Here’s a snippet from one of my posters in ATSTP. It does a good job of explaining boundaries:
Forgive me, but I feel the need to restate what Bon wrote to you about boundaries. They are not about your partner’s actions. They are about yours.
In essence, boundaries are what you do with YOURSELF — AFTER the line’s been crossed. And eventually, they become what you do to put yourself in a position so the line CAN’T be crossed. They really have nothing to do with the “perpetrator”.
If that’s confusing, think of it this way:
1. The law says: Don’t go over 55 mph. (That’s a rule, not a boundary.)
2. A speeder goes 85 mph. (That’s breaking a rule, not breaking a boundary.)
3. You’re a passenger in a car while the speeder is driving. (You’re in a dangerous situation. Boundaries still aren’t a factor.)
4. You tell the driver they should slow down. (That’s a plea, not a boundary.)
5. They don’t, so you yell at them that they should. (That’s still a plea.)
6. You tell them if they don’t slow down, that they’ll get a ticket. (That’s a threat of consequences, not enforcing a boundary.)
7. Next time they ask you to ride with them, you don’t. (THAT’S a boundary.)
See, the thing is — Boundaries can’t be enforced, because they’re not rules. You either do them, or you don’t.
The idea even works in the traffic parallel. What’s a boundary on a road? A concrete divider. Cars CAN’T go over that. On the other hand, yellow lines are just rules that say “Don’t drive over this.” So they have to be enforced.
So, how can you tell a rule from a boundary? If you have to enforce it, it’s not a boundary.