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Boundaries

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Assignment 3: Book Review
What led you to choose this particular book from the list?
The two books I have chosen from the list provided are Boundaries written by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend and the book titled Shame and Grace written by Lewis B Smedes.
I had previously read the Boundaries book in 1997 when I was 27 years old. The book was recommended to me by a valued friend. I found the book to be both challenging and helpful to my personal growth and realized that it was a great tool that I could use, finding it to be practical to my needs. I learned to use these new tools that were discussed in the book in my life; through the use of modelling healthy boundaries to my son, as well as with friends and other relationships. So I thought re-reading this book would help me to identify areas that could be improved upon. I am aware that I am sometimes inconsistent in maintaining my boundaries with particular people. The topic of boundaries has always been a topic of particular fascination as they are so important in developing and maintain healthy relationships.
I really struggled choosing my second book; I looked at many on the list and even started to read a few. I then decided the book titled Shame and Grace, written by Lewis B Smedes was easier and quicker to read. As my due date on my assignment was soon, a choice needed to be made, so I knew that I would be cutting it too close, if I kept on procrastinating.
Which sections of the books material were particularly interesting to you?
In the book Boundaries, I found the story of Sherrie of particular interest; she was the main character in the very first chapter. I could especially relate to her time management abilities or lack thereof. She allowed other people to rule or interrupt her time and found it difficult to say the word no, even if she was over whelmed to the point of drowning. She did not demonstrate healthy boundaries within herself or with other people. Sherrie had learnt to ignore or deny her own emotions and wants, through a misguided or badly taught false belief system. She did what she thought was expected of her, even though these expectations were of her own making and to her own detriment.
Sherrie was being overly responsible, “Workers who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will continually burn out” (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 25). Her own need to take on the responsibility for others, was because of a lack of taking ownership for herself, “Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job, and what isn’t”(Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 25) and to recognise “We are made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks.” (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 25) If ownership is not realized it can result in feelings of guilt and shame. These emotions can indicate something is amiss. “People, who own their lives, do not feel guilty when they make choices about where they are going” (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 124). If we do not own ourselves, we are then owned by someone else.
The dysfunctional unhealthy patterns of boundaries are often established in childhood, often learned through unhealthy boundaries in our family of origin. Our adult boundary problems are actually old boundary patterns that have been taught since childhood “These patterns run deep. Family members are the ones we learn to organise our life around, they are able to send us back to old patterns by their very presence, we begin to act out of memory instead of growth” (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 131).
I found the boundaries learned from the family of origin particularly interesting, especially in the instant of resulting back to old patterns just by phone contact with the family of origin which can trigger old associations resulting in feelings of “depression, argumentativeness, being self-critical, perfectionistic, angry, combative, or withdrawn” (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 124). This is just like a virus it passes down from the family of origin to the new family; it impacts with your relationships with others and especially in close relationships.
The book titled Shame and Grace was very insightful. Shame is not something I have ever thought much about. Those who suffer from shame do not feel deserving or competent. A quote by Merle Fossum can best explain it, “A pervasive sense of shame is the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, defective, unworthy, or not fully valid as a human being” (Smedes 1993, p. 3). The difference between guilt and shame is, “We feel guilty for what we do and we feel shame for what we are.” (Smedes 1993, p. 9) “People who feel shame usually feel incapable of improving themselves, the heaviness becomes hopelessness.”(Smedes 1993, p. 106) People who suffer shame discount their positives; it magnifies their flaws and judges themselves by unrealistic ideals.
The understanding that there are two types of shame was such a revelation to me, one is a healthy shame and the second type is a false shame. It has never occurred to me that healthy shame can be beneficial and it can be viewed as a trusted friend. It is a sign or symptom that something not quite right, this healthy shame can protect us against deception and provides an opportunity to understand ourselves better. “Shame asks us who has been hurt and what can done to be made right.”(Smedes 1993, p. 32 ) Being aware that, not all feelings are bad for us, shame can be an indicator that things are not right, “If we never feel shame, we may have lost contact with the person we most truly are. If we can still feel pain, it means that we are healthy enough to feel uncomfortable with being less than we ought to be and less than we want to be.” (Smedes 1993, p. 31) The second type of shame is the false shame, it tells us lies, it has no basis in reality, and it saps our energy and destroys our joy. It is a shame we do not deserve to have because we are not as bad as our feelings tell us. This shame is a gift that has gone bad.
I asked myself, how does a person heal and change the feelings of shame? This is done by identifying patterns and then confronting them, “confessing them as sins, repenting of them, and changing the way we handle them”. (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 131) Learning to accept grace is important to the healing process, “When we are bone tired of the struggle to be worthy and acceptable, tried too long to earn the approval of everyone that is important to us and have surrendered all hope of ever being, an acceptable human being. We may finally hear in our hearts the ultimate reassurance that we are accepted, accepted by grace” (Smedes 1993, p. 109). “Grace does not make us feel less than; it makes us feel more worthy. Grace accepts us in spite of what we are” (Smedes 1993, p. 122).
What was your reaction to theses sections?
I was quite shocked that I had an emotional reaction to the book Shame and Grace on pages 56 and 57 the topic of social shame. I finally could relate to this book. When recalling the shame that I have felt in the past along with the shame that is supported by society. This societal shame was demonstrated many times through other people’s behaviour. I knew that I was considered a person of lesser value, a leach on society just because of my social status. When shame propels itself with more momentum and builds in your heart and mind it becomes your reality, particularly when it is reinforced by societal beings who believe you should not exist in their realm. Unfortunately their realm was my realm too.
With my perceived view of societal shame, I would try to prove that I was worthy and acceptable by allowing my boundaries to be violated, like Sherrie in the Boundaries book by Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend, I felt overly responsible, and controlled by other people even if it was of my own making. Even though I am aware of my boundaries with other people and try to practice good healthy boundaries, I do slip up from time to time and fall into the shame basket by not being vigilant especially when I do not stop and be mindful. Discovering I have a need to feel worthy and acceptable has helped me understand myself better. I have become more aware of shame and its effect that drives me.
How does the content of the book apply to yourself and to the counselling practice?
Practicing healthy boundaries within my life and in the counselling session are important for at least seven reasons. Firstly, establishing good time boundaries through modelling punctuality and adhering to the session times. Secondly, being aware of my emotional triggers, so I do not influence the client in anyway. Thirdly, do not allow the client to cross the line in violation of my rights, neither am I to violate the rights of the client. Keeping a healthy objective distance alongside the client. Practicing person centred counselling, respecting clients autonomy. Positive self-reflection on my performance . Being responsible for my own limits and behaviour and modelling this to the client. Finally, showing unconditional positive regard for the client as this demonstrates grace.
How is your thinking different/expanded from reading this book?
My thinking has expanded because of grace; I am learning to accept the worthiness of healing by accepting grace, “Grace is a gift of being accepted before we become acceptable.” (Smedes 1993, p. 108) Learning to embrace grace in its fullness and not walk back into previous patterns will be the challenge, and when I have accepted grace, I will move forward.
Finally, good boundaries are healthy in maintaining good relationships, discovering the motive of shame and identifying it as a key role in unhinging my boundaries has helped me to recognise the need to keep the good in but expel the bad. I believe we all would benefit from practicing the boundaries skills with safe people who love and respect us, as they would welcome and accept the fence line. “God has given us Stewardship to look after our lives by having limits, learning how to manage our lives with our abilities, thoughts, emotions and especially our behaviour is giving honour to God. We also respect ourselves and do not wear ourselves out when we have healthy functioning boundaries.” (Cloud & Townsend 2001, p. 105)

References
Cloud & Townsend 2001, Boundaries
Smedes 1993, Shame and grace

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