Disambiguating use of the term "boundaries": "separation of tasks" vs "requirements"
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I've written a few posts (1, 2) about "boundaries", but I realize now that using this term requires disambiguation between two concepts and also isn’t too precise anyway, so I'm probably going to start using the term "separation of tasks" for what I have previously meant by "boundaries".
What I’ve meant in the past with "boundaries" is "separation of tasks" (cf. Individual/Adlerian Psychology / The Courage to be Disliked).
I.e.: there are tasks that are mine, and tasks that are not mine, and there is importance to recognizing the distinction.
CtbD ch. 26 “How to Separate Tasks”:
PHILOSOPHER: … We need to think with the perspective of “Whose task is this?” and continually separate one’s own tasks from other people’s tasks.
YOUTH: How does one go about separating them?
PHILOSOPHER: One does not intrude on other people’s tasks. That’s all.
YOUTH: That’s all?
PHILOSOPHER: In general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or having one’s own tasks intruded on…
YOUTH: Hmm. I don’t really get it. In the first place, how can you tell whose task it is?
PHILOSOPHER: There is a simple way to tell whose task it is. Think, Who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about by the choice that is made? …
This is also how Wikipedia defines "personal boundaries", and how Mark Manson uses the term. (This is not an endorsement of Mark Manson's takes on boundaries.)
Meanwhile, there's another commonly used definition of "boundaries" that's quite different. This other definition is more like "requirements that you have before agreeing to give your attention to someone else".
Here are three examples of this use—
1. Tasshin wrote a post on boundaries and used the following examples:
If someone yells at me, I will request that they stop. If they don’t, I will leave the room.
By default, I’m not willing to get on a Zoom call with someone I don’t know, don’t know of, and haven’t talked to beforehand.
I will only have sex with people I trust + think are ethical, act ethically
2. My friend Damon Sasi wrote a post on boundaries and said:
All “having strong boundaries” means is:
You’ve stated a preference for how you’re treated.
You’ve made it known what your reaction will be if you’re not treated that way.
You follow through on the reaction.
That’s it. Do that enough times, and voilà, you have boundaries.
3. The APA defines boundaries as:
a psychological demarcation that protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.
But this is all very different than "separation of tasks"!And not what I mean when I say “boundaries”.
Anyways, I think "separation of tasks" is a better term for what I mean than "boundaries" so I'm probably going to switch to that and abandon the word "boundaries" for this use.
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although Wikipedia seems a bit confused about this disambiguation, too: everything in the article is consistent with this definition of personal boundaries except this one sentence (as of 2023-02-03): "The term "boundary" is a metaphor – with in-bounds meaning acceptable and out-of-bounds meaning unacceptable."
In some sense, the "requirements" definition can be derived from "separation of tasks" definition, but it doesn’t go the other way.