Written by Anne Katherine, MA
Reviewed by Virginia Preston
I’ve recently read a great book and I must share. It’s called ‘Where to Draw the Line’ by Anne Katherine, MA, the author of another very helpful read called ‘Boundaries’. She’s a one-woman tour-de-force in the boundaries department, and has made this topic a central focus in her work as a mental health counselor, speaker and writer. And, truthfully, I’m glad someone is an ‘expert’ in this area because I have found the subject utterly confounding at times.
The term ‘boundaries’ is a much-loved catch phrase in modern therapeutic circles and a matter of on-going debate in spiritual ones. The need for self-protection that personal boundaries provide seems critical in any recovery process, and certainly in the pursuit of living a healthy life in general. And yet I often feel somewhat murky in my sense of being able to identify these illusive boundaries for myself. Then there’s the added confusion of the writings of some spiritual teachers and masters of our time that speak about the need to dissolve the false ego boundaries that we believe separate us from our fellow human and rest peacefully in the ‘Oneness’ of all that is. Hmmm. Ok, Note to Self: Identify and enforce personal boundaries, then dissolve boundaries and bask in Divine Union with all my fellow brothers and sisters. (ps. Have the spiritually-enlightened minds of our time ridden on public transit at rush hour lately?)
All joking aside, these seem to be very conflicted messages and for those of us who enjoy a little more clarity (read: a detailed and precise road map!) on our path to self-actualization, this does not sit well. Fortunately, I believe I have made a bit of a breakthrough in my comprehension of this dichotomy of late. When I get to that place in my conceptual understanding of new life skills that looks something like this.’What the #$%&* does THAT mean?!.!’ – I remind myself to get out of my dualistic, black-and- white thinking mode for a moment and consider the ‘Both-And’ approach. This understanding of the universe promotes an inclusive model of existence where there is space for both to be true, and then a whole bunch of other stuff, too. And then my strained brain can relax, and I can set about the sometimes uncertain and slightly anxiety producing task of boundary setting, feeling assured that doing so does not preclude my entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven . Nor does it hinder my plans to become an enlightened being in this lifetime. Excellent.
Anne Katherine does a great job of breaking down the topic of boundaries into easily readable sections and has a chapter for most every type of daily situation that might require the use of a boundary. Seriously. Everything from managing your time, to setting boundaries with parents, to navigating holiday obligations and much more. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on communication and anger boundaries. She presents some very empowering information in the section on boundary violations. She also speaks to the tendency that women have to give more when their needs aren’t being met, or their boundaries violated, in a misguided attempt to ‘earn’ the right to be respected. She firmly denounces this strategy and invites women to advocate for themselves first. Basically, she’s very clear that other people’s crappy behavior need not be your problem.
All things considered, a very useful, down-to-earth and relevant guide for the boundary-setters everywhere, regardless of experience level. I highly recommend it. The book ‘Where to Draw the Line – How to Set Healthy Boundaries Everyday’ is available at Chapters.
On a personal note, I am pleased to report that since reading this little gem all sorts of opportunities of test out my newfound knowledge have come my way. Of course.
And, I must say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised to experience an increased sense of clarity and purposefulness in navigating these situations. Perhaps there’s hope for the boundary-challenged among us after all.