The Reading Group (Brena Lever and I) met last week to discuss Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. At that moment Seigel happened to be meeting with the Dalai Lama, Dan Goleman, and some other child psychology types, about a mile from my house, to discuss how to grow compassionate children. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the discussion on cable. You can watch it yourself on your computer (and most of the 15 Dalai Lama events) at http://www.seedsofcompassion.org/ .
We had time to discuss the book. We were both surprised by it. I had expected Dan-Siegel "light", a book I could hand to any literate parent, for step-by-step attachment instructions. It was Dan-Siegel "medium". The book is not an easy read, except in contrast to Siegel’s other books. I would give it to well-educated, analytical parents. Or I would assign specific readings, with possibility of reading more.
Siegel and Hartzell recognize this. Each chapter has 3 parts. An explanation of an idea, with one or more case examples. A brief list of "Inside-Out" exercises for the parent to do. And a longer section "Spotlight on Science" for people who want to know about the mechanisms of trauma and attachment. A hurried or less educated person could read the first part and work with the exercises. A motivated, less hurried, and more scientifically oriented person could read every word, as we did.
It’s a good book for understanding how our own traumas and attachment styles can impact our ability to see and respond to our children, and that we need to do our own work to develop a "dual awareness" of our old stuff and our real here-and-now kids. It’s a good book "Seigel-medium" from which to learn about attachment styles, attachment research, and the impact of parental attachment patterns on their kids’ attachment styles.
My favorite concept from the book is "earned secure attachment", the getting of a healthy attachment style from therapy, mindfulness, and/or good later attachments. "Earned secure attachment" is what we want for our clients, and, in many cases, ourselves.
Here’s what our two-person group thought: Therapists should read this book, because it’s the easiest book that Siegel has written. Inside Out has covers all the regular Siegel topics, but less academically. Then they should explain the concepts to their clients, and work their clients (using many possible therapies) through their traumas and into earned attachment (if needed) and into an awareness of the necessity to mirror, support, and share joy with their children. They can suggest this book to bright, educated, curious parents. They should avoid giving it to people for whom it would be too frustrating.