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Apr 2015 by PCI College

Bite-Sized Book Review: They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life by Oliver James

Brian O'Sullivan reviews a book with a controversial title but a universally considered topic - that of the influence of parenting on lifelong mental health.

Perhaps considered a controversial title by some, it is for this reason that my inner rebel noticed this book in the first place.

Oliver James prefaces this book 'They F*** Up' by advocating, that we can only consider that our parents did the very best that they could possibly do for us, with what they had at a given moment in time. He then goes on to invite the reader onto an intriguing journey of self-reflection throughout. He describes himself as hoping to, at best, manage to achieve the status of “good enough” parent to his own children.

James refers to the lives of some famous people that he has worked with such as Mia Farrow, Paula Yates and Woody Allen. He has provided an easily readable contribution on the impact that a lack of care has on us in our early childhood while in our family of origin; how this remains with us into adulthood and then on into the parenting of our own children in our families of creation.  He describes how general mental health can be fostered by good and appropriate care from parents or carers. He draws upon his research, clinical experience and casework to support his arguments throughout.

For James, those who cite genetics as the major cause of mental health challenges are simply ill-informed. James accepts that our genes partly influence the making of the human animal that we become, however he tells us that the care and nurture that we may or may not receive from the age of birth to 6 years is the driving force behind our mental health challenges rather than genetic factors alone. For James this is no longer disputed by those who have a complete understanding of these matters.

This is a great read for those of us considering embarking on the precarious journey of parenthood. If you have already had your children, or wonder about your own early life and its effect on your personality, this book provides a way of understanding why you are who you are. As therapists, it provides valuable insights as to where our clients may be positioning themselves relationally in their world.

Brian O'Sullivan, MBACP (April 2015)
PCI College Lecturer


Brian will facilitate a one-day CPD workshop 'An Introduction to Systemic Family Therapy' on Saturday 23rd May at our Dublin West Campus. Places are limited - click here for full details and to book your place now.

What our Students Say

This was the best workshop I have attended, keep up the good work.
Life Writing Workshop attendee

What our Students Say

" Nice combination of talk and experience...a great course for anyone interested in Play Therapies. Anne was very present and available. Most enjoyable session!"
Caroline Brady - Child & Adolescent Counselling Taster Day
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