Engel, Beverly. It Wasn’t Your Fault: FreeingYourself from the Shame of Childhood Abuse with the Power of Self-Compassion. New Harbinger, 2015.
Abuse, neglect, addictions stem from corrosive shame which poisons love, kindness, and authenticity. Self-compassion eradicates shame by reversing entrenched patterns of self-judgment and self-loathing that harm a person on an internal level and also possibly relationally in close relationships, school, and work environments. Rather than live with the horror that a significant other is abusive or dangerous and the child is trapped in a helpless situation, the child will internalize blame and responsibility for early adverse abuse or neglect. Feelings of unworthiness follow that child into adulthood where the rage and pain is projected either outward (bullying to others), inward (struggles with depression and anxiety), or some combination of the two.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMF) Everly developed the Compassionate Cure program to help clients struggling with debilitating shame. Her interest in the field was based both on seeking to help people and her own personal experiences. Much of her work is based on the ground-breaking research on self-compassion of Kristin Neff. Everly spends the first third of the book discussing why shame is so negatively pervasive and how compassion functions as the antidote. The second part explains the Compassion Cure program lays the background explaining how hard it is (and why) for people who feel shame to feel self-compassion and accept compassion from others. There are five stages to self-compassion in part three: self-understanding, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, self-kindness, and self-encouragement. Realistic and well-explained exercises pepper each stage to get readers more compassionate toward themselves. Readers learn grounding, identifying with parents and the inner critic, developing a more self-compassionate and encouraging inner voice, utilizing phrases of self-kindness, and develop ritualistic ways to encourage oneself.
One thing to keep in mind is while Everly heavily cites herself and the aforementioned Kristin Neff through the actual text of the book. She does, however, provide a list of references at the book’s end where readers can go for more information. It is also important to note that while Everly uses the term cure, many experiences shape who people are and are impossible to completely forget, so coping and self-growth may be a more appropriate term to keep in mind while following Beverly’s program.
See Also Trauma
Forward, Susan. Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Bantam Books, 1989.
Those who have experienced hurtful parents (controlling, abusive, neglectful, or incestuous) may be upset and anxious recalling dynamics outlined in Toxic Parents. Where painful recall surfaces so will stories and coping strategies that are normalizing, concrete, and simple (if not easy) to execute. Forward spends the first half of her book demystifying parents who act in certain kinds of ways by chapter. Emotionally neglectful parents turn the child into the caregiver, Controlling parents dominate and stifle children’s independence, alcoholism devastates families, and verbal abusers chip away at their children’s self-esteem brokering lifetime emotional wounds. Physical and sexual abusers are also profiled. The last chapter in the first half explains the unhealthy family system as a place where rules (both spoken and unspoken) are to be followed and illuminates other unhealthy behaviors families sometimes use to cope with problems. Forward rotates the stories of composite clients through the second half of the book as well. Devoted to helping readers cope with the toxic behaviors, self-definition, setting boundaries, choosing to forgive or not while moving forward, and how to confront parents with past hurts and injustices. Seeking from a therapist, especially for incest, is highly encouraged by Forward while working through the emotions brought up by recall and exercises. Confronting parents is about speaking one’s truth and standing firm in it with parents rather than necessarily expecting an apology or changed behavior. While toxic is a severe word, Forward uses it to illuminate just how damaging parenting by people who are not psychologically healthy can be. The final chapter offers a window inside breaking the cycle of intergenerational unhealthy systems. With intention and support, parents can vanquish unhealthy coping patterns to the past. If people have been raised in an environment where negativity, judgment, criticism, or other harm was the most dominant theme, this book will give insight into the past and hope for the future.
Lerner, Harriet. The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships. Harper Collins, 1985.
Too much assertion and expression of anger results in women being disavowed, written off, judged, character maligned. Backing down and showing softer emotions of vulnerability in critical settings may lighten the anxiety that comes along at the start of true change and a shift in relational dynamics, but backing down easily bucks lasting change. As a person attempts to change a relational pattern, countermoves by the other person begins. Countermoves derive from protest driven by anxiety about the familiar patterns no longer remaining the same, and they attempt to get the person asking for change to drop the attempt – that is, to restore relationship homeostasis. Readers get a lot of real life illustration of these patterns in action, and she also discusses triangulations that further complicate relationships in a family system. While there may be two people in direct conflict at least to start, there are always other people circling and interacting with both members of the dyad. Other chapters are devoted to becoming interdependent from our family of origin and considering where our responsibility to sooth, problem-solve and offer advice begins (and ends!). Other than a few triangulation illustrations, the book is entirely text. Readers will find endnotes and an index rounding out the book. Lerner demonstrates that using anger as a tool for change and growth is sometimes not only the healthiest course of action, but also the most vulnerable. This book is a great choice for couples and especially women in a partnership navigating anger with their spouse and extended family members.
Blonwyn, Ivy. “Not Being Angry at Abusive Parents Is No Virtue.” 14 March 2019, https://blogs.psychcentral.com/full-heart/2019/03/not-being-angry-at-abusive-parents-is-no-virtue/
Cikanavicius, Darius. “How a Lack of Love in Childhood Robs Us of Love in Adulthood.” PsychCentral, 30 Sep. 2019, https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-self/2019/09/trauma-lack-of-love
Colier, Nancy. “Why It’s So Hard to Build Healthy Relationships After Growing Up in Chaos.” Psychology Today, 24 July 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201907/why-its-so-hard-build-healthy-relationships-after-growing-in-chaos
Summers, Dyhan. “How to Recognize and Overcome Childhood Emotional Neglect.” Good Therapy, 18 Feb. 2016, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-recognize-overcome-childhood-emotional-neglect-0218165
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