Psychological Self-Help

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948
Some female psychologists have observed that the victims (i.e.
usually women) are being blamed by many popular authors for the
intimacy problems, e.g. women may be described as neurotic, self-
destructive, foolish, weak, insecure, love starved, domination-seeking,
or as equality-preaching hypocrites who are shamelessly pleading to
be cared for by men. You might ask why are women, who, it is said,
are superior at understanding, accepting, caring, disclosing,
supporting, helping, and relating in loving relationships, being blamed
for all these love relationship problems? Perhaps the answer has to do
with who wants the relationship the most. This person, the seeker of
love, seems to be--and perhaps is--less powerful. And, there is a
tendency to blame the weak one. 
Likewise, some of the authors who vilify men seem to be operating
on the basis of a strong negative stereotype of all men (indeed, one
writer even admits having been married to an emotionally abusive
man, which should raise some doubt about her objectivity). There are,
no doubt, many deep problems in our love lives, including some
frightened men full of rage towards their mothers who abuse their
wives. But is this the secret lurking within all the men who mistreat
their wives? Surely not. Let's not fool ourselves, there are many
complex causes. Our science at this time justifies only tentative
speculation about childhood based dynamics. Moreover, the focus of
our self-help literature should not be on the denigration of one sex or
the other but on healthy development and on the correction of
unhealthy behavior. And, we should carefully avoid stereotypes--not
all women are codependent nor are all men afraid of women and
intimacy. 
Robin Norwood (1985) wrote a book in this area, Women Who
Love Too Much, which was on the best-seller list for 37 weeks. It is
about women who are excessive "givers" or "motherers." Some such
women seek men--"sons"--who are weak and have problems
(alcoholism, unfaithfulness, can't hold a good job) and are uncaring,
self-centered "takers." The theory is that these women did not get
enough love as children, especially not from their fathers, suffer from
low self-esteem and, later in life, struggle to gain love by turning
losers into perfect husbands. Of course, no matter how competent and
devoted they are as rescuers, they almost always fail and suffer. Being
addicted to pain, it is very hard to escape such relationships.
Norwood's book has no doubt benefited some women. It is primarily
designed to help women who blame themselves and often consider
normal, healthy relationships boring, but find themselves repeatedly
sucked into this kind of destructive rescuing interaction. By recognizing
the dynamics, perhaps such sick relationships can be avoided. That's
the theory. But are these always the true dynamics? Can the
codependent always escape just with insight? See chapter 8. 
In a very similar way, Kiley (1983) has written about The Peter Pan
Syndrome: a man who has never grown up, can be charming, but is
undependable, irritable, and self-centered--that's a "taker." In The
Wendy Dilemma, Kiley (1984) describes women who fear rejection
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