The true definition of a boundary became a hot topic on social media last weekend when a professional surfer Sarah Brady, the actor’s ex-girlfriend Jonah Hill, has shared a series of screenshots of alleged text messages between her and Hill. In these screenshots, Hill, who filmed a documentary about his therapist for Netflix, is shown pretending his limits for a relationship with Brady, it will take her to avoid surfing with men, hanging out with certain girlfriends “who are in unstable places”, and posting pictures of her in a bathing suit. But making such a claim implies that his claims to control his behavior are somehow believable based on his limitssounding the alarm among many others about the dangers of misusing “limits” and other therapeutic terms.
Indeed, when therapeutic terms are used incorrectly, they can enable and even justify harmful behavior, depending on the therapist. Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT. For example, using the word “boundaries” may sound like someone has done a lot of healthy emotional work, but in reality using your “boundaries” as the basis for asking someone else to do or avoiding certain behaviors is a complete exercise. misuse of the term.
“Due to (factors like) social media, Covid and misogyny, (talk therapy) has been weaponized as a way to manipulate others.” —Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT, therapist
“(The therapy speaks) includes language that was intended and super useful in discussions between therapists and clients, but now, due to (factors like) social media, Covid and misogyny, it has been weaponized as a way to manipulate and control other people,” Thompson says. “Whatever the therapeutic buzzword of the moment, by using it, you adopt this posture of knowing more than the other, but it could just as well be a facade.”
Limits are something you impose on yourself, not on others.
To understand how Hill misused the concept of limits and why this is harmful, it helps to remember exactly how limits are supposed to work. clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD compares boundaries to a fence around your house and yard; they are tools to protect and enforce yours welfare.
You can to make a border as rigid or as smooth as you want, but the point is that a boundary is something you draw for yourself, meant to define what you will or will not do to stay mentally and physically safe. When you begin to try to dictate or control someone else’s behaviors in service of your own “limits,” you are not setting or enforcing any limits; this behavior is only manipulation and control.
Concrete example: you can say that you will not go out on Friday evening because you want more time to rest, which would be like setting a limit; but telling a friend or significant other that they also can’t go out because of your “boundaries” is just controlling behavior disguised as boundary setting. Remember: you’re free to dictate what moves and doesn’t move through your proverbial fence, but you can’t walk into someone else’s yard and do the same to theirs (even with the false justification that you are only protecting yourself).
Limits and preferences are not the same thing
The reason “limits” can be so easily misused is that it’s easy to forget the difference between your agency on your gestures and others’ actions: Both can have a significant effect on your well-being, but while you can control the first, you can’t control the second. The ways you want others to behave around you are just your preferences, and limits are not a way to impose those preferences on others.
In fact, trying to get someone else to act in a certain way actually violates their limits because people have the right to behave as they wish (within legal limits) – and that includes Brady. “From what I can see, it’s Hill invading Brady’s boundaries, not the other way around, expecting her to adopt his preferences,” Dr. Manly says. While Hill is allowed to communicate her preferences for how he’d like Brady to act, she’s certainly not obligated to agree to them (whether for boundary reasons or not).
“We use the word boundary so loosely that (you might) say, ‘You crossed my boundary because you didn’t do what I wanted you to do’, but that’s not how ‘boundary ” is used.” —Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist
Wrapping preferences in the therapeutic language of limits is dangerous because it lends those preferences some unwarranted credibility. And the resulting confusion (Are you honestly asking me to respect your boundaries, or are you trying to control me?) can contribute to hurt, Dr. Manly says. “It’s tricky because we use the word border so loosely that we can all slip into it and say, ‘You crossed my border because you didn’t do what I wanted you to do,’ but it’s just not the ‘limit’ used,” she says.
Again, set limits is something you do for yourself and share with others; you can choose not to date people who behave in a way X Or there way, but you can’t force someone to behave a certain way. You can choose not to work after 6 p.m., but you can’t force a colleague not to email you during this time.
That said, to help others help you respect your own boundaries, it’s a good idea to clearly communicate those boundaries and the reasoning behind them, says Thompson. And if another person is getting in the way of a boundary you’ve set for yourself, you can share your concerns and work with them to find a solution that works for both of you. But the responsibility never lies solely with the other person to change their behavior in the service of your preferences.