Margaret Jones is a psychologist who, with her husband Lyndon, teaches a method known as PREP, a pre-marital training program. As a child, Margaret was sexually abused by adults in her neighborhood and by a family member, and neglected and emotionally abused by her parents. Her wants were ignored or ridiculed, and her treatment was uncaring to say the least. Sent to school in shabby clothing without proper hygiene, she soon learned what it was to be rejected by her peers as well. Because of this early mistreatment, she became disillusioned with religion but later returned to faith after a significant religious experience.
In a longer process she finally found, in Unitarian Universalism, an apparently welcoming, tolerant religious support group that she could trust. However, in a series of disappointments and disputes, Jones found herself at odds over and over again with the power structure within these religious organizations. Though she makes her case logically and describes exactly what happened from her point of view, it is sometimes hard to make the case, as she would wish to, for what the other people in these disputes were thinking and feeling. This is a weakness of the book. It is not really possible for an outsider like this reviewer to feel certain that Jones was mistreated – bullied, scapegoated – precisely as she perceived.
When I began reading the book, based on its cover blurbs, I felt that I might have a basis for identification with Jones’s experience. Some years ago I was involved in a painful dispute among Quakers, who are generally thought of as the most peace-loving and conflict-avoiding group of spiritual seekers to be found in the Western world. However, I felt myself attacked by them and believed strongly that my adversary was amassing support with fellow Quakers to side with her and shut me out. These feelings of anger, frustration and indeed misery followed me for many years until I encountered my former nemesis by chance and we engaged in conversation. At that remove, I saw that she was a weak, rather sad person disillusioned with major aspects of her life and filled with many regrets about her past, none related to me. It occurred to me that her actions at the time of our conflict might also not have as much to do with me as I had then imagined. I found that forgiveness followed naturally after this chance meeting and gave us both relief. I had anticipated some similar denouement in Not of My Making, but did not find it.
Jones appears still convinced that the people with whom she disagreed are very much at fault. I find this a disturbing theme for a book, especially by someone as obviously intelligent and insightful as Jones. Her story could have been condensed without the “he-saids” and “she-saids” into a more dispassionate explication of how people who have been abused tend to expect and hence create self-destructive outcomes.
In fairness, I will close with her own words (from her blogsite,
Another review appears to be more about the reviewer’s misperceptions about me and anger rather than about the quality of the book. She accuses me of holding onto anger and failing to move on. As a psychologist I can’t help but wonder if she is projecting her own fears, hurts and repressed anger onto me. She fails to recognize the long-term impact of neglect, verbal and physical abuse … When survivors such as myself tell their stories, it is their fervent hope that by doing so they are helping to prevent others from being abused and are providing comfort to those who are still struggling with their own victimization.