Building Walls vs. Creating Boundaries. What’s the Difference?

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In college (I am a former drug-addict who dropped out of high-school and finally started college at the age of 29 and I am still not done yet I will have my degree when I am one-hundred) I learned that a lot of the therapeutic process is self-revelation. Asking open-ended questions and allowing people to answer some of their own questions, is valuable. (And why counselors don’t give advice, but help with guided conversation.)
Often, what will happen is people will talk and explore their feelings and come to realizations about their lives and their experiences just by sharing. Sometimes, we have to find our own way through things even if other people can already see them.

I had a  quick conversation on Sunday morning with a friend, and it may have been short one, but it was full. Definitely one of those times where I feel like God gift wrapped a particular sentence just for me knowing it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time.

To sum it up, I mentioned that I feel like I don’t open up to share because I don’t like to let people in too close. I am more of a surface skimmer when it comes to many of my relationships and I prefer to keep most people at a certain, generic distance.

And this friend reminded me that
“Walls are meant to keep people out but boundaries are meant to keep us safe”….

I just stopped talking.
Nothing like spoken truth to shut me up.
It all hit me like a ton of bricks.
I felt excited and surprised.
(Sort of like Doc does in Back to the Future when he has an epiphany and says: “Great Scott!”)

Yes and yesss and all of the yes’s! 
Why had I not made these obvious connections before?
Two things hit me.

1.) “Oh’ my gosh, JUST- like- drug use!!”

*A wall built up around me might be meant to keep me safe but what it does is it ALSO hinders my ability to experience close relationships with people.
It might help to keep the unhealthy or toxic people far away from hurting me but it also keeps out the positive opportunities to form close relationships and friendships.

*JUST LIKE my drug-addiction. JUST LIKE my life of running from pain.
It was all originally meant to keep me safe and to ensure that I wouldn’t have to feel any of the hard things that I was terrified of facing.
I couldn’t feel the negative emotion BUT I ALSO ISOLATED MY LIFE FROM ANYTHING GOOD in the process.
In the end, I COULDN’T FEEL ANYTHING.

2.) Building walls is not the same thing as setting boundaries. 
(repeat.)

All too often I confuse the walls that I build (and knock down and rebuild) with creating and setting healthy boundaries.

Even though both are used to make me feel secure, ultimately, that is not how they both end up working in my life and within my relationships with other humans.

Walls keep me isolated.
Boundaries keep me safe.
Walls keep me hidden.
Boundaries give me freedom.
Walls keep everyone out.
Boundaries keep the right people out.
Walls distance me from everyone.
Boundaries distance me from toxicity.
Walls ask me to stay closed off.
Boundaries push me to open up to my comfort level.
Walls only allow me limited interaction.
Boundaries open the door for limitless connection.
Walls prevent me from experiencing the richness of my relationships.
Boundaries reinforce my self-confidence and urge me to embrace and exhaust the potential in my interactions and connections with others.

There are so many distinct differences between the two and I really *really needed the reminder.

One thing I have learned is that I will *always* have more to learn and I am humbled that I still haven’t forgotten this important piece of information.

And I am grateful to have wise, patient, honest, people in my life.

Tell me how you're feeling.

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