Set Boundaries Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab is a book I often recommend to clients. This is an empowering guide to the work, as the author describes it, of “uncovering boundary violations, learning to communicate boundaries to others, and dealing with the aftermath of setting boundaries.” Boundary work can be important for anyone, but for highly sensitive people and empaths, I find it is often even more crucial.
How do we know we need to work on boundaries? Tawwab points out common signs of boundary issues as feelings of overwhelm, resentment, burnout, avoidance, and poor self-care. And what are boundaries? Tawwab describes them as identified expectations and needs in relationships that allow a person to feel safe and comfortable, and knowing when to say yes and when to say no.
Fear and guilt are common feelings in establishing boundaries. Tawwab points out that the number one reason people avoid setting boundaries is the fear of someone getting mad at them. This book provides help with changing the narrative from “everything is my fault” to “I am not responsible for everything that happens.”
Setting boundaries sometimes requires assertive communication (being confident, direct, and respectful). This can feel jarring if you are used to constantly trying to please others or seem agreeable. This book provides many examples of phrases to try out and ways to “try on” what it’s like to assert your needs (and help with knowing it is valid to do so).
As a therapist who incorporates a trauma-informed approach in my work, I was glad to find a chapter in the book devoted to trauma and boundaries. This describes how childhood and adult traumas can affect a person’s development, ability to implement and honor boundaries, and ability to form healthy attachments with others. The chapter covers working through feelings of shame and guilt after trauma, how trauma may create challenges in caring for yourself, and examples of how to address this.
Other helpful resources in the book include a self-assessment and commonly asked questions regarding boundary scenarios with family and friends.