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I've been ruminating on the subject of boundaries lately.

I see the phenomena, both at home and at work. For spatial boundaries, the aggressor spreads his/her stuff all over every available surface. Pre-existing claimed space is either invaded or messed up or covered over, the way my cats handle the litter box.

At work we (my staff and I) have moved stuff back into the offender's cubicle, which then becomes the rationale for not having the report done on time. "You moved my stuff, so you pay for it by not having the data you need." At home it goes, "Well, then you know the bills won't get paid on time." The ultimate threat stops one in one's tracks. In this economic climate, there is not much worse than not paying the bills and the mortgage by the due date.

Physical boundaries can be drawn, but it is a pain, a daily chore to maintain them.

The psychological boundaries are harder to define sometimes, until one realizes that the conversation taking place has been hijacked by a participant into a monolog of his/her ideas, preferences, or anecdotes. Or a bombardment of questions which the other is required to answer or be considered rude or angry.

Boundary invasions can be very subtle. For instance, one says, "I'm taking a vacation day to relax" and the other says, "Good. I've wanted you to take a day off. You're tired out. Don't do anything strenuous."

At first it seems so solicitous of the person's welfare, but notice that the decision and the activity planned have been taken over by the other person as his/her idea and purpose. How different it would have been had the other said, "I hope you have a good time."

More insidious is that since the other person has claimed ownership of the whole plan, he/she can then decide that some activity or errand won't really spoil your day off, since it will only take a few minutes. "Time off" has been defined by the other.

"But I only said...I don't understand why you won't just do this one thing...."

Psychological boundaries can be established, but are difficult to maintain and require constant vigilance. Who wants to live like that? But...better to maintain them than to have one's identity and thoughts subsumed by another.

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