Books

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D. is the author or editor of 18 books, as well as many chapters and articles. They have been translated into more than 20 languages

Love Between Equals: Relationship as a Spiritual Path

In the 21st century, we made three wishes for a new kind of marriage.

First, we wanted to be free to marry anyone of our choice – no matter the gender, tribe, background. Second, we wanted the relationship to be equal, mutual, reciprocal. And third, we wanted our beloved to know us, see us, hear us, and feel us, to become a personal witness. We got our wishes and they’ve made marriage a whole lot more challenging, more like entering a personal psychotherapy than like making a family vow.

Since marriage became a legal institution in the Middle Ages, it has never until now been about having a reciprocal relationship with a stranger whom you hope will become an emotional mirror for you. Marriage was always, and is still in many cultures, something like a corporation for the family, guaranteeing that children grow up healthy and functional, that wealth is conserved, and that generations continue. It was essentially an impersonal contract in which partners promise “until death do us part.” People even felt proud that they stayed with a “bad marriage” for the stability and security of their family.

Now we feel that we must leave (as in “How can I stay with someone like this?) if our partner seems not to treat us fairly, equally, or doesn’t get our subtle nuances of preference, ideology or style. In fact, if we stay under those circumstances we may feel that we have failed ourselves.

Turning the notion of love as a biological attachment bond on its head, Love Between Equals clearly and succinctly shows us that today’s true and enduring love requires both psychological and spiritual development in both partners – and then provides practical and clear guidelines for doing that. READ AN EXCERPT

“This book brilliantly illuminates our most important adult developmental task—how to love and be loved. While the topic is ancient and ageless, our contemporary practice of choosing an equal partner commands a different approach to love—one that requires both spiritual and psychological development. Synthesizing the wisdom from psychoanalysis and Buddhist practice, Young-Eisendrath shows us how to skillfully work with our demanding self so that we may truly love our partner and our relationship.”
— Roshi Grace Schireson, Ph.D.

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The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery

After a chance encounter with a handsome, idealistic stranger on a plane in 1969, Polly Young-Eisendrath rediscovered Ed Epstein a decade later when she least expected it. After untangling themselves from their existing relationships, they married in 1985 and spent the next 25 years together. They were soul mates, but in 2001, Ed (at the vital age of 53) began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Over the next 10 years, as her husband gradually reversed his mental maturity, Young-Eisendrath was faced with the question, what is love?

The Present Heart is an insightful journey of living in the present moment. In a deeply moving yet unsentimental voice, Young-Eisendrath draws on her lifelong practices of Buddhism and psychoanalysis and her own unique view of love, as well as a circle of profound thinkers including author Abigail Thomas, psychoanalyst Nancy McWilliams, and Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young.

A thoughtful meditation on the human experience, The Present Heart shows how our most intimate relationships, often the source of our greatest pain, can prove to be our path to spiritual enlightenment. The book offers a new perspective on how to maintain engaged, reciprocal relationships—with a partner, parent, child, or friend—under any and all circumstances.


The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in a Age of Self-Importance

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D. wrote this book because she sat hour upon hour in her psychotherapy practice listening to stories about how every child, teen and adult should be special, a winner, with the potential to be great. Although this expectation causes great suffering in individuals and families, it has been almost impossible to challenge.

The expectation is founded on the illusion that everyone has an extraordinary potential for creativity or genius or achievement that needs only to be unlocked in order for greatness to happen. When you assume that everyone has something extraordinary to contribute to life, then being ordinary is an embarrassment. This way of thinking has produced a generation of parents, children, teens, and young adults who are caught in…The Self-Esteem Trap.

Drawing on years of experience as a Jungian analyst, psychologist and practitioner of Buddhism – Young-Eisendrath offers an incisive analysis of the cultural, psychological and moral components of the self-esteem trap for kids, parents, teachers, counselors, and mental health professionals in their relationships with each other. After identifying the problem, analyzing its roots in the Baby Boom generation of parents, and clarifying its components, she lays a clear path for parents, and for teens and young adults themselves, toward a new kind of confidence and resilience that is founded on interdependence, autonomy, compassion and sharing.


Women and Desire: Beyond Wanting to Be Wanted

In Women and Desire: Beyond Wanting to Be Wanted, Polly Young-Eisendrath,Ph.D. challenges widely-held beliefs about female power and desire to show that women are trapped in a double bind. Encouraged to be Objects of Desire, they can take the role of “muse” – devoting themselves to being desirable, or they can claim their desires directly and be labeled as the “bitch/nag.” The muse can have no desires of her own and the bitch feels ashamed of herself and her desires. As a result, women young and old, are confused about autonomy — the skill and responsibility for making choices and decisions as an adult.


You’re Not What I Expected: Love After the Romance Has Ended

The acclaimed classic about how to achieve a successful relationship – now back in paperback. “An impressive account of how ‘dialogue therapy’ helps couples achieve new intimacy…Young-Eisendrath sees the process as a transformation from disillusionment into trust. Scholarly and thoughtful yet totally accessible and quite practical”. – Kirkus Reviews