Author: Marion D. Aldridge
Publisher: Smyth & Helwys Publishing
Publication date: 6/21/2011
Type: NonFiction, Self-Help > Personal Transformation
Ray's rating: 4 stars
“The greatest challenge of maturity is overcoming adolescence, and for some of us, it lasts far beyond our teenage years.” So says Marion D. Aldridge in the early chapters of his self-help book, Overcoming Adolescence: Growing Beyond Childhood into Maturity. I think he’s right, but I suspect “most” rather than “some” of us struggle with casting off childhood baggage.
Mr. Aldridge address this common, but personally devastating, problem in this book of lessons learned, insights discovered, and revelations obtained from his study and experience as a long-time pastor, minister, counselor, and student of life. Taking the angle that we need to get past the fallacies and rules-that-no-longer-apply, Overcoming Adolescence teaches by example and citation what we need to know, and to do, in order to finally grow up.
In eleven chapters, Mr. Aldridge reviews particular topics that should be examined by the seeker of maturity. Each chapter begins with an issue noted as being the subject for that section. A statement of objectives follow that relate to the issue and are expressed as positive, actionable declarations. The ensuing chapter expounds on the issue and objectives in anecdotes, memoir, confession, and citations from experts.
Topics include: finding courage by understanding the relative nature of perceived dangers, the importance of simply paying attention, understanding you can behave appropriately for your age, the reasons we shirk responsibility, understanding where we are unique and where we are not, finding empowerment and taking action, models for the maturation process, and coming to grips with fantasy and with addiction. These topics are highlighted by relevant quotes from history and literature sprinkled throughout the text.
I related very much to the issues and objectives that head this book’s chapters. That is because of the universality of the topics covered and because my background is similar to Mr. Aldridge’s. I did not enter the ministry as he did, but I grew up with the same influences, culture, and the ensuing arrested development. Hence, I appreciate the leaps of insight he achieved that enabled him to write a book like this.
I especially liked Chapter Eight, where Mr. Aldridge expounded upon Scott Peck’s four stages of moral growth and development. I found these stages aptly descriptive of the religious statuses of most of the people I grew up around. Mr. Aldridge avers that many “…religious people never move beyond stage 2 in their growth,” and I have to agree. I also relate to stages three and four.
I was also impressed with the questionnaire presented in Chapter Six. Mr. Aldridge presents it as “…the kinds of queries a counselor or therapist might ask as she or he is getting to know you.” I think they are worth answering, thoughtfully. Mr. Aldridge suggests that the reader do so, and then review his further commentary on them in the book’s appendix.
In Chapter Four, Mr. Aldridge considers the stages of a person’s life against the dramatic arc often followed in fiction writing. Being a fiction writer, I related to this. He doesn’t go as deeply here as he does in Peck’s development stages, and that’s probably just as well. Personally, I find the dramatic arc (i.e., Joesph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”) as more heroism than I can muster.
Finally, in Chapter Ten, Mr. Aldridge talks at length about addiction. He is, I believe, experienced in counseling addicts by means of the twelve-step program. He presents a “generic” form of that program that is worth contemplating as we consider our own addictions. Mr. Aldridge offers, as example, his own addiction to incessant talking. The implication is that there are as many addictions as there are people, or at least everyone has their own spin on some addiction. That being the case, it is important to, as one counselor told Mr. Aldridge, appropriately name our own demons.
My only criticisms for Overcoming Adolescence are that Chapter Four was covered too lightly to warrant inclusion. The dramatic arc metaphor just didn’t work for me. Also, there are some strong models presented for describing issues and for dealing with them (Peck’s stages, the therapist’s questionnaire, the twelve-step program) but it may have been better to concentrate on one and relate it more to the chapter issues and objectives. That might have lessened the feeling of “being shotgunned” with the issues presented. As it is, the book comes off, not so much as a self-help book, but as a compendium of one life’s accumulated life-lessons.
There is much to like about this book—especially, I think, if you grew up in the (US) south. Still, the common problem of overcoming the repressions and misdirections of our adolescence is universal. Few people will fail to identify with at least some of the human development problems the book covers. These are problems Mr. Aldridge struggled with and overcame to the point he can now counsel others going through the same struggles. I’m glad he made it.