Dr. Laura Radio talk show host and best-selling author, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, known as Dr. Laura, has been giving advice and helping people with personal, work, and family problems for 30 years. Her new book, "Bad Childhood, Good Life," is geared toward those who harbor pain from an unhappy childhood and explains how anyone can  and should "conquer" the bad and lead a happy life.

Listen to Dr. Laura:
  • Why Religion Is Important
  • 'Conquering' a Bad Childhood
  • Living Outside of Yourself
  • Returning Christians to Their Faith

  • Why does a relationship with God help so many people work through their troubled pasts?
    First, I should say that I didn't go into writing this book with that notion in mind. I went into it wanting to find out what were the keys to people deciding to take the journey from a bad childhood to a good life, because a lot of people just stay in bad childhood mode their whole lives. So of the people who did take the journey to whatever degree of success, I would say at least 85 percent of them said, "a relationship with God." I was pretty surprised. I expected to hear [them say] therapy.

    Generally, when people have had bad childhoods, it means they didn't feel loved. If there's one thing that made a wonderful difference it was, "God loves me." Period. "My mom and dad may not have loved me but something bigger and more extraordinary [does]. God loves me unconditionally." That is like being hugged. Being told you have some value. "God is forgiving, so the stupid things I've done and said because of my own hurt…God forgives me but has the expectation that I'm going to do better, that I'm not going to hurt other people out of my pain, that I'm not going to do damage to myself and others because I'm so self-absorbed." They have a sense of responsibility based upon the forgiveness they're getting. Because a lot of people who have had really bad childhoods get out of control—drugs, or alcohol, prostitution, getting arrested for doing bad things, whatever it was—they don't always know what to do with a situation. Well, scriptures tell you. You get a list of how-tos--they're called the Commandments, the best how-to list ever written. So they get kind of a blueprint for how to do life right.

    You say you're cautious about suggesting therapy to people who are angry and hurt over their childhood and that instead you suggest prayer. Why?
    The feedback I got is that when people got their emotions churned up like they were in a washing machine and they went into therapy and had to relive it, and then do confrontations with parents and all that kind of stuff, all it did was keep it all too intense. What I like about prayer is that the person calms down, sort of accepts the reality that that's the way it is, and makes commitments to rise above it. So what I say is that we don't get over a bad childhood, we get on with our lives. But we carry that garbage with us. It just gets less and less powerful the more we commit ourselves to moving forward.

    Why Religion Is Important
    One of the things I have always told depressed people is go do something for someone else, because one of the main problems of feeling bad is that it's all about you. Religion and scriptures are deeply focused, intensely focused, on you caring about somebody else.

    There's an old rabbinic story which sounds awful when you first tell it until you explain. Jewish things often need a lot of explanation. [laughs]

    This rich guy lives in this town, and he goes to work every day in this big factory that he owns, and he goes by this very crippled old beggar in the street. And he always gives him a couple of shekels every day. This goes on for years. Well, the business starts doing poorly, and the rich guy is not so rich and he goes to work that day and he may or may not be able to keep the company open and doesn't give the guy any shekels. And the guy says, "Excuse me, where are my shekels?" And the [rich] guy says, "Well, I'm not doing well." And the beggar says, "Well, what does that have to do with me?"

    Now at first you go, "A beggar being so self-centered?" But Jewish stories are very deep. You can't look at them on the surface, you always have to go beneath. What it says is, no matter what you're going through, you owe others. Your responsibility to others does not diminish no matter what you're going through. And that sounds ridiculous. Isn't there a time when I can just sit here and lick my wounds? But that's what you're doing—licking your wounds. And if no matter what you're going through, you pick up a phone and call somebody at home sick, or go down to the shelter and help somebody learn to read, that you are ennobled and your depression is lifted.