Can Self-Help Books Really Make a New You for a New Year?

Alamy
Alamy

Their authors promise that your spirit will be improved, your ambition honed, and your finances maximized by their advice. Is the path to a shining 2015 so simple?

With every New Year comes a New Year’s resolution: a vow of self-improvement as we age, attendant promises to break bad habits, and, in my case, an inevitable failure to uphold said promises.

So this year I went for a more immersive approach to bettering myself: the self-help book, brimming with strategies to achieve personal goals, often packaged with an elusive promise of freedom (“emotional freedom,” “financial freedom,” “freedom from chemical dependency”).

Below, a selection of 2014’s most popular self-help books–and what to take away from them to make a new you for 2015.

Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom by Andrea Brandt

What it promises:

To help you harness your anger, transforming it into a productive expression or “release” of emotion

What it says:

Most of us have an unhealthy relationship with anger, writes author and psychologist Andrea Brandt. And most of us are either unaware of it or in denial.

That’s because anger is often symptomatic of deeper psychological issues. Brandt divides angry people into two categories: “dumpers” who vent their rage, blasting someone with either high-pitched verbal abuse or quiet but cruel criticism, and “withholders” who are so detached from the emotion that they don’t recognize it in themselves. Anger often manifests in withholders as another self-destructive but more socially acceptable feeling or behavior, like anxiety.

Brandt stresses that anger alone is a healthy emotion, but is stigmatized because of the destructive behaviors that frequently accompany it.

She suggests mindfulness exercises to help us process the emotion before it triggers a response. “Trace that triggering event to how it affected you. What part of you–what aspect of your sense of self–was harmed, threatened, or disrespected?”

The takeaway:

Mindfulness can be effective, and I appreciate the meditation techniques Brandt offers in her book because they legitimize my completely irrational thoughts and behaviors.

For example: I was once so enraged with a friend that I fantasized about picking up a candle on our dinner table and throwing hot wax in his face.

Having read this book, I now understand that my elaborate wax-attack fantasy was an expression of mindful anger and commendable self-restraint. Turns out I don’t have anger issues. I just have myriad other issues.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Daily Beast
Lizzie Crocker

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