Book Reviews and Endorsements of Journey to Home
Endorsement by Violet Oaklander Ph.D
Dr. Aarons has written a fascinating book describing her own healing process and its relationship to various therapeutic principles, with philosophical underpinnings. I believe that each one of us can connect to and benefit from this work. I know I did.
Endorsement by Joyce Catlett, M.A.
coauthor with Robert W. Firestone of The Ethics of Interpersonal Relationships (2009) and numerous other books
In Journey to Home, Rachel Aarons combines excerpts from her honest and highly readable personal memoir with cogent insights into the typical, yet seemingly normal, emotional abuses of childhood. Through her narrative, she shows how psychological defenses that we develop to protect ourselves in an invalidating environment contribute to a deeply entrenched sense of being victimized, which we continue to act out in adult relationships as either the abuser or the victim or alternatively both.
The author demonstrates how therapy can help people overcome these victimized, compliant and/or defiant orientations to life. In particular, she describes step-by-step interventions that teach people ways to express their anger appropriately, keeping in mind both the practical and ethical consequences of their actions. According to the author, the ability to handle one’s anger, uncontaminated by feelings of self-righteousness or victimization, can be a powerful tool for personal growth, individuation, and happier, more fulfilling relationships.I have described only one theme contained in the pages of Journey to Home, yet I believe it is of crucial importance. So many people have a hard time relinquishing the role of victim. Therefore, the book is a “must read” for therapists and their clients, and for anyone having difficulty mastering their feelings of anger and/or victimization.
Review by Deborah Allen, LCSW
Rachel Aarons' new book Journey to Home offers a profound description of the development of self and loss of self from the fractured wounds of childhood emotional abuse, to the healing journey with the therapist witness, to an existential revelation once the self is reclaimed. What stands out in this book against other therapeutic treatises is the author's use of her own story. While other authors describe the work they have done with their clients, Dr. Aarons courageously departs from tradition and describes her own journey both as therapist and as a real human being facing her own shadows and false self and emerging triumphant in spite of the childhood she experienced.
Journey to Home will be to today's readers what Alice Miller's Drama of the Gifted Child was to readers a generation ago. Dr. Aarons traces the development of self as it accommodates to others in reaction to emotional wounding. The child self is forced to split and the false self develops to protect the resultant core of self-hate and self-doubt that is spurred on by the resounding voice of the superego. As one adopts either a stance of compliance or defiance, the shadows of the disowned anger and neediness lurk beneath the surface causing complex unconscious dynamics in important adult relationships.
Dr. Aarons challenges us to face and embrace the shadow and offers therapeutic tools to reclaim our lost parts of self so that we can stand on our own as an integrated whole person. She makes a clear distinction between "love" that is fusion arising out of a sense of deficiency and love that emerges out of a sense of fullness and completeness that results in acceptance of the other person, without wanting to change or idealize him or her. Dr. Aarons uses the lens of her personal story to illustrate the development of victim/abuser dynamics in relationships. She takes a step further in asserting that these may be reciprocal roles rather than firmly fixed. She describes the paradoxical process whereby the victim becomes the offender as feelings of powerlessness and betrayal are disowned and then acted out in revenge or retaliation on a weaker victim. She states: “only when we can see the murderer in the saint and the saint in the murderer will we have the possibility of seeing human beings in their wholeness and of letting go of the need to coerce and dominate.”
Therapy is described as a demystification process that brings us into more real contact with our history and ultimately with ourselves whereby we can accept ourselves honestly and unconditionally. It is through this process of honest contact that we come to love ourselves and re-parent ourselves in ways that we wished our parents had done for us. Thus, the therapist as sympathetic witness leads the way for the self to become the sympathetic witness so that the individual support and strength ultimately comes from within the person.
In the final chapter, Dr Aarons takes an unexpected turn which I think would make interesting reading for a future book. It is in the final chapter that we discover the diamond in the rough. Dr. Aarons transports the reader across a developmental journey that begins with birth, shows the wounding that results in separation and fragmentation of self, shows how therapy helps to break the domination of the superego by embracing our shadow, and ultimately brings us to facing the existential void of our aloneness. It is surprisingly in this void that we recognize the author's message of Journey to Home. Home is not the hearth of the family, home is not the core of the heart of the self.....home is the point when self and ego dissolve and we recognize our connection with everything around us. Home is love. We come full circle.
Review by Dr. Isabel Fredericson
Dr. Aarons has written a very useful and unusual book for both professional therapists as well as non-professional laymen. Using her own personal experience as vivid examples of solid psychological principles, she has succeeded in doing what very few theoretical psychological books have succeeded in doing; that is, creating a book that will help readers understand both themselves and their clients better. I highly recommend it.
Review by Lynn Nichols MFT
Rachel Aarons has written a remarkable book, Journey to Home: Quintessential Therapy and Beyond. It is at once about her own therapeutic process, her experience as a therapist, and her knowledge of psychological theory and trends.
The book is divided into seven sections, each addressing an area of psycho-therapeutic thought and experience. The first third of the book describes the twelve "Principles of the Therapeutic Journey" (listed on page 76) and relates them to recovery from emotional abuse. These principles provide a map for acknowledging abuse, facing the truth, and beginning to gain strength in adult life.
Throughout the book, the author's use of self disclosure, including her own childhood trauma, makes the therapeutic process more real and easy to relate to. Who cannot feel empathy for a frightened five year old child sent away to a camp hours from home?
In her journey the author brings in various psychological theories to illuminate the growth of the individual. There is evidence of Freudian process (Superego), Jungian (the Shadow), Self Psychology, study of narcissism, Attachment and Gestalt theory, among others. These are beautifully interlaced with personal experiences to illustrate how healing happens, how it is done.
The last section addresses the existential dilemma and is "pointing toward a spiritual orientation." This is not always addressed in psychological studies, but is a vital part of life for many and a vital part of healing.
Even with the pain of the process, the author has had the courage to ask "what is this teaching me?" We have many benefits from the lessons she has learned.
Review by Judith St. King RN, Ph.D., LCSW
Journey to Home by Rachel Aarons profoundly illuminates the principles underlying processes of psychotherapy. The subtitle, Quintessential Therapy and Beyond, reflects the depth of her analysis. She examines the realm of human experience and personality development at a level not previously utilized in writings on psychotherapy.
Journey to Home is an enlightening adventure that delicately weaves between psychological theory, philosophical underpinnings, and personally intimate details. This interweaving intensifies, highlights and clarifies the examination of personality development, therapy work, and spirituality. What is rare is the author’s ability to discuss aspects of psychological theory and at the same time trigger the reader to emotionally identify with those explanations.
Beginning with childhood and the development of the self, the author identifies the psychological needs of each human being, and how, when those needs are left unmet, a split forms in the self that profoundly affects the individual into adulthood. In combination with this psychological analysis, Rachel uses her own personal and clinical experience to illustrate the application of this theory. This approach gives the book a frankness and immediacy not currently found in professional literature.
What becomes clear in this book is that the interpretation we retain from childhood of our family history may be radically dissonant with the reality of our upbringing and its true impact on our emotional development. For example, Aarons describes how a constant need to please or a need to perform at an inordinately high level may be interlinked signs of unmet childhood needs. In order to develop healthy emotions, children must be allowed to express a wide range of emotions. However, almost inevitably, children find that in order to receive love from parents, they must shut down some of their natural emotional responses. The true self suffers and thus begins the creation of a false self.
From this foundation of understanding, the author then proceeds to elaborate the dynamics of healing. Using material from various schools of therapy as well as her own clinical practice, she provides a powerful, multidimensional view of the therapeutic process. She details methods that are critical in the change process such as working with the critical voice inside, reowning the unacceptable parts of self, and learning to be one’s own best ally. Using holistic principles, practical exercises, and stories of personal growth the author maps out a path to self-acceptance. Thus, Journey to Home becomes a guidebook to healing.
While going through Journey to Home, I found my own memories surfacing. With them came a new awareness of how these memories might be impacting my behavior today. This book offers keys to unlock hidden memories, buried trauma, and repressed emotions. As I read, I found further associations being triggered that were previously missed by my consciousness. For anyone who struggles to understand her or himself, to know what triggers various emotional responses, negative self talk, or why certain situations always elicit the same response, this is a necessary book.
Of particular interest to me was Aarons’ explanation of human experience combined with promising ways to recapture the true self. The sections on anger, then on neediness are particularly insightful and thought provoking. Perhaps most importantly, I found that the book provides a spiritual path to gain loving relationships with oneself and others. She provides numerous references for follow-up which holds promise for those like me who want to examine the origins of her premises.
The book’s theoretical foundation combined with personal sharing, gives it the excitement of drama that kept me invested in outcome, while providing professional learning along with that drama. It is this combination that gives the book its distinction above the ordinary. From the author’s descriptions of Camp Kawagama to feeding dead goldfish, this intimate sharing combined with professional insights kept me totally absorbed.
Journey to Home: Quintessential Therapy and Beyond is not a superficial glossing over the elements of change, but contains depth and detail that will be of keen interest to experienced clinical professionals as well as newly arrived graduate students. This valuable book provides a sound, well researched fund of knowledge which will expand your breadth of understanding . It will help both you and your clients.
Review by Kieran Aarons Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy
In lucid prose and with a tightly controlled set of conceptual means, this book puts forward a brave new systematic interpretation of the logic of the therapeutic journey. Weaving together personal insights and a studied philosophical perspective, the book traverses the critical and the clinical, the theoretical and the practical, and does so with remarkable fluidity, never slackening its relentless attention to the concrete locus of everyday experiential truth.
Theoretically, the book lays out a systematic elaboration of the phenomenological logic of self-formation, one with profound philosophical underpinnings. Unfolding the relational dialectic of self and other, parent and child, lover and loved one, Journey to Home lays bare the inner structure that governs the complex affective knots and dynamic cycles that weave together the interpersonal relations out of which our everyday psychic experience of ourselves comes to be formed. It outlines not only how these relations come into being, the way our experience of ourselves comes to be formed dynamically in relation to others, but - perhaps more importantly - it reveals why it is that the emergence of selfhood is so often tied to abusive and victimizing cycles, destructive circuits of alienation and self-loathing. Why do we so often end up profoundly identifying with precisely those figures and elements that stand between us and our own flourishing? Why do we so often come to love that which separates us from our own power, and our own self-fulfillment? How do we hide these aspects of ourselves from ourselves? What can we do about it? This book offers concrete, carefully considered answers to these and other difficult questions. By illuminating with rigorous precision the relational matrix of unconscious ties that organize selfhood, the book places real conceptual tools in the hands of the reader, enabling us not only to make sense of our emotional lives and our relations to others, but also making it possible to take real steps toward exiting the punishing dynamics we suffer from daily on their account.
In a remarkable and fresh twist, Journey to Home accomplishes all of this while at the same time pioneering a brave and unprecedentedly personal form of therapeutic intimacy at the level of the text itself. The author intersperses examples from her own life throughout the text, offering up her own psychic history and her struggle for self-affirmation as a toolbox for her reader, consequently supplying the theoretical logic with an indispensible concrete visualization. These interspersed personal vignettes are therefore far more than just a personal narrative: they perform the unique service of placing the very logic of self-formation before our eyes, allowing us to bear witness to the courage of a subject struggling to regain control of her psychic world by setting the therapeutic process into motion. A rare and remarkable work. Highly recommended to professionals as well as those interested in discovering the logic of the therapeutic journey for the first time.
Review by David Aarons
This book helped me better understand the role of therapy and how it can positively impact my life. It also gave me a lot of real, practical tools that I have been able to apply to deal with my own personal dilemmas.
To be honest, before reading this book I really didn't know a lot about therapy beyond the fact that its something you do to resolve past issues. The way the author writes this book makes it easy for anyone to understand the key elements that make up our psyche and how unresolved past issues, beliefs, relationships, or family life can wreak havoc on our present lives. When the author shares the theories, she takes examples from her own life to help illustrate how each concept manifests in our day to day lives. I really appreciated how the author was willing to share deeply personal stories from her childhood and relationships. It really helps to bridge the gap between the psychological analysis and "textbook" concepts of the therapeutic process with the practical art of daily living and what we can do right now to start living a better life. How to have a closer relationship with ourselves and our loved ones. How to identify destructive patterns in our life that create pain and learn how to resolve them. It's invigorating to know that there is a root cause to much of the suffering, depression or anxiety that we may experience and that once we can identify this cause with therapy and self-awareness, and apply the healing therapeutic processes outlined in this book, we really can begin to live a better life.
I highly recommend this book. It will really help you begin the steps to know yourself in a very real and revealing way. And I have found that once we can know more about ourselves, we can become so much more open and understanding with others.
Dr. Rachel B. Aarons LCSW
Dr. Rachel B. Aarons LCSW
Santa Barbara Therapist and Author