Respecting the Boundaries of Others

Respecting the Boundaries of Others

Everyone has a personal set of boundaries. These are the personal and professional invisible rules associated with how we decide to rule our interpersonal lives. There is no question that the more evident these boundaries are to others, the more successful we will be in our personal and professional lives.

I have experienced this catharsis first hand after living a life of what seemed like sporadic and unpredictable letdowns and disappointments with other people. But the truth is, these letdowns were energy-consuming and, to be even more candid, almost totally avoidable.

Sure, we all get blindsided. But when you have a mental health condition, we like to blame our illness for our deficits in lack of self-reflection. Sure, some mental health diagnoses make it more difficult to read others’ signals: some even affect the vital speech and its mechanics. I am not referring to these primary defects in pure linguistic expression impacted by organic brain chemistry.

I am instead referring to the possibilities stemming from lessons in interpersonal communication and behavior gone awry and unlearned or ignored at all costs. Sometimes we ignore it because it hurts to feel or think about our erred ways. I assure you, from experience, it catches up quickly, and, before you realize it, you have made your needs the priority over the needs of the relationships you are involved in.

I have experienced the effects of making a living out of forcing myself on others despite their boundaries, however precise. Given the detriment this has had on my own life, I encourage people to be relentless in respecting their own interpersonal choices. Always keep in mind the general status of their relationships and the ebb and flow of their connections.

Indeed, my own illness has complicated my capacity to read interpersonal signals, and your disease may impact you similarly. This shouldn’t be a license to disrespect others or ignore their needs. I am sure many of us diagnosed with a mental health condition have tried to force outcomes, ourselves on to others, the system, and those that have ignored our basic needs.


I am not suggesting you stop badgering your case manager or worker but be more mindful of why you are upset with the relationship and your own capacity to make your will a reality regardless of the needs of other people.

When you have a mental health condition, your voice can sometimes be silenced by those around you due to their own stigma and misunderstanding of mental health. Before you become that angry man or woman diagnosed with a mental illness, ask yourself, why am I furious?

This may be due to focusing so much on the supposed limitations of others being able to help you, and the fact that, by resultant action, you have less energy to focus on improving yourself.

Be proactive about respecting others-their choices and their priorities. This may make you feel a certain way, but it shouldn’t be the license to treat others disrespectfully.

For the longest time, I didn’t understand the importance of the lesson I was laying out in this entry.

Ultimately, learning the experience and why its importance needs to be a priority in my own mental health is the greatest lesson.

J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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