Book Review: Childhood Disrupted

Childhood Disrupted:  How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, And How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Like a few previous books I have read, this book was read for the CASA book of the month club, and I can certainly understand why [1].  Admittedly, I had a strong feeling going into this book that I would certainly be the sort of person spoken of by this author, and that ended up being the case more than I had thought.  At the beginning of this book the author invites the reader to take the Adverse Childhood Experience inventory, which should be fairly self explanatory and is scored from 0 to 10.  I scored an 8 on the test, which I figured was pretty bad.  Reading the book, though, I had no idea just how bad it was until I saw that the author looked at scores of 4 as very high, and scores of 6 as extremely high.  Scoring an 8, therefore, must put me as having a particularly unpleasant childhood, which was something I knew intellectually, but not something I particularly relished seeing when this book went into its full discourse on the lengthy damages of a bad childhood.  By the time the author got to the part of the book where she said that having an ACE score around 6 or above usually shortened someone’s life by 20 years, I knew that this book was going to have some very unpleasant things to say about my life, and indeed it did.  If you read this book, you are likely to either be or to know and care for someone whose childhood was particularly disastrous, and you’re trying to figure out what to do about it.  Obviously, that is the case for me as well.

In terms of its contents, this book is slightly mismatched in meeting its objectives.  Out of about 240 pages of core material, 140 of those pages are spent talking about how it is that our biography gets hard-wired into our biology through epigenetic factors, something that is rather terrifying for some of us.  Before these materials begin there are about 20 pages taken up by the introduction and the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey, which it is worthwhile to take so that you can be aware of where you compare to the people talked about in the book.  Within the first part of the book there are chapters on childhood and the growing understanding that trauma and serious adversity do not usually lead to resilience, how different adversities lead to similar problems, why some people suffer more than others because of their sensitivity, some specific effects of trauma on the female brain, and the good enough family to avoid serious adversity.  The second part of the book looks at some ways that the author thinks that readers can overcome difficult childhoods, including chapters on beginning one’s healing journey, seeking professional help, and parenting well when one hasn’t been well parented, before a conclusion and an invitation to continue the conversation about adverse childhood experiences, along with some acknowledgements, notes, and resources for the reader.

My thoughts and feelings about this book are somewhat mixed.  Undoubtedly, I am someone that this book describes rather well, someone whose immensely troubled childhood has caused a lot of long-lasting harm.  A lifetime of living in high ambient anxiety has led to fairly serious inflammation (including le gout) along with several mental illnesses (PTSD, chronic depression, and generalized anxiety disorder among them), along with some serious relational difficulties.  I read this book knowing that the prognosis would be somewhat grim, and hoping that the book had something worthwhile to offer.  Unfortunately, this book was far better at showing the dangers and the damage and pointing out a lot of what I already knew about generational patterns and the struggles of those with difficult childhood without providing a lot of useful help.  A lot of the suggestions provided here follow a common trend among mental health professionals to advocate heathen eastern religious practices, especially from Buddhism [2].  This book would have been a lot better if it had promoted a godly response to healing rather than ignoring Christianity and seeking to promote a hidden agenda of encouraging the spread of Eastern religion in our schools.  The end result is that this book is somewhat disappointing in its approach to healing.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/12/29/book-review-the-lost-children-of-wilder/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/07/book-review-their-eyes-were-watching-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/11/book-review-like-family/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/08/book-review-anxiety-and-avoidance/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/03/15/book-review-it-wasnt-your-fault/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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