Boundaries, safety, and trust in therapy

When in your life, you were not taught how to have proper boundaries; when you were given mixed messages about what was expected of you; when expressing your needs was punished or ignored; when the only time you felt you got real attention was when your body was being violated – how do we develop a healthy sense of self? How are we able to navigate complex relationships? How are we able to express our needs, without fluctuating between the extremes of angry rejection and clingy neediness? How do we determine who is safe and who isn’t?

These are just questions that are floating around in my mind. I don’t really have the answer to them. I guess this is where therapy comes in. Therapy teaches us these things. Therapy models proper boundaries, and in the relationship you learn to trust and express ones needs in a safe way.

What if, however, therapy relationships haven’t been safe? What if boundaries have been blurred? What if one is allowed, and even encouraged, to fluctuate between extremes within the therapeutic relationship? What then?

The reason I ask is, I’ve had a prior therapy relationship that was extremely unhealthy, boundary-blurring, and co-dependent. Because of this, I’m extra sensitive and aware of any times where boundaries are being blurred in my current therapy relationship.

Does that mean that my reactions to things that my therapist does are actually overreactions? Are my feelings justified and do I have a right to feel hurt and betrayed and unprotected? Or, do I just not know how to handle the natural ebb and flow of a therapeutic relationship, due to my history of unsafe relationships?

I guess only time will be able to answer these questions…

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