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  • Writer's pictureJTF

If Parenthood Came With A Manual: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents Book Review

Who is it for: Anyone who wishes to have a better relationship with their parents. Those who have had complicated relationships and want to form relationships with emotionally mature and available people. Future parents or anyone who wishes to heal emotional trauma from their childhood.

What makes it special: Superbly edited and direct, the book can cover challenging subjects with clarity and ease. The author provides actionable advice, it offers metrics to assess the effectiveness of her information. 

Let's make some unnecessary labels: Personal development, Childhood trauma, Psychology, Relationship and Intimacy.

Anyone that has children knows it is both the most rewarding and challenging task they've ever encountered. These are loving and willing parents that perhaps didn't have all the tools, right timing, or the foresight to address their own childhood experiences before having children themselves. They are not ill-intended. Still, the effects their behavior can have on children and how it manifests on adulthood is of significant impact, as shown by the parents themselves who were once children and now inflict the same traumatic burdens on their offspring.

Pending pathological, at times sadistic and mentally ill parents who physically, verbally, or sexually abuse their children. The majority are unaware of the damage caused, just as they live unaware of their trauma. In her book "Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents," author and psychologist Lindsay C. Gibson does an exemplary job navigating the thin line between healing and acknowledgment of painful childhood experiences that create the character and personality of adults.

Gibson is cautious when addressing the issues, yet forceful when discussing the course of action and consequences derived from the experiences. She does not blame, nor is she looking for a way to mend relationships with emotionally immature people. Directed at an adult audience, she makes pointed introspections, explains theories, and provides solutions to heal and further relate to others in adulthood; this may or may not include parents. One of the hardest things to reconcile is the fact that one's parents may never be able to fulfill the 'healing fantasy' of their adult children due to personal demons of their own. To understand that is neither necessary nor healthy to seek for it, can be incredibly liberating. 

Learning ways to identify and address 'role self' behavior on someone's adult experience has a tremendous impact, can break the cycle, and sometimes allow for a more realistic and fulfilling relationship with parents, if possible. Even when that is not the case, it frees the person from repeating coping behaviors and working from storylines developed by the mind of a child. Such freedom is perhaps the most valuable gift of the author's work. The objective is not to rehash the past or mend the relationships that created the issues in the first place, it is to move forward. Create better ways to relate to people and find emotionally available and secure individuals to connect in adult life.

Book Quotes:

“Remember, your goodness as a person isn’t based on how much you give in relationships, and it isn’t selfish to set limits on people who keep on taking.”

“Hate is a normal and involuntary reaction when somebody tries to control you for no good reason. It signals that the person is extinguishing your emotional life force by getting his or her needs met at your expense.”

“Emotionally mature people may tell you how they feel about what you did, but they don’t pretend to know you better than you know yourself.”

“Knowing your true emotions and thoughts probably felt dangerous if it threatened to distance you from the people you depended on. You learned that your goodness or badness lay not only in your behavior, but in your mind as well. In this way, you may have learned the absurd idea that you can be a bad person for having certain thoughts and feelings, and you may still hold that belief.”

“They just learn to cling to whatever emotional scraps they get because any connection is better than none at all.”

“We all need other people to meet our emotional needs for comfort and closeness. That’s what relationships are all about.”

“No child can be good enough to evoke love from a highly self-involved parent. Nevertheless, these children come to believe that the price of making a connection is to put other people first and treat them as more important. They think they can keep relationships by being the giver. Children who try to be good enough to win their parents’ love have no way of knowing that unconditional love cannot be bought with conditional behavior."

“Internalizers are highly perceptive and extremely sensitive to other people. Because of their strong need to connect, growing up with an emotionally immature parent is especially painful for them. Internalizers have strong emotions but shrink from bothering other people, making them easy for emotionally immature parents to neglect. They develop a role-self that’s overly focused on other people, along with a healing fantasy that they can change others’ feelings and behaviors toward them. They get by on very little support from others and end up doing too much emotional work in their relationships, which can lead to resentment and exhaustion.”


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