The Resilient Self: How Survivors Of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity by Steven J. WolinThe Resilient Self: How Survivors Of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity by Steven J. Wolin

The Resilient Self: How Survivors Of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity

bySteven J. Wolin, Sybil Wolin

Paperback | March 16, 1993

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An informative and inspiring guide to rebounding from childhood hardships to find uncommon strength and courage
The Resilient Self reminds us all of the importance of being aware of and building on the strengths of our young people, whatever their early life experiences. We must work to give them hope and to craft services and programs that are respectful of the resiliencies so thoughtfully characterized by the Wolins. This guide, although based on the experiences of adults, offers extremely useful insights too for those working on behalf of children and adolescents.”—Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children’s Defense Fund
“This book offers a strong sense of hope for everyone who has grown up in a troubled family. I salute the authors for their masterful synthesis of research, clinical experiences, and insights gleaned from the voices of poetry. The Wolins’ book cautions the reader that no one emerges from troubled childhood without some scars, but it challenges us to finds ways in which we can transforms pain into joy in our lives.”—Emmy E. Werner, Ph.D., author of Vulnerable But Invincible and Overcoming the Odds
“This marvelous book can turn the tide for people injured during their childhoods, not by ignoring the ashes of the past, but by winnowing out the precious elements from which the phoenix can triumphantly rise. It is a book that has been badly needed, and for which many will long be grateful.”—Timmen L. Cermak, M.D., former chairman, National Association for Children of Alcoholics
“At last, a compassionate and realistic challenge to abandon the idea that one is a passive object of an unhappy childhood. The Resilient Self encourages readers to recognize and appreciate their strong, insightful, and creative survival.”—Barbara Mathis, author of Between Sisters: Secret Rivals, Intimate Friends
The Resilient Self shows adult children of dysfunctional families that they can escape a painful past and become resilient survivors. It describes the strategies which have been used successfully by those who grew up in troubled homes but who managed to work well, play well, and love well as adults. I recognized myself in this book with a survivor’s pride.”—Anonymous survivor
Steven J. Wolin, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical School, a longtime researcher in the department’s Center for Family Research, and director of family therapy training. He also maintains a private practice in psychiatry and with his wife, Sybil Wolin, founded Project Resilience, a prog...
Title:The Resilient Self: How Survivors Of Troubled Families Rise Above AdversityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.9 × 6.1 × 0.6 inPublished:March 16, 1993Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812991761

ISBN - 13:9780812991765


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb! This was a tremendously helpful book! Steven and Sybil Wolin have done a remarkable job here. I could not believe how much they knew about how I was feeling. It was as if they where there doing therapy with me. In the book, they discuss seven “Resiliencies” that survivors instinctively use to get through difficult childhoods. Then they use “reframing” to show you an amazing transition from “feeling damaged” to “Survivor’s Pride”. Extremely therapeutic! Overall, this is an extremely effective self-help book, and it is an easy read. I would definitely recommend it to everyone who has had a rocky childhood. I easily give this book five stars.
Date published: 2003-09-17

Read from the Book

Chapter One   THE CHALLENGE OF THE TROUBLED FAMILY     “Have you ever noticed the differences in mirrors?” a good friend once asked. “The mirror in my office bathroom is lit by a fluorescent bulb that accentuates my worst features and my olive complexion. I avoid it. I might even go to the expense of replacing it. But the bathroom mirror at home I like. The lighting softens the angles of my face and tones down my sallow skin color. More and more, I find myself lingering at that mirror when I comb my hair in the morning to take comfort from an image that seems to be saying, ‘You look pretty good.’”   I know my friend’s motive well. The same irrepressible urge to look good moves me to tear up snapshots of myself that I don’t like and to throw away the negatives. The identical need lends special significance to a photograph of Barbara standing in front of a columned university hall, wearing a cap and gown and thrusting her arms out in joy.   A survivor of a troubled family, Barbara was neglected by her parents and harangued by them into thinking that she didn’t have the brains to get through college. You have probably lived some variation of her childhood. With three young children at home, Barbara mustered the courage and strength to meet the challenge of her troubled family. She silenced the hurtful words that were still ringing in her ears long after she had left her parents’ home and become a mother herself. She made a schedule, bought a desk and enrolled in a local university to earn a bachelor’s degree. For six years, on more nights than she cared to remember, Barbara studied and wrote papers until two and three in the morning so that she would be available to her children during the day. She did not want them to taste the deprivation she had known as a child.   “This is my favorite picture of myself because it captures my moment of triumph over my parents,” Barbara explained. “It shows just how wrong they were about me. But I had to doctor it a little before I could frame it and hang it in the house. I cropped off my hands.   “You see,” she said, pointing first to her wrists at the edges of the photo and then to the missing hands beyond the frame, “with each one, I was giving my family ‘the finger’—two fingers—one for my mother and one for my father.”   Barbara’s accomplishment did not completely obliterate the pain of her past. She confided that whenever she looks at her graduation photo, she fills in the fingers she is giving to her parents and hears their repetitious cruel remarks. But she also has the satisfaction of knowing that by trimming the picture, she put the emphasis of her story in the right place. She could have permitted the hands to show and, with them, the anger she felt toward her parents for preventing her from going to college earlier. But she didn’t. She exercised another choice. She centered the frame on her beaming smile and her arms outstretched in joy, and she pushed the fingers of revenge outside the border where they didn’t detract from her triumph.   RESILIENCE   Deep inside all of us is the need to look good. As a survivor, you have probably shared Barbara’s struggle against an unacceptable image of yourself pieced together from hurtful and belittling experiences with your troubled family. And, like her, you probably also have achievements to your credit that have proved your parents wrong. This book is an invitation to consider your victories over despair, to savor your accomplishments, and to frame a picture of yourself with your successes in the middle and your pain, disappointments, and anger at the invisible edge.   I am writing to give a full and fair account of surviving, one that includes both sympathy for your hurt as well as recognition and praise for your ability to rebound. On the one hand, I cover the isolation, degradation, fear, and anguish that survivors can often feel. Though these themes are, by now, very familiar to us, no book about survivors would be complete without them. But my real interest is in resilience, your capacity to bounce back, to withstand hardship and repair yourself. I believe that by learning about resilience, you can become resilient. You can:   master your painful memories rather than tripping the Victim’s Trap by compulsively rehashing the damage you have suffered accept that your troubled family has left its mark and give up the futile wish that your scars can ever disappear completely get revenge by living well instead of squandering your energy by blaming and fault-finding break the cycle of your family’s troubles and put the past in its place   Research shows that children of disturbed or incompetent parents learn to watch out for themselves and grow strong in the process.1 Young survivors figure out how to locate allies outside the family, find pleasure in fantasy games, or build self-esteem by winning recognition in school. Over time, the capacity to rise above adversity by developing skills such as these expands and ripens into lasting strengths or aspects of the survivor’s self that I call resiliencies. There are seven.   INSIGHT: The habit of asking tough questions and giving honest answers. INDEPENDENCE: drawing boundaries between yourself and troubled parents; keeping emotional and physical distance while satisfying the demands of your conscience. RELATIONSHIPS: intimate and fulfilling ties to other people that balance a mature regard for your own needs with empathy and the capacity to give to someone else. INITIATIVE: taking charge of problems; exerting control; a taste for stretching and testing yourself in demanding tasks. CREATIVITY: imposing order, beauty, and purpose on the chaos of your troubling experiences and painful feelings. HUMOR: finding the comic in the tragic. MORALITY: an informed conscience that extends your wish for a good personal life to all of humankind.   Resiliencies tend to cluster by personality type. A survivor who is outgoing and gregarious, for example, will have a different array of resiliencies from one who is serious and introspective. Few survivors can claim all seven, completely closing off the past. For the majority—most likely, in you—resilience and vulnerability are in steady opposition, one holding you up and the other threatening to pull you down. The inner life of the typical survivor is a battleground where the forces of discouragement and the forces of determination constantly clash. For many, determination wins out.   Unfortunately, the professions of psychiatry and psychology, as well as a growing self-help movement in this country, have done a lot to alarm you about your vulnerability but not nearly enough to inform you about your resilience. Everywhere you can hear news of your damage, but reports of your competence are sparse. You are being bombarded by frightening predictions that neglected and harmed children—like you and Barbara—are destined to repeat the past by becoming abusive and neglectful adults.   Regrettably, the assumption that mental illness travels across generations is sometimes the case. But fortunately, the transmission of family troubles from parent to child is by no means the rule. In more than two decades as a therapist and family researcher, I have seen that many survivors are like desert flowers that grow healthy and strong in an emotional wasteland. In barren and angry terrain they find nourishment, and frequently their will to prevail becomes the foundation for a decent, caring, and productive adult life.   I believe the damage alert is an overstatement and a disservice to you. Convinced, you will be caught in the Victim’s Trap, bound tightly to the very past you want to escape from. You will be preoccupied with your faults and weaknesses, blinded to the variations in your life, and robbed of satisfaction with your achievements. Your energy will be depleted by fault-finding and blaming your parents for events that can never be changed.   My message to you is to avoid labeling yourself as “damaged.” The promise of sympathy that comes with victim’s status is enticing bait. But if you take it, you will be helplessly hooked to your pain.   Although resilience may be hard for you to contemplate at first, the idea can liberate you. As a survivor, you are probably much more conscious of your anguish than of your morality, insight, or initiative. You may disregard the distance you have already traveled from your troubled family. Despite your accomplishments, you may yearn to return to childhood and do your past over the “right” way. You may feel cheated, or you may fear that you will not be able to give a spouse or a child the love and attention you never had. You may believe that you are living a lie and that sooner or later someone will discover that you are very much like your parents. Like almost every survivor I have known, you may be envious of the happiness that you imagine children in other families enjoyed.   The pain associated with these feelings is sharp and deep and can spread its influence across your life. But you can also put limits around your pain and release yourself from the Victim’s Trap.   Go out in search of your resilience. Look for the times you outmaneuvered, outlasted, outwitted, or outreached your troubled parent. Find the dignity you have mined from a degrading past. In the process of discovery, I have seen many survivors replace pain and doubt with self-respect, pride, and a new awareness of their own accomplishments. You can do the same.