There is a difference. It is critical to our well being in how we relate to our ourselves, family units, occupations and society.
One of things we try to teach our children over the years is the concept of boundaries, that it is not okay for someone to violate theirs, nor is it okay for them to violate others. We do this to protect them, and learn respect for themselves and others. Without boundaries, the world, our homes and social interactions for the individual becomes a frightening place, one where no one is safe, and paranoia is the rule rather than the exception. Boundaries are healthy, vital parts of our psyche as human beings.
Boundaries, on a personal level, are formed through life experiences, both negative and positive, that have taught us what is a comfortable or uncomfortable behavior, action or reaction. A boundary is created by those when in control of their environment and person, and they have made a decision regarding a behavior, action or reaction.
The walls that we build in life are formed in much the same way. They too, are formed through life experiences. Unlike boundaries, walls are never derived from a positive experience. Their root is always a reaction to a life experience, one in which they lacked control of their person or environment that created it. The person attempts to reestablish control by creating the wall with the goal of not having to deal with or encounter the stimulus that created it again. Walls are formed a great many times by reactions to fear and anger turned inward (resentments). Walls are not the product of a thought out decision, but are an instinctive response to a behavior, action or reaction.
Having a well defined sense of boundaries means the person is free to communicate with their environment (themselves, family units, occupations and society) of what it is that makes them uncomfortable. It allows a dialogue between themselves and the situation that they are encountering, permitting the stimulus that caused it a choice to respect the persons boundary. If the boundary is not respected, the person that created the boundary remains in control of the situation and is free to take further steps in which to protect their boundary.
If the person has built a wall in response to a given behavior, action or reaction means that the person will have a great deal of difficulty communicating with the stimulus that has caused their wall to be breached. There is no dialogue – only a shutdown or inappropriate reaction by the person who created the wall. The stimulus that caused the breach has no way to make a choice to cease what has caused the violation because it is unaware or uninformed of the result of the wall being breached. The person with the wall remains not in control of their person or environment because their reactions are being controlled by the stimulus that caused the breach, even though the people that caused the breach are probably unaware of this.
The more boundaries a person has, the more well defined they are as a person. The more walls a person has deepens their isolation, mistrust, and paralyzes them in situations where their wall is breached depriving them of choices due to their lack of control.
In essence if we were to boil it down to a simple phrase one could say: "Walls Suffocate while Boundaries Communicate".
The result of a person having many walls is where the similarities between a wall and a boundary end. Those with boundaries, form healthy relationships with themselves, family units, occupations and society. Those that build walls, find that those relationships suffer. A relationship cannot function if both sides do not give and receive from the relationship. Those with walls are prevented from giving or receiving anything. Trust suffers in these relationships because there is a lack of honesty on the part of the one who has built the wall.
So how does one who has identified that they are a "wall builder" come out from behind the wall? First, it is not an overnight process. The thinking of the individual is skewed by the walls that exist. Because many times they have existed for years, and their top priority is making sure that the wall is never breached, all interactions our governed by this priority. What appears to be a rational decision by the wall creator is in fact not such. Rarely can a person identify this and accomplish recovery on their own. Usually some sort of counseling or interaction with a human being is required to assist them. Those that have walls MUST make this realization and be willing to take that step to help themselves, having had enough of their loneliness and isolation. It will not be successfully imposed by others over the long term.
So in closing I say again: "Walls Suffocate while Boundaries Communicate". So I ask you, who is in control of you today? If it is in fact your walls, contact someone, anyone including myself and begin the process of dealing with it. Don’t stay in your prison any longer.