So a while back I signed on to read a child-rearing book along with Krista. I was pumped. I was literate. I was attempting to rear the children. No big deal, right?
The book is What Do You Really Want for Your Children? by Wayne Dyer.
Well, I’ve had the worst time keeping up with the reading so I haven’t wanted to blog anything until I was completely caught up. Then I went a step further and decided not to read Krista’s book discussion until I was caught up so I wouldn’t “spoil it.”
I really enjoyed the first couple of chapters of the book, all the idealism, some of the guilt. His premise is that we should be raising “no limits” kids, kids who believe they can do anything, kids who sail smoothly through life’s stormiest seas because their parents are perfect (okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but he really emphasizes the need to teach by example, to be healthy, thin, confident, calm, freakishly happy, etc). The nice thing is, he gives parents hope that we can become the kind of parents our no-limits seedlings deserve, sort of.
Last week I realized that this book is made up of chapters, each with a separate topic and I could skip to where the rest of the bloggers were reading and join them. Each chapter covers one thing we really want for our children. Of course it was my bad timing that I chose to read last week’s topic. I told Krista that I did not have very nice things to say about the chapter but she encouraged me to blog it anyway. She hasn’t exactly agreed with every word he’s written either.
I Want My Children to Be Free from Stress and Anxiety. Nice thought, right? Well, here are the opening paragraphs from the chapter:
The world is perfect; there is no anxiety in it… anyplace. There are only people thinking anxiously. – Eykis
Every day you hear about people having anxiety attacks. You have seen the statistics on the phenomenal increases in the use of tranquilizers, uppers, downers, sleeping pills, anti-stress tablets, antidepressants, and drugs for every kind of so-called anxiety attack. We are relying more and more on external elixirs to rid ourselves of something that does not even exist.
Anxiety does not attack! People choose to think anxiously about their world and then look for a pill to rid themselves of this mysterious thing called anxiety.
Yes, Wayne, it is mysterious and imaginary, all at the same time. [Swift kick to the gut.] Are you kidding me?! I know that we live in an over-medicated culture, that people are looking for an easy solution to their problems and that doctors over-prescribe when medication is not necessarily the answer, but can you really say that anxiety doesn’t exist?
Can you look me in the face with my dark hollow eyes the month after Magoo was born and tell me that my post-partum trauma was all in my head, that a week after my son was born, the hot and cold flashes that wracked my body and the crippling anxiety that woke me from a dead sleep, if I could sleep at all, were imagined because I was not a strong enough person?
Tell my mother and husband who babysat me night and day for 5 weeks when I was suddenly transformed into a completely different person that they should have encouraged me to do more positive self-talk and that would have caused my body to become capable of eating food or keeping down water when I attempted to drink.
Maybe talk to my doctor who explained that a certain part of my brain was over-actively pumping my body full of adrenaline, making me unable to keep food down or sleep. At all, which is why I had to be taken to the emergency room.
Another quote from the book:
Children can be guaranteed a lifetime without anxiety, provided you are prepared to encourage them to believe that they have a large measure of control about what they carry around inside themselves.
Wow, my parents must have sucked. All this time, I thought they did a great job but I found myself with no guaranteed anxiety-free life. Not only did I grow up to be a post-partum woman with “anxiety attacks” which required medical attention, I also experienced anxiety when my dog died, when I auditioned for the school play, when I went through the fire safety class in 3rd grade, when a kid in junior high flicked boogers on me in the hall and called me filthy names, and when I spent months interviewing survivors of rape for a documentary I directed in college.
If only my parents had taught me that I had a large measure of control about what I carried around inside myself, I would have been able to deal with all of this, anxiety-free.
I think what I dislike the most about Dyer’s blanket statements is the same thing I dislike about phrases like “rape prevention” or “protect yourself against rape” which imply that if you are raped, you didn’t work hard enough to prevent it or you didn’t do a good enough job protecting yourself.
Of course doing certain things can reduce your risk of being raped, just as certain patterns of thinking can reduce your risk of feeling anxiety, but you can’t PREVENT it, short of living in an isolated bubble.
And as far as anxiety goes, you can’t prevent it even in an isolated bubble if you have a chemical or hormonal imbalance. The brain is a complex organ and there are real, true medically-sound ailments that can befall it. Even if you’re not suffering from a chemical imbalance, being anxious does not mean you’re a loser or a failure.
I spent a good portion of my life thinking that people with mental illness were somehow less, some way weaker than me. What happened after Magoo’s birth caught me completely off guard and made me realize for the first time that you truly do not have complete control of your brain, there are some things you can’t pray your way out of and medical treatment was invented for a reason.
Now to give Dyer the benefit of the doubt, I think he is referring to people who he thinks are popping pills like candy to deal with every little problem that crosses their path. Of course that’s not a desirable way to live, just as alcoholism, chocolate fudge sundae addiction or any other mind-numbing mechanisms are not positive solutions to a bad day at work.
However, I think it’s irresponsible to make blanket statements about mental health and leave no room for mercy for people in situations he seems to know nothing about.
Of course I want my children to live as stress-free and anxiety-free as they can, but I also want them to know that if they have a health or other problem, they can come to me or to a trusted advisor and seek help, not placing further anxiety on themselves because I have taught them that anxiety doesn’t exist and that they are weak for feeling it.
Now, I will keep reading and try to post something positive about the book next time. For every one thing that’s annoyed me about this book, there have been approximately 1.74 other things that I’ve found insightful. This means that in the realm of parenting books, I’d have to classify it as a success. You can’t agree with everything, right?
It seems fitting to direct you to an amazing post Misha wrote about depression a few days ago that is definitely worth the read.
A loud and resounding “Amen”, Kathryn. Well said. Thank you.
Way to let Wayne have it. What are your thoughts on Tom Cruise?? 🙂
The Daring One says
Heh. Don’t even get me started on Tommy-boy.
Wow and YAY, Kathryn. As a woman who has suffered debilitating anxiety attacks (not related to pregnancy), and is VERY happy, thank-you-very-much, thanks to medication…well, all I have to add is a big, fat, wet raspberry in Mr. Dyer’s direction. And blow kisses in yours. You are an awesome blogger and a way cool mom.
Excellent post. And why should kids be stress free? How could you possibly create that without create stressed out adults!!! I hear the book The Pampered Child Syndrome is excellent and would counter this book’s notions of no stress.
Oh and by the way, I’ll let my 33 year old friend who lost her mom at 9 and her dad at 13 that it was in her power to decide how she reacted to those devesating events in her life. Oh and how about the girl at school today who told me her mom left two months ago, she hardly sees her and she’s really sad. No stress there honey.
Code Yellow Mom says
Yes, yes, yes! Oh, thanks so much.
One other thing that I think is important to remember that life wasn’t meant to be anxiety-free or sadness-free or pain-free. (The ol’ trite phrase, God had one Son without sin, but none without sorrow…)If we didn’t know the lows, we wouldn’t grow and appreciate the joy. The goal of a parent (as I see it) isn’t to try to guarantee a child a “boo-boo” free existence (we could go crazy trying!), but to help them learn that when things go wrong, it’s not necessarily because they (or their parents) DID something wrong – it’s because this is LIFE. Stuff happens. 🙂
Thanks for talking back to Wayne.
Code Yellow Mom says
oops. My comment sounded like I was a “get over it” proponent in the depression/anxiety question, and I am definitely not. I know it’s real and it’s not something to just “get over.” I just really wanted to say that time is better spent realizing that hard things happen, and feelings from hard things often remain for a really long time. Trying to prevent, ignore, or blame someone or something for them is so pointless, and thinking that experiencing it means you are weak is so contrary to reality. So, basically what you said. Sorry to blab. I’ll be quiet now.
Cheers to you. I’m a big fan of your trusted advisors post, it was the first one I read and I searched for weeks to find it again!
I was also unhappy to see that he thinks we can be perfect parents, and thin is a requirement of that! Say what, I guess I have three strikes there, forget that fact that I am a stress and anxiety magnet right now. I don’t know how you keep reading it, I’m afraid I would be tossing it in the trash to never be looked at again.
(No I don’t believe in book burning!)
loved your insights. i haven’t read the book but it doesn’t sound too ‘sucessful’ to me.
Mom on the Gulf Coast says
This guy sounds like a scientologist. Does he have an autobiography section? Scientology believes any mental “issues” are made up and cureable with a little exercise and a new attitude aka “reprogramming”.
Thank you (because I got some very not-so-nice email feedback that made me want to pull my hair out…. uhm, like, “depressed people are just thoughtless because they are so wrapped up in their own selfishness and pain”…. or, “I have this great book that says if you just get out of bed you won’t be depressed anymore – so why don’t you” etc. after nauseating etc. ….and then I got so many emails of people crying in such pain that I wanted to smack Tom Cruise with the entire big stack of them till he felt some non-vitimanable negative emotion… Oh you mean this isn’t my time to vent and scream?? sigh.)and so regarding this book – OH MY GOSH. Are you kidding me?
There’s just the small issues of war, AIDS orphans, disease, famine AND depression etc. etc. blah, blah, blah…. People like this could make me depressed all over again. Why else do our bodies have cortisol, adrenaline, seritonin ( and my lack of spelling acumen)….this stuff makes me crazy.
Thank you for talking about it. The more the better. I always wonder what happens when people like this hit a crisis they can’t happy-talk their way out of? What do they do? Let alone what are their kids supposed to with that ostrich-like example?
You’re getting my three day pent-up hairpulling overload. I am now officially near-bald.
Amen. I’m not an advocate of a stress free childhood. I’m not raising kids with the goal of giving them a perfect childhood. I’m raising kids that can grow up to be competent, independent adults. That means learning to deal with little stresses as kids so that they can deal with big stresses as adults.
Cheerio's on my butt? says
Very well said! Thank you!
Thanks for the review. I think I’ll be crossing that book off my list (if it had been there in the first place, that is 🙂 Hope the rest is more to your liking!
“Of course doing certain things can reduce your risk of being raped, just as certain patterns of thinking can reduce your risk of feeling anxiety, but you can’t PREVENT it, short of living in an isolated bubble.”
A major in psychology led me to this conclusion. Though after the #(edited for shame)# years it took me to get it, I still could not have put it any better.
Diathesis stress model supports your statement very well.
Dyer’s degree in counseling does not impress upon me his authority to dismiss clinical psychological assessment, cuz he had it tough in life, any more than Freud’s infatuation with his teenaged step-mother who was having an affair with his older brother, lends any credence to his theories on sexual attraction to parental units…but I sooooo digress…….uh…good post.
I am so glad you wrote this post. I am going to be bitching about this chapter too. (You beat me to it!)
I want you to know (and anyone else who might be in the blog a book ablong who is here too) that I take absolutely NO OFFENSE if you don’t like the book. If you disagree with the whole thing and hate it all- that is perfectly fine with me.
I don’t expect the richness of this experience to come from the book alone, it is about all of our reactions and thoughts about the book.
I am getting really irritated with Dyer. The further I get through this book the more irritated I get with him. It’s becoming funny actually.
Did you read this line:
“Perhaps the greatest place we can arrive at as human beings is what I call effortless perfection…”
My god- not only do you have to be perfect, but you also have to do it EFFORTLESSLY.
Like you said, I do GET something from the book. If I supress my irritation at his richeousness, I get alot from it. His suggestions are usually very good, and help me out greatly in dealing with my older son.
Anyway, great post. Thanks for contributing and speaking your mind Kathryn.
(For the record, I started Chapter 7, and am liking it- he hasn’t irritated me yet in that chapter… haha)
Naddin J says
I don’t listen to this guy either. One time when flipping through channels, his ugly mug was on PBS, telling the audience to get up and not try to go back to sleep if they woke up at 3:00 AM because, and I quote, “You have all eternity to sleep!”
I don’t know what this dude has planned for his afterlife but I can tell you, I ain’t sleepin’.