re also prey for being manipulated by narcissists, borderline personalities, sociopaths and other codependents, including addicts.

Controllers. These people do not respect the boundaries of others.  They have difficulty “hearing and accepting” others boundaries. They resist taking responsibility for their own lives so they need to control others. To them, “no means maybe and maybe means yes”. Some controllers come off as bullies, manipulative and aggressive while others make it sound like they care so much for you they don’t want you to go out of your way when all the while they are saying, “I don’t hear nor do I care about your boundary. This is what I want.”  They live in a world of yes so there’s no place for someone else’s no. They attempt to get others to change, to make the world fit their idea of the way life should be by neglecting their own responsibility to accept others as they are.

Negative boundaries.  Manipulation, codependency, emotional blackmail and passive-aggressiveness are all forms of negative boundaries.  They use charm, flattery, offer favors and gifts to be accepted and loved. Again, if someone does not have healthy boundaries, they will not respect yours.  Instead, they will come off as caring, concerned and only caring for you, but all the while refusing to hear your boundary of “no, that is unacceptable. I said what I meant and meant what I said”.  All the while they are endeavoring to manipulate and control a situation.

Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by, or enmeshed with emotionally needy others. Such boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth.

Consequences.  Trespassing on other people’s property carries consequences. “No Trespassing” signs usually carry a threat of prosecution if someone steps over the boundaries.  Consequences give some good “barbs” to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard those values.

Modern Medicine.  There is no question or doubt modern medicine misses (and dismisses) the emotional component of physical healing. There is also no question or doubt there is an emotional component of all healing. The USA is one of the few countries that routinely ignore this. All other predominant practices in the world address emotional wellness, along with physical healing.

Limits.  Two aspects of limits stand out when it comes to developing better boundaries. The first is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right.

Boundaries are inherent in any relationship God has created, for they define the two parties. There is no unity without distinct identities, and boundaries define the distinct identities involved. Boundaries help us to be the best we can be – in God’s image.

We usually know what is the right thing to do in life, but we are rarely motivated to do it unless there’s good reason. We need to see that what is right is also good for us and continue working on discipline and desire to maintain healthy boundaries.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Many people have a problem with determining the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. They fail to deal with external resistance because they feel they have to “give in” to the other person or they are not being forgiving.  In fact, many people are afraid to forgive because they equate that with letting down their boundaries one more time and giving the other person the power to hurt them again.

First and foremost.  We always need to forgive.  Wow! That’s huge for most people.  They would rather “own” the hurt caused by others and keep a tally sheet of how screwed up someone else is not looking at their own “ill health”.  Forgiveness is something we do in our heart by releasing someone from a debt that they owe us.  We write off the person’s debt and she/he no longer owes us.  We no longer condemn them.  They are clean!  Only ONE party is needed for forgiveness: me.  The person who owes me a debt does not have to ask my forgiveness. It is a work of “grace – unmerited favor” in my own heart.  Then, I, too, am released!

Reconciliation.  We do not always achieve this, plain and simple. A person may not own or admit their fault or break in a situation, resulting in reconciliation. Forgiveness takes one; reconciliation takes two. We do not open ourselves up to the other party until they have truly owned their part of the problem.  It is our job to clearly communicate to them – while you have forgiven them, you do not trust them yet, for they have not proven to be trustworthy.  It is with our own healthy boundaries we must view people, not hold things over their head, make them jump through hoop after hoop, but rather make it available for restoration in the relationship as they develop their healthy boundaries of accountability and proven trustworthiness.

The “healer” role.   I never call myself a “healer” as I believe God is the true Healer.  Rather I am a “Wellness Facilitator”, someone who has a plethora of resources to assist and guide a client on a stable, healthy path that they may live more vibrantly in every area of life.  Having healthy boundaries is imperative to the relationship of Wellness Facilitator and Client.  History has shown if a Client does not know how to “listen” and work through their needed emotional cleansings, they will undoubtedly attack when the health provider stands on healthy boundaries. This may result in anger, negative reviews, and more, but the bottom line is they will not receive the positive results in their lives that are available if they do not determine to set their own healthy boundaries and respect the role of the wellness provider.

More often than not manipulators and controllers are the ones with cancer diagnosis, chronic constipation, adrenal fatigue, no gall bladder, no thyroid –  all stemming from their unhealthy boundaries. I am not a licensed social worker or a medical doctor, yet how can we as Naturopaths and Certified Holistic Practitioners not discuss the much needed emotional pieces of a person’s life in regards to achieving optimal health?  Therefore, it is imperative we as natural practitioners ensure we have stable, healthy emotional boundaries and direct others to materials for their own well-being.

Thirty years ago I was taught the vital importance of “zipping up” each morning before entering the work place.  Again, it is a learned walk of an artful life.  We all make mistakes, but the healthy person acknowledges them and addresses them accordingly, be it with forgiveness and reconciliation or whatever else is needed to get “right thinking and actions” back in order.

Boundaries are the framework within which the therapist/client relationship occurs. Boundaries make the relationship professional, and safe for the client, and set the parameters within which services are delivered. Professional boundaries typically include fee setting, length of a session, time of session, personal and professional disclosures, expectations of services, limits regarding the use of touch, and the general tone of the professional relationship. In a more subtle fashion, the boundary can refer to the line between the self of the client and the self of the therapist.

The primary concern in establishing and managing boundaries with each individual client must be in the best interests of the client. Except for behaviors of a sexual nature or obvious conflict of interest activity, boundary considerations often are not clear-cut matters of right and wrong. Rather, they are dependent upon many factors and require careful thinking through of all the issues, always keeping in mind the best interests of the client.

I believe ongoing education in all facets of healing must be acquired and practiced by anyone in a Naturopathic/holistic realm.  During an “emotional wellness” conference I was again deeply saddened by the dozens of practitioners stating their hesitancy in “standing up for their healthy boundaries in the office” out of fear of negative online, public reviews.  I looked around the room and saw tears and anger as people were in agreement that possible online reviews dictate how they deal with Clients.

We live in a time of social media frenzy.  Where can you go that someone (or dozens of people) are not on their phones “chatting”, uploading photos (which you could be in without consent!) or texting while you’re trying to enjoy a cup of joe or hear a wave of the ocean yet, you’re forced to hear their personal conversations?  There’s just no peace, not even in the ladies room!

If I go somewhere and do not care for a person or their service I will probably speak up to give them the opportunity to make it right.  Then I choose to either return or move on as I am NOT responsible for how they choose to receive the communication I have given them.  I do not leave, take the time to get online and rip them open.  How about forgiveness or “just go somewhere else”!  Do you see the intensity of “unhealthy boundaries” surrounding us?  Many would rather pour their negativity on us, be it verbally or online, with the distinct intent to cause as much harm as possible.  It’s all about power and control.  The news is full of riots, anger outbursts, murder and violence – these emotions all stem from unhealthy boundaries.

“Manipulative controllers are less honest than the aggressive controllers as they try to persuade people out of their boundaries. They talk others into yes. They indirectly manipulate circumstances to get their way. They seduce others into carrying their burdens. They use guilt messages.

Manipulators deny their desires to control others; they brush aside their own self-centeredness.  They try to put their over-responsibility for the feelings of others as their reasoning for disrespecting your boundary.  When a healthy boundary is put in front of a controller / manipulator, they withdraw from the relationship when that is what they need most. We need to embrace failure instead of trying to avoid it. Those people who spend their lives trying to avoid failure are also eluding maturity.” The boundaries book team.

Holistic providers fight every day to maintain healthy boundaries knowing there will be Clients who may get angry and go away pouting, who may choose to participate in the “blame game”, instead of freely availing themselves to rid the unhealthy boundaries they embrace.

Over 30 years, I have watched clients go from place to place asking the same questions and either not being heard or chose not to listen to sound advice. Then they come to this office wanting “microwave healing” and are not willing to investigate their unhealthy emotions.  Well, it just doesn’t work like that.  Healing MUST include: body, mind and spirit; physical, emotional and spiritual or the root drivers for the ongoing problems will not be addressed and healing will not occur to the depth available.

Conclusion. “Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.  They are built out of a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.” Wikipedia

Early on, my Clients are informed there will be emotional cleansing and healing needed to be addressed as most organs have specific emotions attached to them (see next month’s article for more info). When a Client is presented with specific books to read and their response is, “I don’t need that or I didn’t get anything out of that”, I know there will be problems and roadblocks inhibiting our having a rich, healing journey.  We all have free will and cannot override another person’s desires so each of us is responsible for the amount of healing and deliverance we receive.  May we all choose “to move out” and embrace the “good” available to us day by day!

Our office is rich in books on this subject and so much more.  Our library is available to peruse and take advantage of prior to and after any service offered so come on in, sit down, make some tea and enjoy learning!

More information and additional excerpts may be found at:





Boundaries: How to Take Control of Your Life, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine