Boundaries protect our nervous system from emotional contagion & the Dorsal Vagal & Sympathetic responses.
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UPDATED MAY 17, 2023
BOUNDARIES PROTECT OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
Setting boundaries with others is not only beneficial for our nervous system, but also for our overall health and well-being. When we set boundaries, we are able to protect ourselves from emotional contagion, the Dorsal Vagal response, and the Sympathetic response.
Emotional contagion is the tendency for emotions to be contagious. When we are around someone who is angry or upset, we are more likely to become angry or upset ourselves. This is because we mirror the emotions of those around us. By setting boundaries, we can protect ourselves from being affected by the negative emotions of others and maintain clarity.
EFFECTS OF NOT SETTING BOUNDARIES
When we do not set boundaries, resentment builds, which in the short term leads to the Sympathetic fight-or-flight response. This response is characterized by an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and can lead to anxiety and panic. In the long term, unprocessed anger leads to the dorsal vagal response, as we are communicating to our nervous system that it is not safe to set boundaries. This response is characterized by shutdown, dissociation, decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, and can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, and social withdrawal.
BOUNDARIES SUPPORT NERVOUS SYSTEM FITNESS
As a result, setting boundaries is essential for maintaining our nervous system health - we are able to protect ourselves from emotional contagion, the dorsal vagal response, and the sympathetic response. When we do so, we channel our anger into self-compassion, maintaining a balanced and regulated nervous system as a result.
Emotional contagion is the nervous system's automatic absorption of the emotions of other people. In these cases, the emotions are not one's own, but left unchecked, this can still lead to dysregulation.
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