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Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families

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Dr. Whitfield provides a clear and effective introduction to the basic principles of recovery. This book is a modern classic, as fresh and useful today as it was more than a decade ago when first published. Here, frontline physician and therapist Charles Whitfield describes the process of wounding that the Child Within (True Self) experiences and shows how to differentiate Dr. Whitfield provides a clear and effective introduction to the basic principles of recovery. This book is a modern classic, as fresh and useful today as it was more than a decade ago when first published. Here, frontline physician and therapist Charles Whitfield describes the process of wounding that the Child Within (True Self) experiences and shows how to differentiate the True Self from the false self. He also describes the core issues of recovery and more. Other writings on this topic have come and gone, while Healing the Child Within has remained a strong introduction to recognizing and healing from the painful effects of childhood trauma. Highly recommended by therapists and survivors of trauma.


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Dr. Whitfield provides a clear and effective introduction to the basic principles of recovery. This book is a modern classic, as fresh and useful today as it was more than a decade ago when first published. Here, frontline physician and therapist Charles Whitfield describes the process of wounding that the Child Within (True Self) experiences and shows how to differentiate Dr. Whitfield provides a clear and effective introduction to the basic principles of recovery. This book is a modern classic, as fresh and useful today as it was more than a decade ago when first published. Here, frontline physician and therapist Charles Whitfield describes the process of wounding that the Child Within (True Self) experiences and shows how to differentiate the True Self from the false self. He also describes the core issues of recovery and more. Other writings on this topic have come and gone, while Healing the Child Within has remained a strong introduction to recognizing and healing from the painful effects of childhood trauma. Highly recommended by therapists and survivors of trauma.

30 review for Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families

  1. 5 out of 5

    Judy B. Burford

    Thanks to Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., and his book, Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, I was able to move on to a healthier way of life. When my children were teens, it became abundantly clear that some of the dysfunction I lived with as a teen was filtering into my parenting. That was the last thing I ever wanted to happen. Dr. Whitfield provides a clear and concise way to heal your inner child, the one damaged by your dysfunctional pa Thanks to Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., and his book, Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, I was able to move on to a healthier way of life. When my children were teens, it became abundantly clear that some of the dysfunction I lived with as a teen was filtering into my parenting. That was the last thing I ever wanted to happen. Dr. Whitfield provides a clear and concise way to heal your inner child, the one damaged by your dysfunctional parents. I don't hate my parents. If anything, I understand them better now than I ever did before. However, I know that they weren't equipped to nourish me in the way they need to be nourished, so I had to do it for myself. If you think your adult life is still affected by the way you were raised, read this book to see if it could be your tool toward recovery.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Five solid stars. Healing the Child Within is an extremely powerful and therapeutic read – one which is perfect for meditation and healing. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking strength and empowerment as well as personal, interpersonal and spiritual growths. Read this and learn to discover, nurture and free your true self!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex Lee

    This book is about psychology, spirituality and coming to terms with the conditions of one's psyche. Throughout the book, Whitfield talks heavily about integration. The main subject matter is about finding a way to reintegrate the parts of us that have been frozen at the time of trauma... the point being, that a full integration allows us to reclaim parts of our selves so that we are no longer beholden to their mechanisms. Only after we are aware of how those parts of us are trapped in automatic This book is about psychology, spirituality and coming to terms with the conditions of one's psyche. Throughout the book, Whitfield talks heavily about integration. The main subject matter is about finding a way to reintegrate the parts of us that have been frozen at the time of trauma... the point being, that a full integration allows us to reclaim parts of our selves so that we are no longer beholden to their mechanisms. Only after we are aware of how those parts of us are trapped in automatic cycles of reactivity, can we begin to find a way to heal -- to embrace that stifled "child within" and bring that child back out to the world. Many of us, myself included, have lost the enchanted vision we once saw the world with. When the world became hostile so we became guarded. Being guarded means two things. If we are not present (since we are trapped in the meanings of yesterday) then we can't be interacting with the world in the conditions that are now. You see, spirituality is of an inspired unity. In even the most dead and abstract concept, Spirit is a place for all of us together in harmony as a union. And union is only possible if one is wholly present. We might think of presence as mindful awareness in the moment -- but this can only happen if we reclaim the parts of ourselves that are frozen in past trauma, so those parts of us do not keep pulling us back into past events that are no longer present even if we bring them into the present. Spirituality is being present because then our whole integrated self, including the parts of us that were as when we were new (as children) can come to the foreground and be present again, instead of reeling in hidden agendas, damaged by past events and unwilling to be okay with ourselves and others. Much of Whitfield's language is wrapped in the language of spirituality but he is wholly as a doctor to help people heal. In his practice he has found how to get to the source of the trauma so as to unlock that which traps us. His metaphors are useful, and his language clear. In any situation, there is a wide spectrum of experience available -- the experience we take from a situation is in part, a reflection of how we have been deployed internally. As humans certain things (such as being eaten) are just bad. But in our civilized societies, most situations are complex and multivalent. If we choose to see loss and pain instead of joy and opportunity then there is a reason... if we are stuck in past traumas and past hurts then we will see the present moment in terms of those traumas and hurts. We may forget why something bad happened but we do not forget how it made us feel when we behave in ways to avoid the feelings we carry with us, feelings we may normalize when we suppress the traumatic experience yet carry with us those resultant feelings. There was another book I thought profound decades ago -- Ernest Becker's Denial of Death. In this book, Becker claims that our personality is a product of how we deny death; how we avoid the pain of our existence. Our character is how we step into the light (or the dark). And so, with Whitfield, our character can be seen as a coping mechanism for pain, loss and uncertainty in the world. But since much of that cannot be removed; pain, loss and uncertainly are always with us -- so we either live with denial or we accept the uncertainty and instead choose to see the situation as it can benefit us, as a chance to play with the world and be alive in it, instead of fearing it and wanting to control it. Becker's book was great -- but spoken from a place that is very big picture. Whitfield is much more useful, personable as Whitfield is speaking to the child within us instead of to the mind looking for meaning -- Whitfield says we create meaning through how we relate to things. We can create meaning by relating to life through pain, or we can create meaning by relating life to joy. Life has an abundance of both. To really allow us to be as we are, we need to accept both in balance. Only then when we are present and integrated, can we really face life in all its opportunities and be there, be present for the people we love in the situation we are in, instead of trying live in a past situation where we attempt to control in the present based in how the past turned out.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Ranseth

    This book is a great read for anyone getting started on their personal journey to finding more happiness. I found it a great return to the beautiful basics of emotional healing and would recommend it to anyone wanting to understand why their life patterns, especially in relationships, are the way they are, and how to make them better. The book is comprehensive in tools for the discovery of how our early life experiences shaped us in the behaviors and thinking we have now. It helps identify the wa This book is a great read for anyone getting started on their personal journey to finding more happiness. I found it a great return to the beautiful basics of emotional healing and would recommend it to anyone wanting to understand why their life patterns, especially in relationships, are the way they are, and how to make them better. The book is comprehensive in tools for the discovery of how our early life experiences shaped us in the behaviors and thinking we have now. It helps identify the ways to accept what needs to be accepted and change what needs to be changed. I recommend for everyone, whether just getting started or for a great return to the fundamentals of personal growth, happiness & healthy relationships.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bryan457

    I managed to get on the same mental wavelength as the author 3 or 4 times during the book and really identify with what he was saying. The rest of the time I was lost in a fog of vague psychobabble. The concept of the book is still quite intriguing, but the book itself did not deliver a whole lot that I could really understand and use. Instead read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook. While not exactly a self help/therapy book, it does give a goo I managed to get on the same mental wavelength as the author 3 or 4 times during the book and really identify with what he was saying. The rest of the time I was lost in a fog of vague psychobabble. The concept of the book is still quite intriguing, but the book itself did not deliver a whole lot that I could really understand and use. Instead read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook. While not exactly a self help/therapy book, it does give a good overview of childhood trauma and "neurosequential development."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    The was a really good book. The first few chapters were jam packed with great information. The last few chapters I found a little more difficult to read and more pscyhology heavy... One particular part in the book that was really an a-ha moment for me was Chapter 13 Transforming. This very same thing had happened to me already so it was really refreshing to see it described as common: *****Joe came from a troubled family. During his recovery, he was assertive and stood up to his mother who called The was a really good book. The first few chapters were jam packed with great information. The last few chapters I found a little more difficult to read and more pscyhology heavy... One particular part in the book that was really an a-ha moment for me was Chapter 13 Transforming. This very same thing had happened to me already so it was really refreshing to see it described as common: *****Joe came from a troubled family. During his recovery, he was assertive and stood up to his mother who called his sister and said 'i don't know what's wrong with your brother. He's different. I wonder what's wrong with him?'...as though he's crazy or something. Depending on where we are in our recovery, some people may notice a change in us, and become afraid that the unhealthy relationship might have to change. Fear may build up in them to such an extent that to handle it they often dump it on to others, often onto the person they saw changing and suggest there is something wrong with them because they are no longer willing to participate in the dysfunctional relationship.**** I plan on reading it again but more slowly to digest everything.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shuyi Chua

    It reads more like a personal account, someone sharing his personal experience, than a well-researched book. So there are many claims without evidence or backing up. Interesting is how he transfers ideas from alcoholism recovery to any kind of emotional struggle growing up in a family that did not give enough support. I feel the book lacked impact, or depth of ideas. While it had a breadth of ideas, it did not go into depth for any of them. I found the personal bill of rights interesting!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Majken Emilie

    This is written as a sort of textbook to accompany someone who is in the starting phase of looking into their childhood/unhealthy habits/problems. I think it would be absolutely useful for many people unless you have already idenfified most of your core issues, and have worked on your childhood problems for years. This is because for instance, this is full of checklists for example for people who think they might have a drinking problem in their family but are unsure. It also has examples from c This is written as a sort of textbook to accompany someone who is in the starting phase of looking into their childhood/unhealthy habits/problems. I think it would be absolutely useful for many people unless you have already idenfified most of your core issues, and have worked on your childhood problems for years. This is because for instance, this is full of checklists for example for people who think they might have a drinking problem in their family but are unsure. It also has examples from case studies and is full of citation to other literature and studies, which got annoying because it completely ruined the flow and distracted me from the content. I think the range of subjects he tries to include is a bit to wide, and would have prefered if this was several books with smaller topics. He jumps back and forth to much for me as well. There was a lot of great stuff and advice here though, I just think structurally it had some problems

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura Garrett

    One of the first self help books that I read back in 1990. It helped me understand about the little girl inside me. I may have grown up on the outside but I was not grown up emotionally and this book was the beginning of that transformation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Excellent book about recovery from trauma. It's unfortunate that some have misused, ridiculed and misunderstood the concept.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cade

    I'll preface this review by saying I've never been an avid reader of "self-help" books, not because I don't think they have any validity or value but simply because they've never really clicked with my reading style. That said, Healing the Child Within is an exceptionally well written and constructed book that has given me immense value as I consider my own wellness. It's written in a very easy-to-follow style that, while it does provide numerous citations, is presented in such a way that anyone I'll preface this review by saying I've never been an avid reader of "self-help" books, not because I don't think they have any validity or value but simply because they've never really clicked with my reading style. That said, Healing the Child Within is an exceptionally well written and constructed book that has given me immense value as I consider my own wellness. It's written in a very easy-to-follow style that, while it does provide numerous citations, is presented in such a way that anyone can follow along and understand what Whitfield is trying to convey. The book doesn't put all it's eggs in one basket, nor does it purport to be the "singular answer to your issues" (like some self-help books do), but instead the book is more focused on a holistic approach to healing your inner child. Whitfield, while not being overly aggressive, also doesn't hold back any punches when it comes to explaining the shortfalls of the recovery/psychotherapy/psychiatric fields that have impeded the progress of many individuals. However, he also speaks volumes about the specific tactics and methods that are likely to generate the most benefit to someone interested in wellness. Considering that this book was originally published in 1987 (most recently updated in 2006) it has held up outstandingly well, which speaks to the efficacy of the way it addresses its core topical areas. The good news is that I found this book to convey a message of hope. Yes, there are many challenges presented within, especially if you think healing something as fundamental as your Child Within is going to be quick (Whitfield suggests that it will take 3-5+ years of consistent and thorough efforts and engagement in a full recovery program [explained within, but it's far more than just individual therapy] to achieve this healing), but overall these challenges are put to paper in a way that left me feeling very hopeful about potential of overcoming them. Finally, I will say that the worst thing you could do with Healing the Child Within is be put off by the idea that, for example, if you didn't have an "abusive" childhood that you can't gain anything from this book (though if you were abused, this book is still exceptionally valuable). According to Whitfield, only around 5-20% of the population actually got all of their needs properly meet during their formative years. That doesn't mean that 80-95% of the population was "abused" but rather that 80-95% of the population experienced a significant blow to their needs that stunted the growth of their inner child, or true self. Instead of focusing too much on the "dysfunctional" word in the title (which as Whitfield describes, can invoke defenses measures on the part of our false self, i.e. "How dare you imply my family was dysfunctional!"), focus on the potential of healing something within you that you may have buried so deeply that you didn't even realize it was hurting anymore. This book is not an assault on your family, friends, or loved ones, it is an opportunity to begin considering the wellness of your own intuitive self, your Child Within. Healing the Child Within is more of a general/overview guide that, while incredibly valuable, doesn't get into the nitty-gritty specifics of some levels of the recovery process. It seems to lead into, or be designed to go along with A Gift to Myself (also by Whitfield) a workbook which is for those who found value in this book and who are ready to get a bit deeper into specific routes and possibilities. I have not yet read A Gift to Myself but I definitely plan to get that workbook based on how informative and valuable I found Healing the Child Within to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    Dnf - boring and too basic.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    This book has truly withstood the test of time! It was originally released in 1986 and then revised in 2006. While I don't really get into self help books much, if at all, this one had me entranced the entire time. Fantastic doesn't even begin to describe how amazing this book is. I will be reading it and referring to it again for years to come. This is a book that EVERYONE needs to read from start to finish at least once in their lifetime.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom Britz

    This book's first half dealt with describing the various ways trauma affects children, citing professional journals. It was a bit dry reading and tedious in spots. The second half dealt with treatment. Dr. Whitfield is a proponent of the various twelve step programs that are available such as the ones used by A.A. and other groups (Al-Anon, ACoA, etc.) Basically finding safe people to tell your story to.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bohdan Pechenyak

    Absolutely a must-read for anyone with dysfunctional family background, co-dependency or other deeply seated psychological issues. One of the best - maybe THE best - books I've read. It lays everything out very clearly, succinctly yet comprehensively enough, providing a good base of awareness and a framework for recovery. The accompanying workbook "A Gift to Myself" is the next stop on the path.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pixismiler

    Not nearly as good as I thought it would be. Basically you read the whole book and the gist is he thinks you'll get way more out of it if you go to group therapy. Don't get me wrong, there are a few good things in here, but I was expecting blow me away amazing and I definitely did not get that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angelina

    Great book for introducing the concept of inner child/true self/inner self ect.. Very easy to read and understand psychological concepts. This book can help to gain a better understanding on relationship between childhood experience and adult behaviour. What I particular like is that the author constantly reminds the reader to get a professional support. I found this book similar to a "child adult" book I read prior to this one, find it repetitive in some parts, but still quite insightful if you Great book for introducing the concept of inner child/true self/inner self ect.. Very easy to read and understand psychological concepts. This book can help to gain a better understanding on relationship between childhood experience and adult behaviour. What I particular like is that the author constantly reminds the reader to get a professional support. I found this book similar to a "child adult" book I read prior to this one, find it repetitive in some parts, but still quite insightful if you are into the subject of psychology, looking to start your own inner child healing, want to better understand others, last chapter on loss and grievance can be relatable to anybody. In a book, Whitfield makes a statement that "we cannot heal our shame alone.We need others to heal ourselves. They validate our predicaments and our pain, and they accept us as we are.... we listen and validate others... by such sharing and listening we begin to practice the principles of unconditional love". I get this statement, but puzzled by it too, I wonder, why its not enough to do it yourself...surely if you come from a dysfunctional family and have co dependency issue by asking for validation and support from others you do get your needs met but you also continue feeding your addiction of adult child?! 🤔 Notes/quotes/spoilers: -On guilt: " Guilt that is useful and constructive is known as healthy guilt. This kind of guilt to live in society, to resolve our conflicts or difficulties, to correct our mistakes, or to improve our relationships. When a guilt causes harm to our serenity, our peace of mind and our functioning including mental, emotional and spiritual growth we call it unhealthy guilt." When unhealthy guilt is usually not handled or worked through and lingers on, at times becomes psychologically and emotionally disabling. There is also a survivor guilt..." "guilt is a bad feeling about doing something wrong, while shame is being wrong or bad" - On shame:" it comes from how we handle the negative messages, negative affirmations, beliefs, rules that we hear when we are adults and when we were growing up.These messages project in some forms that we are not good enough/not right/not accepted.Additionally, follow by the rules don't do that, don't feel don't cry we learn that we should not talk about it openly. This negative rules makes it harder to trust rule makers/authority and leads to more guilt, shame and fear" -On secrets: "Being secretive prevents the expression of questions, concerns and feelings (such as fear, anger, shame, guilt). It disables relationship and free communication."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Josie Varela

    This book is a general guide to giving the child within a second chance at life. That child within represents the "real self" and for those from troubled families, the child within is hiding deep deep down. This book points out signs and symptoms one may have when they are or have been mistreated in their past, blocks to healing, and how to overcome those blocks. He talks about group therapy a lot but mostly about the importance of finding SAFE PEOPLE to talk to about everything, people who will This book is a general guide to giving the child within a second chance at life. That child within represents the "real self" and for those from troubled families, the child within is hiding deep deep down. This book points out signs and symptoms one may have when they are or have been mistreated in their past, blocks to healing, and how to overcome those blocks. He talks about group therapy a lot but mostly about the importance of finding SAFE PEOPLE to talk to about everything, people who will not judge you, know who they are and know who they aren't. This book did not delve into ANY specifics so if you are expecting to find all the answers to your problems in this little book, think again. But I think that is how recovery is supposed to be, a whole lot of questioning and continual work. This book is a start to a NEVER ending journey towards self empowerment and giving the child within a voice. Many more books different and alike from this one are on my to-read list. Don't let it end here, keep going.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Grace

    This took me sooooo long to read, and I believe it was because it was so dense. But, hurrah, I finished. One of the most classic, famous books within the CoA community, I had read portions of this book before my therapist told me to read it. I am really lucky in that most of the stuff in this book was stuff I figured out on my own through many, many years of thinking, feeling, processing, etc... But I understand why this book is a classic. It is needed for people like me, for more people than you This took me sooooo long to read, and I believe it was because it was so dense. But, hurrah, I finished. One of the most classic, famous books within the CoA community, I had read portions of this book before my therapist told me to read it. I am really lucky in that most of the stuff in this book was stuff I figured out on my own through many, many years of thinking, feeling, processing, etc... But I understand why this book is a classic. It is needed for people like me, for more people than you might think. It is the work of every individual to get in touch with their Inner Child, to heal that Inner Child so they can show up to the table ready to engage. And this book helps you do that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hilary Whatley

    Surprisingly still accurate for a book written in 1987. It's an excellent guide. I love how he stresses the importance of not rushing ourselves through the process. It's so frequent that we get stuck in our stories, stuck in our emotions, and the people we love become tired of hearing about it. Even support groups do this. We need to respect our own timing for moving on (preferably without burdening everyone though - why I am a proponent of self talk). Through this unconditional validation, we wi Surprisingly still accurate for a book written in 1987. It's an excellent guide. I love how he stresses the importance of not rushing ourselves through the process. It's so frequent that we get stuck in our stories, stuck in our emotions, and the people we love become tired of hearing about it. Even support groups do this. We need to respect our own timing for moving on (preferably without burdening everyone though - why I am a proponent of self talk). Through this unconditional validation, we will eventually reach an epiphany. We have a choice in deciding how we feel. .... We can let go, and it's on us.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Wayne

    More like a personal account, someone sharing his personal experience, than a well-researched book. There are many too claims without evidence or backing up. He transfers ideas from his alcoholism recovery that did not give enough real support. The book lacked impact, and in depth ideas. While it had a small breadth of ideas, it did not go into depth for any of them. I found the personal bill of rights interesting but not real!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Helpful and insightful. Addresses ways that families touched by abuse and addiction can and are likely impacted. Had no idea how deeply my family had been touched by these issues. — Gained insight on how this can be passed down through generations regardless of alcohol/drug abuse and addictions are present or not present in one’s immediate family. A great tool for all reading/learning levels.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shanell

    Love reading into the psychology of things. This was definitely a book to skim through and still get the gist of what was being said. Every now and then it had personal stories and I loved reading those, there were a lot of tables drawn that were.... just comical. Overall, i found it to be a little outdated but interesting none the less!!

  24. 4 out of 5

    TimsGlitterBug

    Wow! As an adult that grew up in an alcoholic induced violent home, there is much to heal from. This book is a beautifully written, and immensely helpful. I will be buying this book, to keep reviewing as I walk through the healing process again, after having children myself. How profoundly insightful this book is!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Phan DiNu

    "Healing the child within" is so well - written that even a newbie in psychology like me can take a grasp of its main message. Not too much jargons or terminologies, the book offers a bunch of relatable examples with illustrations and diagrams which help you visualize the big picture and of course, ease your reading experience. A practial entry-level book 📚

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    As the adult child of substance abusing parents who’s still got a lot of healing to do, this book gave a few insights and vocabulary to some of the feelings and behaviors that I experience. It relies heavily on the 12 step programs for advice and information, which personally I don’t like or find helpful.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Naive Dinusaur

    "Healing the child within" is so well - written that even a newbie in psychology like me can take a grasp of its main message. Not too much jargons or terminologies, the book offers a bunch of relatable examples with illustrations and diagrams which help you visualize the big picture and of course, ease your reading experience. A practial entry-level book

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Lawson

    Healing the Child Within sat on my shelf for over a year before I finally picked it up because the cover art and title led me to believe that it was a superficial, pop psychology type of book. I was wrong. Much to the contrary, I found plenty of rich, helpful material here — some of it dated, obviously, but no less relevant for that fact. The chapter on grieving was probably the best.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tích Lang

    Often we think that we live life according to how we want it to be. In fact, life is actually taking us in the ways we did not plan. One can really live life to the full when we know how to live with life’s interruptions in their planned life.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike Northrup

    I couldn’t finish this book. 5 chapters in and I found it to be vague, lacking any real application. The author seemed more concerned with citing research studies than providing tangible action items for his readers. I give up.

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