Book Review – Becoming Attached by Robert Karen

Marian Volkman reviews

Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love
by Karen, Robert
ISBN: 0195115015

The quality of our connection to others has such a profound impact on the quality of our lives. That is why I recommend this book so highly. If you want to understand yourself and other people and flavor of connections between people, more than you do now, this book will provide essential knowledge. It’s one of the best books I have read in a very, very long time. Robert Karen, while not saying anything startlingly out of line with the knowledge I had already gathered and assimilated on the subject, put it all into a much sharper, clearer focus. I certainly learned a lot of new things as well. I’d go so far as to say, if you are only going to read one or two non-fiction books this year, make this one of them. While not light reading, it’s consistently engaging.

As he traces the development of attachment theory (Bowlby, et al.) Karen tells the story of the psychology wars in the days of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. I found this hilarious. When so much of psychology seems to bark up the wrong tree (trees), John Bowlby makes much good sense. Let’s have demonstrable principles rather than ungrounded theory! So much of what parents are advised to do is non-optimum. Bowlby’s student, Mary Ainsworth went on to be a pioneer in her own right in the study of effective parenting. This is fascinating stuff, where you are a parent yourself, contemplate becoming a parent, or whether you just had a childhood of your own.

I am a firm believer that the effects of early trauma and neglect can often be reversed (see Traumatic Incident Reduction), and that is well worth doing, even if it is the relatively minor trauma and neglect common in what is accepted as normal up-bringing. On the other hand, there are cases that are terribly difficult to reach or to help. Becoming Attached will explain to you how they got that way. If put to good use, the knowledge in this book could make an enormous positive difference in the world.

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