With the foundation laid, Cloud and Townsend proceed to take a look at “cracks” in the foundation and how they affect the individuals and those they’re closest to. The authors note that usually the earlier and more severe a boundary injury occurs, the greater the problem that reveals itself later in life. There are many injuries that can happen including:
– Withdrawal from Boundaries
– Hostility Against Boundaries
– Lack of Limits
– Inconsistent Limits
– Our Own Character Traits
– Our Own Sinfulness
Let’s take a brief look at each to gain a bit more understanding of how exactly these happen and the consequences of each.
Withdrawal from Boundaries:
Reaching all the way back to the bonding phase, withdrawing love when another expresses their boundaries or another withdrawing love from you when you express your boundaries is the first injury discussed. This is where that anchored love that you know will always be there gives you the comfort to express to others how much is too much and how far is too far without fear that they’ll disappear or shut down. From a parenting perspective, limits have to be set because some behavior just can’t be tolerated. However, if withdrawal continues into adulthood the idea that “when I’m good I am loved, and when I am not good, I am not loved” gets set in stone. What is left is an individual who believes that setting boundaries in their life will cause the ones closest to them to abandon them and leave them isolated.
Hostility Against Boundaries:
When the natural separation between a child and parent is derailed due to the parent becoming angry at the separation, a hostility against boundaries is formed. When the parent always expresses their wishes and controls their children, the child becomes a people-pleaser rather than a God-pleaser. After being punished for trying to separate and make their own decisions, children grow hurt and resentful towards their parents or other hostile figures. Rather than “beating the lesson into them”, the parent should model God’s discipline and let the consequences of actions do the teaching. The authors state that “When parents greet their children’s disagreement, disobedience or practicing with simple hostility, the children are denied the benefit of being trained.” That’s where the real damage is done here. Instead of trying to figure out how the world works and be a productive member of it, their life is consumed with trying to be compliant and avoid anger. Many problems arise from this later in life including depression, anxiety, relationship conflicts and substance-abuse.
The old term that we used to use for overcontrolling parents is “helicopter parents”. No matter where the person went or what they did, their parent(s) were there paving an ‘easy road’ ahead or cleaning up messes behind them. Children (and people in general) need to have room to make mistakes so they can learn, fix it, grow and move on. This is problem relating to too many limits and rules that are too strict. Growing up in this environment results in adults who are dependent, enmeshment conflict (family too close and in each other’s business and boundaries) and difficulty setting firm boundaries (since someone else has always done it or changed theirs).
Lack of Limits:
This boundary injury is the exact opposite of Overcontrol. Whereas overcontrolling parents have too many limits and strict rules, a family with a lack of limits had few to no rules limits and very relaxed rules. This is what happens when the children are “allowed to run wild”. While the children may seem happy about it, problems will most definitely sink in later in life. Children who had no limits tend to be careless and undisciplined as adults (because who corrected them growing up?) In regards to a woman who grew up without limits, the authors note that “it cost others a lot to be in a relationship with her.” Since the individual who didn’t have limits either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to take care of responsibilities and clean up their messes, those who love them often get left holding the bag. Cloud and Townsend are firm that discipline is a necessary part of growing up. They state that “No one can really escape the disciplines of life. They will always win out. We always reap what we sow. The later in life it is, the sadder a picture it is, for the stakes are higher.”
When we think about inconsistent limits, it’s helpful to think of a grandfather clock’s pendulum swinging back and forth. One day or hour and strict limits and rules are enforced and a short while later they’re not. The pendulum motion back and forth between enforcing strict rules and then not caring causes serious damage. This is what defines inconsistent limits. Families where substance abusers run the home often model this behavior for their children. Not having any safe foundation, people who experience this have a hard time feeling safe and secure in a relationship. They’re always waiting for the other person’s “pendulum” to swing the other way.
This is the first non-relational boundary injury. A trauma in someone’s life can take many forms, but it’s always an intense emotional pain that leaves scars. Many types of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, etc), physical maladies (accidents, diseases, sicknesses) and losses (abandonment, death, separation) can all be traumatic. All of these types are events that happen suddenly in the life of the individual rather than the previous boundary injuries that build over time.
Our Own Character Traits:
Our outlook on the world and how we respond to events and people around us can also play a part in boundary problems. A naturally quiet and reserved individual may be at a disadvantage if they tend to be compliant in comparison to a more aggressive and outspoken individual.
Our Own Sinfulness:
Finally, the burden that we bear stemming all the way back to Adam & Eve plays a part in this. Since boundaries are necessary between people who are in relationships, they should be built to honor God. However, because of the part that sin has in our lives, the selfish nature can take over and influence us to go against God’s will. We can choose to be selfish, controlling, rebellious and ignorant of others pain and needs as we pursue sin. It is quite literally the poisoned cherry on the top of a great big bowl of boundary problems.