Pauline Wallins new book, Taming Your Inner
Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-Defeating Behavior, appears to be an
entertaining book that provides the reader with insight into common
psychological sources of self-defeating thoughts and behavior. In reality, it is simply a repackaging of
many old ideas, with an offering of the same old solutions. Most of the book is spent describing the
characteristics of the inner brat and helping the reader identify their own inner
brat. The last couple of chapters are
focused on strategies for controlling the inner brat.
Wallins main theme is that we all have an inner
brat which compels us toward narcissistic self-absorption. She suggests that it is this inner brat
that causes most people to be self-centered and behave with a sense of
entitlement. Although not a new idea,
repackaging the ideas of Freuds Id, Jungs Shadow and/or Eric Bernes
Child ego into the construct of an inner brat does allow for a freshness of
presentation that will probably be easier for non-professionals to digest. For people already familiar with the
constructs of these earlier theorists, this book offers little new insight into
the workings of the self. Wallin has
over twenty years of experience as a clinical psychologist and with this book
she presents how she describes and explains self-defeating behavior to her
clients. She covers familiar ground
describing how to identify the inner brat by investigating irrational
assumptions and cognitive distortions (i.e., Ellis and Beck). She follows by revisiting the concept of
willpower and the difficulties in exercising restraint over our impulses. Although she does mention that there are
alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous when dealing with addiction, she does
inject the AA mantra at the end of chapter 11 with the Serenity Prayer. Her solutions to controlling the inner brat
also do not reveal any new insights, as she sounds like any grandmother when
she suggests, get plenty of sleep, try to minimize stress, and avoid
alcohol and stimulants.
Wallin truly loses me when she suggests, give your
inner brat a name. She suggests that
the purpose of this is to designate it as something separate from your true
self, thereby making it easier to deal with effectively. Throughout the book, she has separated the
self from the inner brat, and with this conceptualization she is again
perpetuating the arrogant assumption that people often hold that they are not
the problem, but it is so and so, or my inner brat. Im sorry, but I dont believe that this is constructive. You are your inner brat, and your inner brat
is you. You are your impulses. They do not come from someone or somewhere
else. You are selfish, self-centered,
egotistical and narcissistic, as are we all.
Lets face the facts and stop playing games with ourselves. Only when one truly understands and knows
self will one be able to move toward self-actualization. So, the question really is How does one
know self? rather than How does one control self?
© 2002 Kendell C. Thornton
Thornton, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor in Psychology at
Dowling College, Long Island, NY. He earned his B.S. in Psychology from the
University of Idaho, M.S. in Social Psychology from the University of Montana,
and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Kansas. His current
research interests include interpersonal relationships, with a focus on
emotions, motivations, and self-concept.
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