Peace in the Heart & Home:
A Down-to-Earth Guide to Creating a Better Life for You and Your Loved Ones

by Charlette Mikulka

Kittacanoe Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-984-49030-1.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 09/07/2011

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Relationships

Peace in the Heart and Home focuses on relationships. So many psychology books seem to operate on the fix yourself concept, without full attention to the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and how your behavior and needs affect them. Author Charlette Mikulka, although a psychotherapist, believes in devoting your time to understanding yourself so you can improve the relationships you have with your family. It is a intimate look at emotional blind-spots and crucial elements that we are misunderstanding, or not accepting.

Her personal experience has contributed greatly to her knowledge of couple and family dynamics. She has reflected deeply on her emotional and relational experience within her family of origin and adult family.

Mikulka discusses our viewpoints and/or misconceptions about attachment, security, trust, dependency, anxiety, psychological trauma, self-care and self-soothing, physical health, intimate relationships, family life, mindfulness and the art of Mindful Living. She does all this in an earthy, realistic approach that enables the reader to grasp "complex and evolving research, theories and treatments." She does discuss modalities and treatment methods, (e.g. professional approaches) but her fundamental techniques are understandable and usable whether or not the reader has any experience in the subjects or not.

It is not the typical self-help book, in that it goes far beyond simply acknowledging the problems stemming, perhaps from childhood, or from some sort of life trauma. Mikulka acknowledges that,yes, these are real, valid perceptions and need to be addressed in an honest, forthright manner in order to perceive the underlying causes, and then focus on the repairs and rejuvenation of your life and relationships.

One of the modalities she offers is Egograms. These are bar graphs that depict "common ego states: hurt child, carefree child, adult, nurturing parent, and critical parent." She states, "I explain to my new clients that our first priority will be fostering the growth of the nurturing parent part of their personality through the use of the self-care and self-soothing skills and resources..." Mikulka has her clients continue to redraw the egogram throughout therapy to "graphically see the progress they've made." You can do it yourself, using the guidelines she provides.

One of the way Mikulka encourages the reader's growth is by the providing of symptoms and/or lists that will help pinpoint areas of such things as containment, defenses and compulsions that keep us from being fully functional happy adults. She uses this same approach in addressing physical symptoms that often are the result of "chronic anxiety, stress and unresolved emotions from relationship distress."

Other areas discussed by the author include Inner Child Work, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), weaving small but significant changes in your day to day life, seeking out additional resources to support personal growth, and "taking responsibility, being proactive." She encourages a "multi-pronged approach" to creating the greatest protection of self, and the most optimal reach for fully functional humans. She looks honestly at whether or not to seek professional help, and her Appendices offer such detailed help as: List of Websites, List of Defense Strategies, List of Self-Care and Self-Soothing Resources and a List of Questions for Reflection or Journaling.

By taking your time reading through this book, utilizing the resources and skills she recommends and learning to understand how the interplay in relationships happens and is enhanced, the reader will learn, even by taking baby-steps, that interpersonal relationships can be made good, healthy and honorable by applying a self-care approach. Much of what she teaches we know, instinctively, we just need permission, and the techniques, to exercise its concepts in our daily lives.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Charlette Mikulka is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with three decades of professional experience. She earned her masters degree from Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work in 1976 and has engaged in child protective services, family life education and psychotherapy with adolescents and adults.

In 2011 she and her husband, Joe, will have been together forty years. They have two sons, Michael, 25 and Christopher, 19. As well as enjoying her family, her profession and learning, Charlette loves being with friends, appreciating and photographing nature and architecture, walking, bicycling, quilting, singing, cooking and visiting her favorite places: New York City; the New Jersey Shore; New Hope, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Visit her website.

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