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How Western Culture Gets Emotional Boundaries Wrong

[1400 words, 8 minute read] During the start of Linsanity in 2012, Jeremy Lin spent a night sleeping on the couch of his New York Knicks teammate. After Lin exploded in popularity, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese reporters expressed concern over his lodging situation, repeatedly asking him if he had found more permanent digs. Western media had a field day with the question - the idea of a stranger publicly worrying over a NBA player’s living situation was preposterous. And yet this is classic Asian culture - unsolicited care-taking for an independent, capable adult. 

According to Cloud and Townsend’s seminal book, boundaries are anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else. According to Bowen theory (a widely accepted psychology in Western culture), this is what self-differentiation looks like:

“People with a poorly differentiated “self” depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others o…

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