An author offers a theory springing from her study of her psychologically neglected childhood and its lifetime of consequences.
The term “enmeshment” is used to describe a dysfunctional relationship with permeable and unclear boundaries that may lead to a damaging lack of autonomy. This is exactly what Vogels (A Guided Journal to a Healthy Sense of Self, 2014, etc.) experienced as a child with a mother who withheld love and only granted approval with self-centered conditions. As the author grew, she began to realize this and how it contributed to her extreme anxiety and stress. She spent so much of her life, including her adult years, chasing potential parental approval that she never developed her own sense of self-worth. After studying herself for years, she has now composed her conclusions in this book as “The Sense of Self Theory & Method,” intended particularly for those who suffered similar circumstances. Early on, she emphasizes the crucial role of the primary caregiver (“A Sense of Self is something that either develops or does not. That process depends mainly on the nature of the input from the primary caregiver….The people who are with the child from birth on are the ones who make the greatest impression on the individual”). Though not a licensed psychologist, the author certainly thinks and writes like one, and this volume is replete with definitions of terms and supporting examples. Vogels’ “Sense of Self Theory” is incredibly well-articulated with insights that should resonate with those who endured difficult childhoods that led to thorny adult paths. The author also encourages new parents to center their children in their lives with an atmosphere of unconditional love. Unfortunately, the remainder of the work, namely the effects of lacking a sense of self and Vogels’ recovery suggestions, loses some of the magic from the first section and includes some redundancies. Furthermore, it is likely that only those readers who fit the same mold as the author will find these parts especially useful. That said, Vogels’ organization of the manual and her meticulous assessments are superb. Though her theory may still need perfecting, the concepts she writes about are vital and should be seriously explored in the world of psychology and human development.
This book should help readers who have experienced a childhood deprived of parental acceptance break their approval-seeking habits and discover who they truly are.