I'm OK, You're My Parents
How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, and Create a Relationship That Works
by Dr. Dale Atkins, 2004
Published by Henry Holt and Company
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I'm OK, You're My Parents is intended as a fresh, sophisticated guide for adults who are wrestling with their relationship with their parents. It's aimed at those of us who have a lot -- perhaps too much! -- contact with our mother and/or father, and want to find a way to manage that. Unlike past books on this subject (there have only been a few) that traced all the reader's angst to childhood mistreatment -- advising readers to stay far away from this "abuse" -- this book does not engage in the "blame game." It doesn't put parents into categories of cruelty and dysfunction and offer mere sympathy for the damage done and a blueprint for "divorcing" your parents.
Instead, putting a literate spin on some sound cognitive and psychological theory, I chose to use practical, original strategies, culled from years in private practice and as a seminar leader, to help readers change their own behavior. Your parents, I reason, will almost certainly respond with positive changes of their own. This book falls squarely into the Here's-how-to-take-your-life-into-your-hands camp. To illustrate this, I use anecdotes that are rich with detail and wit. I put a great deal of care into making them come alive. To the same end, I banished jargon from this book; I despise pop-psych speak. I also took care not to "write down" to readers. Too many how-to books seem written for fourth graders. Not this one: I have aimed it at educated readers with a sense of humor. I don't shy away from irony and I am occasionally outrageous. I want to amuse as well as educate. Yes, I think style matters.
The book is divided into three main sections: past, present and future. The past section involves a discussion of how to put childhood in context as well ways to control anger and guilt from long ago. The present section contains advice on how to get ready for change, including wrestling your own resistance to the floor and banishing the "fantasy parent." There are also tips on enlisting your spouse's help, role-playing and recruiting friends for a second opinion. There is even a chapter on the taboo subject of using your parents' vanity and ego to your advantage.
The future section concentrates on step by step strategies for 14 specific "hotspots," from what to do with a hypochondriacal parent to coping with one who hates your spouse. In each case, I put into use the tools I've already laid out.
Finally, to give the book attitude and flavor, I have included a half dozen of the New Yorker's urbane cartoons.