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How to Set Boundaries with Toxic People
December 13, 2019
When we talk about any type of recovery, whether it’s related to addiction or a mental health diagnosis, boundaries are always at the forefront of discussion. Boundaries keep us safe, they illuminate unhealthy patterns, and most importantly, they eliminate toxic people from our lives. At first, setting boundaries can feel jarring, especially if you’ve always been a people pleaser or the peacekeeper in your family or social circle. But without boundaries, we set ourselves up for emotional energy overload and end up taking on people’s toxic trash.
The hardest part of setting boundaries when we begin our journey into recovery is dealing with the emotions that follow. Setting boundaries means making decisions about who and what you will allow in your life. Drawing lines in the sand can make us feel guilty, shameful and anxious. But when you think about why you are setting boundaries in the first place, you realize how counterproductive those feelings are. We want to protect our hearts, our energy, and our minds, yet we end up punishing ourselves for a simple act of self-care.
To move beyond these feelings, it’s important to understand why this happens. For most of us, we experienced shaming behaviors in childhood and or some type of relationship trauma that made us feel we were not whole, we were not safe, and or we were not valued. A lot of times this type of trauma ends up causing us to manifest codependent behaviors or seek external validation because we are unable to affirm our own self-worth. This void also opens the door for addiction to manifest. But once we realize why we are afraid to set boundaries, we can work through those feelings and start the process of self-love and self-care.
The Steps to Success When Creating and Maintaining Boundaries
The first step is trusting your gut. If someone is making you feel bad, in any way, you don’t have to second-guess their place in your life. Your feelings are valid, but it can feel daunting to cut someone out, or at the least, create a new set of rules for them to follow.
First, ask yourself what you need and be honest with your answer. Do you need space from this person? Do you need them to change a specific behavior such as their tone or lack of listening? Is this a one-sided relationship that needs balancing? Or is this a toxic wasteland that is never-ending? Once you understand what you need from the relationship, it becomes easier to decide where to draw the line.
Here are some helpful ways to enact boundary work in preparation for the next step:
- Writing: Write down your experiences with the other person, journal your feelings, and decide what you need. Decide where you need to hold the line and if this person needs to go for good. Sometimes seeing your thoughts and feelings on paper can provide clarity and insight that you may miss while stewing over the same ideas in your head.
- Practice: Once you’ve decided you new set of rules for a specific person, practice the conversation with a friend, family member, mentor, or healthcare professional. They can help you find your words and help you stay in your power when the real interaction occurs. Practicing can help you see all the angles of how the conversation might go and help you learn how to stay strong and not back down if they react poorly to your request(s).
- Make a Plan: What is it going to look and feel like on the other side of this boundary-setting conversation? How are you going to maintain the boundary? It’s important to make a plan and stick to it. Give yourself some coping mechanisms and supports so that if you feel compelled to lessen or remove the boundary, you have a plan in place to keep you on track.
Secondly, setting boundaries means following through. It means no matter what happens between you and the other person, you hold the line. You don’t “cut them slack” because that’s what you’ve been doing for the entire relationship. Once we set a boundary, the only way it works is to maintain it at all costs. These moments may feel difficult, but you have been fighting for self-love and health for too long. Now is the time to honor your needs, forgoing the needs of others.
Setting and maintaining boundaries can be difficult, especially if you’re struggling with addiction. You’re not alone in this struggle. The Summer House Detox Center in South Florida has a proven track record of helping people get clean, get their minds right, and set boundaries that will change their lives in ways they never before imagined. Call today at (800) 719-1090 to get some insight into our treatment programs and start the road to recovery with trained professionals that are here to make you comfortable and teach you the importance of self-love and self-worth. Visit our addiction treatment center in Miami at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161.
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