41wgrpiuk6l-_sx330_bo1204203200_Okay, let me begin by saying that this is a self-help book and that I hate when people suggest that I read a self-help book because:

1) Probably their selection is meaningful to them because it resonates in their life, but that doesn’t mean it will resonate in mine.

2) People who suggest a self-help book are saying in just so many words that I have problems and that only they know how to solve them.

3) The genre has had some very suspicious members that have not aged well.

So stop now if you don’t want to know about this book.  You’re a smug SOB, but that’s why we love you.

But since you decided to stay on, here’s why this book is great:

  1. The chapters are aptly named and each essay is brief;
  2. Gordon Livingston is a fine writer whose style is elegant (though at times syntactically strained);
  3. He’s a psychiatrist, but he does not think that medication is the only way to treat an illness;
  4. The man lost two children in 13 months,an experience so devastating that only a fool would not spend a few minutes listening to his advice.
  5. The advice is measured and humble, but frighteningly succinct when it counts.  For example: “The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”
  6. His whole approach is one which espouses taking responsibility for our actions.  Everyday, rightly or wrongly, people blame the outside world for their troubles, but really this blame takes away our power over ourselves.  Livingston’s approach can be interpreted as a modern and more compassionate form of stoicism.  Or to put it in his words “We are responsible for most of what happens to us.”  Of course, that doesn’t include the nightmarish experiences some people have had.  But he does title a chapter “The Statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas.”
  7. Tons of good marriage advice here including some advice on how to pick a mate.  One of the most potent metaphors he uses on this topic is picking people based on “a constellation” of personality traits, most of which are focused around “kindness.”
  8. This book is very quotable and therefore makes it easy to keep the lessons handy during the day-to-day.  Because let’s face it, one of the major downsides to the self-help genre is that the texts work, but only for about two days and then you go back to being the same slob you were before you read the book.

Chapter Titles

If the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong p. 1
2 We are what we do p. 6
3 It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not placed there by logic in the first place p. 12
4 The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas p. 18
5 Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least p. 24
6 Feelings follow behavior p. 28
7 Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid p. 36
8 The perfect is the enemy of the good p. 41
9 Life’s two most important questions are “Why?” and “Why not?” The trick is knowing which one to ask p. 45
10 Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses p. 50
11 The most secure prisons are those we construct for ourselves p. 55
12 The problems of the elderly are frequently serious but seldom interesting p. 61
13 Happiness is the ultimate risk p. 68
14 True love is the apple of Eden p. 75
15 Only bad things happen quickly p. 80
16 Not all who wander are lost p. 87
17 Unrequited love is painful but not romantic p. 91
18 There is nothing more pointless, or common, than doing the same things and expecting different results p. 95
19 We flee from the truth in vain p. 101
20 It’s a poor idea to lie to oneself p. 107
21 We are all prone to the myth of the perfect stranger p. 111
22 Love is never lost, not even in death p. 115
23 Nobody likes to be told what to do p. 119
24 The major advantage of illness is that it provides relief from responsibility p. 125
25 We are afraid of the wrong things p. 129
26 Parents have a limited ability to shape children’s behavior, except for the worse p. 136
27 The only real paradises are those we have lost p. 144
28 Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh is the most profoundly therapeutic p. 152
29 Mental health requires freedom of choice p. 158
30 Forgiveness is a form of letting go, but they are not the same thing

 

 

 

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