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4.2 out of 5 stars
Families And How To Survive Them (Cedar Books)
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64 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2000
John Cleese got together with the skilled family therapist Robin Skynner to try and explain what is meant by therapy and psychotherapy, and why so many of us need it - but equally deny it in ourselves.
Written as a conversational chat between the two, it's an fascinating description of how and why we fall in love, and how we develop from babies to adolescents to adults, and how during this development we so often become "stuck" in child-like behaviour.
I must admit I found myself and more importantly my relationships here in this book again and again, and almost everyone I've known who's bought the book has gone out and bought a dozen other copies for friends.
As a parent, it's a well written roadmap of your childs development, and as an adult, udoubtedly, required reading in order to graduate from "The University of Life".
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2004
This book should be given out in senior schools to pupils, PRE marital relationships and child rearing. It is a complete eye opener and it explains relationships and how these are effected by past generations. It discusses dependency and defines boundaries, their purpose and how essential these are. This book provides one with essential clarity that assists via ownership and self development, towards the realisation of choices, individuality, change, health and empowerment. I would say that before reading this book, I had no clear understanding of just how important Fathers are, to the entire health of the family and that every Father MUST read this book! You are certainly NOT redundant!!! Written in easy to read, simple conversation format between John Cleese and his family therapist of (I believe) some 10 years. My thanks to both.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2009
I avoided reading this for ages because of the title - I don't have any kids so I thought it wasn't for me. Fortunately a few friends recommended it as one of the best layman books around on psychotherapy and I'm glad I got round to buying it, because its easily one of the most comprehensive and readable books on the subject I've seen.

Its a lot less cringe-inducing than the majority of self help books on the market. If you can't bear the idea of daily affirmations or unleashing the giant within, this may be the book for you - its informative without being prescriptive, and some of the ideas in it are intellectually challenging without reading like a textbook.

Skynner sees people as elements in a family system, and there are patterns in how people relate to each other which can be identified and replicated (even with monkeys, which is humbling). Behaviours and coping strategies get passed from generation to generation, and because its what we grew up with, we don't realise we're acting out the same family dramas until someone outside the system points it out. As we tend to choose friends and partners who fit with our received world view, it can be a long time, and perhaps a personal crisis, before we encounter these insights. I found the chapters I had the most resistance to initially were the most pertinent to me.

A word of warning for parents - these insights may cause guilt when you realise how you might have ruined your children's lives already. The authors do try to mitigate this, but if it is a sensitive area for you, it might be worth exploring with a therapist present.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2000
I found the book very useful reading, and was also fascinated by the ideas. The ideas are helped along by bits of wit which help make the points of the book. The book has been the most meaningful book for me in several years esp. in relation to idea of charachter as more or less dysfunctional according to how parents raised you. Highly recommended to anyone searching for understanding about who they are and how to move on from themselves. "Life & how to survive it" is a similarly very useful book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Most people don't get to middle age without looking back over their life and wondering just where everything went wrong. This book gives us the information we need to drive out some of those demons we harbour but it is wriitten in such a way that anyone and everyone can understand it and get something positive from it. John Cleese comes across as whitty but with the understanding of someone who has been there. I would recomend this book to everyone and i will definately be buying it for one or two very close friends. Read and enjoy.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2005
As a psychologist I would say that this definitely is one of the best book on family relationships and child social development for non-professionals. Although the book is in a format of self-help easy-read, the content is very well well-grounded in author's professional experience and scientific ideas. The authors using the dialogue between experiences psychotherapist and an layperson explain how families influence children and what problems might arise and how to avoid them. While reading, I got several exciting insights about my own life and definitely a better understanding (and some helpful tips) about how to bring up happy children. Especially interesting were chapters on homosexuality as scuffing on the bridge between females and males and politicians whose childhood problems lead them to the wars. Finally, the list of further reading is very useful, if you wish to explore family relationships further. This definitely is a good value for money.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2013
Oh my God it's all in here, my whole life spelt out
I love this book, it explains in simple conversational way how families repeat patterns and behaviours through generations.
Interesting in both a self help and an abstract way.
Some unpopular conclusions but for me it was like a light going on.
Love it or hate it but do read it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2011
I had seen recommendations for this book in a couple of newspapers recently and having read the other Amazon reviews felt it would be worth a look. The book is set out as a conversation between John Cleese and his therapist and goes through various stages of life trying to explain subsequent character traits. It certainly has some thought provoking ideas for example how we subconsciouly pick a partner with similar hang ups to ourselves, and also some interesting points on how one partner can dominate another to their own detriment but overall although I found some of the ideas interesting I did not find that I could relate to the ideas myself and did not feel it satisfactorily explained certain behaviour. It was not a life changing book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2013
I bought this boom to replace the one I purchased it when it first came out, and now is so worn out that I treated myself to a new version. Brilliant book, and if read every couple of years will have different meanings depending where you are in your life. So easy to read, funny, insightful, and a book that you would never think would work, but it does, a fantastic thought provoking read but light at the same time
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on 22 October 2009
This book was a revelation to me. On almost every page, I found myself exclaiming "of course! That explains the behaviour of ......". Readers should however be aware that it presents quite a doctrinaire Freudian view of psychology, and some things in it are a bit controversial. For example, most homosexuals will probably disagree with the view that homosexuality is not innate but develops during childhood depending on a child's relationship with its parents. I also disagree with the analysis of the causes of depression (failure to adequately grieve). The dialogue nature of the book (seemingly inspired by Platonic dialogues) perhaps gets a bit tedious after a while, with John Cleese playing the unusual role of foil to Robin Skynner's "Socrates". Sometimes John asks Robin easy questions when you want him to ask more challenging ones. But these relatively minor quibbles should not detract from the "must read" nature of this book. It's an eye-opener. If you only have time to read one book about psychology it should be this one.
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