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analyticalQ book review by Anne Ku

Family Secrets:
What you don't know can hurt you

by John Bradshaw

ISBN 0-7499-1521-8, copyright 1995, 297 pages paperback

1 May 2000

My friend Sue had ordered many books on psychology, gardening, and child development from Amazon.  Before shipping them to her, I thought I'd take a peek.  This one I read continuously over the course of three days.  Fascinating!

The author is obviously an experienced therapist - ex-alcoholic - who counselled many people.  Like most of the therapy-based books (i.e. with stories from therapy sessions), this one contained many accounts of adults who "rehabilitated" afterwards.  What is unique about this book, however, is that the author focusses on family secrets - of which he categorises into four levels (most dangerous and dark - to the least harmful, in fact, some secrets are good.)  He also groups secrets by content, e.g. sacred, birth-related, death-related, ... possession-related, etc.   It is basically a do-it-yourself book.  The author takes you step-by-step to get you to find out your family secrets by visiting your family members and others close to the family.  The family relationships, going as far back as great-grandparents, are then diagrammed into so-called GENOGRAMS. 

While the passing down of family traits and diseases is generally accepted, what was new to me (but referenced in this book) was the passing down of dispositions and vulnerabilities - which often are hidden in family secrets, not questioned or discussed.   Thus while parents of smart and talented children believe in genetics - so too, adults with problems ought to believe in genetics.  By probing, uncovering, and understanding family secrets, one may finally understand why he/she is having certain problems or behaving in certain ways.

Well, it's no secret that my grandfather wrote and published several text books.   His son, my father, wrote and translated twenty four on English grammar and literature during his time as a teacher/lecturer.  My sister has written and published two books (on cartoons).  Why haven't I published a single book yet?