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The Self-Esteem Trap


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A prominent psychologist offers striking insight and reassuring solutions for parents struggling to help their children develop a new kind of self-confidence

About the Author

Polly Young-Eisendrath, a Jungian analyst and psychotherapist, is the author of 13 books (translated into 20 languages), including The Resilient Spirit and Women and Desire. She lives in Burlington, VT.


Psychologist and Jungian analyst Young-Eisendrath (Women and Desire: Beyond Wanting To Be Wanted) is onto something big. Those born between 1970 and 2000 (Gen Me-ers), she argues, are a vastly discontented group who find their lives unsatisfying and feel entitled to success owing to an overestimation of what the world will bring. She views this as a cultural problem begun in the 1980s when the collapse of the traditional parental hierarchy coincided with a hyperfocus on self-esteem. Today's parents offer too much approval and enthusiasm for simply their children's existence, disrupting kids' growing abilities to accept realistically both their strengths and their weaknesses, which is the true foundation of self-esteem. Young-Eisendrath sees the solution in a return to being "ordinary," as this is rooted in "wisdom about our human condition and a knowledge of how we are all connected." While the text sometimes wanders, it is a pleasure to forgive. This is well written, accessible, soundly researched, and beautifully insightful in the vein of Irvin Yalom (The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy). Easily placed in parenting, social science, or psychology collections; recommended for all libraries.--Julianne J. Smith, Ypsilanti Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Incisive, persuasive, practical and wise...an immensely valuable, reliable and engaging book - Edward M. Hallowell, MDParents want what's best for their children and THE SELF-ESTEEM TRAP is - finally - the book that delivers - Jean M. Twenge, PhD...a truly helpful book on parenting - Jack Kornfield

Young-Eisendrath, a Vermont-based Jungian analyst, practicing Buddhist and author (Women and Desire), identifies a "threatening and perplexing problem" she calls the self-esteem trap. Today's children and young adults are suffering from a number of symptoms, including obsessive self-focus, restless dissatisfaction, pressures to be exceptional, unreadiness to accept responsibilities and feelings of either superiority or inferiority. According to the author, instead of contentment and positive self-regard, kids raised to believe they are extraordinary or "special" are more likely to be unhappy and disappointed. Being "ordinary" and realizing one's connection to the human community is the real key to happiness, she argues, and cultivating the qualities of generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom will lead to children who are self-confident and content. She also warns against parents who "run interference," protecting their children from inevitable disappointments. Instead, letting kids develop autonomy and experience the consequences of their decisions, she claims, is the way to go. At times, Young-Eisendrath's scope seems unwieldy, but her message rings true. (Sept.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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