This must be one of the saddest books I have ever read. Not simply because of the gut-wrenching stories of abuse, but more importantly because of the totally negative "solutions" it offers.
All the way through the book I was aware of a feeling of pure rage and hatred emanating from the text. Just my imagination? I don't think so. Check this giveaway passage (from a "fairy tale" created by one of the author's patients) on page 287:
'Ivy [for Incest Victim] panicked. "But there's no way over the river,'" she cried. "Yes there is," cooed Susan victoriously. "You may *ride on my outrage*. It has carried me far, and it will carry you too." '
What a powerful, and revealing, description that is!
This constant harping on anger and rage is not simply aesthetically unappealing - it is bad psychology. In Chapter 9 - "You Don't Have to Forgive" - the author tells us quite categorically (page 187) that:
'One of the most dangerous things about forgiveness is that it undercuts your ability to let go of your pent-up emotions.'
Firstly, forget the "most cherished religious, spiritual, philosophical, and psychological principles" that the author rejects. The fact is that we have plenty of hard scientific evidence that holding a grudge will upset your body's chemistry resulting in significant physiological damage such as ulcers, heart problems and/or other stress-related illnesses.
Indeed, the whole claim (page 185) that:
'... it is not necessary to forgive your parents in order to feel better about yourself and to change your life!'
rings pretty hollow as far as I can hear.
Secondly, if the author thinks it so important that victims hang on to this raw edge in order to be able to let go of pent-up emotions, what sense can we make of the following description of a therapy group for incest victims (page 277):
'Every time a new member is initiated, group members must repeat what has long been unspoken. The more often this happens, the more everyone in the group is desensitized to the shame and guilt.'
If simple repetition is really so successful in dealing with shame and guilt - which are presumably amongst those "pent-up emotions" - why is it necessary for victims to refuse to forgive? Do different emotions have to be dealt with in different ways? Will the anger and rage still persist after the shame and guilt have (allegedly) gone?
Indeed, can we even take seriously this idea that repetition provides an effective way of clearing negative emotions? Again, the practical evidence is that repetition does not *clear* bad memories. Rather it literally *fixes* them more firmly in your brain. We may be "desensitized" on the surface, even as all hell breaks loose at the subconscious level.
This is, in fact, a good example of how being a victim or a "survivor" becomes an essential element of someone's core identity.
("Victim" and "survivor" are actually very similar roles in that they both keep us looking backwards, chained to the past, instead of allowing us to let go of the past and move on.)
Nor was I reassured by this passage on 'confronting your aggressor' (page 294):
'1. ... If the aggressor claims not to remember, ask him to acknowledge that even though *he* doesn't remember, it must be true because *you* remember.'
Has the author never heard of false memory syndrome?
Both America and Britain have seen major child abuse witch hunts take place based on nothing more than this simple assumption - that everything a child says it remembers is bound to be a TRUE memory. (Not forgetting the overenthusiastic care workers who "help" the children to "remember" non-existent events.)
The fact is that many children can VERY easily be talked into remembering things that never happened at all. Getting a child to mis-interpret an essentially innocent event - to favour one side or the other in a custody battle, for example - is just as easy, if not easier.
Despite the claim that this is the route to "reclaiming your life" I strongly suspect that whilst, superficially, it may *appear* to bring benefits, it is *actually* more likely (at a deeper level) to perpetuate the destructive effects of the initial abuse.