In the last blog post, we looked at the impact of relational trauma on setting personal boundaries. I gave some tips on assertive communication, a style of communication that leads to healthy boundaries. See the tips here if you missed the blog and begin practicing assertive communication now. This will help you foster boundaries that work for you. Setting boundaries is a skill that can be learned and perfected. In this blog, I offer a step-by-step guide on how to set and maintain boundaries in your life.

Trauma Has The Power to Reshape Our Lives

Trauma impacts every part of our brain and nervous system. Because of this, trauma has a tremendous impact on one’s mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual health. And, boundaries become blurred as a result of trauma. No matter the trauma, boundaries are always violated on some level. Growing beyond your trauma includes the setting and honoring of boundaries. This can be extremely challenging in the face of past trauma, but you can learn how to establish limits on what is acceptable and what is not. Boundaries are a crucial step in reclaiming personal agency. This fosters the sense of safety that you need to move beyond your trauma.

If you have experienced relational trauma and struggle with boundaries, know this makes sense given the nature of this type of trauma. And know that you can learn to set boundaries. It may feel impossible given your experience but with time you can develop the skill of boundary setting through practice and self-awareness. As with assertive communication, be patient with yourself as you unlearn old patterns and establish new, healthier habits.

Grab a journal or your phone so you can take a moment to ponder the following steps – you may even want to go through the steps several times as you move through your process of healing from relational trauma.

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Steps On Healing From Relational Trauma

1. Reflect on Your Comfort Levels

Begin by reflecting on past experiences that may have pushed your comfort levels. What types of interactions or behaviors do you find unsettling? Identify what specifically makes you feel uneasy or disrespected. If you have experienced relational trauma of any kind, write about its unique impact on you. Dig deep – inside of you is a wealth wisdom and knowing of what happened to you. Relational trauma can stem from any type of relationship including an intimate partnership, friendship, family of origin, an unhealthy work dynamic, and in many cases spiritual or religious trauma.

2. Identify Your Needs

Ask yourself what you need in certain interactions to feel safe and respected. For some, it might mean having space to process decisions. For others, it might be clear instructions or guidelines for behavior. It could be a quiet environment or even a touchstone that is familiar. I have some clients who have a special stone or rock small enough for their pocket that serves to give them a sense of calm in potentially anxious situations. If you are struggling to answer this question, you might identify some situations where you felt unsafe. This can give you a clue to what you need to feel safe.

3. Communicate Clearly and Consciously

Once you’ve identified your needs, it’s time to communicate them effectively. Use “I” statements to express your feelings without placing blame. For instance, “I feel overwhelmed when I’m touched without consent. I need you to ask before hugging me.” “I” statements send a clear and direct message without (hopefully) putting the other on the defense. This type of communication goes hand in hand with assertive communication that is clear and respectful of the other.

4. Enforce Consequences When Necessary

Be ready to assertively enforce your boundaries by following through on the consequences you’ve communicated. This could mean leaving a situation that doesn’t respect your boundaries or seeking support from others. This can be difficult, especially for someone who has experienced relational trauma. With relational trauma, there is usually some form of cyclical abuse. It can be challenging to follow through and break the cycle. Be patient and kind to yourself. Learning new skills is possible but it can take time.

5. Regularly Evaluate and Adjust

Boundaries are not set in stone. Regularly evaluate your comfort levels and adjust your boundaries as needed based on life circumstances and personal growth. This goes along with the ideal of regularly going through these 5 steps. You will be surprised at how your answers change and evolve as you grow. Monitoring is also a way of seeing and honoring your progress, motivating you to continue your process.

Embracing Assertive Communication and Setting Boundaries When Dealing With Relational Trauma

The journey of assertive communication, setting boundaries, and growing beyond trauma involves a conscious effort to anchor yourself in the present moment. Trauma has a sneaky way of keeping you stuck in the past or in fear of the future. It’s important to remember that you are not your trauma. You are not your past. I love the way Dr. James Hollis, a noted Jungian Analyst says, “We don’t cut out our wounds for they are wired in neurologically and psychologically, but we can learn to manage them better; we can outgrow the influence of our past.” There is much hope in this statement and I have seen it happen time and time again.

Assertive communication and setting boundaries are vital to healing from relational trauma. These tools give you a sense of agency, peace, and clarity amidst the triggers of past traumas. As noted in the first blog in this series, surround yourself with people who understand the importance of boundaries and can support your efforts to communicate effectively. Remember you do not have to go through this alone. The impact of relational trauma is complex.

If the struggle is too much, seek a therapist who understands the impact of relational trauma. A therapist can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances. With time and effort, you can cultivate an assertive communication style framed with healthy boundaries that help you foster the genuine, fulfilling connections that you deserve.

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Find Support in Overcoming Your Relational Trauma With Trauma Therapy

If you think we may be a good fit, reach out for a phone consultation. I specialize in online trauma therapy in Texas. My approach to therapy is based on Carl Jung’s analytical depth psychology. Jung once said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” This quote highlights what depth therapy is all about. Relational trauma has a way of halting this natural state of growing and becoming you. Simply stated, when one experiences trauma it’s nearly impossible to feel safe enough to fully engage in life and connect with others. Day-to-day life becomes more about surviving than about flourishing and becoming your best you. And this is where boundaries crumble and become blurred.

Developing assertive communication and setting boundaries is an action piece and key to preventing relational trauma and healing from it. Depth therapy takes you on a deep dive into your psyche to help you understand what happened to you. The process gets to the root of trauma, relational issues, emotional regulation, and personality questioning with the goal of seeking long-lasting change. An approach that encompasses a deep dive into the psyche while at the same time taking action to set boundaries can help you move beyond your trauma.

Other Therapy Services Offered at Lysle Shaw Psychotherapy in Austin, Houston, and throughout Texas

In addition to Online Trauma Therapy, I offer Therapy for Relationship Issues, Spiritual and Existential Exploration, and Therapy for Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive Persons. Begin your journey toward healing and growth by reaching out today. Find more articles like this on my blog!

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