Vigaland Podcast Book Review #12 by Viga Boland, Author & Book Reviewer
Every so often, a book comes a reviewer’s way that speaks to the reviewer on a very deep, and personal level. For me, that book is Baffled by Love by Laurie Kahn, a trauma therapist who works closely with the victims of abuse, especially sexual, in both groups and private consultations. What I learned about these people, both male and female, about Laurie Kahn and other therapists, and especially about myself was most enlightening.
Written for both victims of abuse, and for those who, like Laurie, choose to work with them, Baffled by Love looks at love, or rather, the absence and denial of it, suffered by men, women and children in various different situations. Kahn’s approach to exploring this subject is like a four-pronged fork. The first prong invites readers into a group situation as participants get together over a period of months, even years. Readers meet the participants, hear what they say, and if readers are intuitive enough, with Laurie’s help they will also hear what the participants don’t say.
The second prong takes us inside the therapist’s consultation room. We meet each participant individually, learn what has happened in their lives to make them seek out a therapist. Just about all of them have been sexually abused. The abusers have been fathers, stepfathers, brothers, sex traffickers and pedophiles. As readers hear their stories, witness their sometimes unusual behaviour, and their often unexpected reactions to what Laurie herself says, we realize just how damaged these people are because
“Abusive relationships lack mutuality; they honour only one person’s needs, desires, or goals. Empathic concern for the other person is conspicuously absent.”
And when those victims are children and are
“…treated as objects rather than as treasured individuals, they internalize a deep sense of unworthiness and a secret disgust with themselves.”
“When one’s voice, sexuality, or integrity is subjugated in service of sex, that is exploitation, not love.”
Little wonder then that so many adults end up Baffled by Love. They have no way of knowing what love really is. They subjugate their own needs to those of others…parents, partners, spouses. Even as senior adults, if they haven’t had therapy to help heal from the trauma they suffered so many years before, they still feel ashamed, because, as Laurie Kahn tells us,
“Shame is the dreadful outcome of interpersonal trauma. It is the failure of love and the absence of repair. For my clients, abuse is not a single incident. It is a sustained experience of breaks without repair. To quiet shame, to create a different narrative devoid of stories of shame, we must create new experiences of nurturing relationships.”
For too many people, it takes a lifetime of stumbling through relationships to find one that is nurturing and thus, healing.
The third prong in Kahn’s approach to this subject of love is surprising, and welcomed: memoir-style, Laurie shares her own story of growing up confused and disappointed in what should have been love shown to her by both parents. Her own story is as engaging as those of her clients, and it becomes obvious throughout Baffled by Love, that as much as she is helping these victims of abuse to heal, they are helping her to do the same. This open, honest and brave approach by Kahn ie. letting readers and other therapists see her own vulnerability, makes this book even more impressive and justifies the fourth prong in her study: that of suggesting methods to other trauma counsellors that have worked for her and may work for them and their clients.
Readers will hear some heartbreaking, even revolting stories from the participants in Laurie’s practice but, as the book moves toward its conclusion, they will also see these victims becoming stronger and stronger and at last able to do what they never thought they could: become assertive, stand up for their rights and most importantly, to finally love themselves and others. If readers have been victimized by sexual or other abuse, or are engaged in helping those who have, Baffled by Love is a book one can’t afford to ignore. Read it and find yourself within its pages. I certainly did.
©Viga Boland, author and book reviewer at VIANVI.
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