Whether telling a street harasser to back off, explaining to a date you’re not interested in physical contact, or telling a boss you can’t work late, boundary setting in today’s world is crucial to healthy relationships and personal safety. So says Cristien Storm, longtime mental health therapist and author of Empowered Boundaries: Speaking Truth, Setting Boundaries, and Inspiring Social Change (North Atlantic Books).

According to Storm, many of us do not have the tools to create and articulate effective boundaries. Further, she says, many are unsure of how to enforce the boundaries they set.

Empowered Boundaries comes at a time when the #MeToo movement is leaving many wanting more in the way of language, tools and tactics for setting and defending boundaries. It is a timely and necessary resource.

“Our boundaries are political whether we want them to be or not,” writes Storm. “Our boundaries, whether they are set in action or inaction, whether they are proactive or reactive, establish culture and sensibilities of our relationships and the spaces we move through.”

She adds, “When we do not respond to a sexist comment, for example, the space becomes one in which sexism can expand, which creates conditions where escalating sexist behaviors are more possible. If we assert a clear boundary in the face of a sexist comment, we mark that space as one where sexism is not tolerated.”

Boundaries, according to Storm, are not just about responding to individual interactions, “but also about envisioning and creating the kinds of communities we want to live in.”

Storm, an activist, mental health professional and co-founder of Home Alive – the Seattle-based self-defense organization – shows in Empowered Boundaries how to set and maintain emotional boundaries that build vibrant social movements and a better world. The book, focused on resiliency and trauma-informed theories, provides skills and exercises in contexts ranging from professional to familial to interactions with strangers at a bus stop.

The book is written with particular attention to the experiences of women, people of color, immigrants and LGBTQI-identified people. Some of the practices within include: “Creating and Understanding Supports for Boundary Setting,” “Learning Self Care and Self Acceptance,” and “Navigating Negative Responses.”

The book’s editor, Alison Knowles, said, “Because of Storm’s background and because she has taught these practices in hundreds of workshops over the last two decades, she has seen these strategies work in a variety of scenarios. She’s fielded a lot of questions over the years from people asking, ‘What would I do in this scenario?’ Cristien is also using examples that are less traditional than what you might see in your average self-help guide, which feels appropriate for this book and makes the conversations in it more interesting.”

Empowered Boundaries: Speaking Truth, Setting Boundaries, and Inspiring Social Change is now available to purchase.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads


Cristien Storm is a mental health therapist, and co-founder and former Director of Home Alive, where she developed and facilitated self-defense and boundary-setting curricula rooted in social justice and progressive liberation theory. Currently she is a co-founder of If You Don’t They Will, a Seattle-based partnership that provides trainings on organized hate groups and white nationalism.