The concept of boundaries

Ernest Hartmann of the Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University, wrote in 1997 on “The concept of boundaries in counselling and psychotherapy”:


Boundaries in the mind—the relative ‘thinness’ and ‘thickness’ of many kinds of boundaries—has been studied as a measurable dimension of personality. Persons scoring ‘thin’ overall on the Boundary Questionnaire can be described as open, trusting, vulnerable, and usually having a rich fantasy life; they are people in whom ‘everything gets through’. People who score very ‘thick’ tend to be solid, well-organised, and sometimes rigid. The relationship of boundaries to other measures of personality, to dreams and nightmares, to clients’ occupations and interests, and finally to the conduct of psychotherapists and counsellors, including the question of boundary violations, is discussed. Some boundary violators have very thin boundaries and are unable to maintain clear distinctions between the client’s needs and their own; others have relatively thick boundaries which make them insensitive to the damage that boundary violations can cause. Awareness of the client’s boundaries and one’s own can be useful in ‘matching’ a client with a therapist and in the conduct of therapy, especially at stressful times. It is also useful at times to discuss boundaries with clients.”

From: The New Sexual Landscape and Contemporary Psychoanalysis (2020) by Danielle Knafo and Rocco Lo Bosco:

“…Culture and society necessarily impose law, order, limitation, and boundaries, shaping the human self from the outside. Yet from within the skin, that self carries a lawless quality stemming from its natural sense of sovereignty. In itself it is a lack – a hunger for more possibility, freedom, and experience. Therefore, this self will and must push back against limits. The conflict between I and we, between freedom and constraint, and between the sovereignty of subjectivity and the demands of the collective is inherent in human life…”

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