Ann Weiser Cornell’s most recent book, “21 Days to Better Boundaries” is based on her on-demand video course of the same name. It is one a person could read from cover to cover in a few hours*. However, she has designed the book, like the video course, as a daily programme over a 21-day duration. Each short chapter corresponds to a day and in each there are some background concepts, information or/and examples along with an exercise or process to engage in. Her trademark approach is evident from the get-go: the language of relating; “something in me …”; saying “Hello” to that and so on. She employs an expansive understanding of the word ‘boundary’: “It might be the line between your needs and another person’s needs, your time and another person’s time, your feelings and another person’s feelings. It could also be within yourself, between your work life and your life-life.”
Self-in-presence is an essential part of Weiser-Cornell’s approach and is seen as an underlying stance of the reader towards their inner experiences, in all of the exercises. From the subtitle of the book; “A guide to setting boundaries with kindness and compassion” it is clear that she is engaged in an inner relationship approach. She draws on other approaches when necessary e.g. employing Non Violent Communication’s understanding of needs. She explores the subtleties of indirect communication particularly in families, with friends and colleagues among others and examines the benefits of maintaining healthy boundaries. The following few chapter headings will give a flavour of situations and contexts she explores:
- Setting boundaries without anger, blaming, excuses, or apologies
- Saying no (and yes) without feeling guilty or selfish
- When wanting people to like you stops you from setting boundaries
- When people are intrusive
- Setting boundaries with yourself
- How healthy boundaries help us connect well with others
- Clear communicating that takes the other into account
Personally, I find self-help books like these difficult to utilise fully. However, Weiser Cornell very helpfully offers support for people like me by providing audio recordings of the exercises in the book on her website (for an extra $29). Alternatively, I imagine that this book could very easily be worked through in a Focusing partnership or a small group; like a book club with added Focusing time.
Ann Weiser Cornell. 21 Days to Better Boundaries. Calluna Press, 2022. Available from Focusing Resources or online bookshops for about €15.
* Which I did for the purpose of writing this review!