THE LAST SELF HELP BOOK YOU'LL EVER NEED
Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer & Throttle Your Inner Child
By: Paul Pearsall
NY: Basic Books:2005
Book Review by: Lon Woodbury
The basic nature of science is skepticism. So long as people can freely question the most respected theories of science, science will progress and sooner or later have a chance to get it right. It is when skeptics are shouted down on the basis of a consensus referred to as the final authority or a claim is made that certain questions are settled and we should not even debate them anymore, that the essence of science is lost and we get what is sometimes referred to as "junk science."
Some of the most widely accepted "pop psychology" beliefs in our current society are the importance of "self-esteem," "self-help" and "self-empowerment." Most discussions of human nature and behavior, as well as many governmental policy decisions, rest on those widely accepted assumptions. It is a sign of health in public discourse when skeptics step forward to challenge these beliefs. The skeptic might be labeled as simply a "contrarian," but all of our beliefs need a challenge from time to time to make sure they continue to match reality.
The author of this book is a neuropsychologist with extensive experience who clearly challenges these "self-help" assumptions. He is an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a member of the board of the Hawaii Sate Consortium for Integrative Health Care. His book draws upon his years of experience and professional academic study and work, and he concluded that we must "question and critique every 'fact of life' that the self help industry accepts as 'fact.' His conclusion is that these commonly accepted facts are simply wrong!
Self-Esteem Is Vital For Healthy Living. The author instead says that "High self-esteem can be damaging to you and others around you. Try a little humility." He points out that high self-esteem "is in no short supply among psychopaths and school-yard bullies."
You Must Love Yourself Before You Can Love Others. The author says "You have to learn to love others before you love yourself." He points out that those who are considerate of others are happier and healthier than those who emphasize their own needs.
He sees the popular world of self-help as candy-coated with simplistic comforting and fun ideas. But, if the reader would question and be mindful of its premises, and add to them the results of scientific research, then the reader could find a parallel self-help universe that could make the popular ideas really work.
Author Pearsall is a contrarian to the core! He challenges some of our most cherished beliefs in this book. Even those who reject his arguments will benefit from considering his arguments. The book is an easy read and I highly recommend it.
December 31, 2007
Great title: "The Last Self Help Book You'll Ever Need" and is what every Self-Help book generally advertises. Some of the premises mentioned in the article such as "self-esteem" is true for many individuals having overrated sense of self. The sociopath and the school yard bully for example. In working with struggling teens over the years, the adolescents who generally said, "I want to work on raising my self-esteem" were generally the one's who already had inflated egos. This was particularly true when dealing with teen girls. The one's who truly did need to learn some positive self talk and to raise their self esteems, seldom, if ever, identified that as a goal for themselves when I would ask them to identify something about themselves they wanted to change and therefore to set as a goal.
The idea about loving others before loving ourselves is debatable. Even some who tend to care a very great deal for themselves and are arrogant and self-centered may be using the arrogance and self-centeredness as a mask or defense for inner sense of self loathing or feeling hopeless, lonely, and many other things they may be hiding.
So, for this reason, there is no such thing as a self-help book to end all other such need for such books. Each person is an individual, and assumptions cannot be made about general fixes for generalized problems. We, as professionals, have to take each person individually and begin to assess and make recommendations after we truly get to know the individual. That is what is so great about residential emotional-growth, experiential learning type environments. The stressors presented by day to day living give us the opportunity to interact with and to see and experience the behaviors, attitudes, etc. as they present themselves.
The one thing that I would say should I write a self help book would be that if a person truly wants to change, he or she must be brutally honest with him or herself, and do a self-assessment of attitudes, beliefs, opinions, thoughts, feelings and associated behaviors. And as Cicero once stated, "Gratitude is the greatest of all virtues, if not the Mother of all other virtues." This may not be the exact quote, but is certainly the gist of his statement. This is one that I personally aspire to. Another of the things that I set as group standard is that we primarily only have 3 group standards of conduct and that is: Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect Resources. Then, add be Honest and Open Minded in your day to day living. If you do these things honestly, and conscientiously and routinely in your daily life, you become a better person and therefore are more at ease with yourself and find some inner peace and have less emotional turmoil. And that is my suggestion for Self-Help that is fairly simple to understand and to practice; That is, if you truly want to change to begin with.
M. Jerome Ennis, MA