The book Boundaries written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend is arguably amongst the best read in the category of relationships. I am not an author, but I think I would be convinced about a book if it sold over 2 million copies and won a Golden Medallion Award since published in 1992.
How did I come across Boundaries?
People stumble upon books in different ways. I was about 15 years old and I spent most of my time during the holidays reading about my topics of interest at the time. Somehow, at age 15 I was really drawn to psychology and neuroscience, I had a belief that, “The way to understanding relationships is found in understanding people.” I then came across a video on YouTube that introduced me to the concept of boundaries and even in this time, I did not know that there is a book on this concept. A year later, I was in a bookshop looking for books to read reviews on and the world stood still as this title caught my eye. Boundaries was the title and obviously, my frustration was, “Why didn’t that lady I watched on YouTube not make reference to this book.” 2 days later I owned the book and in my 16-year-old mind I was on my way to becoming a relationship expert (I am still far from that at age 20). Just having this book gave me a desire to talk to people about relationships.
What is Boundaries about?
“When to say yes. How to say no. Take control of your life.” When I read this on the front page of the book, I was not sure whether the book would deliver, but after reading the book, I realised that, that line was a simplified explanation of what the entire book deals with. Boundaries –a book written by two very observant psychologists – is a book about understanding relationships and how to grow them in a healthy way. It deals more with taking control of your life, limiting the amount of people that take advantage of you and how to express your no towards people (friends, family and co-workers) in your immediate world.
Responsibility is one of the main themes of the book. The analogy of two people who own houses and have a property line dividing the houses. When the tree growing from one person’s house grows into the other person’s property line it is the responsibility of the one who planted the tree to make sure that it firstly stays within his property line and does not affect others because his lack of maintenance. Therefore, in terms of relationships the book teaches us how to act responsibly in the setting of a relationship and how to identify and limit the irresponsible people.
What did I like about Boundaries?
It is not every day where we get to hear a psychologist talk about their experience with patients and some of the common challenges people face in any form of relationship. Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend identify the problems, then they explain why these problems arise and before you know it, they finally give a solution to the relational problems. The book gives insight to common struggles people face or could face when they act a particular way. Here are a few lines about overcontrol. “Overcontrol occurs when otherwise loving parents try to protect children from making mistakes by having too-strict rules and limits… while a major responsibility of parents is to control and protect, they must make room for their children to make mistake. Remember we learn by ‘constant use’. Overcontrolled children are subject to dependency. They also have problems taking risks and being creative.
Broad spectrum of topics.
Although the book is about relationships, it does not focus on one form of relationship. The topics within the book range from family and friends to romantic relationships and colleagues. This element keeps the book exciting and impossible to put down, because it gives you an opportunity to see where Boundaries are crucial in the life that you are living. “Realise your limits, and make sure that you do not allow your work to control your life. Say yes to the best, and sometimes you may need to say no the good. Work will grow to fill the time you have set aside for it. If a meeting does not have an agenda with time limits, discussions could be endless. Allot time for certain things and then keep your limits. You will work smarter and like your work more. “From the chapter dealing with Boundaries and Work.
Paints a relatable picture of modern life.
The book is divided into three parts and I would call them the before, the during and the after. I love the book because you read-through it like a map filled with discovery. In the beginning of the book, it starts with an introduction to life and the burdens that come with living life, the book then continues with an exciting part two which gives you an idea of the challenges you could face as you try to apply boundaries in your personal life. Furthermore, the book paints the picture fully in the last part that shows you how your life should look like –more or less- if you have boundaries in place.
Teaches you about you.
The lovely thing about Boundaries is that it does not directly instruct you to think about your life and aspects of your upbringing, instead, as you read the stories shared you get to discover some of the answers you have always had about your personal strengths and weaknesses. One of the things I learned about the root of not being content with the status quo of my life was a simple thing I overlooked, envy. “The problem with envy is that it focuses outside our boundaries, onto others. If we are focusing on what others have or have accomplished, we are neglecting our responsibilities and will ultimately have an empty heart. People are questioning themselves instead of others… Your envy should be a sign to you that you are lacking something.” This piece was from a chapter called, ‘The ten laws of boundaries.’
How have I been living my life after reading Boundaries?
The reality of reading the book from start to finish is that the changes are not instantaneous. In my life, the confidence to say no to those who try to take advantage of me is growing. My friends would be able to testify about how I am always speaking about the topic of boundaries and why it is important to have limits towards people. After reading the book, I can say I have a better understanding of people and how they form and break relationships. I have built deep, meaningful friendships with people that meet my relational needs and understand my personal values (boundaries being one of the values). Most of the lessons I have learned from the book I have taken time to teach people in my immediate circle. I do not regret buying this book; it gave me a different perspective on relationships. The book is never far from me, every week I take time to remind myself of lessons that really stood out.
Who should read Boundaries?
This book is surely for people who want learn more about how relationships are managed, maintained and messed-up I would recommend Boundaries to everyone who is in serious relationships and to everyone who has a desire to build density relationships. Moreover, not forgetting those individuals who do not feel like they are in control of their lives and have trouble saying no, because they uphold the image of being ‘too nice’. Ultimately, this book is those who want to live a life of love, freedom, responsibility and service to others.
Feel free to leave comments if you have read the book or even if you are currently reading the book. I will also answer any questions you might have.
Thank you for reading. Hope you come back for more blogs.