Join me in welcoming Dr. Barbara Becker Hostein to Highlighted Author.
Writing as a Positive Psychologist: First a Case Book, Then Fiction for Girls and I am Still Not Finished! By: Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, Positive Psychologist
It is always interesting to learn about the writer behind the book. For example, I was delighted to find out that the passionate woman behind the memoir I am currently reading, Silver Pages on the Lawn, is well into her 90’s! Somehow, that reassures me about my own aging. I was also delighted to find out that the mystery book I just read and loved, The First Rule of Ten, is written by a therapist, like myself. But more about that at the end of my story.
I am delighted to share my story as an author with you. Of course it began before many of the details I will now share. It began way back when my mother told her dreams every morning, and my dad spoke eloquently every day, about all items, large and small. It began when I bought the Girl Scout Diary in Reed’s Department Store for myself when I was 9, with the small lock and key. And it probably began even further back when my mother told me fantastic stories about herself and Melvin, the kid who teased her with exaggerated truths, who lived next door. But I’m going to take an author’s privilege and leap ahead to my grown-up days of writing as a professional psychologist. What follows now is part of a paper I gave at the Norwalk Community College Writer’s Conference several years ago:
The famous novelist, Proust stated, “The real voyage for discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes.” In the 1990’s as a psychologist, I sought new landscapes, and was blessed instead with new eyes to see past the disease model, to the world of human potential that was right in front of me all the time. I had been researching, via case study methods, women outside of my practice to see how women handle childhood messages carried inside them, such as, “you’re dumb but beautiful” or “Make sure you get married before your beauty fades.” These are discouraging, judgmental messages, if they are not spoken, still ’heard’ clear as a bell. All the women I interviewed concurred with the above premise, giving me many personal examples. However, they had more to teach me. They showed me their strengths, capacities to grow and change, and what most amazed me, their capacities for happiness. These capacities were far beyond what the clinician usually discovers when she is looking through a lens that is primarily sensitive to pathology.
With my new ‘eyes’ I became certain that women, and I am sure most men, have greater capacities to restore themselves and enjoy themselves, than previously documented. I also realized we are not given enough signals in our society to help us feel positive about ourselves, or to recognize what makes us happy. We are not taught how to hold on to positive feelings, or how to bring them back and again and again.
My work appeared to be cut out for me. With my new awareness of what was right about my clients, rather than what was wrong, I was excitedly looking anew at the treatment room. I began to examine how we interact with our clients, how we set the stage for change, how we interview for information, how we teach our clients to view their past behaviors, how we listen and how we encourage a sense of well-being. I developed techniques for all of the above that could be used as a positive overlay for psychologists, regardless of their formal training and orientation. For example, when interviewing a new client, one can easily build in questions that encourage the client to talk about their earlier talents, strengths, lost potential and resilience. All of these treatment changes in questioning, listening and processing with the client took shape as The Enchanted Self, a Positive Therapy.
Soon, I realized I had a case book in the making. THE ENCHANTED SELF, a Positive Therapy, was published in 1997. The book, utilizing case studies, personal insights from my own life, reader exercises and even poetry, allows the reader to explore positive aspects of herself. If she is a therapist, she also learns how to make long overdue corrections in the treatment room. Many readers, therapists, and lay people, have thanked me for the positive paradigm shift I had so clearly outlined in the book. One psychiatrist from Sweden wrote to me that she had waited for years for someone to finally have the courage to make this long overdue correction in therapeutic model.
Let’s move ahead to the publication of THE TRUTH (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything).
How in the world as a psychologist and a writer, did I end up with my 4th book being fiction, designed for girls, tweens, teens, moms and women, and how does it dove-tail with THE ENCHANTED SELF, a Positive Therapy. (You may find my other books on Amazon and my website: www.enchantedself.com)
Let’s look at a poem in THE ENCHANTED SELF on page169, “Come my friend, my nurturer, my shadow, my knowledge of how whole I can be.” Who is that friend? Many years of practicing as a psychologist, have convinced me that, that nurturer, that shadow is our earlier selves. Often it is that self which existed inside ourselves between the ages of 8 and 12. We know that for many girls, 8-12 is a period of soaring, when girls feel competent and so sure of themselves.
If you know girls that age, you know how talented they are. They can and do everything. They also often have special private times, keeping diaries, or sharing intimate thoughts with best girlfriends. However, the teenage years do not always encourage or keep girls thriving emotionally and intellectually. The social and hormonal pressures of growing up block the earlier talents and potential. Adolescent years can be very hard on girls and many a woman finds herself no longer in touch with her earlier talents, strengths, potential, or what makes her happy.
I began to realize that my next psychological assignment was to bring the girl inside of ourselves back to life.
I began to develop a companionship with the 10-11 year old inside myself. I began to realize that as an adult woman that I was disappointing her. I was not as confident or daring as I had promised myself I would be. Some of my poor decisions had restricted and limited the scope of my potential and opportunities. The girl I had been had known that the world could be her oyster. She wasn’t much afraid of anything and also had a lot of inner wisdom. She was resilient and determined. She had faith in me-the adult she would become someday.
Suddenly, getting to know myself as a child again was serious psychological business. It is somewhat painful to realize that one has shortchanged herself. Yet better to realize it now!
Then I began to think, how could I write a book that will just spark everyone? If you are a woman, it will make you want to dance with yourself and with your inner 11 year old and make her energies a part of yourself again. If you are a mom, you will see your child in a much more profound light. You will want to help her hold on to her wisdom, wit, sense of competency and self-esteem. If you are a kid or a tween, you will feel understood and connected to this fictional girl. After all, she is like you. She thinks about many of the things you think about and she makes promises about what she will be like when she grows up, just like you do.
So the character came alive. I felt a fictional diary was the way to go. The girl, as many fictional characters do, helped me write the book. She shared her frustrations and her competencies, and she even managed to solve a little around how she could hold on to the best of herself as she grew up. How she solved the mystery is so endearing, but I can’t give it away because I want you to read the book.
She has a crush. Haven’t most of us had crushes? I have clients and women in those workshops as young as 5 years old, having crushes. And she says, “I am in love…I thought I would fall in love when I was much older, maybe 15 or 16 and she explains how she felt when Paul walked into the classroom, my heart felt like it turned over in my body, my pulse started to race and I couldn’t concentrate. I felt excited like I had a big secret….”
She also has secrets. She wants to know more about growing up. She wants to ask her mother questions like, “When will I need a bra?” but she can’t. “Whenever I try, she looks away and starts to fidget with her fingers. I never get the answers to my questions. Doesn’t she know how confused I am? How, I am supposed to ready to get older, if she can’t tell her everything she needs to know and she talks about her parents. Angelina is so lucky because she talks to her mother, Mrs. Allen.”
She asks, “Why do grown-ups fight over stupid things? I don’t get it. Before you know it, everyone’s mood is bad and the day is ruined….”
Yes, the girl sees so much and knows so much. And didn’t we all at 10 or 11? And wouldn’t it be great to hold on to the energy and confidence that can go with that stage of life? So that we all can live lives of integrity where we would keep similar promises to what the girl makes: “I’ll travel a lot. I won’t look away when my kids ask me tough questions. I’ll answer truthfully. I won’t swear. I won’t get into silly fights with my husband. I’ll have fun with my kids and laugh a lot. I’ll remember ME! And that’s the truth.”
So you see, I’ve come full circle with both books as a positive psychologist. I’m right back to the essence of the person. It turns out that the book; THE TRUTH (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) is another way of teaching The Enchanted Self. When we come home to the ‘truth’ for ourselves then we are an Enchanted Self. We are happy; we have purpose. Our lives have meaning. We don’t disappoint ourselves. Whether you prefer the casebook or the fictional diary, it doesn’t matter. Just come home to yourself!
And by the way, that is exactly what I am still in the process of doing. Going back to the mystery book mentioned in the beginning, by Dr. Gay Hendricks, my latest fiction writing has turned another corner. Like Dr. Hendricks, I have moved the essence of the material I teach into a new setting. This time a fictional novel that takes place here and in Jerusalem. Actually what happened was a plot began to form and before I could send it away, I found myself sketching out a romance, mystery novel with a spiritual component. Natalie and Maggie came to life as the major characters, along with Chaya Sarah, the mystery woman. Soon I was up again late at night writing page after page of NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM, A Novel of Romance, Suspense and Spiritual Awakening. The book will be out on Amazon and Kindle by June of 2012. You can wet your appetite at www.next-year-in-jerusalem.com.
Listen in on her interview with Welcome Changes Radio
To all the wonderful mothers, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, and friends of “The Girl,” who just read this book:
As a positive psychologist and a woman, it has been a pleasure for me to bring The Truth, I’m A Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything! to your girl. I hope “The Girl” was fun and meaningful to your youngster. I hope you also had a chance to read the book, and to have your mind and heart opened by “The Girl.”
I am here for all of you! I would love to come to your child’s school to speak to the children and/or to the PTA about issues raised in the book. I would also be delighted to come to your book club, women’s club or other organization to discuss our journeys from girlhood to womanhood in meaningful, fun, and inspiring ways.
And don’t forget the virtual world. I would also be happy to visit your child’s school and/or your book club or woman’s group via speaker phone, teleconferencing, and/or video cam.
Let’s keep the discussion going. Remember, we were once all little princesses. We all had a sense of “The Truth” and of our power and talents. My dream is that we all pass on “The Truth.” Our little princesses will thank us! And the little princess inside of each of us will glow knowing that we ourselves are courageous enough never to forget!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-571-1200. Please come and visit me at www.thetruthforgirls.com and www.enchantedself.com
And of course, I am available to you for workshops, retreats, virtual classes, speaking engagements, and radio and television appearances.
Truth for Girls book trailer
“All grownups were children first. (But few of them remember it).”
“Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to provide explanations over and over again.”
– From “The Little Prince”
© Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, The Enchanted Self, www.enchantedself.com Excerpts from The Truth: I’m a Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything
Want more? Here’s where you can find Dr. Holstein:
Facebook/Truth For Girls: https://www.facebook.com/thetruthforgirls
Facebook/Enchanted Self: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Enchanted-Self/44338697065?sk=wall
Facebook/Barbara Becker Holstein: https://www.facebook.com/barbara.becker.holstein