The HSP World Podcast Ep. 27: The 9 Types of Boundaries for Highly Sensitives

This podcast is brought to you by The HSP World Mastery Program dedicated to inspiring and empowering HSPs.  

Thomas: Hi and welcome to The HSP World podcast. With each episode we invite a guest with the HSP Trait to have a conversation about a burning HSP-related question they have. We’re not coaches or therapists. We’re HSPs holding space with you. I’m one of your hosts Thomas and your other hosts are;

Robyn: Robyn. 

Rayne: and Rayne. 

Robyn: Welcome back everybody to another episode of The HSP World podcast. 

We have something special for you today. It’s just us in here. It’s just the three of us. We have a special host-only episode, but don’t worry we didn’t leave you out. We decided to tackle a very big topic that keeps coming up again and again in our podcasts, and of course in many discussions and readings and writings for HSPs. 

We’re talking about boundaries. And we actually wanted to pose a question to you, to our audience. We asked a question on our social media on Facebook and Instagram, and we collected your answers.

So the question was, Name one or more thing that you do set a healthy boundary? We got several different responses. So thank you very much for those of you who participated. 

And we got so many that we had to, we had to sort them all. We had to think about the best way to approach these. And, uh, we had a fun little sorting game coming up with the uh, well, some of us liked it.

Thomas: Thank goodness for Google docs. 

Robyn: Yeah. Yeah. We had a fun time thinking about, and actually it was a very, it was a really interesting exercise, I think. I hope you agree, Thomas and Rayne. But it really kind of pushed us to think, you know, what are the different ways that you can enforce a boundary? Clearly some of them come more easily to our minds than others, because we have some categories that were very well-represented in your answers and then others where maybe they didn’t come up as much.

So I think what we’re going to do today is go over some of the examples of  boundaries that came up.

Rayne: And then the categories that we came up with, so just to know, this is not a scientific thing. These are these are just categories we came up with so that we could put your answers into these different categories to get a better idea of  just how many different types of ways are there.  

Robyn: Yeah. 

Rayne: You know, different types of boundaries we can have. So, yeah. Super cool.

Robyn: Should we dive right in? 

Thomas: Yeah, let’s dive right in. Yeah. The first one is Attentional, and this is one that I really like. 

It’s basically, what do I allow myself to give my attention to? 

So one of them is, my phone is always muted. Always! That one was by geschmacksinneges on Instagram. Another one is, I don’t check my phone before I’m done with my morning rituals. That one was by Parul. And Jana says, let the answering machine take the call.

I like these because this is something that I’ve really struggled with myself. You know, all the devices nowadays, they all come with notifications on by default and so I go and I start turning off all those notifications and it’s really helped. For me at least, it lowers my anxiety. What do you think? 

Robyn: Yeah. I actually recently put up a new Attentional boundary for myself and that is, even though I do check my phone in the morning, I will not go on social media. And this definitely falls into the Attentional category because as has been, more frequently discussed, social media is designed to be intentionally addictive, right? To take as much of your attention as possible.

And I really notice a difference. It just sets the tone for the day about what I care about. And if I don’t go on social media in the first like, that first moment of the day before I’ve really like, started waking up and getting ready, then it, it makes it easier to resist going on later in the day. Whereas if I do it super early, it’s like, I just can’t. It’s harder to stop. 

Rayne: Yeah, I like that too.

Thomas:  Charlotte rose 29 had one that I thought was pretty interesting and in the same vein, and she says, I don’t have an active status on any platform, meaning that, you know, her avatar doesn’t show as being active to other people, which means that other people are not going to start sending messages to her.

So I thought that was kind of interesting.

Robyn: Yeah. The next category where we had a lot of responses is the Physical Boundaries.

So, this could be anything from a very immediate physical boundary. Like, I don’t want people to stand close to me in a certain way, or I don’t want to be, I don’t know, in a room that smells a certain way.

It could also be about maintaining your physical wellness, right? So saying, okay, I need to sleep a certain amount. I need to exercise a certain amount. We had a lot of people talking about sleep. Actually, there were many comments about napping, sleeping, and resting and going to bed early.

I won’t read them all, but there were a few other Physical Boundaries. For example, Faith Harris Matthews talks about avoiding crowded situations by choice. And I know that’s true for a lot of HSPs.

Kimberly actually gave us a really interesting one where she said, I would rather go to see a friend or family member at their home or out somewhere because I can leave quicker, instead of allowing them into my space where I have to make them leave early, because two hours is enough before I start wanting downtime.

So this is interesting because she’s not putting up a social boundary, she’s still making time for her family and her friends but she’s using a physical boundary to respect her need to leave at a certain point. 

Thomas: I had a friend who would come over and basically do that. There’s like at about the two hour mark, he says, all right, I’m going to go, see you guys. And, you know, it could be a party full of other people or whatever. But he knew his boundary. And he knew his, you know, two hours was enough socializing for him.

And, it didn’t matter that the party was, you know, at, at its height or, or, you know, everybody was having fun or whatever. It’s like for him, nope, two hours. We’ll see you guys. See you next time. So I thought that was kind of neat. I learned a little bit from him.

Robyn: Hmm. I think that actually takes us into our next category. 

Rayne: So the Time/Energy one. Yeah. So that was the next category. Taking time off from a person or a project can be a way of regaining ownership over some out of control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set.

So Laurie had a really good one here. She says, I am mindful of high energy project producing days, especially when it is several days in a row.

The result from push days is the feeling of a low, where I need to set aside time to just be and rest with no one else around. My low produces being foggy- brained, grouchy, temperamental, more sensitive than usual. People skills are very limited and even my speech can be impaired. So I have to set a boundary on my schedule and give myself a replenishment hour or day, even if that time means I miss out on something else.

I’m no good for enjoyment or being around others if I don’t take care of myself in that healthy way. 

I thought that one was really cool because, yeah, I noticed that in myself as well, that there are high energy project producing days. And then I think Thomas we’ve talked about that, and then it depends on how big the project is, but you kind of have to give yourself time to recoup after the high production type of thing. So it’s pretty, it was pretty good. 

Cut the conversation short with energy drainers. That’s SSRI. And she also said incorporating some routine rituals.

Thomas: I like this one. I like the incorporating rituals one. As you know, I incorporate a lot of my own rituals. And oftentimes you don’t think of rituals as a boundary, right?

Because boundaries, often you think of boundaries as something that keeps, you know, is something that you build around yourself that keeps things outside. But rituals are, are like containers. So they’re boundaries as well.

Robyn: Yeah. I, I definitely struggle with this one as somebody who is not particularly routine. I’m more into, you know, taking on new things and exploring things and breaking free from routines when possible. I’m pretty good at that. But, you know, I feel the impact of that.

And I’ve been having a lot of discussions recently with my partner, whose much more routined than I. And the way, it’s interesting, the way he says it, you know, every time I say, oh, well I want to uphold this routine, but then there’s this thing and this thing. And he says, yeah, you have to make a choice.

And it’s really, yeah. And, you know, choices, choices are boundaries. Right? 

Thomas: Yeah. Yeah.

Robyn:  Whether it’s, you know, any of the kinds that we’ve said before, about where do you put your attention? Where do you meet your family? Where do you put your time and energy? Um, it always comes down to a choice and some choices are easier to make than others.

And I definitely have a hard time with this one. 

Rayne: Shoot, if we were all perfect, we wouldn’t be here. Right?

Robyn: Yeah, but I think there’s another one, stay tuned. Don’t worry. There’s another boundary coming up that I think is actually going to help us with this one. 

Thomas: Yes, the Social Boundaries. It refers to our ability to interact successfully in our global community and also live up to the expectations and demands of our own roles. Right?

So this means learning good communication skills, developing intimacy with others, and creating a support network of friends and family members.

So there were a lot of responses along the lines of spending time alone, Anthea said that one, Adrian said stay alone. Michelle said solitude and limited social time. 

Robyn: I actually liked the one that the other Michelle put as well. Michelle she says, be okay with being alone or having a few close people. 

Thomas: This next one I, I really like because I can relate to it.

It’s I let my husband and children fail. This is by Alicia. And as a father I can definitely relate to it and I can definitely say how hard it is to let your children fail. Because you just want to step in there and you want to make things right.

But the whole point of letting them fail is letting them learn and letting them understand in a very visceral way. Now, obviously you don’t want to let your children be harmed, but for most things letting them fail is a good approach because they, they actually appreciate you for that.

They don’t say it in so many words, but they do actually appreciate you letting them alone and letting them do the learning.

Robyn: Well, I think what’s nice about the way you’ve put it, Thomas, is you’re underscoring how one of the difficulties of boundaries is that, you know, there’s never a final answer. Right? And it’s never, it’s never a black and white kind of boundary, right? Like a rigid boundary is not necessarily healthy.

A boundary has to be flexible enough that it can adapt to the situation, right? Not, not, not too flexible because again, it would break, but you don’t want it to be brittle. Right? And this is where you have to do some finessing. You have to ask yourself like, okay, I’m going to let my kid fail this time.

Is it too much? Right? And like, you just have to have that inner dialogue, like, is this a time where it’s okay to uphold the boundary and say, Nope, I’m going to let them make the mistake, or is it a time where you say, well, I think the consequence would be greater if I let them get hurt in this, in this instance.

So it’s, it’s a constant negotiation and it’s not easy. Right? And there’s no, there’s no final call. Right? Like two parents who are equally competent may come to a different conclusion about a particular circumstance, right? And often they do. And they disagree about the same kid. Should we be upholding this boundary or not?

So I think all the boundaries really are… they, they can be, they can be tough calls and that’s where it takes a little bit of getting used to and practicing and reinforcing it over time.

Thomas: And you mentioned rigidity or in flexibility. And that’s something that I want to come back to when we get to one of the later categories on Intellectual Boundaries. We can talk about that.

Rayne: Did you want to mention SSRI’s, the stop being one Thomas?

Thomas: Yeah. Another one that I thought was very interesting, that came up under the social category was from SSRI. They say, stop being a voluntary scapegoat just to make the situation comfortable for everyone. I’m part of the group too so I don’t have to suffer to make it easy for someone else.

I love that because it’s, it’s, you know, you’re standing up for yourself. You basically creating a boundary that says, look, I don’t need to be your scapegoat. I don’t need to be, I don’t need to be put down just to make you feel happy.

Rayne: You know, that’s a really interesting one because HSPs are typically pretty tuned in to, you know, kind of the emotional, energetic kind of atmosphere around them. So I could see it being really easy for an HSP, you know, if everybody was down to try to crack a joke or, you know, do something like that to accommodate right, to make the situation comfortable for everyone. But I really liked what she said. So, um, yeah, I liked, I liked that just, if it’s an awkward moment, maybe it’s supposed to be an awkward moment. 

Robyn: Yeah. 

Rayne: Just let it be an awkward moment.

Robyn: And again, I liked the distinction here too. You’re not saying that you can never step in and help people. You’re not saying that you can’t, you know, cheer up the group. Of course there’s some times we’re going to do that. Right? But there’s the subtle, the subtlety here is in the part where they say like, I’m part of the group too.

So it’s just not forgetting to give yourself a vote and before you step in and try to make other people comfortable asking yourself, am I comfortable doing this? And sometimes you’ll say yes. Sometimes you’ll say, you know what? It cost me nothing to, I don’t know, like go buy muffins for everybody. Right?

Like, or whatever, like yeah you know what? I will genuinely enjoy going and making muffins for everybody. So it would actually, it will give back to me. I will be happy. Right?

It’s when we don’t take that moment to say, wait, how do I feel about this? That’s, that’s the absence of the boundary. It’s just automatically going to the point where you say, I have to do this because I can.

Thomas: This actually relates to our next category, which is Relational boundaries

Robyn: Yeah. So specifically, it’s like a subset of the social category, I think. But specifically negotiating emotional distance within a relationship. Right?

So it’s gauging how much distance do I need to take? Could, could be just emotional. It could be time spent as well, but gauging how close or how far do I need to be from somebody that I’m in, in a relationship?

And the point of this, it’s temporary. It’s moveable. Right? It could be from one week to the next, I spend more or less time and energy on a relationship. And the idea is to be able to give yourself the space that you need to feel safe. 

Sometimes you might need to feel that you need to take more distance if a certain dynamic has become toxic or even abusive. Then you’re going to need to spend more time thawing out emotionally.

We didn’t have anyone talking specifically about that, although we did have a couple of people saying cutting the conversation short with energy drainers. That was SSRI again. So I think that can, that’s a similar kind of… 

Rayne: Well, I think there’s a couple like, like SSRI said, learning when to stop being a giver and allowing slowly to be comfortable to be a taker. So that could be a relational, emotional distance, boundary. That one could be one. 

Robyn: Yeah. And just recognizing also when you’re not getting your needs met in a relationship, when a relationship is one-sided or even toxic to you. I think that one is important.

Rayne: Yeah.

Thomas: Coming up, we move on to Word boundaries. We’ll be right back after this.    

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You can learn more about the HSP World Mastery Program by visiting hsp.world forward slash mastery. Now let’s return to our podcast.

Thomas: Let’s talk about Word boundaries.

Rayne: Yeah. The Word boundaries one. So saying no, the most basic boundary setting word is no.

Thomas: And it’s so simple.

Rayne: It is, it lets others know.

Thomas: and it’s so hard to do.

Rayne: Lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you. 

Robyn: So this is about communication, right? This is about knowing what to say to enforce all these other boundaries.

Rayne: Right. And Anita Bortolotto said Don’t do what I don’t want to do, no is a complete answer. Anita says just say no, Colajeff says learning progressively to say no. Maribel, okay, she says saying no to people more often to say yes to myself. I really like, yeah. I really like that one. 

Sergio had a cool one, he said don’t send mixed or confusing messages or signals. Okay. So I could, I could see where that could happen. Like, um, with an HSP that wants to be accommodating or there might be people-pleasing, right? Saying yes. And then later on, uh, you know, kind of, not sure if they should’ve  or not, or that type of thing. So yeah. Being clear about saying no. 

Thomas: Being clear and direct.

Robyn: I think that one takes practice, especially if you’ve come from situations or experiences where it hasn’t been well received to enforce a boundary. As we stumble towards learning how to actually express a boundary, you know, our first attempts will, will probably come out as confusing or not clear enough, right?

Or we might start to say, I need this and then kind of concede well, okay, maybe I don’t need it exactly. Right?

So yeah, learning how to be clear with your words in asking for the things that you need. That’s, that’s a tough one. That takes some practice. 

Rayne: Yup. 

Robyn: So I think what this is leading up to. All of these boundaries that we’ve looked at so far, I think it really leads up to a couple of core boundaries that once you’ve got these set, so many of the other ones can fall into place more easily.

So I’m really thinking in particular about the Emotional and Spiritual boundaries, right?

So, you know, to be emotionally well, you need to possess the ability to feel and express the full range of human emotions. Right? All of them, all the kinds of happiness, sadness, anger, what have you,

Thomas: Grief.

Robyn: Grief, yeah. So it’s being able to express all of them. And it’s also giving yourself permission to feel what you feel and not judging yourself or anyone really, not, not judging an emotion, right? Because like just letting an emotion be. You can determine afterwards what emotions you want to act on and what consequences you want to take as a result of those emotions, but letting an emotion be and validating your own emotional reality is really essential to being able to enforce a boundary.

Because if you’re not giving yourself permission to feel certain things, then how can you get to the point where you uphold that boundary? Right?

So a lot of times it’s about self-assertion, self-validation, like really just being able to say, I know what I feel. And that is where it can get tricky for HSPs. Right?

Because often we’re feeling more, and more intensely than other people might. So it can take awhile to say, you know what? I know you, you don’t necessarily feel the same way, but this is how I feel. And this is what I need as a consequence. 

I liked Clementine Tina’s example here. This is a little bit of a Social boundary, but, but hear the Emotional boundary behind it.

She says, I tell people straightforwardly and politely. I know what is good and what is bad for me. There’s no point in trying to convince me that I don’t.

And so it’s partly about what she’s saying to other people, but it’s that conviction that she already has of, like, I know what I’m feeling and don’t try to talk me out of what I feel is right. 

Thomas: This one touches me a lot because when I was growing up I was always being told, don’t be so sensitive. And, and that’s, it’s like, wait a minute. These are my feelings. My feelings are valid. I can be as sensitive as I want to be. 

Robyn: Yeah. Yeah. If you want to talk about what we do as a result, that’s fine. Don’t ask me not to feel something. 

Thomas: Right. And it took me a long, long time to get to that point where I could say that.

Rayne: Yeah. And in my, I think growing up for me, I mean, I didn’t, I didn’t cry an awful lot, but the odd time I did, I just remember getting a lot of really, uh, hairy eyeball looks.

Thomas: That’s a good way to put it.

Rayne: Like not, not kind of, they, they didn’t quite really know what to do about that. So, yeah. 

Thomas: Yeah, then the next category is Intellectual. It’s the intellectual dimension and this one is about encouraging creative and stimulating mental activities. Our minds need to be continually inspired and exercised just as our bodies do.

And so, people who possess a high level of intellectual wellness have an active mind and continue to learn.

And so SSRI writes, only take important updates on news and leave the rest. That’s one that I have really, really struggled with, especially in the past few years. For me specifically, it’s about political news here in the States and I found myself really glued to the news and becoming anxious about it.

And, and yet not leaving it alone. In other words, I would have to, like every, every day when I woke up, it was the first thing I did, was to check what the news was.

So this is a boundary that I’ve really had to work on myself to, to just let that go and just say, okay, I’m going to, if I allow myself to, to check the news, I’m going to limit it to like three articles or whatever, three news items online or something like that.

I don’t even, I don’t watch any news on TV. I don’t watch any news on YouTube, whatever. But just severely limiting it, either like three articles or like 10 minutes, you know, put, putting some boundary around that to say, don’t get hooked because it’s designed to get you hooked.

It just, it’s designed to get your blood running and all that. So it’s a great example of an Intellectual boundary.

Robyn: Yeah. Well, I like this idea that you can set the boundary either quantitatively, like saying, okay, I’m going to limit myself to how many things I take in, how many news items or maybe like, we were talking before about how, instead of watching Netflix every night, you can say, okay, you know, maybe just once or twice a week, and then the rest of the time I’m going to be drawing or doing or making music or something more creatively engaging. Right?

So you can, it can also be qualitative, right? Like just saying no to things that you feel are not stimulating you enough or engaging you, things that bring you down to a lower level. We had another member who had a really wonderful way of putting it.  

Thomas: Deanna says, I have to limit how much news I watch. It can be very overwhelming for me. There’s always a fine line between knowledge and peace of mind for me. Yeah. That fine line is sometimes very hard to straddle. You know, it’s like, you want to be informed, but you also don’t want to be an anxious mess. 

There’s also something else in under the Intellectual category that I wanted to mention. And that is that sometimes we can get ourselves into boundaries that are too tight. We become inflexible in our thinking and we’re not open enough to things.

An example might be deciding that you are not creative, so you never attempt to create any sort of art. Sometimes you just need to be careful. You need to think about, okay, is this thing that I am doing or not doing this, this boundary that I’ve set so tight around me, is it limiting me in some way? So I just wanted to bring that up under, under this particular category.

Rayne: You know, and for me I really resonated with the intellectual dimension encourages creative, stimulating mental activities.

I really like that because I’ve, I’ve recently gotten into intuitive collaging and I just love it. Absolutely love it. Because it’s funny that it’s called Intellectual because I kind of, I don’t think when I’m doing it, but it’s, it’s a, it’s a creative, it is… It is a mental activity because, you know, you’re choosing which pieces that you’re going to cut and how you’re going to put them together. So it is a stimulating, you know, creative, mental activity. But it’s a very odd because part of my brain is turned off.

I’m just not really thinking when I’m doing it. But I, I think what I’m doing is processing at the same time. I’m processing information. So I find it pretty rejuvenating and interesting and I’m always surprised at what ends up being the finished product. So it’s kinda cool. 

Thomas: There’s a part of the brain that you turn off and I forget the name of it. It’s a, it’s a process in your brain and the, the ‘don’t think’ part, when you let go of focus, it turns that part off and it, and it allows you to be more creative. And I think that’s what you’re alluding to Rayne.

Rayne: Great. Thank you, Thomas. I, you know, I have no idea what the technical words are for that.

Robyn: You know, that’s a, that’s a boundary too actually, while we’re thinking of Intellectual boundaries. I remember realizing that setting a limit to overthinking can also be a boundary. You can set that boundary with yourself. Right?

So HSPs often like to worry or ruminate about things and just saying, okay, I’m going to give myself, you know, one day to ruminate about this and then it’s over. Right? That can be, that can be another example. 

Rayne: Yeah. Or five minutes or 10 minutes or whatever it is. 

Robyn: Right, right. Maybe a bit less. I have to start, you know, instead of gradually building up baby steps one day instead of two. 

Thomas: As, as we were, as we were talking here, I Googled it. It’s called the Default Mode Network. So there’s the executive attention network that is where when you’re focusing and then there’s the default mode network, which is involved in imagination and creativity.

Rayne: Very cool. 

Robyn: So all of this I think is leading us up to our last category, which we’ve called the Spiritual category, spiritual boundaries. This doesn’t necessarily mean a religious boundary, or religious wellness. We’re talking really about being able to uphold a set of guiding beliefs, principles, or values to give you direction in your life, wherever that comes from.

So some of the examples from our readers, Janice Wyman says that she takes time to pray. Anthea Davidson mentioned, not taking everything personally, and there is something spiritual to that, it’s realizing, oh, okay certain things are not about me and there’s something else going on there. Right?  

I like the way that Selenafile put it. I’m addicted to minding my own business because knowing about somebody’s life and relating to it is apparently irrelevant to me.

So again, sometimes empathizing and connecting is important, but being able to make that distinction and realize that there are things outside of ourselves that aren’t our business, aren’t in our control, and that we don’t have to be putting time on, time and energy into all the time. 

Finally it could even be about developing our intuition, right? 

And we did have another example from SSRI where they talked about trusting my gut feeling about people and situations. And perhaps that could go into emotional as well.

But again, it’s this idea that there’s something larger to trust in, and that when you, when you have, when you are able to give more place to that, there’s a boundary there that can be enforced. 

Rayne: Right. Yeah, I was surprised nobody said meditating. I’ll say it, for sure. Cool.

Thomas: Well, we should thank our listeners and all the people that participated on our social media posts for all of these answers, they’re great!

Rayne: Yes. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Robyn:  Thank you everybody. And please join us for our next episode where we’ll be having another interesting HSP conversation.

To any Highly Sensitives out there who have a burning HSP-related question, big or small we invite you to ask it on the HSP World podcast. Just email [email protected]

And a friendly reminder to visit the HSP world website at hsp.world.

Our thanks to the HSP World Mastery Program and to all of you who support our show by subscribing and listening to our podcast, reading the blog posts on our website at hsp.world and chatting with us on our social media channels.

Your support is contributing to the upliftment of HSPs around the world. We’re very grateful. 

Music credit: Intro and Outro music from the YouTube Music Library. Song is Clover 3.

References we used to create the types of boundaries: 

https://www.grcc.edu/faculty-staff/human-resources/professional-development/wellness/seven-dimensions-wellness

The 6 Types Of Healthy Boundaries & How To Maintain Them (mindbodygreen.com)

https://sonjablignaut.medium.com/rhythm-ritual-and-boundaries-b831e9a9fd54

 

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