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Sunday, February 2, 2014


I recently read Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud (2010).  It is the first book I’ve read that was fully focused on how to bring things to an end, whether they be relationships, practices, agreements, or businesses.  Cloud uses the analogy of pruning to make the point that growth only occurs when unproductive resource suckers, the sickly or underperforming, or the long since dead are removed from the mix.

Cloud asserts that endings are, in fact, a normal part of life. Yet, as humans, we seem to have a fear of endings. He discusses a set of dynamics that exists within us that inhibit our willingness to separate from the useless, the sick, or the dead (metaphorically speaking, of course).  Cloud insists that we must get to a place of “hopelessness” before we let ourselves fully consider, then affect, a needed ending.

In discussing how to come to terms with necessary endings, Cloud advises that we ask ourselves a powerful set of questions regarding the status of the current relationship or situation:
“What has the performance been so far?  
Is it good enough?  
Is there anything in place that would make it different?  
If not, am I willing to sign up for more of the same?” 

In examining relationships that may need to end, Cloud asserts that past performance and dynamics are the truest indicators of what the future will look like and that no amount of promising or recommitments will make a difference. 

Cloud believes there are only three kinds of people: Wise, Foolish, and Evil.  And, he provides detailed descriptions of the psyche and behavioral norms of each.  This portion of the book was particularly interesting to me, since my professional life is spent working with and serving large numbers of people.  At the end of the day, Cloud says we must deal with each group in these general ways:
  • “With wise people, talk to them, give them resources, and you will get a return."
  • "With foolish people, stop talking to them about problems; they are not listening. And stop supplying resources; they squander them. Instead, give them limits and consequences."
  • "With evil people, …you have to go into protection mode, not helping mode...”
In discussing the psychological barriers to bringing things to a necessary end, Cloud says that we can best do so when we are not married to a particular outcome.  In other words, when we can let ourselves consider and accept a range of reasonable outcomes (rather than just one my-way-or-no-way option), we set the stage for affecting some necessary endings, without high degrees of animus.

I love it when authors introduce me to words I don't know. In this book I learned two new ones: “Cathexis is the investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, an object, or an idea. So decathexis is the process of taking it back.”   I’ve gotta learn to use those two puppies.

I found Necessary Endings to be both interesting and helpful.  Glad I read it.

Thanks for the recommendation, WB.

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