Personal boundaries  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.

Types of personal boundary

There are two categories of personal boundary, physical and psychological - (for physical boundaries see personal space and proxemics).

According to Nina Brown, there are four types of psychological boundary:

  • Soft - A person with soft boundaries merges with other people's boundaries. Someone with a soft boundary is easily manipulated.
  • Spongy - A person with spongy boundaries is like a combination of having soft and rigid boundaries. They permit less emotional contagion than soft boundaries but more than rigid. People with spongy boundaries are unsure what to let in and what to keep out.
  • Rigid - A person with rigid boundaries is closed or walled off so nobody can get close to them either physically or emotionally. This is often the case if someone has been physically, emotionally or psychologically abused. Rigid boundaries can be selective which depend on time, place or circumstances and are usually based on a bad previous experience in a similar situation.
  • Flexible - This is the ideal. Similar to selective rigid boundaries but the person has more control. The person decides what to let in and what to keep out, are resistant to emotional contagion, manipulation and are difficult to exploit.

The bad boundaries of narcissists

According to Hotchkiss, narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist will be treated as if they are part of the narcissist and be expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Personal boundaries" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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