I have been promoting ideas and books for and about children lately, it’s true. There are so many treasures out there that it can be difficult to select the few I will post about, but these two easily rose to the top. These books, by an amazing pair of authors, are worthy reads for people of all ages and in all walks of life. You do not have to be a parent or a teacher to learn from and become enriched by these works. These are highly recommended reads for any student of life.
From birth, when babies’ fingers instinctively cling to those of adults, their bodies and brains seek an intimate connection, a bond made possible by empathy: the ability to love and to share the feelings of others. The authors show that compassion underlies the qualities that make society work – trust, altruism, collaboration, love, charity, and how difficulties related to empathy are key factors in social problems such as war, crime, racism, and mental illness. Even physical health, from infectious diseases to heart attacks, is deeply affected by our human connections to one another.
As Born for Love reveals, changes in technology, child-rearing practices, education, and lifestyles are starting to rob children of human contact and deep relationships, the essential foundation for empathy and a caring, healthy society. Sounding a warning bell, Born for Love offers ideas for balancing the negative influences of modern life and fostering positive social change to benefit us all.
“This is one of the best books I’ve read in several months–maybe several years. It covers a lot of ground. Based in Perry’s knowledge of neuro-development and healthy human minds, it applies these insights to economic inequality, social trust, addictions, mental health and a whole bunch of other areas. Perry concludes that we live in a society that is fundamentally ignorant of what healthy brain development looks like.
Take heart disease. Whereas most doctors would prescribe exercise, maybe some red wine, or something else, Perry would prescribe some new friendships and more nourishing face-to-face social interaction. It’s called “relational health”.
Perry is particularly critical of child welfare institutions, criminal “justice” institutions, and other barbaric social rituals that Americans regularly engage in. What I found most surprising, and interesting, was his criticism of many psychotherapists, especially those who unfailingly encourage their clients to “love themselves first” even if this means quickly leaving relationships and spending more time alone. Perry thinks that relationships are crucial to human health and the important thing is to learn how to communicate and empathize, not simply to leave your partner at the first sign of trouble. A rare voice indeed.
I unconditionally recommend this book to anyone who wants to live a better life or who cares about the world.”
~ J. Kerr, social worker
“Empathy, and the ties that bind people into relationships, are key elements of happiness. Born for Love is truly fascinating.”
~ Gretchen Rubin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project
“Once in awhile a book changes the way I experience the world. This time it’s Born For Love, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. Their book explores how children learn to love-or not. No work of fiction is as compelling.”
~ Denver Post
View it at Amazon.com
“Thank you, Dr. Perry! Finally, what foster and adoptive parents knew all along… Love does heal these traumatized children! As a former foster parent, an adoptive and birth parent, and a child and family therapist, I am overjoyed to see these stories in print. It is so important for children with prenatal and postnatal trauma to be understood and to matter. Neurodevelopmental principles are not that difficult to put into place at home, school, or in the community. Children must experience success on a daily basis, at their individual neurodevelopmental pace. I have seen it work in many children.
Dr. Perry puts it very simple when he stated in this book:
“For years mental health professionals taught people that they could be psychologically healthy without social support, that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you.” Women were told that they didn’t need men, and vice versa. People without any relationships were believed to be as healthy as those who had many. These ideas contradict the fundamental biology of human species: we are social mammals and could never have survived without deeply interconnected and interdependent human contact. The truth is, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.”
This book is a must read for anyone working with traumatized children, raising healthy children, or just raising each other!”
~ Connie M. Sirnio, MSW, LCSW
“This is a powerful and insightful book. The patient stories are genuine and heart-wrenching, and the lessons about the human brain and its development ring true and offer refreshing and valuable perspectives on how the mind works. Dr. Perry shows, with a lucid honesty that belies any crass self-promotion, his therapeutic mastery. At the same time, the prose flows smoothly and I found myself easily drawn in to the very personal stories of these troubled children. In many cases I felt a palpable relief at the happy endings, in which a few basic insights into the core psychological issues led to a beneficial and effective course of therapy. I only wish the book was longer — I devoured it quickly and could have happily read many more chapters!”
~ Luke Meyers
View this book at Amazon.com (Please note, as I mentioned in the footnote of my post Elephants Mourning, I include links to Amazon because I encourage all things literary. I enjoy second-hand bookstores, and libraries rock! Amazon is a great resource whether you want to order online or just note the ISBN for your library visit.)
About the Authors:
Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. is the Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy (www.ChildTrauma.org), a Houston-based non-profit organization which promotes innovations in service, research and education in child maltreatment and childhood trauma. He has served as a consultant to the FBI and he is an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. He is the former Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as former Vice-Chairman for Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. He lives in Houston, Texas and Alberta, Canada.
Maia Szalavitz is an award-winning journalist who specializes in science and health. She is the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide with Joseph Volpicelli, M.D., Ph.D. She lives in New York City.