WiseWords #10: on Authenticity, Sensitivity and Mothers
We've now opened up our #WiseWords series to include recommendations from non-therapists. Here regular contributor to welldoing.org Rae Freeman shares with us the books that have helped her on her therapy journey.
Running on Empty by Jonice Webb
I came to this book in an effort to unravel a nagging feeling of emptiness which I had begun to sense may have its beginnings in childhood. Jonice sets out its twelve potential origins and the resulting feeling for ‘the neglected child, all grown up’. Suddenly I was reading about myself. The later part of the book helpfully sets out ways to learn to move from numbness to identifying feelings – even going as far as to provide a list of adjectives. Any resolution felt terribly out of reach on first read but nevertheless was powerfully hopeful.
The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori
Identifying with several of Jonice’s twelve origins – all ultimately summarised I felt as an emotionally absent parent - led me to Jasmin’s book. She explains the many faces of a ‘good mother’ and the impact of one who didn’t met those needs well enough. Niggling questions – can I develop a secure attachment? Is my relationship with my mother really affecting my later relationships? – amongst others are answered. She describes the key traits of the ‘undermothered’ – an extraordinarily accurate account for me. I’ve re-read many times the section on the parallels of psychotherapy and the ‘good mother’.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
The most pertinent part of the book, given the books above, is Brene’s exploration of the stories we tell ourselves – and why. She believes when faced with difficult emotions we often construct stories in our minds that seek to make any hurt, sadness, fear and disappointment we feel easier to deal with. Often the stories have at their heart painful feelings of shame and vulnerability, which she believes for good reason you may have learnt to hide, but telling ourselves stories that shut off vulnerability can distance feelings of joy, love and belonging.
Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron
As I became increasingly aware of myself – which does sound odd but numbness made me feel rather machine-like - I realised I was very affected by my environment and those around me. Certain experiences - art, music, the weather - had a profoundly intense effect on me and despite being told I was unemotional and cold, I felt very sensitive. Elaine explains the trait of being highly sensitive and how, in paying attention and being compassionate and caring towards yourself – rather than berating yourself for being weak – you can learn to thrive.
Authentic: How To Be Yourself and Why It Matters by Professor Stephen Joseph
Although more able to articulate how I felt I still wondered who I am? what do I want? The answer seemed to lie in being true to yourself, if only I knew who that was. This book is based, reassuringly, on the premise that you do not need a masterplan or a known destination to begin leading a life that is authentic. Professor Joseph sets out three areas of study to help in learning to listen to your own inner voice – know yourself, own yourself, be yourself – that I have found myself coming back to again and again.