Dr. Laura Discusses Her New Book

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 6, 2006 that has been edited for clarity.

HANNITY: As we continue on "Hannity & Colmes," I'm Sean Hannity.

Earlier Alan and I spoke with Dr. Laura Schlessinger about a brand new book, just out today, "Bad Childhood, Good Life: How to Blossom and Thrive in Spite of an Unhappy Childhood."


HANNITY: As I get older I begin to realize, even my closest friends I never realized how much baggage they bring into adulthood from childhood. You talk about — you sort of guide people through your radio show to that "aha" moment.

DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, AUTHOR, "BAD CHILDHOOD, GOOD LIFE": Well, the thing is most people know that something happened in their childhood wasn't friendly.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Why do you look at me when you say that?

HANNITY: Exactly.

SCHLESSINGER: Because I'm having you participate.

COLMES: Thank you.

SCHLESSINGER: Everybody — there's nobody who doesn't have something they can complain about or talk about or say, "Gee, that hurt me." Or "that really set me back."

What I have discovered is people don't understand that, even though that's frothing and they can point at it, they don't appreciate how the decisions they make today, the reactions they have today are based more on that than what's happening right now. And that's the connection I try to help people make.

HANNITY: You raise the point that now you're an adult and where you once didn't have control now you do have control.

But one of the things that drives me crazy, we've become such an excuse society. We make excuses for everything. And a lot of people go back to oh, my childhood. But there are people that have been molested as children, beaten as children, emotionally they never received any love from their parents, so they have a real legitimate reason for bringing some problems into adulthood.

SCHLESSINGER: I think it's fair to say, "One of the reasons I am hypersensitive about this or that is because this happened to me. And this really framed me." You have to understand, all your early experiences build who you are, how you feel about yourself.

HANNITY: What happened to him?

COLMES: Thank God you're not pointing in my direction. I think he's pointing towards the stage manager.

HANNITY: No, it was you.

SCHLESSINGER: To use the word excuse gets us a little off track. The reality is there are reasons you have a knee-jerk reaction in certain places. If you understand that have the courage...

HANNITY: I talk a lot about that.

SCHLESSINGER: ... to risk right now you can separate those two out.

HANNITY: So, for example, if you're a person that is unable to accept love or give love or to be involved in intimacy and you could trace it back to, say, your mother and father being cold and mean to you, and if you can connect the two things together, what through forgiveness, you'll overcome it? How do you overcome it?

SCHLESSINGER: Forgiveness doesn't work that well.

HANNITY: It doesn't?

SCHLESSINGER: Because it doesn't change anything.

I got a wonderful letter from a mother who gave her daughter just now this book, 18 years old, and said, "I acknowledge that I contributed to your bad childhood. I hurt you by being critical and not accepting who you are. I regret what I did, but I acknowledge it and I am sorry."

But the sorry without the acknowledgement. "Well, I did the best I could. If you're upset about it, you know, get over it." These kinds of things people can't work from.

HANNITY: What should...

SCHLESSINGER: But this young woman heard her mother acknowledge her contribution to her pain and cried. And then a door is open. This young woman, though, has to do the journey herself.

HANNITY: What do you do if the person, the parents never wants to acknowledge that they did something wrong?

SCHLESSINGER: The word acceptance means that you stop fighting and you accept that that parent is destructive and dangerous and horrible, evil, mean, stupid, crazy.

HANNITY: Maybe it has nothing to do with it?

SCHLESSINGER: Until the point where you can keep an emotional distance without getting sort of sucked into the craziness, you might have to minimize contact. At some points when they're destructive you really should terminate it.

COLMES: I thought it was quite — something I'd never seen you do before, you talked about your own experiences with your parents in this book. And I was quite surprised to see how candid you were about some of the tribulations you experienced which perhaps helped shape who you are, some of the issues you've had in your life.

SCHLESSINGER: Absolutely. Took me a long time in my life to be able to enjoy my own successes.

COLMES: You say that in the book?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes. To get off the notion that I had to — it's good you bring that up. These show some of my foibles. So to do that I had to demonstrate that I'm not perfect.


SCHLESSINGER: That's a threat. That's a big threat, because in my house, if it wasn't right there'd be hell to pay.

COLMES: You're very candid about your parents.

SCHLESSINGER: You don't get love until your perfect. Well, I can give up being perfect and voila, frankly, you're loved more.

COLMES: You've also had the experience of your personal relationship with your mom, for example, and you mentioned this in the book, played out in the press.


COLMES: And people said things about you. So whatever you had with your mother you couldn't just go through privately.


COLMES: You were raked through the coals in the press because of that. That's another issue that you had to deal with that most people don't have to deal with.

SCHLESSINGER: And to the end I never said anything about my parents. I always showed respect by not blaming them, making it public in anyway. And so when my mother withdrew from my life for reasons that I explain in the book, I took the hit, "How can you give advice to people when you have nothing to do with your own mother," when I was the one abandoned. It was so horrible to have A, the abandonment, and B, the attacks, as though I were the creator of my own pain.

COLMES: How do you cope with — you're in a situation. Your mother is working for you. You ask her to take a typing course. She says bye-bye, walks out. Walks out of your life. How do you get closure in a situation like that?

SCHLESSINGER: There is no closure. People think of closure as some end point, somebody says something, does something, you feel all better and the thing has no impact. There is no such animal.

COLMES: You can't work for closure?

SCHLESSINGER: No, it's resilience. In spite of how, you know, there was never — you know, I had one hug in my entire life from both of my parents.

COLMES: Really?

SCHLESSINGER: When I was 35 my mother hugged me once in my whole life. And I mean as a kid, my son got more hugs in three minutes of his life than I got in my whole life. And so it didn't prohibit me from being a kissy huggy schmoozy person.

COLMES: You've been accused of not being the most kissy huggy, touchy-feely person on the air.

SCHLESSINGER: Hey, I'm not promiscuous.

COLMES: Well, I didn't mean promiscuous, really. I'm talking about with your listeners. OK? You know what I mean.

SCHLESSINGER: I'm there to help. A good master sergeant makes you do it.

COLMES: Is that what you — are you a master sergeant for your listeners? Is that how you view yourself?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes. In fact, I've gotten a lot of letters from retired Marine master sergeants who say I would have been a good one.

HANNITY: Dr. Laura, I want to ask you, the title of your book is "Bad Childhood, Good Life." We've watched events unfold this week where we saw children that were desperately concerned about their fathers in the mine. They got word that their fathers were alive, and then it was taken away from them. And I thought a lot about that. I thought about it as it relates to your book. That's going to be something that these kids are going to, for the rest of their lives, they'll carry with them.

SCHLESSINGER: Losing a parent is a terrible trauma. But let me distinguish between a horrible incident, like an act of God type of thing, a horrible accident, and your father walking out on you, marrying three other women, making six other kids and never seeing you anymore. That kind of devastation is personal.

What makes this different — I mean, it's horrible to lose a parent; believe me, I'm not diminishing it. But their dads didn't leave them because they wanted to. And these kids will always know that that fathers worked hard in that mine because he loved them and wanted to take care of them. And that's what the mommies can all say.

HANNITY: Yes. Have you softened a little bit in your older age?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, it is sagging already.

HANNITY: You look great. Because I'm a fan of yours and have been for many years. And the thing I love the most about you is you always stand firm for what's right. You just do. And for a higher moral standard.

But I sense in this book by you really exposing yourself on a very personal level — and I remember. I don't know if you remember. We spoke when you lost your mom.


HANNITY: And I remember how much pain you were going through then. That was a very tough time for you. And you didn't — I didn't know until tonight that you had — that there was another side of that story. You never told that story, at least to my knowledge. Has this changed you a little bit, because...?

SCHLESSINGER: You know, I'm an orphan now and I'm 58, 59 next week. And you get to a point in your life, in the journey that I took that I described in this book, and I'm helping other people hopefully do it faster than I did, is that I don't want to hide. I don't want to have a persona.

I am a very real person. On the air I'm very real. In person, I'm very real. I'm very real all the time. But I was protective of an image and I think that was part of my growing up that I had to look a certain way or I'd be punished.

HANNITY: Because I like tough love. I believe in tough love.

SCHLESSINGER: But it is love. It is love.

HANNITY: It is love, isn't it?

SCHLESSINGER: Tough for the sake of tough is cruelty.

HANNITY: Good point.

SCHLESSINGER: But tough for the sake of helping somebody...

HANNITY: Wake up.

COLMES: I'm trying to soften Hannity up. You soften them up then you go for the kill. This is the way it works.


COLMES: Let me ask — I want to go back to the miners story for a second. And this is a heart wrenching and heartbreaking story, obviously. And it's not just losing a parent. It's also thinking — or losing a child. You think they're — first you think they're gone. Then you think they're alive. Then you find out that they're gone. Is anybody ever equipped to cope with something like that?

SCHLESSINGER: Not in the immediate. But, you know, most people are going to collapse, be hysterical, be angry, go through emotions that look completely irrational, and I call that normal.

Most of these people, after some period of time, will be resilient enough to incorporate it in and move on. You see, all these families have a story about the love the family had. The person is physically lost but the history isn't. And that's what ultimately is going to be special about these families; they all have stories to tell.

Your dad risked his life to provide energy for the country and to take care of his family. He is our hero. That's a good story to tell.


SCHLESSINGER: As opposed to he just went off.

COLMES: Imagine the person that has to walk into that room, in that church and then tell these families, "You know, what we told you three hours ago..."


COLMES: "... isn't true."

SCHLESSINGER: The insanity of the moment, I can't even imagine the pain. That is — to go up that high and slam down that hard is horrible. But you know, most people keep their hopes up anyway, because we all hope for the best, of course.

COLMES: Are people basically optimistic? Are people basically half full or half empty, on the glass?

SCHLESSINGER: I think it depends on the person.

HANNITY: Conservatives are half full.

SCHLESSINGER: I tend a little to the half empty.

COLMES: They're half full because the liberals pour into the glass.

HANNITY: Because you want to still from those guys.

COLMES: The liberal handout that we pour into the glass.

SCHLESSINGER: You grow up in a critical household you tend to be on the half empty. Because you know, if it's not totally full it might as well be.

COLMES: Two children, same household, getting back to your book. Same parents, same experiences. One becomes a liberal, one becomes a conservative. Why?

SCHLESSINGER: Because people are born with different dispositions. How many kids do you have?


SCHLESSINGER: How many kids do you have?


SCHLESSINGER: Do you notice, right out of the hopper, their personalities are different.

COLMES: I'd say they'd better be liberal.

HANNITY: But they're both conservative.

COLMES: You don't know yet.

HANNITY: Seven and 4. I know.

SCHLESSINGER: When they start rebelling.

HANNITY: Four years old, there aren't any liberals in the whole family, Doctor.

COLMES: Go ahead. You know how good it would be for him to have a son with a ponytail and an earring?

HANNITY: You wished that the day he was born.

COLMES: But is it nature or nurture that creates these mindsets?

SCHLESSINGER: It is an interweaving.

HANNITY: This is a great book. Because I know so many people that are struggling in their adulthood because of childhood experiences. I'm glad you wrote it.

SCHLESSINGER: I don't think there's a person who can't benefit from the book.

HANNITY: I have.

SCHLESSINGER: Because we each have something...

HANNITY: Everybody does.

SCHLESSINGER: ... that we have a habit pattern about because of our childhood that isn't the best thing in our marriages or our work.


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