Aug 14

Self-Help Books That Aren’t Typical

Selected quotes from five different self-help books that offer advice in an atypical way. Not all self-help is about rosy and positive thinking. Self-help can also be down to earth.

I. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich, 2009.

There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.

What would it mean in practice to eliminate all the ‘negative people’ from one’s life?…Purge everyone who ‘brings you down,’ and you risk being very lonely, or, what is worse, cut off from reality.

Breast cancer, I can now report, did not make me prettier or stronger, more feminine or spiritual. What it gave me, if you want to call this a “gift,” was a very personal, agonizing encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before—one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.

II. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, 2012.

And here lies the essential between Stoicism and the modern-day “cult of optimism.” For the Stoics, the ideal state of mind was tranquility, not the excitable cheer that positive thinkers usually seem to mean when they use the word, “happiness.” And tranquility was to be achieved not by strenuously chasing after enjoyable experiences, but by cultivating a kind of calm indifference towards one’s circumstances.

True security lies in the unrestrained embrace of insecurity – in the recognition that we never really stand on solid ground, and never can.

A person who has resolved to “think positive” must constantly scan his or her mind for negative thoughts – there’s no other way that the mind could ever gauge its success at the operation – yet that scanning will draw attention to the presence of negative thoughts.

III. Psychobabble: Exploding the Myths of the Self-Help Generation by Stephen Briers, 2012.

It’s not that he’s opposed to self-help books—he just wants us to be more thoughtful and aware of what we’re being asked to swallow. Moreover, he doesn’t want us to fall for the oft-perpetrated self-help lie that life doesn’t have to be a struggle. Or for psychobabble.

Briers lists the top five myths of self-help books on New Humanist. They’re listed below :

1. The root of all your problems is low self-esteem.

2. You can control your life.

3. You can never be too assertive.

4. You should let your feelings out.

5. We must all strive to be happy.

IV. F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems by Michael Bennett, MD, Sarah Bennett,  2015.

Put doing good over feeling good, and you will get good results.

Accept that there are some losses that never stop hurting, so you can stop delving into them, get used to living with a heavy heart, and try to build a better life.

Working hard at managing love doesn’t mean becoming supremely unselfish and generous in a totally unconditional, nonjudgmental way; it means becoming very judgmental about what you can expect from people and yourself and putting conditions on whom you allow yourself to get close to, love be damned.

V. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson, 2016.

Unhealthy love is based on two people trying to escape their problems through their emotions for each other—in other words, they’re using each other as an escape. Healthy love is based on two people acknowledging and addressing their own problems with each other’s support.

Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

VI. You are a Badass (Deluxe Edition): How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero, 2017.

If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.

What other people think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Making a big fat deal out of anything is absurd. It makes much more sense to go after life with a sense of, “Why not?” instead of a furrowed brow. One of the best things I ever did was make my motto “I just wanna see what I can get away with.”

Interested in any of the above self-help titles? Click on the various links for further info.

Feb 05

“Swearing Is Good”: Plus Other Books

Do you believe swearing is good? Below are three recent and popular self-help books that either use swearing to make their points or support this belief.

I. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2016), by Mark Manson.

Jennifer Haupt, Psychology Today, lists eight things many of us may care too much about, per Manson:

  1. Impressing other people
  2. Being right all the time
  3. Being “successful”
  4. Being pleasant and polite
  5. Being happy
  6. Feeling good all the time
  7. Being “perfect”
  8. Feeling secure and certain

How can you change this, i.e., not give a f**k? Manson presented this book excerpt in a blog post :




Kirkus Reviews:

Popular blogger Manson…criticizes self-help books for their fundamentally flawed approach of telling readers they’re special, assuring them that they can surpass—but, notably, not solve—problems, and encouraging them to embrace their exceptionalism. The author sternly disagrees…Throughout, the author continually slaps readers sharply across the face, using blunt, funny, and deceptively offhand language when expanding on his key principle…This book, full of counterintuitive suggestions that often make great sense, is a pleasure to read and worthy of rereading.

II. Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life (2017), by Gary John Bishop.

From the publisher’s blurb:

Are you tired of feeling fu*ked up? If you are, Gary John Bishop has the answer. In this straightforward handbook, he gives you the tools and advice you need to demolish the slag weighing you down and become the truly unfu*ked version of yourself. ‘Wake up to the miracle you are,’ he directs. ‘Here’s what you’ve forgotten: You’re a fu*king miracle of being.’

The following seven assertions serve as Bishop’s focus:

I am willing.
I am wired to win.
I got this.
I embrace the uncertainty.
I am not my thoughts; I am what I do.
I am relentless.
I expect nothing and accept everything.

“Remember, everything is solve-able,” states Bishop, “and if you can’t see a solution, it only means you haven’t worked it out yet.”

III. Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language (2018), by Emma Byrne 

On her website Emma Byrne refers to herself as “the Sweary Scientist.” So, her Swearing Is Good for You could be viewed as “the sweary book.”

“Byrne’s book is just the latest evidence that we’re moving toward a more cursing-positive culture,” reports Danielle Friedman, The Cut. “Over the past few years, a growing body of pro-swearing research has suggested cursing can be linked to everything from intelligence to authenticity to a greater ability to withstand pain.”

Kirkus Reviews: Swearing Is Good for You “is divided into seven parts covering neuroscience, pain, a special look at Tourette’s syndrome (though she admits that most afflicted with the disease don’t swear), the workplace, primates, gender, and swearing in other languages.”

It’s not, however, about swearing with abandon; rather, while swearing can serve certain purposes in limited quantities, it can also harm. About the latter, for instance, reviewer Andrew Anthony, The Guardian, states, “In terms of disputes, swearing can just as often be a trigger as a defuser. As Byrne goes on to note: ‘In order to swear you need an understanding of the psychology of others…to be able to anticipate how your words are likely to make someone feel’.”