I did not know a thing about attachment theory before I read Attached. So, what is it? Attachment theory describes how you bond with other people. Are you confident in that bond? Are you confident in general in your bonds with other people? If so, congratulations! You’re securely attached. If you’re not confident in those bonds, that can manifest in two different behavior types: avoidant (you push people away) and anxious (you try to hold people too close).
Attached was useful in that it helped me realize some of my relationship patterns; it was unhelpful in that this book focuses on romantic relationships only. There are so many types of relationships out there: family, friends, workplace, acquaintances, just to name a few. And I was actually more curious about those. There wasn’t even a cursory chapter in the book about any relationship types other than romantic relationships.
So, while it was helpful in teaching me about the theory, I was actually looking for something else practically. I would recommend Attached if you’re looking for a romantic partner and want to understand maybe one reason your relationships haven’t worked in the past. But if you’re looking to understand other relationship types? This isn’t your book.
What’s it about?
Far from the Tree is, to summarize, about parenting difficult/different children. The author posits a construction. Vertical identity is the culture you get from your parents; horizontal identity is the culture you get from the world around you. But what happens when your child has a drastically different horizontal identity? Each chapter looks at family units who are dealing with a radically different horizontal identity: deaf children born to hearing parents; autistic children; prodigies; children who choose lives of crime; there are more. It’s a sympathetic look at how parents and children navigate figuring out who they are as individuals and who they are in relation to each other and the outside world.
Why should you read it?
It is long (700 pages). You should read Far from the Tree if you have children or want children. It’s not going to give you parenting tips, unless you want to be hammered over the head with “your child needs to feel safe and secure and loved so DO THAT” and “find meaning in your parenting to be happy.” These are lessons so global as to be almost useless. But it does help you understand differences in the world – all the examples about Deaf culture or how the world treats transgendered kids illustrate that everyone does have the same basic needs: to be loved and accepted. (I did skip most of the chapter on kids conceived in rape. I couldn’t deal with 50-60 pages continually recounting women at their most vulnerable.)
Overall, a thorough book that’s worth your time.
What’s it about?
Viktor Frankl spent World War II in a concentration camp. He was a therapist before he was imprisoned, and he used his time in the camps to better understand himself and humanity. It’s not a long overview of his time in the camps – maybe 100 pages? – but it’s powerful stuff. The upshot is that the people whose lives had meaning, who had something to live for, those people were the ones who survived. If you believed that you were going to be free by Christmas and then Christmas came and went, well, it was highly likely that you were going to die shortly thereafter. There’s a short appendix talking about his therapeutic philosophy – that everyone who believes their life has a purpose is happier and healthier. So why are you here?
Why should you read it?
The week I read this was a hard one. I was having a small bout of depression; my husband was out of town, so I was single-parenting; and I got insomnia. Reading Man’s Search for Meaning helped, a lot. It set my brain thinking about why I do what I do. I won’t go into detail (this blog post isn’t a therapy session!), but it gave me the headspace and strength to make it through. And I needed that. I know this book has helped other people figure out what they want to do with their lives. But for me it was simpler, more a confirmation that I’m ok with where I am. Sometimes, that’s all you need.