It’s time for the heavy-weight competitors of the Self-Help category! A team up of not two but three books that are written by highly regarded mental health professionals and containing a wealth of helpful and, in this combo, complimentary advice on how to get over your damn shit!
Okay but seriously, the combo of these books and the order I read them in was really great, which is why I’m doing a triple review.
The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Surviving and recovering from the five stages that accompany the loss of love. By Susan Anderson
I started this 10 months ago, and then put it down until June, when I read it in about two weeks. It hit too hard back then, but after getting some distance from my own feelings, it was easier to look at pragmatic recovery solutions and descriptions of emotional abandonment.
Anderson uses examples from the people in her Abandonment Recovery group to flesh out the ideas and create a narrative thread across the book. You may be or may know some of these people. Numerous times throughout the book, I found myself reeling when she described the qualities or attributes of a person I was friends with, had dated, or been. She has a great deal of empathy for all her clients and for anyone suffering from abandonment, and that carries the book with ease and grace. It feels like a gentle aunt is telling you the things you wish you’d known all your life about how to survive being rejected or abandoned by a love one. I love that she treats the loss of love as seriously as we treat grief and death.
What makes this book so great are the tools she introduces to help her subjects cope. The big/little dialogue, and her descriptions of inner child, outer child and how to parent your own inner forces are excellent. She provides real dialogues her patients had with their inner and outer children, which give you a good idea of how to do it yourself. There are so many great things in this book, and it’s definitely something I will return to and study further.
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to heal from distant, rejecting, or self-involved parents. By Lindsay C. Gibson PsyD
Following up Abandonment with a look at family structures was a great call. After reflecting on the content in Abandonment, and my own romantic relationships, I wanted to look at my first primary relationships, those with my parents. This one offered a compassionate and intriguing way of looking at the types of parents out there, breaking down the types of emotionally immature parents into four categories. Gibson points out that many people with emotionally immature parents may have been well provided for materially, but not emotionally, and that difference is the core of this book. It’s not really about the parents who hit or scream at their children, it’s about those who withhold, and why. As with any book about families, Gibson points out that these patterns go deeper than our parents, back to our grandparents and great grandparents, and reminds us to take the pressure off of the person who raised us and look at the bigger picture of what they grew up in so that we can see that they did to us what was done to them, and we can break the cycle in our own lives. What I found really interesting was that, for many types of parents, she doesn’t advise trying to pour your heart out or change your parents, but rather change your reaction to them and manage your own expectations and interactions with them so you can get what you need and not linger. This was a really great perspective for me to read, because it’s kind of counter intuitive to some of the more dominant strains of self-help communication out there, which urge clear communication and expressing yourself. Gibson argues that it isn’t always possible to do that with relationships that are decades old and mired in generations of learned behaviour, and that protecting your own energy is more important. It’s about taking on an adult role with your parents, so that they’ll be able to address you differently by thinking of you differently.
Please Yourself: How to stop people pleasing and transform the way you live. By Emma Reed Turrell
I came to this one after thinking about many of my work and friend relations, realizing that I’ve had a long struggle not to be a door mat for those in my life. Emma Reid Turrell is your tough love friend here. She is compassionate but firm, and doesn’t mince her words or ideas. She establishes the many types of people pleasers, and the many types of relationships they get into across their lives. She uses great examples from her clinical practice to provide context for our people pleasing behaviours and is compassionate and respectful towards her clients. She even has a section on people pleasers in therapy and how they try to please their therapists all the time, afraid of being dislikeable to the person who needs them to be dislikeable at times so they can experience their emotions with safe company. This left me with a lot to think about and reflect on, and could be quite difficult to read at times just because of the way I cringed in some of the parallels I recognized between me and her clients.
Also what’s up with these overly long subtitles? Some of these are a little excessive.