Activities Developed by:
Michael C. Irving, Ph.D., Sculptor/Coach and Counselor
maintaining and managing boundaries is a normal
and often spontanious human activity that survivors
of abuse can have difficulty with. Boundaries
are about your relationship with distance, time,
space, emotions and thoughts.
Having conscious boundaries
is being able to know and decide when, where
and with whom you merge. It is also being able
to determine and vary the degree of limits you
establish. Not being able to stand up for yourself,
say no or refuse to give over something you
don’t want to, are all boundary issues.
What Am I Who Am I
I started off in God's eyes as a
gift of love
between woman and man
A little girl was born, but not for love
Born from a long life of hatred to come
I longed to hear the words and feel love
But my love was ugly love.
This little girl confused but what can I do
This little girl couldn't understand why
No pretty clothes but dirty clothes
No pretty hair but strangly hair
This little girl could never smile
Little girls should be happy and full of life
Her touches were so confusing they should be gentle
Feeling full of joy and happiness
Her touches were of pain and shame
Mommy's should touch and feel with care and
compassion with love for this child.
But mine felt for enjoyment and what shame do I
What did I do
Daddy should protect his precious little girl
But mine stared and watched
Who am I
What am I
I don't know
Not a little girl
Nobody, just an empty little girl
I don't know
Driving Out the Dark
This jungle that is my spirit
With its wild dense foliage
Has long obscured the havoc
The savage destruction which they had wrought.
I couldn't see the Jungle for the trees
But slowly, treacherously
I made my way through the near impenetrable undergrowth
To search for, collect and remove what was left;
What does not belong;
In this way I hope for it to inevitably flourish
To obliterate the damage and have it grow as was
I will drive out the dark and lurking presence
Who seeks to hide from me behind bushes and trees
I will evict them from the jungle
And will be free of their poison
I will finally be free.
These eyes which look out
of my face, which have seen much, are the only part
of me which exists in this world. The rest of me,
in my entirety, languishes in another galaxy. However
full and rich that place may be, it has been so
very solitary, unshared.
I am safe on my island
Mist swirls about me
Obscuring sounds, hiding threats
In the foggy abyss at my feet
Distant surf roars and dies on the rocks
The high rope bridge sways before me
Wooden slats creak and protest
Who comes ? Who dares invade my sanctuary ?
An apparition lumbers toward me in silence
Hands bloody the ropes
Shredded clothing dangles
A white beacon sweeps across his face
It is the prodigal me
A weary traveller stares me down
With loathing, I embrace myself
The hidden fertile body
buried deep and thick
in the mud - emotions gone
Up from the warm water
My spirit rises to create
a safe home
Abuse Destroys Boundaries
During child abuse boundaries are totally ignored,
violated and shattered. To survive abuse
you had to dissociate from any sense of boundary.
As the deadening response to abuse became habitual
you missed out on developing the inner sense
of boundaries. You did not pick up the lessons
that healthy role models in your world displayed.
Part of the healing and
coping process for survivors of abuse is to
reconnect with the inner sense of boundary.
To learn ways to give yourself boundaries and
let others know what your boundaries are is
a difficult but vital task.
To have good boundaries,
you have to identify them and think about what
DISTANCE: Physical distance refers to
the space that you have around yourself and
others; for example, being too close or too
Having difficulty with emotional boundaries
means not being able to distinguish between
your feelings and others’ feelings, or
merging with someone’s emotional energy.
Problems with boundaries over time means not
distinguishing between present, past and future.
It is feeling yesterday's traumas as occurring
in the here and now, or being absorbed in the
dread or fear that something terrible is going
Issues with space means not knowing that the
place you are in is not somewhere else; for
example, your home feels like the place where
you were abused.
Having what others think dramatically affect
you, is an example of not having healthy boundaries
between you and them.
- Remember the best time to
gain control of panic, anger or fear is early,
before it gets really going!!
- Consciously think about how
you feel and what you need to say.
- Visualize a barrier around
- See a barrier or wall between
you and what you want to keep out.
- Visualize a protective bubble
- Image or even verbalize that
you now have control over your body, boundaries
and the abuser.
- Assert boundaries out loud
to your abuser (without them there)
- Visualize yourself as strong
- Trust your gut feeling and
- Practice saying no assertively,
but not aggressively.
- Tell people what your limits
- Visualize that you are surrounded
in healing white light.
- Tell yourself that you are
- Look in the mirror and tell
yourself that you love yourself and approve
of who you are.
- Banish guilt.
CREATING PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES
- Hold your belly in or hold
a set of your muscles taut.
- Feel a wall or bubble around
yourself that keeps out what you want.
- Feel your energy or sense
- Feel yourself being tall
or getting taller.
- Cross your arms or legs.
- Move to a location where
you feel stronger or more protected.
- Experiment with changing
your posture to a position where you feel
grounded and empowered.
- Wear clothes or accessories
that make you feel better, more protected
- Be aware of colours that
give you strength or a sense of confidence.
- Using your body and no words,
practice saying no, don’t mess with
me, back off.
- Use that body sense to say
no to what caused the internal memories of
- Feel a physical and time
distance between yourself and the old hurts.
- See the distance between
you and others.
- Think about and listen to
the distance that feels comfortable between
you and others
- From a physical sense practice
not merging with others’ emotions and
CREATING A CONTAINER
Imagine an object or a
place where your flashbacks can be stored.
- Imagine the flashback in a
room. Imagine a point far off in the distance.
See the room with the flashback moving off
to a distant point and getting smaller and
smaller as it gets further and further away.
- Find an actual object for
storage. Write down flashbacks or draw flashbacks
and put them in the container. They can be
taken out at a later date if desired.
- Make and decorate a container
in a meaningful way.
- Ask someone you see as strong
or supportive to give you a container.
- Imagine a safe person or an
imaginary protector who takes care of you,
or creates containment of the flashback for
- Find your strongest place
inside and provide containment for your inner
CREATING AN IMAGINARY SAFE
- Image a safe place —
it can be a real or imaginary place:
- What do you see —
- What sounds do you hear?
- What sensations do you
- What smells do you smell?
- What people or animals
would you want in your safe place?
- Imagine a protective bubble,
wall or boundary around your safe place.
- Imagine a door or gate with
a guard at your safe place
- Image a lock and key to your
safe place and only you can unlock it .
- You can draw or make a collage
that represents your safe place.
- Choose a souvenir of your
safe place — a colour, an object, a
- Keep your image of your safe
place so you can come back to it when you
- Make a relaxation tape of
your safe place (This can be combined with
CREATING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT IN THE HERE
- Choose a room or a safe area
in your house where you can reassure yourself
that you are safe. Rearrange the area so that
it increases the sense of safety. Place
objects around to assist with the sense of
safety. Adjust the intensity of the
lighting or placement of light to help you
in knowing you are safe.
- Have a portable phone to
make calls if you need to.
- Have a list of emergency
and support numbers where you can see them
or find them easily.
- Put bells on doors and windows
to act as a warning sound.
- Have comforting objects around,
like blankets and soft toys.
- Have soothing and peaceful
- Use blinds or partitions
in a way that helps to make your environment
- Put up pictures or posters
that are nurturing, protective, reassuring
- Put up affirmation cards
- Put up positive letters or
cards from friends.
- Put up certificates or awards
that make you feel stronger.
- Make a wrap-around: put affirmations
on a T-shirt, pillowcase or blanket and wrap
yourself in it.
- Healing shield: make a shield
of images of strength and protection and hang
it in a visible place.
- Wear protection: put on jewelry
and clothing that reminds you of safety and
- Clean clutter and chaos from
your house or even just one room.
- Use a Walkman to feel focused
in yourself by creating a private world.
- Avoid substance abuse.
- Go to a diner or cafe that
- Create a comfort kit
that you can take with you that includes items
- Phone list.
- Money for a phone call
- Small teddy bear or toy.
- Stress ball.
- Sweet scent.
- Small jar of lotion.
- Photo of happy time or
- Comfort food.
- Small note pad and pen.
- Affirmation list.