The transition from daughter through maiden, lover to mother can be overwhelming for many new mothers – myself included!
Regardless of how well we know ourselves and how much of our own ‘stuff’ we have worked through, entering motherhood can stir up a whole lot more: sleep deprivation and exhaustion, post-infertility, post-natal or post-adoption depression and anxiety, fear of not being a good enough mother, parenting like our own parents even though we swore we never would, comparison with other mums, fears about our children’s development, getting caught in keeping up with the Jones’, lack of ‘me’ time and a complete change of lifestyle. These are just a handful of the concerns that come to mind.
Here are some books that I use with clients in therapy and that I have personally found useful as I journeyed towards motherhood, as a new mum and adoptive mother of two toddlers.
By Nancy Friday
‘The greatest gift a mother can give remains unquestioning love planted deep in the first year of life, so deep that the tiny child grown to womanhood is never held back by the fear of losing that love, no matter what her own choice in love, sexuality, or work may be (Goodreads).’
My Mother My Self, is an oldie but a goodie. This classic women’s psychology book is a great read for any woman who has had a difficult relationship with her own mother or for those struggling to separate and individuate from mother. It provides a deeper understanding of mother-daughter relationships, acceptance of mother, how to let go of searching for the perfect mother and why we so often become our own mother. Ultimately, this book teaches us how to heal and love who we are.
By John Bradshaw
‘We first see the world through the eyes of a little child, and that “inner child” remains with us throughout our lives, no matter how outwardly “grown-up” and powerful we become. If our vulnerable child was hurt, abandoned, shamed, or neglected, that child’s pain, grief, and anger live on within us. Bradshaw believes that ‘this neglected, wounded inner child of the past is the major source of human misery (John Bradshaw).’
Homecoming is a valuable tool for healing the child within and revealing the true self; the part of us that may have had to go into hiding due to growing up in an addicted or physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually absent, abusive or neglectful home environment. Growing up in such circumstances can often result in a sense of low self-worth and feeling ‘not good enough’. When it comes to parenting our own children, regardless of good intentions to do it differently, unless made conscious, these dynamics can result in unfavourable consequences for our own children. This book helps us to build a strong sense of self, a deeper level of intimacy and connection and tools for dealing with concerns such as relationships, parenting issues, addiction, anxiety and depression. John Bradshaw’s work, like many others within the psychotherapy field, is now being validated through extensive attachment research and neuroscience.
By Helena Lovendal and Nick Duffell
Everyday issues related to parenting can take the spark out of even the healthiest of relationships. In Sex, Love & the Dangers of Intimacy, Psychosynthesis couples’ psychotherapists Helena Lovendal and Nick Duffell, write about relationships as a spiritual path (me, you and the spirit of the relationship). They suggest that many couples feel that conflict is the sign of a problem arising in a relationship. However, they teach us a way of appreciating conflict as a means for reaching a deeper level of intimacy, how to transform potentially difficult situations into opportunities, self-knowledge and a more authentic partnership.
By Stephanie Sorrell
Depression as a Spiritual Journey offers a holistic model, as opposed to the medical approach which currently dominates the field of depression. Sorrell, a sufferer herself, takes a well balanced view and writes poetically about suffering and depression as a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. She shows us that it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of our depressive symptoms and suffering. This book is great for anyone who has suffered with depression, including depression brought about through infertility, post natal or post adoption depression.
By Daniel Hughes
‘Attachment security and affect regulation have long been buzzwords in therapy circles but many of these ideas—so integral to successful therapeutic work with kids and adolescents—have yet to be effectively translated to parenting practice itself. Moreover, as neuroscience reveals how the human brain is designed to work in good relationships, and how such relationships are central to healthy human development, the practical implications for the parent-child attachment relationship become even more apparent (Google Books).’
At the heart of our relational, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, is our ability to form secure, healthy and balanced attachment relationships. Attachment Focused Parenting is a must for any parent. By focusing on the attachment relationship first and foremost, it will help to deepen the parent-child bond, which in turn, helps to alleviate and manage behavioural issues in a healthier way. This book is essential reading for foster and adoptive parents.
By Caroline Archer
First Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts is a valuable resource for foster and adoptive mothers. It offers sensitive and practical guidance through the process of separation, loss and trauma in early childhood. Caroline Archer is an adoptive parent so she speaks from experience. This book provides good, practical advice and encouragement for foster or adoptive parents. It explores issues such as bringing the child home, childhood development, what to do when things don’t appear right, the effects of trauma on the child and how to handle these difficulties.
By Sue Gerhardt
‘Gerhardt, has bravely gone where most in recent years have feared to tread. She takes the hard language of neuroscience and uses it to prove the soft stuff of attachment theory. Picking up your crying baby or ignoring it may be a matter of parental choice, but the effects will be etched on your baby’s brain for years to come. Putting your one-year-old in a nursery or leaving them with a child minder may turn out to be a more momentous decision than you thought (Rebecca Adams, Guardian Book Review).’
Sue Gerhardt is a psychotherapist in private practice; she is a leading specialist in mothers and babies. Why Love Matters is evidence based and provides an eye opening view of the baby’s brain, psyche and how these develop in relation to separation, bonding and attachment. Gerhardt links early childhood attachment and development with childhood and adult issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions and so forth. This book is a valuable resource for making conscious choices regarding the care and well-being of our children.
Read more about Why Love Matters.
By Sarah Napthali
Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children is the perfect read for practising self-care and learning to parent in a calm and peaceful way. Napthali applies Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children. Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses on the inner self of the mother.
What to Expect: The Toddler Years is a valuable, practical, lifesaving resource. The format is easy for dipping in and out of the content list. What To Expect covers hundreds of pointers on self-esteem, emotional, physical, psychological and social development, discipline, eccentric behaviours and making time for self-care.
By Margery Williams & By Toni Raiten-D’Antonio
This delightful gift box is a wonderful resource for mother and child, a great baby shower or Mother’s Day gift and a valuable tool for inner work.
‘Margery Williams’ classic The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a stuffed rabbit who finds himself looked down on by the other toys. With the help of the Skin Horse, he learns that real is not about how you are made, but your relationship with others. The Velveteen Rabbit’s journey from loneliness to love has inspired generations of children and adults.’ (Amazon).
‘The Velveteen Principles is fast becoming a classic of its own. This comforting, inspiring book draws twelve lessons from Margery Williams’s story to show how each of us can become more Real about our values, our goals, our loves and our lives. And most importantly in a world that is often superficial and stressful, its simple wisdom points the way to rediscovering our own true selves.’ (Amazon).
Abrams, Rebecca, 2004, Minding the baby, Retrieved from The Guardian Online
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Jodie is also the adoptive mother of two toddlers.
As a therapeutic counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist specialising in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being – there are many books that I recommend over and over again. Many are listed in my bookstore and on my Pinterest page but here are my top 10 recommendations to help women find change as well as adding depth and meaning to their lives.
by Brené Brown
Having taken part in The Gifts of Imperfection Art Journaling Course with Brené Brown – this is my new favourite go-to book for women. Her research focuses on shame, vulnerability, authenticity and belonging. If you have a relentless inner perfectionist and never quite feel enough – this book is for you! You will come away chanting, ‘I’m imperfect and I’m enough. Brené is a wonderful storyteller and that makes this an easy read.
by Dr Christinane Northrup
“By the wisdom of the body I mean that we must learn to trust that the symptoms in the body are often the only way that the soul can get our attention.”
This is the ultimate bible for women’s health. It covers topics such as the body, menstruation, infertility, motherhood, menopause, sexuality, intuition, wisdom and self-nourishment. Dr Northrup takes a holistic approach towards healing physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns.
by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This deep, soulful and inner life enhancing book has been described as ‘vitamins for the soul’, ‘a gift of profound insight’, ‘fertile and life-giving’, ‘a bible for women interested in doing deep work’.
Jungian analyst, Dr Estés uses intercultural myths, dream symbols, fairy tales and stories, to help women reconnect with the fierce, wild woman and instinctual self within.
by Robin Norwood
Along with ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie, this is one of my most recommended books to women who suffer with a fear of abandonment, controlling behaviours, co-dependency, love addiction and relationship problems such as choosing unavailable or abusive men.
by Geneen Roth
Geneen Roth suggests that food, diet and weight related issues are an attempt to fix something that has never been broken. We are already good and whole; our journey is to awaken to our goodness and wholeness. She writes,
“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels…We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.”
by Sarah Napthali
Along with ‘Attachment Focused Parenting’ by Daniel Hughes – this book is my bible for parenting in a calm and peaceful way. Napthali applies Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children. Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses on the inner self of the mother.
by Rachel Clyne
‘What matters is that we stop hating ourselves; when we do so what has to replace it is Love!’
At the heart of addiction, food related issues, depression and other modern day concerns – working to increase self-esteem and self-worth is always at the core of the healing process. Psychosynthesis psychotherapist Rachel Clyne gives very practical suggestions in each chapter for developing a healthier and more loving sense of self.
by Dr Christopher K. Germer
This is one of the best books out there for healing a toxic, harsh, punitive and critical inner voice. With practical mindfulness techniques for living in the present moment, this book teaches us how to nourish the spirit, reconnect and show kindness, compassion and empathy towards ourselves. Germer shows us that through self-compassion, we can heal pain and suffering.
by Stephanie Sorrell
This book is rigorously researched and takes a well-balanced view. Psychosynthesis practitioner Stephanie Sorrell explores indepth – the medical, psychological and spiritual aspects of depression. She writes poetically about suffering and depression as a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Sorrell shows us that it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of our suffering.
by Thomas Moore
This life affirming and soothing read illustrates how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nurturing the soul. Moore uses myths, stories and dreams to help us understand everyday concerns such as depression, anxiety, death, low self-worth, envy and narcissistic wounding.
by Dr Viktor E. Frankl
‘If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
This moving book was named one of the 10 most influential books in America. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl spent time in four Nazi death camps. He survived his pregnant wife, parents and brother. Man’s search for meaning is based on Frankl’s own life experience as well as those he worked with in private practice. His ultimate message is that we cannot avoid all suffering in life but we can choose how we respond to it and ultimately, we can find meaning and purpose in it.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat.
10 million women in the US are suffering with anorexia and bulimia. This is more than with breast cancer.
1 in 3 Australian females cite body image as their major concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2010).
I remember the first time I fat talked – I was 5. For the school photo, I stood next to the ‘fat’ boy so that no-one would notice how fat I was. The next fat talk etched in my memory was at 8 when I put a t-shirt on to go swimming in our backyard pool – I didn’t want anyone to see my fat body. I wasn’t even fat. On both occasions, I was a normal weighted young girl. 20 years of food issues, yo-yo dieting and body/self-hatred followed.
I was fortunate enough at 27 to find a psychotherapist who specialised in disordered eating and body image issues. Over time, I worked through my chronic low self-worth and self-loathing. It was a long journey back to health and well-being. It was also the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist and what Jung called, a ‘wounded healer’. Through my own experience, I now help women transform the way they feel and think about body and self.
Nowadays, I practise being compassionate and kind to myself. I no longer excessively exercise to burn calories as I did for most of my 20s and 30s. Rather, I swim regularly because I enjoy being held by the water. I have redirected my focus from a torturous longing to be skinny to being healthy and accepting of every size.
Recently I went Christmas shopping online for a doll for my 3 year old daughter. I felt overwhelmed with fear as I searched for one that did not have insect sized legs and a size 0 waist. Although I don’t subscribe to measuring BMIs, from a medical perspective – if Barbie were a human being, her BMI would be 16.24 and would therefore fit the weight criteria for medically diagnosed anorexia.
Internalized images from children’s dolls and the media are in no way solely responsible for society’s eating and body image issues. But…they do make up part of our critical inner voice. What hope do women and girls have when the majority of dolls on the market and the images we are bombarded with, mirror such distorted and unhealthy body sizes. Fat talk reinforces these unrealistic beauty ideals.
Fat talking to ourselves and with friends and family doesn’t just affect women and girls suffering with eating disorders. Unfortunately, fat talk has become a part of our everyday lives. Due to the widespread use of technology, even third world countries are no longer immune.
If we are stuck in fat talk, it frequently starts on waking as we look in the mirror and get ready for the day. The mirror and/or the scales become a harsh critic that determines what kind of day we will have. A single pound can start a tirade of punitive, self-abuse that can torment us until the next weigh in when hopefully we have lost it again.
The crazy thing is, ‘I am fat’ cannot even be; Roberto Assagioli suggests that this is psychologically, grammatically incorrect. ‘I’ (self) cannot be fat! The ‘I’ is the essence of who we are. At the core – we are whole, unbroken, beauty, love and ultimately, a spark of the Divine (or nature, goodness, oneness if that fits better for you!). Our work is to realise this.
If you are willing, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. Now say to her in your best fat talk tone,
‘You are fat’
‘You are disgusting’
‘You can’t wear that’
‘No you can’t go to the party because you look too fat’
How do you feel when you talk to the child in this way? You wouldn’t dare say this to a child. Yet…every time you fat talk to yourself, you are being self-critical and hard on yourself. Often what follows is a binge, a starvation diet or excessive exercise to soothe or punish yourself even further.
Now try this version in a loving and compassionate tone,
‘I love and accept you just as you are’
‘You have so many wonderful qualities’
‘Your body is sacred and you keep it in balance’
‘What does your body need right now – sleep, food, to dance, a swim?’
Now how do you feel? Can you feel the difference? If not, keep practising, it takes some time to shift a strong inner critical voice.
Fat talk free week was conceived by Tri Delta. Check out their 2012 youtube clip about Fat Talk Free Week.
Following are some suggestions to help you on your journey. Start with small steps…
Stop Dieting & Weighing
Since writing this article yesterday, I have just seen this article via the Butterfly Foundation’s FB page about realistic dolls for children
‘MOVE over Barbie, a new range of fashion dolls has been launched in Australia to address growing concerns about the impact on young girls of negative body image issues associated with dolls such as Barbie, Bratz and Monster High.
Unlike her now 53-year-old counterpart Barbie, the new Lottie doll has a childlike form, modelled on the average nine-year-old girl’s body shape and has practical clothes, realistic hair and healthy outdoor hobbies.’
Read more: http://bit.ly/Vff4UM
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction, Eating and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Are you feeling lost or disconnected?
Does something keep getting in the way of where you want to go with your life?
Would you like to know yourself at a deeper level?
Are you looking for value, meaning and purpose in life?
Would you like change in 2013?
It is only 5 weeks until the new year! Now is the perfect time to have some life coaching sessions to set you up for your new year’s goals.
Using guided visualisation – you will connect in a symbolic way with your deeper source of understanding and inner wisdom.
Some of the themes we will explore together are:
You can experience ‘Live Your Life with Purpose’ as a 3-hour one off experience ($275pp) or for a deeper exploration, over 6-12 weekly sessions ($90 pp per session). This offer is available to purchase until 25th December, 2012.
Life-coaching makes a wonderful gift to yourself or for friends and family. It is perfect for individuals or for a small group of family members and/or friends. Gift certificates are available.
The following session times are available before Christmas:
Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 11.45am
Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 1pm
Sunday 16 December at 9-12pm
Business as usual in the new year if you would prefer to start then.