We play multiple roles in our lives: role of a parent, child, spouse, friend, brother, sister, relative, employer, employee, grandparents, professional etc.
In my counseling practice, I have witnessed that problems occur when we are not cognizant of the fact that we play multiple roles and each role has a different set of boundaries. Not being aware of this can cause tremendous confusion in roles. Each role comes with its own set of feelings, behaviors and expectations. Not to forget the role of culture in defining all this!
“You are not your profession.”
A police officer was behaving like a police officer even at home to his children, his wife and his relatives. He had forgotten his role as a father, a husband, a brother… The ‘police officer’ role had overpowered every other role in his life. He expected his family to behave in a subservient manner. He expected them to be like his staff in the police station.
Roles that have blurred boundaries often cause problems.
1. People can easily take advantage of you.
2. You may land up hurting others.
3. You have confused role expectations and hence all your relationships suffer. You feel angry when things don’t go according to your expectations. You start blaming others for your ‘misplaced’ expectations.
Examples: Each role has a different boundary
Example 1: If someone has a one night stand with her friend then her relationship with her friend has changed. It’s no longer just a friendship. She has become a lover to her friend but sees it as a part of friendship. And the situation gets further complicated if she continues to have a relationship with her friend and expects her spouse to understand that.
I am not passing a right and wrong judgement but merely pointing out that we need to have the awareness of the ‘kind’ of definitions we give to our relationships and the boundaries we set for them. And also recognize that we can easily hurt our loved ones and blame them for our misplaced expectations.
Example 2: You share your intimate personal details with your acquaintance, and she turns back and makes nasty comments about how you should lead your personal life. You feel very hurt and dejected. Your acquaintance isn’t your friend yet and your sharing personal details with her can lead to unnecessary interference in your life.
Example 3: A coach asked a client to have sex with her as a part of the treatment! The client did not know that he had the right to say no. He thought that since she was a coach, he had to comply. This is a perfect example of confused and blurred boundaries. The coach didn’t know her boundaries and the client didn’t either. In these cases it becomes very easy for people to become a target of unethical practices.
The consequences of blurred boundaries and confused understanding of roles can lead to internal conflicts, reduced self respect, guilt, shame, anger, confusion and a host of other troubling and nagging emotions.
Recognize, define and understand your roles and set your boundaries. It will make your life much more easier.