"The Origins of You" | Reviewed by Nelson Appell
Vienna Pharaon’s “The Origins of You: How Breaking Family Patterns Can Liberate the Way We Live and Love” is a fantastic addition to the increasingly crowded books on family systems, healing, and creating authentic lives. Life’s daily struggles, arguments, and miscommunications create strife in so many relationships. But there is hope for improvement. Pharaon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, shares some of her own stories, as well as the (identity-disguised) stories of her patients to great effect and insight.
Pharaon opens the book with a personal example of her own “safety wound” one that developed when her parents embarked on a rageful divorce and took their young daughter along for the ride. This discussion is extremely important in these types of books on healing. The author must establish some credibility and authenticity based on his or her own life struggles. Otherwise, they risk speaking down to their audience instead of walking alongside them on the journey of healing. Pharaon is a welcoming and authentic guide.
In the first two chapters, she establishes the importance of looking at your own origins, origins that may be dictating life decisions and conflicts today. From there, she delves into five particular wounds—one chapter per wound. The wounds are the worthiness wound, the belonging wound, the prioritization wound, the trust wound, and the safety wound. She demonstrates how to identify each wound and how they show up in adult conflicts today. At the end of each chapter, she offers a guided meditation as a healing exercise.
The final chapters walk you through how to change your relationship behaviors. How do you change your reaction to conflict? Can you dial down your established patterns of emotional reactivity? Can your communication style become less reactive? Can you tighten up porous boundaries because you overshare? Or open up closed doors because you’ve tightened up so much that you cut off relationships?
“You can’t live differently if you block yourself from the things that need your attention,” she writes. But what if you’re not ready? If you’re not ready for therapy, not ready to share with somebody else, don’t feel pressured to do those things. You have this book to get you started. This book is full of examples of conversations between Pharaon and her patients that you can draw from to look at your own life’s challenges. She chooses her examples with care, as they are easily relatable.
As a librarian who is fairly well-read in this subject, I appreciated the references she makes to other books. In my humble opinion, Pharaon incorporates ideas from some of the best and most accessible self-help books available at libraries and bookstores.
This book is a highly recommended addition to family systems therapy; within these pages many people will find comfort.