Home » Blogs » Psychology of Women » Feeling Bad? Maybe Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed

Feeling Bad? Maybe Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed

Boundaries are imperative for leading a well-balanced life. If you’re feeling the squeeze of boundary pushers and crossers, it might help to try what I call the Firewall Strategy.

Build your own firewall — a strong mental boundary. 

A firewall separates your stuff from someone else’s malevolent intentions. Computers use a firewall to protect against virus attacks. It works much the same way in encounters with out-of-control people. Let’s say someone starts honking at you and screaming because you didn’t turn right on a red light fast enough. You hear the driver yell, “Hey idiot! What’s your problem?” Clearly, you don’t have the problem, but having a strong mental boundary protects you when someone’s issue, bad day or judgment threatens your positive emotional state, as in the above example. A simple visualization or behavior can help you mentally define and see where someone else’s boundary ends and your firewall begins. Meet Give Away Girl Martha

She finds that whenever her husband comes home, he is in a seriously bad mood. He grunts, pouts, sighs, criticizes and complains. She tries to be empathic, listen to how he’s doing, ask him about his day, cook him a nice dinner, massage his shoulders. But after being home all day taking care of three kids, the agitation starts to rub off on Martha. “Bad mood?! What are YOU talking about? I’m fine!” Martha becomes agitated and they fight. Bad moods are contagious. Martha sees the problem regularly, despite expressing how she feels and making requests for him to stop this behavior. It’s not getting better. So she decides to build a firewall, a strong mental boundary between his stuff and her space.

Solutions at Work

With her firewall in place now, Martha has new strategies for protecting herself from her husband’s bad moods. She leaves the room and takes the kids onto the porch, or she puts peanut butter sandwiches in a bag, and she and the kids go for a walk. You got it, Martha puts a literal wall in place so her husband can stew by himself. His behavior is neither useful nor good for her or the kids. His frustration becomes their frustration. And since he won’t talk things out, Martha decides it’s better to just leave the room and focus on good things. I have another client who uses the Wonder Woman stance: She crosses her arms just like she saw beautiful Lynda Carter do on the 1970’s TV series. She says no one knows what she is doing, but it makes her feel strong, that she can deflect bad feelings effectively that way. (She says it’s really useful in her car — but not while she’s driving of course!) And a third client, Annie, told me she pictures herself in a phone booth, protected by glass. It helps calm her down and allows her time to decide how to respond.

Boundaries As Tools For The Give Away Girl

I’ve spent some time on boundary tools because I think that these represent the easiest-to-grasp, effective strategies Give Away Girls can use to win back their depleted selves. I owe a debt of gratitude to “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” a book by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Zondervan, 1992). This helpful guide contains excellent examples of how people can be deeply affected by a lack of boundaries and is written from Christian perspective with Biblical support. However, even if you aren’t this religion or any religion, it is still extremely useful. I recommend reading this text for guidance and support.

How do you protect yourself from the frustrations, hostility and bad moods of others? How do you stop those feelings in  yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

Feeling Bad? Maybe Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.

3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2018). Feeling Bad? Maybe Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.