Books & Literature

Book Review: Setting Boundaries, by Dr Rebecca Ray

SELF-HELP: Clinical psychologist Dr Rebecca Ray shows how boundaries are the key to many of the emotional and practical difficulties we encounter in daily life.

Setting Boundaries is arguably one of the most useful and important self-help books on the market.
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Rebecca Ray’s Setting Boundaries is an in-depth, well-researched volume on improving your life but it’s also one that needs to be taken with a grain a salt.

Dr Ray is a clinical psychologist, so she knows her stuff and she delves deep into the psychology of life and how we deal with it. She speaks with great authority, both from personal and professional experience, and through her research of other professionals in the field.

The book covers many aspects–dare I say, every conceivable aspect–of how we are controlled by others and how to take back that control without malice. This is a tome that tackles the hard issues that go well beyond building self-confidence and becoming more self-aware.

Where Dr Ray’s methods struggle are in her examples of self-talk. They are textbook examples of what someone would absolutely not say to themselves unless they’re a complete convert. Each of her self-affirming scripts are what you would expect to hear in a university lecture, but in no way reflect how people actually talk to themselves. That’s not to say her suggested self-affirmations are not useful, but a student of her work will need to have the confidence to adapt her suggested scripts to something more naturalistic.

That said, Dr Ray walks through issues of confidence, empathy, self-acceptance vs self-improvement, rebellious actions, trust, varying boundaries in different situations, personality disorders, breathing techniques, relationships, recognising different types of abuse, and the multitude of positive and negative responses one might expect from setting boundaries.

One of the best quotes in the book, which sums up Dr Ray’s argument, is by Behavioural Scientist Steve Maraboli at the start of Chapter 7, which says “If you’re offended by my boundaries, then you’re probably one of the reasons I need them.”

Setting Boundaries is arguably one of the most useful and important self-help books on the market. While the focus of self-improvement is often on how to recognise one’s own failings, Dr Ray has flipped the argument to focus on how we liaise with the negative external influences on our life. It’s a lesson in empathy and communication as much as it’s a lesson in being assertive.

Excluding her sometimes laughable inner dialogues, Dr Ray’s teachings are a vital and unique addition to any self-improvement program.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 29 June 2021
RRP: $32.99

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