The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling

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Simon and Schuster, Sep 17, 2002 - Psychology - 224 pages
In the first book of its kind, renowned psychotherapist Jeanne Safer examines the hidden trauma of growing up with an emotionally troubled or physically disabled sibling, and helps adult "normal" siblings resolve their childhood pain.

For too long the therapeutic community has focused on the parent-child relationship as the primary relationship in a child's life. In The Normal One, Dr. Safer shows that sisters and brothers are just as important as parents, and she illuminates for the first time the experience of being "the normal one."

Drawing on more than sixty interviews with normal, or intact, siblings, Safer explores the daunting challenges they face, and probes the complex feelings that can strain families and damage lives. A “normal” sibling herself, Safer chronicles her own life-shaping experiences with her troubled brother. She examines the double-edged reality of normal ones: how they both compensate for their siblings’ abnormality and feel guilty for their own health and success. With both wisdom and empathy, she delineates the “Caliban Syndrome,” a set of personality traits characteristic of higher-functioning siblings: premature maturity, compulsion to achieve, survivor guilt, and fear of contagion.
Essential reading for normal ones and those who love them, this landmark work offers readers insight, compassion, and tools to help resolve childhood pain. It is a profound and eye-opening examination of a subject that has too long been shrouded in darkness.

What people are saying - Write a review

Its an excellent book

User Review  - calbigshopper -

Wellwritten in lay person language as opposed to professional psychology lingo. It is worth the read especially in helping to understand the true family dynamics of living in the family unit with a ... Read full review


Everybodys an Only Child
Prosperos Damaged Family
My Sister Spoke to
Dark Victories
Normal Siblings as Parents
A Life of Ones Own
The Caliban Syndrome

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Page x - Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes . . . Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!
Page x - ... followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space— I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches. I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something. It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise. Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass— Perhaps I am walking along a street...

About the author (2002)

Jeanne Safer, PhD, is an author and American psychotherapist. She has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Utne Reader, Self, New Woman, and other publications. Safer lives in Manhattan with her husband, Richard Brookhiser, a journalist and historian. They also have a home in Ulster County in the Catskills.

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