Learning to establish boundaries is a healthy step for all adults to take. However, if you’re suffering from emetophobia, your boundaries may look a little stricter than those of your peers. As a result, it can be harder to set them and have others respect them.
In this article, we’re going to explain why boundaries are so important and how you can establish them to protect both your mental health and your relationships with others.
What are boundaries?
In the same way a physical boundary, like a locked gate, indicates a point beyond which you cannot go, emotional boundaries are invisible barriers we erect to protect our wellbeing. Everyone’s boundaries are personal to them, as they tend to be influenced by our values, our physical and emotional needs, and our expectations of others.
Of course, as they cannot be seen, we have to find other ways of making the people around us aware of our boundaries. This is not a straightforward task. You must balance the need to clearly communicate your limits with the desire to avoid upsetting those you are interacting with. As tricky as it is, expressing your boundaries clearly is vital. Not doing so means that they are more likely to be violated.
It is important to remember that this isn’t a one-way street. Other people have boundaries, too. If you want them to respect yours, you must respect theirs.
What kind of boundaries do emetophobes need?
Establishing boundaries is a way to protect yourself from conversations or situations that make you feel uncomfortable, violated, used or unhappy. In a general context, one of the most common ways to assert a boundary is to learn to say no to things you do not want to do. This seems simple on the surface, but it can be particularly hard for people with people-pleasing tendencies to achieve.
If you have emetophobia, boundaries offer a useful way to avoid triggers. For example, you might decide that it is best for your mental health to:
- Remove yourself from any conversations that include discussions of nausea
- Say no to social invitations for events that may involve heavy drinking
- Avoid watching films or TV shows that involve nausea or vomiting
- Send a card instead of visiting friends or family members who are ill
Each of these is an example of a boundary. Spend some time considering what your own personal boundaries might be, and then you can work on communicating them to others.
While upholding your boundaries is important, they should not be viewed as fixed. The parameters of your boundaries will shift depending on who you’re with and where you are. For example, you may feel comfortable discussing the details of your phobia with close friends, but not your work colleagues.
Take a look at the slideshow below for advice on how you can communicate your boundaries to different groups of people.
Don’t take boundary-setting too far
Boundaries can really help people with phobias to manage their symptoms. However, don’t abuse boundaries to the point where they become an avoidance tactic. For example, you can remove yourself from conversations where illness is discussed, but you can’t remove yourself from any situation where illness might be discussed.
This can be a hard line to navigate. If you find yourself feeling increasingly lonely or alienated, chances are you’ve taken them too far. Listen to your close friends and family if they suggest that your boundaries have become walls. While it’s important for our loved ones to respect our boundaries, we can’t expect them to compromise their own happiness to accommodate them.
Regularly assessing your boundaries and judging how they impact your life is a good way to prevent this from happening. Reflect on your relationships with others—are they solid, dependable and mutually fulfilling? This is a sign that you have healthy boundaries in place.
Final tips on establishing boundaries
- Use a measured tone when communicating them to others. You are asserting your needs, not demanding that they are met.
- Be firm and consistent so that people take them seriously.
- Make sure there are consequences when your boundaries are crossed.
- Be patient (both with yourself and towards others). It takes time to get these things right.
- If people repeatedly violate your boundaries, it is OK to cease contact with them.
- Don’t let your boundaries become walls.