Writing about mental health from a feminist counselling perspective
David Richo's "How to be an Adult in Relationships" is a transformative piece of writing on love and relationships. I first listened to this book by audio and find Richo's voice to be fairly melodic and soothing, so reading it now with his voice in my memory feels much like a meditation.
And indeed, he draws from the teachings of Buddhism, so the aspect of meditation is interwoven throughout the book. He also brings in knowledge from Catholicism, Jungian psychology, and his own life story to guide the reader toward a more adult understanding of love. Each sentence is deep and broad, simultaneously challenging and touching the reader. Richo has somehow captured the wounded longing in all of us, given words to it, and then provided a path toward healing those wounds and moving to an adult form of love that can grow and sustain us. He interrogates our understanding of love, though never in a way that's blaming or shaming. Already I have over 30 bookmarked quotes to come back to.
"As adolescents, we were taught that the way to tell we are in love is by our loss of control, our loss of will, and a compelling sense that we could not have done otherwise. This falling in love contrasts with the reality of rising in love with conscious choice, sane fondness, intact boundaries, and ruthless clarity. We were taught that some enchanted evening we would feel fascination and fall head over heels for someone special. But that kind of reaction is actually a signal from the needy child within, telling us what we need to work on, not directing us to our rescuer". - pg 110
One of the parts of the book I appreciate and resonate with the most was a simple list of the demands of the needy child versus the expectations of the healthy adult. For example, the needy child says "never betray me, lie to me, or disappoint me" while the healthy adult says "I accept you as fallible and seek to address, process, and resolve issues with you". The needy child says "help me repeat old, painful scenarios from childhood and former relationships" while the healthy adult says "I have mourned the past, learned from it, and now want something better".
There is so much to gain from this book, and just a few things to be cautious about. In the early chapters, Richo does get caught in some gender roles (though he makes it clear that there are masculine and feminine energies in all of us), and from my perspective, he undervalues interdependence perhaps a bit more than recent attachment research would support as healthy. Even with these cautions, it is easy to find so much to connect with in this book.
So, who should read this? I imagine anyone in relationship or moving toward relationship would be helped by this. More specifically, this book could be an important guide for you if you:
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
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This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.
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