Sobriety Navigator: Physical boundaries & co-dependency.
Boundaries are a vital part of the development of our individuality. Having healthy physical boundaries reinforces our sense of who we are as individuals, promotes dignity, self-respect and healthy self-esteem. They empower and teach us how to properly interact with others.
When a child is physically abused or neglected they will naturally feel bad about themselves, having been demeaned and belittled. These physical actions of abuse teach the child that, “You don’t matter.” The only defense is to “tune out,” in order to cope with the overwhelming feelings of anger, hurt, grief, shame and sense of abandonment.
When a child is sexually abused, the impact of the violation is so toxic and disgusting the child will disassociate in an attempt to escape the emotional environment the sexual abuser created. This violation, like no other, can send a child so deep inside of himself (or herself) that he can lose touch with reality in order to cope and survive.
Personal privacy violations, such as not being allowed to lock the bathroom door at an age appropriate time, creates a stressful, anxiety provoking internal response that can make the child feel like he is under a microscope. These constant physical boundary violations can make a child rigid, repress themselves and act in robotic like ways in an attempt to control what’s going on inside. Feeling exposed at all times can become so stressful that the child will start to disassociate from the emotional exhaustion these physical violations produce.
When a parent walks around inappropriately covered and body parts are thinly veiled, or when a parent or adult family member dresses or undress in front of children (same sex or not) it can provoke toxic feelings of disgust and contempt. These are prime examples of a lack of respect and physical boundary violation.
The lack of physical boundaries when eating can also be toxic and shame provoking. When a person has no qualms about taking food off your plate, or picks up your eating utensils and uses them, or grabs the food right out of your hand, these are all violations. A mother who fixes a meal for the family, puts a utensil in her mouth and then back in the main dish, has committed a violation. She makes everyone eat after her.
Violating physical boundaries can cause psychological damage. The most common response to these violations is a pattern of tuning out. Over time, this pattern will often become a habit. The habit of tuning out can, in time, rob us of the present, not only as a child, but also an adult. We can lose touch with reality. Life becomes hazy and we may feel like we are crazy. When children are forced to deny their reality, they will often lose touch and they will sicken.
Growing up in a household without physical boundaries creates people who may never know who they truly are. The process of claiming one's authentic identity is accelerated and enhanced by learning and applying bounaries.
By Cynthia Peterson