Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud (Jesus Corner - Favorites Edition)

Now for the worse titled and covered book that I've ever loved...

Changes That Heal
by Dr. Henry Cloud

Procured from Borders, back when there was such a thing. Tear.

Format: Trade paperback with an absolutely awful and embarrassing cover. I have many times been tempted to cover with a paper bag like I did in high school 

Why I gave it a try: This is a Cru 101 book... both small group leaders I had in college forced me to read it, for which I am grateful

Summary: Dr. Henry Cloud is a therapist who wrote this self-help type book to address the 4 most common areas of difficulties that his patience encounter in becoming independent, healthy, and mature adults: Boundaries (separating your sense of self from others), Bonding (forming healthy relationships), Adulthood (viewing yourself as a peer with other adults), and Good/Bad Split (being able to identify and accept good, bad, and the in-between). 

Thoughts: First of all, I have found myself referencing this book countless times when I've been discipling girls or generally just talking to people about life. It provides a great framework for talking about what's going on at the heart of an issue (that, and the seven core emotions, Miss Beth).

Second, it is very practically and Biblically-minded in it's description of and prescription for these areas.  A lot of these kinds of books are very "look inside yourself and be your own empowerment" or "suck it up and deal with your own problems." This book has a balanced viewpoint that acknowledges that there are reasons that we act the way that we do, but also calls you to accountability to move beyond destructive patterns to a more Godly and enjoyable way of dealing with life.

But before we go further, I can't lie to to you: as a read, this is rough going. The prose is about as dry and dense as it gets, so this isn't a beach read or even a bedtime read. This is something you are reading for the information, not the enjoyment.

Yet even without the simpler pleasures of reading, the information in here is so good that it's well worth the effort. All of my friends who have read this refer to it in our conversations to this day - "You're thinking of yourself as one up, one down from your boss" or "You need to have better boundaries about where you want to spend your holidays."

On a personal level, I've found that this book has become a key to the way I triage any emotional stuff I'm wrestling with. I try to be still and identify what I'm feeling, say, anxious. Then I ask myself, "What are you anxious about?" If the answer is something like "I'm worried that I'm going to fail," I then say, "Okay, why are you worried that you're going to fail?" Usually the answer is something to the effect of "I don't want to disappoint XYZ" or "People will judge me if I don't succeed." That triggers me realizing that I'm not having good boundaries. I'm evaluating myself based on other people's expectations or problems rather than my own and God's, and so when I feel those feelings emerging, I can calm down and tell myself, "You are doing the best you can. You are not responsible for pleasing someone else's ideas about what you should be or do. Here's where you are or are not meeting your true responsibility to that person, and here's how you can communicate your boundary in this area." At which point, I feel more confident telling my boss that I have no additional bandwidth to take on new responsibilities right now or explaining to a friend why I'm not comfortable doing XYZ with them.

This is where the balance of Cloud's framework is key. He's not suggesting that you just brush off what other people are thinking or doing in this kind of situation. Rather, he's advocating that in this case you set a clear boundary (I am going to fulfill my actual obligations to this person and not allow their perceived judgments to cause anxiety) but also that you not set up barriers to bonding (communicating a boundary with love and respect, understanding what the needs of others are and to what degree you have a reasonable responsibility to them). Add to this a call to recognize that most people's motives and character are neither all good nor all bad and his appealing to you to see people realistically, and you have a lot more room for grace with yourself and other people. Finally, he advocates seeing yourself as an adult peer, which means that you treat yourself and other with concordant amount of respect and responsibility.

Basically, this is a really insightful book that will spark introspection for yourself and help you better understand where people are coming from. Definitely has a Christian POV, but I suspect that much of Cloud's practical advice transcends the specificity of the Biblical truths he's referencing (think "do unto others  as you would have them do unto you").


7 - I will have to seriously reevaluate any friendship or romantic interest that does not like this book: a favorite 

What makes a book about psychology or life more than just another self-help book? 

Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound

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