The Importance of Setting Emotional Boundaries

It is challenging for us when we have a loved one facing a difficult problem. Many people want to jump in and “rescue’ them and help them solve it. From a brain based perspective we have what are called mirror neurons (these fire when we experience an emotion and similarly when we see others experiencing an emotion, such as happiness, fear, anger, or sadness. When we see someone being sad, for example, our mirror neurons fire and that allows us to experience the same sadness and to feel empathy.)

You might recognize this in yourself when you may start to feel what the other person is feeling. If we have trouble disconnecting from it, it can get murky and we may start to feel like its our emotion. This is where emotional boundaries come in and the importance of not taking on others emotions or problems as our own. Many times it can cause people to put their own needs aside and focus all their attention on helping the person in need.

“An emotional or mental boundary helps you separate your feelings, needs, beliefs, and interests from others,” (Martin, 2018) So how do we set emotional boundaries? The first step is awareness, acknowledging that you can easily fall into taking on others emotions or problems as your own. Once you acknowledge it, ask yourself, “Is this mine or is this theirs?” Remember boundaries helps draws the line with where you end and the other person begins. If you aren’t clear in your boundaries with others then you can end up taking on more than anticipated emotionally, or with requests from others.

Once you acknowledge it is not yours to solve, you can make the intention to release it. This doesn’t mean you aren’t there to help support your loved one or friend it means you aren’t going to take the responsibility of it. You can use affirmations like “I let go of all that is not mine” or “I release any energy that belongs to others” or “I let go of others expectations of me and define my own.”

Write them down and place them in locations you can see them and repeat them regularly to yourself. Feel yourself letting go fully and releasing it.

If you are already overwhelmed and someone you care about wants more than you can give in the moment, speak up ! If you continue to try to provide support when you don’t have the bandwith you will end up feeling resentful. Give yourself permission to say something like, “like “I am so sorry you are having such a tough time. Right now, I am not in a place to take in all of this information. Do you think we can talk later about this?”

Setting boundaries with those we care about is never easy and you may resist doing it especially when you are conflict avoidant. Just remember that you will feel relief when you set the boundary and are free of holding others emotions or problems as your own. You have enough to carry without the burden of others. Remember it is their journey, not yours.

If you are someone you love is struggling to set boundaries, therapy can help! The Therapists at Path to Hope Counseling can help! Shoot an email at or fill out the contact form to receive a free 20 minute consultation. You don’t have to do this alone.

Martin, S. (2018) Set Boundaries and Practice Self-Care Without Feeling Guilty, Retrieved from:

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