A Must-Read Recommendation for 2018

Now that we’re well on our way into the New Year, it seems like the perfect time to read some of those interesting books that have been on our bucket list.

One of my all-time favorite books to cross my desk is the groundbreaking and award-winning book, Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script, by Rita Battat Silverman and Dr. Abigail Brenner.

This revolutionary book has a moving foreword by Katie Couric, brilliantly highlighting the importance of understanding the widespread, universal, and often misunderstood phenomenon of replacement children.

Contrary to what the title might make you think, the term “replacement child” is conceptual, rather than literal, and refers to an actual psychological/emotional syndrome.

“Replacement Children” addresses the experience of individuals caught up in a complex family dynamic – one in which they are, most often unconsciously, filling the void of another child in the family.

When trauma from a loss is not adequately processed, it can keep overwhelmed parents from moving forward. The despair of a parent can manifest itself in the lives of subsequent children, an older child, or an adopted child who feels compelled to fill the position of an “idealized child”. The replacement child experience is about what can happen when a child in a family feels pressure to compensate for an emotional loss or disappointment in the family. In most cases, both the parent and child are unaware of this psychological dynamic until much later in life, if at all.

This is not a book about death, nor is the void limited to a physical loss. In fact, the authors make it clear that a child born, or adopted, after the death of another child is not automatically a replacement child.

It is important to understand this widespread, but commonly misunderstood phenomenon as it can be the underlying, and often missed, root of numerous emotional issues. On the other hand, the byproduct of its challenges may serve as a catalyst for unlocking creative potential and resourcefulness.

One fascinating chapter in the book explores the lives of famous and historical replacement children. Most people would never guess that Elvis Presley, Katherine Hepburn, Vincent Van Gogh, Peter Sellers, and Salvatore Dali were all replacement children.

James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, was six years old when his brother, David Barrie, died in an accident. Their mother became deeply depressed as a result. To keep his mother’s attention, Barrie sat with his mother in her bedroom night after night. To gain his mother’s favor, he dressed up in David’s clothes and learned to whistle the way David did. When Barrie turned fourteen (The same age as David when he died) he stopped growing at only 5 feet tall. This story and others are expertly crafted and explained in the book and captivate the reader with a powerful and poignant message: the family roles of these famous replacement children significantly impacted and influenced their lives and their life work.

The authors of Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script include a variety of candid first-hand stories from individuals reflecting on their own experiences. When understood in its proper context it is not unusual to discover that you, a relative or someone you know may have lived the experience of a replacement child.

7 Comments

  • Patti Hawn says:

    THE REPLACEMENT CHILD is a wonderful insightful read which puts context into lives of so many people who struggle through questions of identity throughout thri lives. A truly important book

  • The award-winning book Replacement Children helps readers raise awareness and empathy for the emotional dynamics of parents and children caught in the survival of traumas. Most importantly, this book provides an opportunity to heal the wounds for those who not knowingly grew up as replacement children. It’s an easy to follow book filled with fascinating stories. Soo Peer

  • Great article and beautifully describes this book. I read Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script and I highly recommend it.

  • Ellen Jacob says:

    Congratulations on your excellent coverage of this invaluable book.
    Entire Generations of holocaust survivors from WW2 to present day NEED its comfort and insight.
    Hope readers will spread the word.
    Thank you, authors Silverman and Brenner!

  • Very interesting. Parents who have lost children and children who have lost siblings should all read this book. It is never too late to try to discover what subconscious hang ups may be holding us back.

  • As the child of a high spectrum narcissist mother I found this book most interesting. I felt an empathy with the children who had been profoundly affected by a need on the part of grieving parents who could not get past their own suffering. It’s so important for children who were forced to raise themselves in a way, without the solid help of their parents, to know that the many emotional issues they may struggle with are the result of a normal need not fulfilled by their needy parents… and not due to their own personal failing. This book helps to illustrate that dynamic in a way that those who have experienced this sad drama can gain insight and strength from. They are not alone.

  • It is amazing, with all our interest in understanding who we are, that “Replacement Children” is the first to shine a light on this emotional syndrome. Bravo to the authors who bring this issue to light. I am sure this will be a much need guide and support to millions.

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