- Paperback: 228 pages
- Publisher: Delta; First Printing edition (September 30, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385337566
- ISBN-13: 978-0385337564
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 43 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling Paperback – September 30, 2003
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"The Normal One provides a great service for the siblings of truly damaged individuals, those quiet, self-denying brothers and sisters who, perhaps for the first time in their lives, will recognize in Safer a passionate advocate from the world of psychotherapy, speaking out on their behalf with a deeply intelligent, fully informed, and thoroughly welcome voice."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Revelatory...an indelible, brave, profoundly sensitive, and deeply personal look at how the ‘normal’ half lives, loves, resents, reconciles, sometimes denies, sometimes transcends, aches for—but never quite trusts—the consolations of family."
"[A] persuasive examination of the considerable effect that...impaired brothers and sisters have upon their ‘normal’ siblings throughout life."
--The New York Times Book Review
From the Inside Flap
What is it like to grow up with a sibling who is difficult or damaged?
Few bonds in our lives are as psychologically and emotionally significant as the ones we share with our sisters and brothers, although little has been written about this formative relationship. In this first-of-its-kind book, psychotherapist Jeanne Safer takes us into the hidden world of problem siblings and explores the far-reaching effects on the lives of those who are considered the normal ones.
Drawing on more than sixty interviews with normal, or intact, siblings, Safer explores the daunting challenges they face, and probes the complex feelings that can strain families and damage lives. A normal sibling herself, Safer chronicles her own life-shaping experiences with her troubled brother. She examines the double-edged reality of normal ones: how they both compensate for their siblings abnormality and feel guilty for their own health and success. With both wisdom and empathy, she delineates the Caliban Syndrome, a set of personality traits characteristic of higher-functioning siblings: premature maturity, compulsion to achieve, survivor guilt, and fear of contagion.
Essential reading for normal ones and those who love them, this landmark work offers readers insight, compassion, and tools to help resolve childhood pain. It is a profound and eye-opening examination of a subject that has too long been shrouded in darkness.
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Dr. Safer seems right-on in delineating the personality traits characteristic of "intact" or higher functioning siblings: prematurely mature; driven to succeed; feeling guilty for their good fortune; fear of contagion. Dr. Safer doesn't provide any practical advice, though I would guess that her advice, as an analyst, would be to get started on analysis, asap.
The book is generally well written, though I did get bogged down in sections that were devoted to explaining the syndrome; why it was named Caliban, who Caliban was, and where it fits in modern Freudian theory. I also can't appreciate a discussion of dream analysis, but there's not a lot of that. As a previous reviewer said, there was a bit of repetition. On the other hand, it is reassuring to know that others share similar problems and have similar reactions and feelings, and it probably doesn't hurt to hear that more than once. So, my opinion is that it is a generally helpful book in providing a basis for understanding what happens to normal family members, especially siblings, when one or more members are damaged or difficult.
As the first "safe" person to love in his life, I have had to deal with his PTSD from sibling abuse (not uncommon), his obsessive perfectionism, and deflecting transferred anger and sadness that he has never felt safe expressing to his sister and parents. (Bad news: The obsessive perfectionism can make it nearly impossible to get this kind of person into therapy. Good news: If your partner's drive to be "perfect" also included a fear of divorce, that can be used to get them into therapy!)
This book also talks about the common reluctance to have biological children and the high rate of divorce among "normal" siblings. And I can tell you, "Well Sibling Syndrome" is a REAL thing, and can seriously hurt your marriage. Besides the valuable insights of this book, we have also used Integrative Body Psychotherapy (Book: The Intimate Couple) and a therapy called Network Spinal Analysis with great results. Good luck to all.
So great to read siblings point if view as I am a normal sibling. It actually made me want to write a book on my own experiences with my brother. Maybe someday!