Building blocks of healthy relationships
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Building Blocks of Healthy Relationships. Dr. Elham Shoja. A recap of last seminar . Our first ever relationship begins at conception and continues in mother’s womb Planned pregnancy, Mentally/physically fit mother means healthy environment for the fetus

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A recap of last seminar
A recap of last seminar

  • Our first ever relationship begins at conception and continues in mother’s womb

  • Planned pregnancy, Mentally/physically fit mother means healthy environment for the fetus

  • Unplanned (unwanted) pregnancy, and/or mental/physical illness, difficult pregnancy/delivery means distressed fetus

  • Our primary relationship with our parents/caregivers sets the stone for the upcoming relationships in adulthood

  • Parents reflect back an image onto the child, an image the remains with them for the rest of their lives (Mirroring)

  • Bad/negative reflection results in low self-esteem, and self-loath, whereas good/positive reflection results in self-esteem and confidence and self-respect

Who am i today
Who am I today?

  • My relationship history with my family of origin has taught me how to relate to others, and how should others relate to me

  • Intimacy is what I learned from my first relationship with parents

  • Loving is what I received from my parents

  • The way they treated me left me with the definition of “self”

  • The way they treated me and each-other taught me how to treat self/others

  • How they made me feel about myself is who I see within relation to others

  • If they respected my boundaries, I’ll respect others

Who am i within a relationship1
Who am I within a relationship?

  • What do these characteristics

  • represent?


  • Pleaser Politically Correct

  • Bossy Cautious

  • Jealous Fake

  • Gossiper Timid

  • Protector Shy

  • Controlling Conservative

  • Submissive Suspicious

  • Nosy Entertainer

  • Aggressive Liar

  • Two-faced Blunt

Healthy boundaries create healthy relationships
Healthy boundaries create healthy relationships

  • What is a boundary?

  • A boundary is the:

  • Emotional and physical space between you and another person.

  • Where you end and another begins and where you begin and another ends.

  • Limit or line over which you will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact of its being crossed in the past.

  • Established set of limits over your physical and emotional well-being which you expect others to respect in their relationship with you.

  • Healthy emotional and physical distance you can maintain between you and another so that you do not become overly enmeshed and/or dependent nor detached and/or overly independent.

Boundaries can be physical or emotional
Boundaries can be physical or emotional

  • Physical boundaries, define who can touch us, how someone can touch us, and how physically close another may approach us.

  • Emotional boundaries,define where our feelings end and another's begins. For example,

  • Do we take responsibility for our feelings and needs, and allow others to do the same?

  • Or do we feel overly responsible for the feelings and needs of others and neglect our own?

  • Are we able to say "no"?

Boundaries can be physical or emotional1
Boundaries can be physical or emotional

  • Can we ask for what we need?

  • Are we compulsive people pleasers?

  • Do we become upset simply because others are upset around us?

  • Do we mimic the opinions of whomever we are around?

  • The answers to these questions help define the "property lines" of our emotional boundaries.


  • Figure 1, illustrates healthy boundaries.

  • Figure 2, it is difficult to distinguish one partner from the other. This is called enmeshment or collapsed boundaries.

  • Figure 3, illustrates a relationship where each partner is completely self-contained, having very little impact on the other and very little emotional connection

Healthy boundaries
Healthy Boundaries

  • Healthy personal boundaries are evident and effective when you know who you are, and you treat yourself and others with respect. If you have healthy boundaries, you may:

  • Feel free to say yes or no without guilt, anger or fear.

  • Refuse to tolerate abuse or disrespect.

  • Know when a problem is yours or another person’s – and refuse to take on others’ problems.

  • Have a strong sense of identity.

  • Respect yourself.

  • Share responsibility with others, and expect reciprocity in relationships.

  • Feel freedom, security, peace, joy and confidence.

Unhealthy boundaries inflexible rigid
Unhealthy Boundaries: Inflexible & rigid

  • Personal boundaries can become rigid and unyielding – like “walls” between you and others. If you have inflexible boundaries, you may:

  • Fear being hurt, vulnerable, or taken advantage of.

  • Have difficulty identifying your wants, needs and feelings.

  • Say no if requests involve close interaction with others.

  • Avoid intimacy by staying freakishly busy, picking fights, or avoiding people.

  • Refuse to share personal information.

  • Fear abandonment or suffocation, and avoid close relationships.

  • Struggle with loneliness, low self-esteem, distrust, anger, and control.

Unhealthy boundaries loose collapsed
Unhealthy Boundaries: loose & Collapsed

  • Personal boundaries can become weak or even nonexistent. The proverbial “doormat” has collapsed boundaries. If you have collapsed boundaries, you may:

  • Say yes to all requests because you fear rejection and abandonment.

  • Tolerate abuse or disrespectful treatment.

  • Feel you deserve to be treated poorly.

  • Avoid conflict.

  • Have no sense of who you are or what you feel, need, want and think.

  • Not see flaws or weaknesses in others.

  • Focus on pleasing those around you.

  • Take on the feelings of others.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Over Enmeshment:

  • This symptom requires everyone to follow the rule that everyone must do everything together and that everyone is to think, feel and act in the same way. No one is allowed to deviate from the family or group norms. Everyone looks homogeneous. Uniqueness, autonomy and idiosyncratic behaviors are viewed as deviations from the norm.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries1
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Excessive Detachment:

  • This symptom occurs when neither you nor anyone else in the group or family is able to establish any fusion of emotions or affiliation of feelings. Everyone is totally independent from everyone else and there doesn't seem to be anything to hold you and them together in healthy union. You and they seem to lack a common purpose, goal, identity or rationale for existing together. There is a seeming lack of desire from you and the other members to draw together to form a union because you fear loss of personal identity.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries2
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Victimhood or Martyrdom:

  • In this symptom, you identify yourself as a violated victim and become overly defensive to ward off further violation. Or it can be that once you accept your victimization you continue to be knowingly victimized and then let others know of your martyrdom.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries3
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Chip on the Shoulder:

  • This symptom is reflected in your interactions with others. Because of your anger over past violation of your emotional and/or physical space and the real or perceived ignoring of your rights by others, you have a "chip on your shoulder'' that declares "I dare you to come too close!''

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries4
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Invisibility:

  • This symptom involves your pulling in or over-controlling so that others even yourself never know how you are really feeling or what you are really thinking. Your goal is not to be seen or heard so that your boundaries are not violated.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries5
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Rejected:

  • This symptom is a result of your insecurity from real or perceived experiences of being ignored, roved or rejected in the past. This feels like a violation of your efforts to expand or stretch your boundaries to include others in your space. Once rejected you take the defensive posture to reject others before they reject you. This keeps you inward and unwilling or fearful of opening up your space to others.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries6
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Cold and Distant:

  • This symptom builds walls or barriers to insure that others do not permeate or invade your emotional or physical space. This too can be a defense, due to previous hurt and pain, from being violated, hurt, ignored or rejected. This stance is your declaration that "I've drawn the line over which I dare you to cross.'' It is a way to keep others out and put them off.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries7
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Smothering:

  • This symptom results when another is overly solicitous of your needs and interests. This cloying interest is overly intrusive into your emotional and physical space. It can be so overwhelming that you feel like you are being strangled, held too tightly and lack freedom to breathe on your own. You feel violated, used and overwhelmed.

Symptoms of unhealthy boundaries8
Symptoms of Unhealthy boundaries

  • Lack of Privacy:

  • This symptom is present when you feel that nothing you think, feel or do is your own business. You are expected to report to others in your family or group all the detail and content of your feelings, reactions, opinions, relationships and dealings with the outside world. You begin to feel that nothing you experience can be kept in the privacy of your own domain. You begin to believe you don't have a private domain or your own space into which you can escape to be your own person.

How do you set healthy boundaries
How Do You Set Healthy Boundaries?

  • Identify who you are as a person and within relationships

  • Identify the ways in which your boundaries are unhealthy. Make a list of how they express themselves in your life. Identify your symptoms.

  • Nurture your right to have boundaries!

  • Make a list of personal rights (i.e. boundaries) in your relationships and paste it where you can read it often.

  • Keep a journal and record the pain associated with not maintaining healthy boundaries in your relationships. (Sometimes pain is a great motivator.)

How do you set healthy boundaries1
How Do You Set Healthy Boundaries?

  • Look for role models of healthy boundaries in your life. When confronting a boundary challenging situation ask yourself “What would my role model do?” Better yet, if your role model is a part of your life, ask them!

  • Build in time for yourself away from your relationship on a regular basis. This will include alone time, time with your close friends, time for spiritual growth, and time to attend to life’s little responsibilities.

  • If you have difficulty saying ‘No,” look for opportunities to practice. If you have difficulty saying “Yes” to any activity that involves interacting with others, look for opportunities to practice.

  • Seek counseling to examine the roots of your unhealthy boundaries.