Many people will hear the word boundaries and immediately think that it only applies to someone who works in or understands the world of therapy or counselling.

In fact healthy boundaries are something that hopefully will be developed in most families with kids, and are essential for any children or growing adolescents to have in order to feel an inner sense of security that allows them to grow.

It is unlikely that most families will talk about boundaries. It is much more likely that a parent or parents will realise the need to set boundaries for children in order to give them an external sense of permanence that creates a sense of safety for the child.

It is this sense of certainty or permanence that can be simply about meal times, bed times etc or about sleep overs, or staying out late, as the child gets older.

Setting boundaries within a family is in fact a very normal and practical approach to raising kids in a safe and secure manner. Problems tend to arise when, for whatever reason, parents or families are unable to or do not set boundaries for the kids, and the subsequent lack of permanence or stability creates real problems for the child, the family and subsequent growth of all of them.

It is a practical truth of child development that children need a degree of stability and order in their lives in order to learn to be themselves and express themselves accordingly. If that sense of order and stability or lack of boundaries is not there, then the child will develop coping mechanisms in order to give themselves some sense of order in their lives.

These coping mechanisms will most likely be pretty dysfunctional in many different ways, and have different levels of severity, but will make absolute sense to the child at a deep subconscious level. Aside from practical problems that may develop in childhood, these coping mechanisms will remain a core part of the development of the child all their lives.

This means that an adult who has grown up in an environment where there have been few or no boundaries will live in a world where they feel little or no inner security or safety. This means they will for ever be trying to set boundaries either for other people, or control situations that are not within their control.

They will for ever be in conflict with themselves internally, and this will inevitably express itself externally in varying degrees of severity.

It is like someone desperate to get to a particular place, and heading off in the wrong direction, but convinced that if they try hard enough or push themselves hard enough they can still get there.

It is this belief that people have in their own self will that ultimately helps them survive a lack of boundaries in childhood, but can also plant the seeds of their own destruction or destructive development as a teenager or adult.

The good news, in a self-help sense, is that it is possible for an adult to realise this and essentially reset the boundaries that were present in their childhood in an adult context. This will be done at a conscious level to begin with, and may even seem a bit artificial.

Over time the person will integrate their sense of what these boundaries are and what they mean into their lives, and it will become a natural part of their view, both of themselves and of the world at large.

It is important to realise that people cannot change their childhood or their past life. However, the basis of all real self-help work is a realisation that by owning the reality both of what has happened to you and how you have coped with it in the past allows people to be free in the present.

This is not to decry or minimise dramatic life events, but is a realisation that if you have survived them, then the coping mechanisms that were necessary worked. There comes a point however in people's lives, where simply coping with the legacy of the past is not enough.

There is a need to move forward and really engage life. This is where boundaries really come into play, in that they may at first seem like barriers to any sense of freedom, but in the end create a sense of order and stability that generate a true sense of inner security and safety, that is real and permanent.

Author's Bio: 

Peter Main is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes extensively about all areas of self growth and self development. He has a particular focus on self help issues for people who are in recovery from or who have been affected by alcoholism and other addictions.Some people begin their journey of recovery and healing in a rehab, others in a twelve step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous, others in a religious or spiritual setting. He has worked in this field for just under thirty years and has extensive experience in many areas of different therapeutic approaches, including counselling, inner child work,meditation, spirituality, adult children work etc