Teenage girls today have a freedom and power that their foremothers could only imagine, and yet with it has come an unprecedented level of pressure and expectation. In You Don’t Understand Me by Dr Tara Porter, we look at a 21st century society that sometimes seems ‘awash with emotion.’ Navigating the perennially thorny issues of teenhood, Porter provides a refreshingly free-thinking perspective on maintaining emotional stability in a world in which all the game rules have changed. Using case studies and observations gleaned from many years of clinical practice, she lights the way for young women (and their often flummoxed parents).
Dr Porter’s roadmap to equilibrium begins with the assertion that although our feelings are central to our lives, it’s important not to fall victim to them.
‘They are as true and real as a wave in the sea: undeniably there but also only temporary.’
Acknowledge and respect their presence but don’t let them drown you.
The corrosive effects of our high-octane 24/7 world of social media and celebrity culture have been well-documented. Here, they’re discussed at length, along with some brilliantly incisive advice concerning family, relationships, and body image.
For me, Porter’s most cogent observations concern current parenting fashions and our performance-obsessed education system. She posits that this generation of teenage girls are the first to be ‘actively parented,’ as opposed to just ‘having parents.’ Benign neglect has been swapped for ‘doing stuff.’ Baby Mozart, ballet class, extra tutoring; the child as a project to be worked upon and a mindset that spills over into school life.
Many of her patients are caught up in an ‘exam factory’ environment, believing that academic achievement is the most important thing in their lives. Porter is here to gently but firmly reframe their perspective.
Written with clarity, empathy, and backed up with some excellent research, this really is the ‘survival pack,’ that the book’s blurb promises.
You Don’t Understand Me by Dr Tara Porter is published by Lagom, 352 pages.