Learning when to draw the line: book review

By February 21, 2018Books, Public

Boundaries, by Jennie Miller and Victoria Lambert, reviewed by Nicola Hill.

I’m rather hesitant to publicly recommend the book Boundaries, by MJA member Victoria Lambert and psychotherapist Jennie Miller as I am planning to gift it to all my friends for birthdays this year.  The strap line is “How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart and Home” which accurately sums up the book’s premise and promise; it encourages the reader to stop and think about her or his life and the personal boundaries, or probably lack of them, that have been put in place.

It describes these boundaries as decisions made which govern our own behaviour and the ways we interact with others. The aim is  to ensure the reader can draw a metaphorical line to stop being overloaded at work, to say ‘no’ to the family member or friend who keeps asking for one more  favour, even to know when to switch off the TV or social media and to go to bed.

This is not a self help book to be kept by the downstairs loo and dipped into occasionally.  It is a well researched and planned series of exercises that uses the talents of its two authors to ensure it appeals to the reader — so a four-step programme based on transactional analysis psychotherapy is easily understood because of a journalist’s ability to simplify science.

As the book’s introduction states, the programme aims to encourage the reader to stop and think about four main aspects of their life; self-care, the workplace, love and relationships, and then the family.  The idea is to follow the programme in that order but with no particular time scale; each section gives advice on introducing boundaries, with practical exercises, case histories and encouragement to fill in the Learning Journal (empty pages at the back of the book.)

Some of the advice may seem obvious, such as not using electronic gadgets before bedtime, and keeping animals out of the bedroom in order to get a good night’s sleep.  But the practical exercises really are thought provoking and effective, making the £12.99 RRP for the book the cheapest therapy sessions available.

The reader is introduced to the Drama Triangle of Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim, and then shown how drawing effective boundaries can turn that into a Winner’s Triangle of being Assertive, Caring and Vulnerable.

There is advice for dealing with workplace bullies, permission is given to defriend irritating acquaintances on FaceBook, and the concept of Needs versus Treats for children and teens is introduced.  Throughout the book the reader is encouraged to sit at a debating table and imagine all the voices in her head — the childish one saying do want you want all the time, the parental voice admonishing the wrong decision. We are encouraged to find the adult, mature voice and listen to what it is saying — in a non judgemental way.

Not all of the advice and exercises are relevant to everyone, as they depend on the reader’s stage in life.   But there is certainly enough practical guidance and recommendations to persuade me that this is a book we should all read.

Boundaries, by Jennie Miller and Victoria Lambert is published by Harper Collins and is widely available at Waterstones and other bookstores. 

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