This summer I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on boundaries. I’ve cut people out of my life who I’ve loved for a long time. People I loved deeply. People I’ve loved in both nourishing and toxic ways. I’ve tracked the ways I understand love through these people, back to my parents, back to myself.
I’m processing. Deeply.
I’m making sacrifices and I’m letting go.
And throughout all of this processing I came across a brilliant book. One of the best resources I’ve ever come across for breaking down and understanding how to set effective, gentle boundaries founded in principles of social justice. The book’s title is Living in Liberation: Boundary Setting, Self Care and Social Change and it’s written by the brilliant Cristien Storm.
For a sense of context, I used to work as an educator teaching groups of (mostly) girls how to effectively set boundaries, to protect themselves from the impacts of sexual violence. I’ve done a lot of learning about boundaries, both as an educator and as a survivor. I’ve made mistakes and fortified my tool box. And I can say in complete honesty, this resource is one of the best I’ve come across.
One of the things I love about this book is Storm’s commitment to seeing boundaries as a tool for building rather than ending relationships. Sure, sometimes we need to use boundaries to push people away. We need them for protection and self-preservation and we can also build boundaries to increase intimacy, to bolster our practice of consent, to deepen our capacity to listen – to ourselves and others. This concept is not new. There are other teachers who grasp it well, such as Pavini Moray – who is another treasured teacher and role model of mine.
What truly sets Storm’s work apart is her commitment to seeing boundaries as nestled within social justice work. And not the kind of social justice work that is grounded in shame-based practices or heavy-handed jargon, or elitism (which I can say as a former women’s studies major, is a real thing). Storm’s concept of social justice is founded on connection, accountability and learning to see ourselves as deeply, fundamentally and politically connected.
Storm’s work encourages people to challenge their stale or culturally inherited notions of fear-based scarcity and disconnection. She lifts up the voices, stories and coping mechanisms of survivors while not letting anyone off the hook for maintaining hate-based blind spots. She sets a high bar for how we can and should treat and communicate with one another, while also drawing from deep wells of compassion and radical acceptance.
Her work is simply revolutionary.
Both deeply spiritual and profoundly clear & practical.
The book is full of personal stories, clear theory, and pages & pages of practical exercises that are useful to both individuals and facilitators or organizations. The content is accessible to a wide audience and would be useful for educators, parents and survivors of many different social locations and lived experiences.
If you’re interested in learning skills to set boundaries – both for protection and self-preservation and to bolster intimacy and clear communication in your relationships, I would highly recommend reading Storm’s book. You can order it here. I’d also recommend following Pavini Moray’s work, which you can do which you can do here.
Here’s to my boundaries and yours.