The Art Department

Examples of Boundary Violations

(excerpts from Clinton S. Clark, The Art Department, 1993)

I highly recommend a visit to his site: The Art of Healing.

“The emotional effects of coercion are more damaging to a child than a child who has been beaten.  A child growing up in coercion will always be wishing for something (bad) to happen in order for them to relieve their anxiety of waiting for something (bad) to happen.” Clinton S. Clark

Destructive Control Behaviors

  • Violence and Rage
  • Coercion (the threat of violence, death, and rage)
  • Playing the victim
  • Shaming and abusive language
  • Neglect and abandonment
  • Talking to keep distance
  • Disapproval, dirty looks, and sarcasm (as discounting)
  • Perfectionism
  • Offering anything for gain (of some hidden goal)
  • Forced helping
  • Excessive probing or lack of privacy
  • Projection

Addicts for the most part do not wait until they have been asked for help.  They force help.  And “forced help” is a boundary violation.  They are operating on the principal that a child is an object of use and therefore does not need to be asked for permission to be used.

Imagine the child to be a country.  Imagine that country to be surrounded by borders.  These borders are the boundaries for that country.  When these borders are invaded without consent, the act is considered to be hostile.  The hostile invasion of a country is called a boundary violation.  Similarly, the hostile invasion of a child is called a boundary violation.

Approval seeking as a way of life

Excessive explaining and compulsive explaining

Compulsive Caretaking (I “need” to help you in order to feel safe).

Talking in “lecture form” is a type of emotional neglect or abandonment.  Lecturing a child is talking to a child or at a child without asking them for their opinion or listening to them in return.  It’s a one sided conversation where the addict uses the child in order to expel internal feelings or thoughts.  The child’s identity or “emotional self” is not acknowledged or affirmed in a conversation that uses lecture form.

Below is a list of boundary violations which I consider to be important for me to set boundaries.

Boundary Violations (against me or my children)

  • Violence
  • Rage
  • Coercion
  • Shaming or abusive language used with the intent to humiliate
  • Forced helping (trying to fix) without permission
  • Giving feedback without asking permission to do so
  • Someone demanding me or my children to meet their needs (examples: forced fed, forced scholastic achievement, forced sex, forced compliance, forced intimacy).
  • Excessive probing
  • Invading my privacy or the privacy of my children without permission
  • Taking my inventory or an inventory of my children (as an attack) without permission
  • Projection (as a type of attack or loading onto the listener).
  • Anyone doing the “victim” role from a victimstance to cast guilt or shame on me or my children as a way to control, injure, or vent.

When I recognize one of these destructive control behaviors in use, I set a boundary to protect myself and my children.  Addict parents or other addicts in general will continue to use me until I’ve mastered boundary setting.  I accept the times I am unable to set a boundary. I accept the time it takes to practice.

If someone needs to know something about me, they may choose to ask me and not presume.  “Presumption” is a block to communication.  The difference between inventory taking and non-inventory taking is the difference between an attack and a question.  Forced presumptions and forced helping are both boundary violations.  The key word is “forced;” the use of force.  Forced listening (being forced to listen) is also a boundary violation.  If I’m forced to be present in an attack of me, I can choose not to listen.

Excessive probing and lack of privacy

Excessive probing and lack of privacy are also “boundary violations.”  Excessive probing is where the addict probes for a purpose and that purpose is to gain information which is destructively used against the child.

Being “nice allows me to control people.  Being nice keeps me from abuse.  You’ll like me if I am nice to you.

Anger is a tool I use to set boundaries.  Anger is not control  Anger warns that action will be taken to protect myself.

Examples of Boundaries with Anger

  • “That Hurts! ….., don’t do that!”  (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).*
  • “That pisses me off! ….., don’t do that!”*
  • “No!”*
  • “Stop! …………….. you’re pissing me off!”*
  • “Stop! ………………now!” *
  • “Quit! ………………now!” *
  • “Don’t call me that!” (in response to a name, a label, etc.) *
  • “Don’t touch me!” *
  • “Don’t! …………………….. Don’t do that!” *

*Remove the control ( the victim or victimstance) and the fear from the anger in the presentation (your voice and body language).

NOTE:  The use of threat or destructive bargaining, i.e. “You’d better not, or else …..,” or “If you do this, I’m gonna have so and so ……………..,” is a part of coercion and not a part of anger.  Because it denotes control which is a part of rage.  Rage is anger with control and/or abuse.

Examples of Boundaries without Anger

  • “I prefer …………………” (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).*
  • “No ……………., I don’t like that.” *
  • “No ……….., I don’t need that.” *
  • “No ……….., I’d prefer not to, but thanks for asking.” *
  • “I ned you to quit what you’re doing ….., It’s pissing me off.” *

*Remove the control (the victim or victimstance) and the fear from the anger in the presentation (your voice and body language).

To protect all that I am (the discovery of myself), I can choose to set boundaries that protect me.  Boundaries are clear and quick.  Clarity is important.  Over explaining is control for approval’s sake.  I can choose not to control by “over” explaining.

Taking my inventory is a boundary violation.”

Note: To someone taking my inventory,

“You’re not allowed to discuss my behavior with me or discuss my behavior with someone else in my presence.  If there is something about your own behavior that you wish to talk about, I’ll listen; but I won’t listen to you talk about me.”

And if they continue ….

I say, “Don’t!”  or “Excuse me, what is your question?”* (what is it that you would like to know about me that you presume to know)

* To divert the invasion and allow them to take responsibility for (own) their own perceptions in the form of answering a question versus an attack.

Examples of Last Resort Boundaries

(with or without anger as needed)

  • “I need you to go now!” (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).*
  • “I need you to go.  I need time to myself.” *
  • “I need to go.” *
  • “Excuse me.” (and walk away)
  • Physically leave the room.
  • Physically leave the conversation.
  • “I don’t want ……. (see examples below).


  • To have a relationship with you (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away). *
  • To do this *
  • A drink *
  • To eat this *
  • Any *
  • To talk about this *

Remove the control (the victim or victimstance) and the fear from the anger in the presentation (your voice and body language).

Examples of Extended Space Boundaries

(With or without anger as needed)

1)      “____________________ is not allowed in my house, apartment, car, office, room, etc.” (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).

Examples: drinking, stealing, gambling, smoking, spanking, snooping, fighting, food, candy, running, throwing things, breaking things, a person (their name), drawing on the walls, etc.

2)      “_____________________are not allowed in my house, apartment, car, office, room, etc.” (and continue until it is acknowledged or walk away).

Examples: guns, weapons, drugs, cats, dogs, pets, you, fireworks, explosives, etc.

In each of the cases above, I move from a non-victim standpoint (non-victimstance).  I do not try to project guilt or shame as a way to control and maintain a boundary.  When people feel guilty or ashamed, they react in angry and hurt ways.  This is not caring for myself (by approaching boundary setting from a victim’s point of view).  I go slow and learn over time.  In childhood my boundaries were shamed and violated.  The terror persists and needs to be cared for in a nurturing way (like going slow and taking time to practice).

Miscellaneous needs set as a limit.

  • “I don’t know.” (as a need, for a healthy “limits” recognition statement).
  • “No, I need time to think about this.” (as a need, for a healthy “limits” recognition statement).

Saying ……

  • “No.” (recognizing a limit or boundary that’s healthy).
  • “That hurts, don’t do that!”  (recognizing a boundary that’s healthy).
  • “I’m scared.” (expelling pain, fear, recognizing a boundary).
  • “I’m bored.”
  • “I’m sick.” (recognizing a limit; that’s healthy and expelling pain).
  • “I’m injured.” (recognizing a limit; that’s healthy and expelling pain).
  • “I’m tired.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m not strong enough.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m not big enough.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m not strong enough.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m not old enough.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m not tall enough.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m angry.” (expelling pain).
  • “I don’t know.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I don’t understand.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy).
  • “I’m sad.” (expelling pain).
  • “I’m frustrated.” (recognizing a limit that’s healthy and expelling pain).
  • “I’m ashamed.” (expelling pain).  Child’s version: “I feel bad, icky, etc.”
  • “I’m lonely.” (expelling pain). Child’s version: “I can’t find anyone to play.”
  • “I’m upset.” (expelling pain).
  • “I don’t like this.” (learning to choose).
  • “I don’t like you.” (learning to choose).

Lack of privacy may also be “taking an inventory” of a child.  It’s an intrusion and a boundary violation.  Taking an inventory of someone means to take an accounting of their behavior and reading it back to them or analyzing them aloud.  A child, whose inventory is being taken, will feel like someone has just invaded their mind, stolen information, and then exposed it to the world like spoils of war.  It’s an attack and pilfering of the child’s mind and spirit.  Some mild examples of inventory taking would be statements like:

  • “I know your going to like this.”
  • “Mommy knows you won’t like this, so you can’t have it.”
  • “I knew you would do this.”
  • You don’t like that.  I remember the last time you…”

Some more serious examples of inventory taking would be:

(said from an angry or envious victimstance)

  • “You’re just stubborn/lazy/shy/excited/small/slow/etc.” (labels that judge negatively).
  • “I (or You) know you’re only doing this to …….”
  • “I know what you’re thinking (something) and it’s wrong.”
  • “You’re not fooling me, I know exactly what you’re up to.”
  • “You’re pretty/talented/good/easy/nice/quick/smart/etc.” (labels that create expectation).

These kinds of statements, that presume to know something personal about the child, more than the child would know about themselves, are considered to be an inventory taking which is a boundary violation; more specifically, the addict foregoes any question that would ask in a nurturing way for “permission” to obtain information in order to affirm or verify their perceptions of the child at the time.

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