A humble little blog about books, information, and other things that are good to know.

Posts tagged ‘psychology’

Childism

Title: Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children

Author: Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

Year of Publication: 2012

Genre Keywords: abuse, children, child abuse, child protection, domestic violence, emotional abuse, narcissism, neglect, non-fiction, parenting, prejudice, psychology, sexual abuse, sociology, violence, witch hunts.

Summary: In our culture, adults tend to understand children as the property of their parents, wild and uncivilized creatures who must be made to submit to authority rather than nurtured to fulfill some innate potential. The essential thesis of the book is that child abuse is a symptom of these larger prejudices, which are one point on the continuum that leads from responsible caregiving into abusive behaviour. The author, a trained and certified psychoanalyst, uses her observations of real abuse victims and of well-known studies in Child Abuse and Neglect to make the case that protecting children from abuse requires us to consider and challenge our beliefs about the nature of the child.

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who cares deeply about children will want to at least consider the idea that we interact with them more as possessions to be shown off, pets to be trained, than as real human beings. (Sure, they’re works in progress, but aren’t we all?) Fans of psychoanalytic theory and of topics in Prejudice Studies (like racism and sexism) will definitely appreciate Young-Bruehl’s approach. If your first reaction, however, was “Well, kids are wild animals who require strict discipline to become grown-up people”, you might want to start off with books on child development, investigating the educational and emotional needs of children as they grow. I also recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish; I consider it the definitive guide to treating children with respect while still providing appropriate guidance and boundaries. I basically have it memorized.

Reality Check: Young-Bruehl definitely makes a point of restricting the scope of her book; she discusses childism primarily in the concept of child abuse and its psychological ramifications. But there are so many different places to apply the theory of childism. Consider child beauty pageants, where children are dressed up and made to perform like show dogs, and the related phenomenon of “stage parents“. How about the controversy over prescribing medication to make children more manageable in the classroom? Or the juvenile detention laws in your jurisdiction? These are just a few examples, but the exploration can go on in countless directions anywhere you find children. What examples of childism do you see around you?

Want a first taste of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s ideas about our social prejudices against children? This interview makes a great introduction to her writings on childism and its relationship to child abuse.

Perfect

Perfect by Natasha Friend

Image via Library Thing.

Title: Perfect

Author: Natasha Friend

Year of Publication: 2004

Genre Keywords: appearance, bulimia, death, depression, eating disorders, family, friendship, grief, parents, popularity, psychology, sisters, teen, young adult.

Summary: When Isabelle gets caught making herself throw up, she gets sent to a therapy group for people with eating disorders – and to her overwhelming surprise she finds Ashley, the most beautiful and popular girl at her school, also in attendance. The two become friends, bonding over binges and purges and the relief of finding somebody else who understands what they’re going through. But Ashley can’t help Isabelle deal with what’s really wrong: the unhealed grief she still carries from the death of her father nearly two years ago. How can Isabelle heal if she and her sister have been taught to pretend it isn’t there?

Who’ll Love It: Often fun and light-hearted in tone for such heavy subject matter, this quick read will appeal to anybody interested in the emotional lives of teenagers. The rags-to-riches fantasy element of an unpopular girl invited to the “popular table” in the lunchroom is a fun exercise in fantasy, but the story really drives home the point that popularity, prettiness, and seeming perfection doesn’t guarantee happiness, and can conceal some pretty painful demons. It’s a very readable study on the difference between appearance and reality.

The Real Story: Isabelle may be a fictional character, but bulimia is more common than many of us might imagine, with between one and six of every hundred people affected, depending where you are and which study you take seriously. You can get a good general overview of the sickness here. Lots of people believe that bulimia happens primarily to young girls who think they’re too fat, but anybody can be bulimic, and the link between eating disorders and stress or emotional trauma (as with Isabelle’s grief or Ashley’s family issues) is very real in situations where people don’t feel they can deal with their problems directly.

A Kidnapped Mind

A Kidnapped Mind: A Mother's Heartbreaking Story of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Image via the Canadian Children's Rights Council

Title: A Kidnapped Mind: A Mother’s Heartbreaking Story of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Author: Pamela Richardson

Year of Publication: 2006

Genre Keywords: abnormal psychology, child psychology, co-parenting, corruption, courtroom drama, divorce, memoir, parental alienation syndrome, parenting, psychology, suicide.

Summary: When Pamela and Peter divorced and she chose to remarry, she never guessed how deep her first husband’s hatred would run. Once Peter became their son Dash’s custodial parent, he launched a campaign to manipulate the boy into believing that the only way he could show love and loyalty to his father was by utterly rejecting his mother. Pamela tried every way she could to repair her relationship with her saddened and heartbroken son and to rescue him from an environment characterized by brainwashing, alcoholism, and neglect. But the courts worked against her at every turn, and before long, she and her son were stuck in a nightmare of Peter’s making . . . a nightmare with a desperately unhappy ending.

Who’ll Love It: Those with an interest in psychology – particularly the manipulation and brainwashing you see in cults – will love Richardson’s in-depth account of what it’s like for a family to live with the effects of PAS. Be warned, though: it’s a dark and depressing story, and it ends with a lesson learned the hard way. It doesn’t make for cheerful reading, but I think it conveys an important message with a very personal touch. It’s important reading for anybody who’s involved in the family court system or even for parents who are divorcing, to reinforce a clear understanding about why putting the child in the middle of a battle for loyalty can be a devastating mistake.

In Memoriam: In addition to writing the book, author Pamela Richardson has done a lot to keep Dash’s memory alive. She created The Dash Foundation to raise awareness about parental alienation and domestic abuse, particularly within Canada’s family law framework. She also keeps a blog about PAS and provides other resources for interested readers at her A Kidnapped Mind website. “If my book, A Kidnapped Mind, can save even one child from what Dash went through,” she says, “then my family’s struggle will not have been in vain.” God bless Pamela Richardson for choosing to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

Image via Women's Day.

Title: The Happiness Project: or, Why I Spent A Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Author: Gretchen Rubin

Year of Publication: 2009

Genre Keywords: experiment, happiness (obvi), memoir, non-fiction, philosophy, psychology, self-help.

Summary: Gretchen Rubin wanted to maximize her enjoyment of a life that was hectic and sometimes frustrating but otherwise non-problematic. But she knew she didn’t have the luxury of abandoning her family and moving to Bali, nor would she want to. Instead, she designed a self-help experiment based on all the expert knowledge she could find on maximizing happiness right where she was. Focusing on one area (money, leisure, parenting, etc.) each month, she started trying to make the changes that would increase her joy in the life she was living.

Who’ll Love It: Anyone who suspects that the life they’re leading should yield more happiness than what they actually feel. Because the wisdom of Rubin’s plan is at heart more about changing your attitude than changing your circumstances, it can apply well to anybody who wants to maximize their enjoyment of life. Very cynical types might be turned off by Rubin’s efforts to look on the bright side, but she writes with enough honesty about her grumbly nature that nothing she said came across as particularly preachy.

Inspiration Alert: Plenty of readers have started their own happiness projects as a result of reading about this one. In fact, I’m hoping to have a happiness project in 2011! You can learn more at Rubin’s Happiness Project website. But don’t forget, just like no two people are quite alike, everybody’s Happiness Project is different – be yourself!

The Literacy Link: How Books Make Your World Safer

I’ve been reading through Born For Love by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz, a book about how human development creates empathy and what increases or decreases it in human beings. They have a lot of fascinating, surprising things to say, but here’s something I bet you didn’t know: some historians have observed that, as literacy spreads in a given society, murder, torture, and violence become more rare. Reading makes people less violent!

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