3 Recommended Books for Survivors of Difficult Childhoods

I sometimes receive requests from clients for books to aid in their healing process from a difficult childhood. And there are times I suggest books that I feel are a particularly good fit for a client’s situation. Here are 3 books I’ve read and recommend:

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

Pete Walker, MFT has written an engaging and accessible book for survivors of childhood trauma. Drawing on both personal history, and his work with clients, Mr. Walker presents a comprehensive view of Complex PTSD as well as a road map to healing. Features of complex trauma include emotional flashbacks, toxic shame, self-abandonment, a vicious inner critic, and social anxiety, among other symptoms. Recovery from CPTSD includes developing both cognitive understanding and emotional awareness. Key developmental tasks for survivors focus on reducing current triggers, grieving what the child never had, feeling appropriate anger at the perpetrators, developing self-compassion and reparenting the self. I highly recommend this book as an adjunct to therapeutic work for survivors of past trauma.

Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

This book is for people who don’t understand why they are the way they are. These are individuals who think of their parents as loving, or loving enough, yet they struggle with low self-esteem, feelings of emptiness, and unsatisfying relationships. The concept of emotional neglect is particularly apt to help clients understand their history and current struggles. Whereas complex trauma often comes from acts of commission (various forms of abuse), emotional neglect comes from acts of omission (what wasn’t provided for the child). Often, outwardly loving and caring parents neglect children’s emotional needs by dismissing, minimizing, or disapproving of their feelings. Dr. Jonice Webb has created an excellent resource which describes the effects of an emotionally neglectful upbringing: chronic feelings of worthlessness and depression, alexithymia, and relationship difficulties. She also provides guidance which focuses on learning to feel and accept all feelings, as well as, developing healthier relationships with self and others.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

This book is written for women, because girls are particularly vulnerable to a narcissistic mother’s need to view her daughter as an extension of herself and to control her. The narcissist’s primary limitation of lack of empathy for others results in harmful parenting. Dr. Karyl McBride draws on her own personal experiences and many years of working with clients to accurately describe the grown daughter of a narcissistic woman as high achieving, self-sabotaging, continually seeking external validation while feeling empty inside, looking for love and acceptance in unhealthy relationships, all the while feeling tremendous shame at mistakes and failures. Dr. McBride also focuses on the steps involved in recovery from narcissistic abuse: accepting a mother’s limitations, separating psychologically from one’s mother, becoming aware of and accepting one’s own feelings, needs, and desires, learning to deal with an adult parent differently, and parenting one’s own children in a healthier way.

I hope these are helpful recommendations. If you’ve come across other books which have helped you in healing and recovery from a difficult childhood I’d love to hear about them. 

Katrina Taylor, LMFT-Associate. 512-270-9002

Disclaimer: The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. Reading articles and content on this website does not constitute a therapeutic relationship.

Written by Katrina Taylor

Katrina Taylor, LMFTA, is a therapist in private practice in Austin, TX.