Resource of the Month – February 2012

How To Be An Adult by David Richo

The title might make this a touchy book to recommend personally, but as a resource of the month, this one is a gem. Richo begins with a simple premise; that we can look at our lives and behaviors and see evidence that tells us whether our needs were mostly met or mostly not met when we were growing up. He then goes on to explain the process of how to go about mourning our unmet needs and is extremely practical about how to live as an adult.

This book brings the reality that we are shaped by our past together with our responsibility to address our behaviors in the present. While taking seriously the wounds of our childhoods, this book keeps the reader in the challenge of living life with good boundaries and with true intimacy. Richo’s ultimate challenge is for each person to live life out of their true natures rather than out of the hurts they endured as kids.

Richo has an updated version of this book that I checked out, but in his expanded version, Richo loses some of the simplicity that I think readers will most appreciate in this original version. He gives relatively brief explanations, and then plunks down his wisdom in lists and bullet points. Here are just a few of his lists: assertiveness skills, the basic rights of the assertive person, how to work on neurotic fears, guilt tricks, declarations of a healthy adulthood, boundaries in relationships, elements of true intimacy, and practical skills for intimacy. Richo also makes stark and challenging comparisons in a similar manner. To name a few: passiveness versus aggressiveness, fear versus integration, drama versus true anger, and fear of abandonment versus fear of engulfment. The lists and comparisons are truly thought provoking.

Some people might be put off by the psychological language in the book that, I have to admit, I’m somewhat inoculated to in my line of work. Richo uses words like, “integration”, “self-actualization”, “projection”, and “individuation” liberally. For the reader who is ruffled by such language, I give you this warning and encourage you to stay with the book for all the wisdom that it lends. Even with this kind of language, the book is refreshingly clear. Part III of the book, called “Integration” addresses spiritual integration from a framework that was a bit vague for me, but even there he makes some strong points. I think that readers grounded in a faith tradition would not have a problem integrating his concepts into their own conceptions of spiritual development.

The book has the potential to be a handbook for personal growth and a ready means to evaluate one’s posture in relationships. The scrutiny that the book affords is not for the faint of heart, however. Richo gives an invitation to real change with the backdrop of a very high view of healthy adulthood and unconditional love. As a resource to challenge yourself around this all-too-little talked about subject of being an adult, this book has the potential to help the reader notice how much they try to get other people to fulfill their unmet childhood needs and then explains what the opposing adult response might look like.

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