Childhood Trauma and Boundaries 

 By Muskaan Karwal, Previous Practicum Student, The Gatehouse

Boundaries are typically seen as “lines”. They are seen as a line that marks off one thing from another. An individual can differentiate between things like personal space with the help of boundaries. These boundaries mark our territory, that is, the space in which we feel comfortable, physically, and emotionally. When someone tries to cross that boundary or crosses the boundary or line, we feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, and irritated.  

 When an individual goes through trauma in their childhood, they are likely to lower down their boundaries and not defend themselves. Experiences that are painful and traumatic can lead individuals to forgetting they can say “no” to people if they are asking too much. This is known as boundary-pushing and it can cause a lot of emotional hurts. Trauma can help us replace our healthy boundaries with the fact that we must agree with everyone to not cause any problems. We tend to lose focus and agree with them even if they are asking too much. Some examples which may help you recognize that the boundaries are being crossed are given below:  

  • A friend calls and just talks about their own issues without asking if you have the mental space to listen to them 
  • A person trying to hug you or physically touch you when you don’t feel like reciprocating it.  
  • A coworker comments on your dressing style and asks if you’re going on a hot date tonight. 

 When people cross boundaries, you are left feeling frustrated, anxious, angry, and annoyed at the same time. There are times when people need to understand each other’s boundaries and not just be selfish all the time. For healthy relationships, it is important to talk about each other’s boundaries to make sure that none of you are crossing them and are being respectful towards each other. This will foster understanding and make the bond much stronger. Talking about one’s boundaries helps to know how the other person would experience you and how they would expect to be treated. 

 Some ways that you can use to firm up your boundaries are:  

  • Communicating with individuals so that they know when they are crossing the line.  
  • Saying “no” or “you’re crossing the line.” 
  • Value your own opinion 
  • Understanding your needs and wants and standing up for yourself 

Boundaries are not just physical rather they are emotional as well. People will try to cross the boundaries; however, you will have to stand up for yourself and say no. Learn to say no and see if people stick around. If not, you should be grateful because you don’t need negative people in your life who don’t understand or respect boundaries.