The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling

The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling

by Jeanne Safer
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The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling by Jeanne Safer

In the first book of its kind, renowned psychotherapist Jeanne Safer examines the hidden trauma of growing up with an emotionally troubled or physically disabled sibling, and helps adult "normal" siblings resolve their childhood pain.

For too long the therapeutic community has focused on the parent-child relationship as the primary relationship in a child's life. In The Normal One, Dr. Safer shows that sisters and brothers are just as important as parents, and she illuminates for the first time the experience of being "the normal one."

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743234160
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 09/17/2002
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 307 KB

About the Author

Jeanne Safer, PhD, is an author and American psychotherapist. She has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Utne Reader, Self, New Woman, and other publications. Safer lives in Manhattan with her husband, Richard Brookhiser, a journalist and historian. They also have a home in Ulster County in the Catskills.

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The Normal One 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an intriguing and thought-provoking book for anyone who has ever lived with a "damaged" person. I have a young son with a neurologic disorder and a bright, beautiful pre-teen daughter. I bought the book mainly to help her learn to deal with being his sister. On the plus side, I actually learned a lot about dealing with how I feel about being Michael's dad. On the minus side, I found little about helping my daughter make it to adulthood as unschathed as possible. The book seems aimed primarily at helping affected adults heal rather than help those who are still children. The book is fairly technical but well-written. It assumes the reader knows at least some common psychological terms (ie, "splitting"), but is not loaded with psychiatric jargon. It would be a "self-help" book only for an intelligent - probably professional - reader. Despite these limitations the book is a must read because it is unique. As the author points out, no one has addressed the needs of normal children with damaged siblings. (And no normal child with a damaged sibling escapes significant trauma.) This work is long overdue. I hope other therapists and researchers will take up where Dr. Safer has left off. I hope someone will also address the question of what parents can do to protect their normal children in this difficult, painful situation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At last, a healthcare professional acknowledges that siblings of the disabled suffer a distinct set of pathologies. This book, because of its uniqueness (this has been a taboo, PC, subject) can only begin to scratch the surface of this type of family dymanic. The controversial premise of this book is that this "Caliban" syndrome surfaces in siblings that have grown up with siblings who are "difficult" as well as those officially diagnosed with mental illnes or disability. Because the parents decide how much accommodation and attention the "special" one will get, and deprivations or obligations the "normal" sibling will suffer, it is not the severity of the disability that determines the normal one's place, but the parents attitude toward the "special"one. The fact that anyone in the psychology field has suggested that families are pressured into behaving this way as a result of our culture's sentimentalizing life with a disabled child is a revelation. Everyone in a disabled child's family suffers - emotionally, socially and financially - but, they are told they should be grateful and uplifted. Thank heaven someone pulled back the curtain to reveal what life is really like in that situation. I would like less of her Freudian analysis of THE TEMPEST and more resources where families can get counseling and legal and finacial advice. Many families think their only options are the horrible institutions that Geraldo Rivera exposed in the 70's and that they will be impoverished by any quality custodial care. But when families learn that there are humane options and legal protections, they may breath a sigh of relief - once they are given permission to admit they may not like the burden that has been handed to them. After years of denial that life with a disabled sibling isn't the spiritual uplift popular culture keeps saying it is, Jeanne Safer looks at the scars left by the pain and deprivations no one wants to talk about. Thank you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is about time that someone had the courage and will to address this long-time unaddressed situation of siblings and how they are affected by a difficult sibling. This book gives a good look at how these dynamics work and how to shrug of the cloud of these types of family dynamics and still go on down the road of health. Thank you Dr. Safer from a non-professional and Mom.