Communicating our boundaries

An article by Marianne Hill – Healing The Shadow Practitioner and Trainer

In the previous 3 communication articles we have explored communication of the facts, our fears and fantasies, our feelings and how to move forward from here. Here we complete the picture by exploring the value of expressing our boundary. We call this section our fortress. This is where we protect and defend ourselves from experiences that cause us pain or difficulty.

Before reading this article you may wish to read through the previous three articles:

How Can We Communicate With Authenticity And Depth?

Communicating Without Arguing

Communicating Our Vulnerability With Dignity

Our Fortress

Before we can clearly state what we want from the other person it can be helpful to clearly state what we do not want. This is what the fortress section is about. We express our boundary by stating clearly what is not ok for us. This isn’t an ultimatum or a demand for things to be different. It is simply sharing from our heart what we find to be not ok.

This expression of our boundary can be very empowering as we step up and express our ‘No’ or our ‘Stop’. We are saying strongly ‘This is me. This is where I stand. This is not ok with me.’ However, it can also be vulnerable, tender and connecting as we expose our pain by admitting that something is not ok and has harmed or distressed us in some way. We are human, we have feelings, we have vulnerable areas and limits to what we can handle.

Let’s start with a few examples:

‘It’s not ok with me that you didn’t send me a card on my birthday.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you don’t want me to see my friends.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you earn less money than me.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you try to control what I eat.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you work such long hours.’

‘It’s not ok with me that there is such a distance between us.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you shout when we are have a disagreement.’

From the first communication blog you will see that when we are trying to communicate clearly we work hard to establish the facts of a situation and to separate them from our fears and fantasies about what happened. This continues to be important as we express our boundary. For the communication to be clean and clear we need to be talking about facts when we express our boundary and not our fears, fantasies or judgements.

So, to give you some examples of this let’s look at the first statement above:

‘It’s not ok with me that you didn’t send me a card on my birthday.’

This statement contains information that it is fairly easy to verify. It is likely that you will both agree that a card wasn’t sent. It might not be helpful communication to say:

‘It’s not ok with me that you forgot my birthday.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you don’t care about my birthday.’

‘It’s not ok with me that you were so thoughtless on my birthday.’

These three alternative boundary statements all include judgements about the other person that may or may not be true – You are making judgements that they forgot, that they didn’t care and that they were thoughtless. These may have more to do with our own fears and fantasies than with anything that was going on for the other person. If we want to be heard by the other person in an undefended way it is best to avoid judgements unless they are clearly owned as such and expressed in the fears and fantasies section. So when expressing a boundary it is best if we are talking about something that is established fact between us. If we are not sure that something is a fact between the two of us then this is relatively easy to check out. For example, we can say:

‘Do you agree that you forgot my birthday?’ or ‘Is it true for you that you forgot my birthday?’

If they agree then it is fine for you to go on and say

‘It’s not ok with me that you forgot my birthday.’

They will be able to hear what you are saying because they won’t be disagreeing with the facts about what happened.

A fortress statement isn’t always necessary or helpful. It is an optional section that comes before expressing our want. When thinking about what you want to say you can check inside and ask yourself if there is a boundary that it is important for you to express to this person. If so you can include it before the want.

So, we can finish by giving an example of communication using all of the 5 fields:

  1. Facts
  2. Fears and Fantasies
  3. Feelings
  4. Fortress
  5. Forward From Here

Let’s look again to the example of the forgotten birthday card. The fears and fantasies, feelings and ways forward would be different for different people, but here is one possible scenario:

‘You know, yesterday was my birthday and all day I was aware that I didn’t get a card from you.

 I started thinking, and I know this may not be what was going on for you at all, but I really started to think that you don’t care about me that much. This started me thinking that I was pretty alone in the world.

I felt sad. I cried a lot yesterday.

It wasn’t ok with me that you didn’t send me a card.

I would love for you to show your love for me with things like presents and cards. They don’t have to cost much, but it would really mean a lot and it would give me a sense that I’m loved and cared for.’

Hopefully here you can see the five different sections in order, and how they come together to form a paragraph expressing what is going on for this person in the clearest possible way. With this communication model we are not making conversations easy, but hopefully we are making them possible – where otherwise they may not be. Thus difficult thoughts, feelings and experiences are being brought out of the shadow and in to the light of day where they can be discussed and therefore open up the possibility of change and greater shared understanding and connection.


If you would like further reading about the Five Fields Authentic Communication model you can email me to order a copy of my booklet The Five Fields Framework – creating authentic, vibrant and healing relationships. These cost £12 plus postage. Email

Sign up here for the monthly Healing The Shadow newsletter with details of upcoming workshops, new articles about personal development and the shadow, and other Healing the Shadow news.

For further information about Healing The Shadow, including details of group workshops, 1-2-1 sessions and couple’s work visit Marianne’s Website

For information about the Two Year Practitioner Training please visit



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current ye@r *