Ana Psychology of Women Quarterly Book Review: Not the price of admission: Healthy relationships after childhood traumaBrownL. S....
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Book Reviews Book Reviews Brown, L. S. (2015). Not the price of admission: Healthy relationships after childhood trauma. Seattle, WA: Self-published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 182 pp. $15.99 (paperback). ISBN 139781517683405. Reviewed by: Kathryn Quina, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI DOI: 10.1177/0361684316658627 On Mother’s Day, social media sites swell with praise and gratitude and pictures of smiling families. But then, a jarring post reminds us: not everyone celebrates their childhood. How do you engage in emotionally meaningful adult relationships when your own caregivers never showed you what that feels like? How do you interact with friends and partners without fears and expectations of pain? How do you abandon the shadow of your childhood and learn to love and be loved? In Not the Price of Admission, Laura Brown approaches these questions from four perspectives: her own experiences, her clients’ experiences, feminist trauma therapy, and music. Through stories of bravery, recovery, sadness, and joy, she illuminates the excruciating pain of living in harmful relationships. As a feminist therapist, she demonstrates how beliefs about oneself and others can lead to poor adult choices, and she offers a path to safer, more meaningful, and loving relationships. And throughout, passages selected from her eclectic playlist elicit memories of melodies and rhythms, allowing the reader to enter into an emotional space that gives depth to the printed page. The focus is on adults whose early caregivers failed to provide ‘‘emotionally-meaningful relationships’’ (p. 3), which is contrasted with ‘‘good-enough’’ caretaking. Thus, Brown speaks not only to survivors of reportable crime but also to those who grew up in ‘‘an emotional desert where connection and affection were mostly absent’’ (p. 2), experiencing a mother’s unpredictable outbursts, a father’s scorn, or a caretaker who did not want children. Through her own and her clients’ stories, Brown demonstrates how adult relati; onal attachments continue to be structured (and too often ended) from inadequate childhood paradigms. She unflinchingly describes her own pain of searching for more solid, trusting, and self-preserving connections. The first two chapters, appropriately titled ‘‘Ready Psychology of Women Quarterly 2017, Vol. 41(2) 286-291 ª The Author(s) 2016 Reprints and permission: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav journals.sagepub.com/home/pwq for the Thing Called Love’’ and ‘‘Time Passages,’’ follow the path to adulthood set up by the strategies children develop to survive chaotic environments, including blaming oneself, striving for perfection, anticipating harm, and planning and self/other control—which disrupt their adult attachments. Her analogy of an ‘‘inner relationship operating system’’ (IROS; p. 48) is particularly apropos. In ‘‘Aching Breaking Heart,’’ ‘‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’’ ‘‘Your Cheatin’ Heart,’’ and ‘‘Alone Again, Naturally’’ (Chapters 3–6), Brown describes ways adults can sabotage their relationships, from avoidance to overreliance, all characterized by a belief that this person could not love them for themselves. She encourages the reader to recognize in themselves patterns of shame, self-blame, selfsacrifice, boundary confusions, and abandoning safe relationships; to plumb both positive and negative relationship patterns; and to create a new set of goals—a new IROS. This can be daunting, even terrifying. Brown makes no promises that others will be pleased with the changes, but she offers examples of, and hope for, new and better ways of relating to others. Most important is self-loving and self-care, and yet it can be the most difficult to achieve for someone who has never been loved or cared for. The final chapters, ‘‘Hold on to Yourself,’’ ‘‘Rolling in the Deep,’’ and the Epilogue, ‘‘Happy Enough Together,’’ reinforce both the possibilities of a happy (enough) ending and offer advice for handling the challenges along the way. Not the Price of Admission will be helpful to therapists, adults who experienced childhood pain and the people who love them, and those who have sensed something is wrong but have not found the right words. I would assert that anyone can find pieces of themselves in her descriptions, and anyone can incorporate Brown’s wisdom to fine-tune already-good-enough adult relationships. Brown allows all her readers to ‘‘see how it is done,’’ a model of feminist therapy in action. Therapists and clients will find excellent companions in Brown’s (2012) Your Turn for Care, which addresses the challenges of dealing with aging caretakers who were less than optimal, and Freyd and Birrell’s (2013) Blind to Betrayal: Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren’t Being Fooled, based on Freyd’s betrayal trauma theory. Together these books become an accessible guide to achieving a ‘‘normal everyday adulthood’’ and becoming a ‘‘goodenough’’ parent. Book Reviews 287 References Author Biography Brown, L. S. (2012). Your turn for care: Surviving the aging and death of the adults who harmed you. Seattle, WA: Self-published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Freyd, J. J., & Birrell, P. J. (2013). Blind to betrayal: Why we fool ourselves we aren’t being fooled. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. Kathryn Quina is Professor Emerita of psychology and gender and women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island, specializing in sequelae of trauma. Hall, J. G. (2015). Women’s health communication: High-risk pregnancy and premature birth narratives. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 354 pp. $100.00 (hardback). ISBN 9780739195864. $99.99 (e-book). ISBN 9780739195871. Each chapter begins with an interview excerpt from one of Hall’s high-risk pregnancy participants. Unapologetically honest about the harsh realities of pregnancy, these detailed narratives bring to life women’s lived experiences. Captivating as they are, their presentation in the text leaves something to be desired. Rather than outlining a woman’s story one time and then referencing it throughout the text, Hall mentions narratives erratically throughout the chapters, repeating extraneous details and reintroducing her audience to already-familiar stories. The power of the narratives, as well as their rich content, is diminished amid this disorder. A table, graph, or alternative organization of the data would have been welcomed. Woven among these narratives is empirical literature about maternal and child health. Hall cites qualitative and quantitative research spanning disciplines from psychology to policy studies. Yet, stylistically, her prose falls somewhat short. Grammatical errors and citation inconsistencies mar the narrative’s flow, proving distracting for the reader and detrimental to the scholarship’s quality. The tone occasionally tends toward verbose, lessening the work’s emotional impact. Unquestionably, Hall’s intent is noble. Preterm birth is an intransigent public health problem, one which necessitates innovative approaches and solutions. Concurrent with engaging in evidence-based clinical practices, Hall calls for greater emphasis on women’s stories of high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, as these narratives promote greater awareness and understanding of maternal and child health. They empower women to construct their own pregnancy narratives. It is an admirable goal, and one which Women’s Health Communication meets. Feminist in both content and approach, Hall’s work is for and by women who have experienced a highrisk pregnancy and for anyone who wishes to understand and support these women. Feminist psychologists and laypersons alike will welcome this important work into the field but may be left desiring something more carefully proofread. Reviewed by: Jordan Leigh Thomas and Jeannette R. Ickovics, Yale University Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT DOI: 10.1177/0361684316666793 A healthy pregnancy is a rite of passage—but not one that all women experience. Of the 4 million women who give birth annually in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015), 9.6% will deliver preterm (Mathews & MacDorman, 2011). Jennifer Hall’s interdisciplinary Women’s Health Communication: High-Risk Pregnancy and Premature Birth Narratives reveals the stories of the women behind this statistic, bringing into focus their pregnancy experiences. Drawing on the principles of social psychology and narrative theory, Hall presents empirical data and original qualitative research that speak to the struggles women and families face when babies are born too soon. In this way, Hall achieves her intended purpose—to share women’s experiences of high-risk pregnancies with the world. Hall’s research and writing reflect the core tenets of feminist scholarship. For one, she is intimately connected to the topic. A mother of triplets, it was Hall’s own high-risk pregnancy that spurred her interest in women who are traditionally underrepresented in pregnancy narratives. It is clear that Hall is well aware of both the benefits and the constraints of her own experience. She carefully articulates the ways in which her pregnancy was both similar to and different from other women’s experiences. Not only does she integrate her own experience into the narrative, but she also builds off this to construct her research questions and establish rapport with the nearly 100 women she interviewed. It is upon this reciprocal research process that Women’s Health Communication stands. What constitutes an ‘‘ideal’’ pregnancy is a key theme throughout the book. Hall persuasively argues that the dominant narratives of pregnancy cultivate women’s expectations of the ‘‘ideal’’ pregnancy—a narrative into which high-risk pregnancies do not easily fit. Most narratives overlook the emotional, psychological, and logistical tolls of high-risk pregnancies, which, in turn, affect pregnant women’s informationseeking, sense-making, and decision-making. References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Births and natality 2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm Mathews, T. J., & MacDorman, M. F. (2011). Infant mortality statistics from the 2007 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 59, 1–30. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/ nvsr59_06.pdf