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The Big Answer


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Power of the Family

a book by Paul Pearsall

(our site's book review)

41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but MCs preclude most such possibilities due to the need-filling situation of lots of nurturing friends
41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but MCs preclude most such possibilities due to the need-filling situation of lots of nurturing friends

This author has done much work in the psychological and psychiatric fields, and has studied and lectured on the methods of achieving extreme wellness. One of the most important methods is through maintaining a strong family life, according to Pearsall. He says: “One reason that so many of the people that I have seen in my clinical work have a sense of life’s futility, even life’s absurdity, is that they failed to develop a true sense of family.” However, “more than half of the families report regular unhappiness in their daily family living. . . . more than fifty percent of this year’s marriages will likely end in divorce. . . . There has been a seven hundred percent increase in divorce since the turn of the century [he's referring to the increase from 1900 to 1991 when the book was written].”

Divorce rate in US 1935-2010
Divorce rate in US 1935-2010

The author supports systems perspectives in family therapy as well as cognitive therapy as in self-talk work. He also supports education about family and parenting.

His ideal type is an “us” actualizer, which is a self-actualizing person who turns his matured self into a family resource that helps it work well. This is what any wise self-actualized person would be expected to do in order that the win-win environment of a fully functional and fulfilling family will prevail. (Think MC’s close encounters of the first kind—which means within the MC. See Why Register for an MC?.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match


The quest for individual spiritual growth is impossible, he says, but he couldn't be more wrong
The quest for individual spiritual growth is impossible, he says, but he couldn't be more wrong

He goes overboard when he states that: “The quest for individual spiritual growth is impossible. We can only grow as persons if we grow together.” This is so patently false that one is amazed to find it in his book. Let’s hope that what he meant was to encourage people to follow whatever spiritual paths they want and to encourage spirituality in the young and to engage in such activities together whenever it is appropriate. And let’s hope that he understands that we grow most as persons as we individually confront life’s challenges and make good choices that define us as people that we like to be and that care for others; and just because this often can occur in a context of family responsibility doesn’t make it a collective experience. It is an existential one, not a group experience, regardless of one's proximity to others at the time.

Pearsall goes overboard with statements like 'We can only grow as persons if we grow together' but his overall pro-family thesis is valid
Pearsall goes overboard with statements like 'We can only grow as persons if we grow together' but his overall pro-family thesis is valid

We may grow most as mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, spouses, etc., when we grow together, but a “person” is an individual who must exercise balance on the continuums of I-us, alone-together and individual-others. By overbalancing toward the collective end, growth will be impaired by unhealthy dependencies and lack of individuation, as well as enmeshment and identity problems. (Recall Fromm’s regressive mass man and authoritarian conscience [Man for Himself], Riesman’s other-directed conformist character structure [The Lonely Crowd], Putney and Putney’s indirect self-acceptance [The Adjusted American], the Tofflers’ Second Wave massified man [The Third Wave], the 20th century’s failed experiments in socialism, communism, cults and communes, and the merciful abandonment of liberal collectivist social engineering in the last two decades of the 20th century.)

A 'person' is an individual who must exercise balance on the continuums of I-us, alone-together and individual-others
A 'person' is an individual who must exercise balance on the continuums of I-us, alone-together and individual-others

But, in spite of collectivist biases, he seems to realize elsewhere in his book that good family relationships produce the security needed for growth and autonomy, and that the more self-actualized and autonomous, the more one is a family asset that can engage in his “us” actualization idea. Family versus self is not a win-lose situation. Both win when one of a family’s individuals individually evolve positively, and both win when the family as a whole evolves positively. Hardly a zero sum game.