“Do I need for some reason to __________________?”
This is the underlying question of Hide and Seek: Reclaiming Childhood’s Lost Potential. Geared toward those who seek to change the way they move through life, Oliker reframes the age-old argument of nature versus nurture and merges it with Darwin’s theories of natural selection and adaptation. Initially I thought this book would be helpful for individuals, as well as professionals who work with children, to understand their behaviors.
As I progressed through the book, it became clear that it was clearly intended to be used at an individual level. Beyond the search to find one’s true potential, this book serves as a road map for those seeking to understand, address and adjust behaviors, relationships and interactions. In the end, the reader is expected to walk away with the belief and confidence that although it will not happen overnight, such desirable changes can be made.
Oliker opens the book with three versions of the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and integrates into the original story the concepts of reaction and survival into the original tale. This helps set the tone for the book. The “Tale of Reaction” illustrates outwardly visible behavior while the “Tale of Survival” explains the unconscious underlying reasons for those reactions. She takes Darwin’s theories beyond those based in biology and into an unseen, unconscious psychological system of survival.
While individuals generally believe that their interactions, reactions and attitudes are part of their personality, Oliker challenges the reader to look into his or her childhood and the environment in which he or she was brought up and examine the possible underlying reasons for such behaviors. Throughout the book, examples form former clients help to clarify the points she is trying to make. She further explores and integrates an individual’s ability to adapt with personality traits, the latter being the prominent factor in the method in which the person develops a survival skill. These concepts are tied together, along with examples from life experiences, culminating in a summary of the main ideas with suggestions on how to uncover and actualize one’s childhood potential.
Overall, Oliker illustrates her concepts with real-life experiences with which the reader can easily identify. The more scientific models and metaphors are explained in a manner easily understood by someone unfamiliar with such concepts. However, as a reader, I did have trouble understanding, relating to and conceptualizing the idea of “the space between.” Here Oliker draws on her background in the theater to illustrate how actors not only use the physical space they occupy, but also the space between them to act and convey a message; this space is just as important in communication. She is attempting to use this metaphor to explain people’s beliefs and survival skills are constantly present and active in daily personal interactions. She encourages the reader to be aware of how these dynamics are playing out and to recognize and change the patterns.
As a reader without a theater background, it was very challenging to comprehend this attempted illustration; I had to reread this section a few times to understand the concept. While Oliker’s use of case histories helps the reader identify with the clients and therefore see the possible experiences that may have caused them to deny their childhood potential, I felt that there were too many and by the time I got to the summary I was trying to remember which story she was referencing.
The summary at the end was fairly concise and rhetorical questions to examine and explore the adaptive survival skills that the reader has developed are offered. Oliker uses these questions as a blueprint for change. Through self-examination and the assumptions one makes of their behavior and the behavior of others, she asks the reader, “If I had a magic wand and could make my wants a reality, what would change? And would there be any danger if the magic worked?” With this she encourages the reader and reinforces that internal strength and the power of adaptation can be consciously used to transform one’s life.
In conclusion, while I had trouble understanding her concept of “the space between,” in no way did this confusion detract from the main ideas of the book. This book is not, nor does it claim to be, the solution to actualizing one’s full potential. Rather, it suggests that through careful self-examination the reader can confront and break free from these self-imposed limitations and work toward reclaiming his or her true potentials. While transforming a lifetime of unwanted behaviors seems daunting to anyone, I finished this book believing in myself and the power to change, to break away from childhood beliefs and gain the freedom to be who I truly am.
Hide and Seek: Reclaiming Childhood’s Lost Potential
By Ditta M. Oliker, PhD
BookSurge Publishing: February 2010
Paperback, 200 pages