Growing Yourself Up, Jenny Brown
For years I have been hearing glowing reports about this book. Good friends have benefitted greatly from it and my husband’s organisation has used it in training sessions for improving both team and family relationships. Brown has taken on board Bowen family systems theory, which investigates how individual maturity affects our relationships. Because all of us exist in relationships, be they with children, parents, spouses or work colleagues, our individual level of maturity will directly affect the maturity of these relationships. Essentially the idea is: you need to take responsibility for yourself and manage your own growth, and in doing so, you will see benefits in your relationships.
Part of that is seeking to understand the family you were brought up in and how that influenced you. However she is very much about taking responsibility for yourself. There is no blaming how you turned out on your parents, but rather recognising that all of us need to grow in maturity no matter how positive our negative the influences on us were.
“As you begin to think about your family experience you might be casting culpability in your parents’ direction. Before pointing the blame finger, pause to consider the place each parent held in their family: how were their pathways to maturity shaped by how their own parents related to them and by the challenges their family faced?... Our mothers and fathers came out of their own families with a level of tolerance for upset, discord, involvement and demands. In turn this played out in their marriage and the reactions to each of their children. None of us, or our parents, has any say in the hand of maturity cards we are dealt as part of the inheritance of generations of families” (p40)
Then she works through the phases of adult life: leaving home, singleness, marriage, sex and parenting and how making decisions to grow your own maturity will reap great benefit for yourself and those around you. As we are closely looking at a numbers of aspects of marriage and parenting at the moment, those sections were most relevant to me.
“The central challenge in staying mature in a marriage is to find the balance between being a separate person and being a connected person. Staying separate is about managing your anxieties, addressing your own insecurities and changing the irresponsible aspects of your behaviour in your marriage… Staying connected is about communicating and acting in ways to strengthen the intimacy you committed to in choosing to get married” (p86-7)
She also addresses relationships outside the family in the workplace and how developing a mature belief system can add to our overall maturity. The later sections of the book deal with challenging times (separation/divorce and illness) and then working towards maturity though midlife, ageing and facing death.
All in all, it’s a very helpful book. Because I had heard it so glowingly praised, I came to it with very high expectations. The content is excellent and the principles well worth implementing, but it does require concerted concentration to read and digest. None of us can claim to be fully mature in ourselves or in our relationships, so we can all benefit from implementing the principles she presents and then reminding ourselves of them on a regular basis.