As the third of five siblings, I feel like I lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly growing up. Having a large family meant a lot of love, a lot of fights, a lot of tears, and a lot of laughter. While this is true of most families, no matter how big or small, many believe that the bonds within a family are life-long and complicated. The relationships families provide likely have an impact on how we form and operate in relationships outside of our parent/sibling family system. This makes these initial familial associations incredibly important.
Salvador Minuchin, the founder of Structural Family Therapy, believed that families must operate with appropriate boundaries in order to maintain healthy relationships. Minuchin describes three types of boundaries: diffuse (enmeshed), rigid (disengaged), and clear. Rigid boundaries occur when family members are isolated, or disengaged, from one another. In “rigid” families, communication and emotional expression are very difficult.
In families with diffuse (or enmeshed) boundaries, there is little independence between family members. Each individual’s emotional state is dependent upon how the other members of the family are feeling. In this environment, personal emotional control is difficult. According to Minuchin, the goal is for families to create clear boundaries between family members. Clear boundaries create an environment in which people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. Establishing clear parameters can facilitate more empathy between individuals.
Furthermore, practicing healthy boundaries within the family system (and teaching your children how to create and maintain healthy bounds) enables you to create those same clear boundaries with relationships outside the family. Maintaining healthy parameters can lead to more effective communication and healthier, less stressful relationships.
Healthy boundaries are important for all relationships, including those with co-workers, friends, extended family, etc. If you would like help establishing clear boundaries with the people in your life, please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407.443.8862 to schedule an appointment with a mental health counselor.