Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Book Report: Grammar School Style

I recently read a book that made me think of the good ole days of writing book reports; I used to LOVE writing book reports when I was kid. While every other kid was grumbling during the book report assignment, I was secretly jumping for joy inside. Since reading was my number one hobby as a child, I relished the opportunity to write my opinions about the adventures I discovered in between the pages.

Fast forward 20 years, I still love to read but I don't get around to it as much. However, I recently read a book called, "Why Do I think I Am Nothing Without A Man" and I want to discuss some of its life-changing concepts with you guys. The book is written by a psychologist named Penelope Russianoff (she played the role of the psychologist in Unmarried Woman) and it came out in the early 80's. Although, it is over 20 years old, the author's message is still very much on point.

Penelope addresses her book to all women, married and single, and how she believes that too many women make the mistake of thinking that men complete them. From career driven women to stay-at-home Moms, she says that many women feel empty if there is not a certain someone in their lives.

Penelope gathered her research from studying women in her practice and from the classes she taught at New York's New School of Social Research. She has studied the relationship lives of thousands of women and from the ones she encountered, over 95% of her patients think they are nothing without a man. I know, a staggeringly high amount!

The author uses a great term to describe this "nothing without a man" mentality. She calls it, Desperate Dependence, which can be defined by any of the following:

Severe clinging to a man
Feelings of void if a man is not in your life
Major focus of life is on a man
Feels that the world views you as abnormal without a male consort
The man must be totally absorbed by you and must "need" you

Luckily, desperate dependence is a learned (nature and/or nurture) behaviour and can be corrected if one chooses to take the plunge of reforming herself. According to the author, it is very important for women to get in touch with their "inner core of security" in order to kick the desperate dependence habit. In the author's words, having an "inner core of security" is like having a, "solid spine of confidence that is part of you; you take it with you wherever you go. And with this inner source of sustenance, you do not have to rely for safe harbor or for self-esteem on anyone outside of yourself".

I think that in order to develop an "inner core of security", you have to really get in touch with your wants, needs and desires as a woman. Once we as women learn how to love and depend on ourselves for our happiness, then we can take all of these strong points to a relationship.

Penelope says throughout the book that she is not advocating for women to develop a "I don't ever need a man" mentality. Men are great and they definitely have a place in our lives; they can make some of life's experiences very rewarding. She just wants women to learn how to independently nurture their body, soul and spirit so that when you are with a man, you can bring your whole self to the partnership.

Another important concept explained in the book is learning how to love and enjoy being alone. Unfortunately, many women equate being alone with being lonely. Sometimes you can be very happy when you are single and alone versus times when you are sad & lonely even though you are in a relationship. I think a lot of women get into a rut of thinking that their partner is supposed to make them happy and make their lives not listless and boring. It is not anyone else's job or duty to make you happy. You have to make yourself happy first or you will be going through men left and right searching for the one that can never bring that elusive happiness to you.

Mrs. Russianoff (yes, she is married) says many women think that having a husband or having a man that loves them guarantees they will never be alone. But this is what they call living life with rose colored glasses on. Your spouse or boyfriend might leave you or gasp, die before you. So, we have to accept the fact that at some point in our lifetime, we will be alone. Instead of trying to avoid it at all costs, we should embrace it when it comes. Being alone simply gives you time to get to know yourself and to call all the shots so to speak.

Maybe some women don't want to be alone because they really don't love themselves. But here's a thought, if you don't like or love yourself, how do you expect anyone else to like and love you? I also think that some women might think this type of attitude (not being afraid to be alone) might make them look less desirable to a man but in reality, it makes you look more desirable to a man. No man wants a clingy woman that needs him for survival. And if he does seek this type of woman out, then he has issues too.

In closing, I back the author up full heartedly with her opinions on getting out of the "desperate dependence" line and jumping over to the "inner core of security" line. I think deep down, all women want to develop a love so strong for themselves that will prevent them from falling privy to thinking they are nothing without a man.

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