Tag: Self Help

by Cait Flanders

Found browsing. I liked this one, even though I notice quite a few other reviews complain about the personal stories and repetitive, scattered storytelling. I didn’t mind that too much. The subtitle in full: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store. It’s based on her blog (which I never read) and tells all the personal stories behind things, that she had not shared with her followers earlier. She started the blog to make herself accountable for following a year-long shopping ban: outlining rules for herself, keeping track of progress, sharing the struggles and so on. Her main goal was to only buy essentials, so she could save money to do more worthwhile things she really wanted to (travel with friends family). The book relates how she decluttered her apartment,  outlined what she decided could do without, and learned to fix or make some things (with some failed attempts). But really it’s an introspective look at all the things she struggled with that also affected her finances: alcoholism (in the past), buying too many things because they were convenient or on sale, overeating to deal with emotional stress. Breakups, moves for a new job, finding out her parents were getting divorced (and how deeply that affected her even as an adult), and then testing the waters for ditching the job and working for herself. I noticed the repetitiveness but let it slide, I didn’t mind the meandering style, and I tried to let the lessons she learned from this experience sink into me. Some parts I could relate to, others not at all. Note that she didn’t consider herself a shopaholic, always had a rationale for what she bought, but the amount of items that weren’t really useful or necessary just kind of crept up on her. She aimed to be far more thoughtful about her consumerism, and I think the book reflects that really well. I did wish for more stories about the payoff- how she enjoyed the travel, the hikes, the family moments- rather than just notes about what percentage of her belongings she gave away in a month, or numbers on money saved. It seems to be more focused on the overcoming and changing habit parts. That’s okay. Still inspirational.

Borrowed from the public library as an audiobook, 5 and a half hours listening time, read aloud by the author.

Rating: 3/5
216 pages, 2018

One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book has been in the back of my mind for a very long time. A while ago I was interested in reading it, but then looked at reviews online and the many negative ones made me think this one wouldn’t be for me. I’m actually glad I finally read it, though. It’s a memoir. This woman had a painful, messy divorce and then jumped into a new relationship too fast, which eventually floundered but she couldn’t end it cleanly. Decided (on a whim it sounds like) to take a break from life as it were, and sort out her internal priorities. She spent a year travelling- four months each in Italy, India and Bali (island in Indonesia). Her basic goals were to indulge in pleasure in Italy (via food), immerse herself in the spiritual in India, and find some balance in Bali. I was impressed that she worked to learn the language before and during her stay in Italy. That she spent most of her time in India in an ashram, following the teachings of a guru, doing meditation, periods of silence, and service (this varied from scrubbing floors to being a guide and hostess to new arrivals who were attending a retreat at the ashram. The whole time she is searching for a spiritual experience, but it doesn’t come in the way she expects. Finally, she journeys to Bali where she spends her time between visiting a medicine man and hanging out with a traditional healer who becomes her friend, but then it gets a bit messy in the end when she asks people back home for donations online to help this woman buy a house . . . Through it all, she’s really doing a ton of navel-gazing, trying to understand her past actions and straighten herself out for the future. Soul searching, I guess. I thought this would put me off- the details about culture and scenery in these far away places she visited might be a lot more interesting than internal monologues or conversations with herself via writing in a journal.

But not at all. I found her struggles so very relatable, even though she’s a very different type of person than me. The honesty and humor won me over, I liked the writing style, I found all the people she met and friends she made interesting too. Even the parts about meditation and religious experiences in India were thoughtful to read about, while I don’t consider myself a religious person anymore. This book had similarlites in my mind to both Richard Bach (somebody is probably cringing at that) and Tracks– because it’s about a single woman travelling? Not sure. Maybe the voice. So while I don’t agree with or understand all the author’s opinions and means in this book, it was a good read regardless. Sometimes seeing opposite ways that other people view the world is just so interesting. And I didn’t mention yet- in the final part of the book, she falls in love with a Brazilian man. One of a group of ex-pats. I expected I was going to find that part boring, but the storytelling was still good. I am interested in seeing the movie now, just don’t know when.

It didn’t come across as terribly whiny to me, though I can see why other readers felt so. I did get annoyed at how she kept referring to herself as an “old woman” in her thirties! Please! I’m in my forties and don’t feel old yet.

Rating: 4/5
334 pages, 2006

Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren\’t Being Fooled
by Jennifer Freyd and Pamela Birrell

I saw this book sitting on a table at my friend\’s house, and when for a moment I picked it up idly and started reading a segment, she offered to loan it to me. So I read it out of curiosity. In short spurts, over the past few weeks.

It\’s about the psychological phenomenon where a person can be so invested in keeping their situation safe, that they literally turn a blind eye to things that are wrong in a relationship. Why do people stay in bad relationships, why remain on at a workplace where something very wrong is going on behind the scenes? It\’s usually because subconsciously they know that admitting or recognizing the real issues will threaten their security. The most common example here is a person who does not realize their spouse is being unfaithful, even when there are obvious signs and everyone around them knows. This was the most frequent type of instance mentioned in the book. The other common one was of childhood abuse- children blank out or forget what was done to them, sometimes only remembering years later. Because to know that a person their very lives depended upon was harming them, is too risky. There are also other cases given- in the workplace, the military, governments and institutions. Denials of rights, or compensation, or support, or even just recognition. The biggest one, but it was only mentioned a few times, loomed large in my mind (probably because of a recent book I read): the Holocaust.

It\’s not only about how denial of trauma can occur in people\’s minds; the book is also about how these things can finally be recognized, how the person who suffered wrong can heal from it, how to be a good listener if someone is revealing past trauma to you, and how future wrongs can be prevented. The most interesting chapter to me was the one about mental and physical health issues caused by the betrayals. When someone you trust hurts you so fundamentally, especially as a child- it damages your ability to develop healthy relationships in the future. There were instances where the authors actually conducted studies with trauma survivors to see how their mental and emotional abilities were compared to other people. It was very interesting.

But overall also an upsetting book to read, even though the details were kept minimal, and (except with some famous cases), the reports were all made anonymous. Quite a few of them are repeated through the book, as various aspects of the subject are discussed. The most telling was in the final chapters, where one of the authors tells about her own experiences with a serious betrayal of trust. That section of the book felt like the largest revelation. The rest of it, many of the examples felt too simplistic- probably to keep identities private- but I frequently wondered what else there was to know.

Rating: 2/5             201 pages, 2013

Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
by Rachel Simmons

This book is about teaching girls to be true to themselves. The first half shows examples of learned behavior patterns that can be problematic because girls use them to diminish their feelings, avoid confrontation, deny culpability, sidestep real issues between friends and so on. All in the name of being \”good\”- nice, apologetic, demure and selfless. At first I thought it was ridiculous, the idea of good behavior becoming a negative thing, but the author makes the case that it\’s about putting on a good appearance at the cost of everything else that can be a problem. Which leaves girls unable to resolve issues, communicate effectively, speak up for themselves or even recognize when relationships need improvement. She sees serious trends of girls unable to accept and build upon criticism, girls who apply all-or-nothing rules to their friendships and then carry those on into professional settings later in life, which only hinders them. The author systematically examines the \”good girl\” ways of being that are problematic, and then describes how to go about learning different patterns of behavior that enable girls to be more forthright, confidence and sincere. Using examples from real situations that came up with girls who attend her workshops (often with their mothers) she shows how to work through it. There\’s no perfect answer, but there are better ways of finding them. I saw myself a lot in this book. And my daughter. I hope I absorbed enough of it to attempt making some changes of my own for the better.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Rating: 4/5        278 pages, 2009

more opinions:
A Striped Armchair
Betty and Boo Chronicles

by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is a heavy book. Rich indeed. One you have to read slowly, take in pieces, ponder over. I\’m not sure I understood all the things Estes was getting at, and its definitely a book that requires a re-read, if not many. In a nutshell, Estes examines and analyzes fairytales, myths and folktales in the context of what they can teach about the inner lives of women. It reminded me a lot of Care of the Soul, a book I haven\’t read since high school. In each segment of the book, Estes examines a particular fairy tale (often several related tales or different versions as well) and goes into great depth about the wisdom and insight it can convey about such things as finding inner strength, recognizing things that take you away from your true self, enduring and continuing on in the face of difficulties, recognizing people you feel kinship with, finding and drawing upon your creative energy and so on. The ways and manners in which women expresses themselves and mine their inner strengths are myriad, and Estes recognizes that. She presents a lot of tales I was completely unfamiliar with, and explains others in ways I had never considered before. I was a bit surprised to find some other reviewers disagreed entirely with her viewpoint, said she forced and changed the stories to say what she wanted, diverted from their original meaning. But I just took it to be part of the power of storytelling, to use stories and word imagery to communicate something strong and lasting. Oh, and there are many comparisons to wolves and how they live. Estes calls the feminine soul your inner Wild Woman, who is keen and responsive and fierce in ways like the wolf…

So is it a bunch of interpretive hogwash, or something profoundly insightful? I guess it depends on the reader. For myself, I found quite a bit to take away and ponder at length, and I am keeping this book on my shelf to delve into again someday.

by Jennifer Forest

This book is a basic overview of some options available for women who want to earn a decent amount of income but still have time with their kids. It was offered to me by the publicist, and for once I accepted a review copy (usually not my policy) because the subject is so applicable to my current situation.
Through the book Forest looks at a range of ways women can work from home or negotiate part-time hours in a manner that will still generate a reasonable amount of income. She examines the possibilities of multi-level marketing, making crafts or selling products (online or at local fairs), providing professional services (bookkeeping and the like), pro blogging, trading shares, running a home daycare, and a few other things. In every instance the author either attempted the job herself, or interviewed women who had made a success of it. To no surprise, she quickly found that things like online surveys are mostly a scam and freelancing job sites can be difficult to get started at. My own experience validates what she says for the most part, as I have either looked into some of these things myself during the past five years, or know other women who have. 
Namely, it is not easy or simple to make a good sustainable income working from home. It takes a lot of effort, focus, and time to get established. I appreciated that with each case, Forest explains not only what it takes to get the business going, the amount of upfront capital you might need and the expected time before you can expect a good return, but also what kind of skills and personality are needed for each type of work. Working from home is not the right solution for everyone. She includes lists of questions to ask yourself, as well as templates to help you form a basic plan. If you\’re trying to go back to an established office job but negotiate for part-time hours, she has advice and strategies for how to make that successful, as well. She also briefly discusses the merits of returning to school and pursuing a degree.
I am glad that I\’ve finally found work that I can be productive at, while remaining home with my children (I\’m currently working part-time from home as content editor and graphic design assistant for a website development company. I\’ve found it very satisfactory but the hours can be long- the best times for me to work are usually late, after the kids are in bed). This book did not teach me much, to be honest. If you are newly in the position of looking for work-at-home opportunities I do think this book would be a good beginning resource to figure out which options might be valid. It\’s a great starting point and has lists of further resources. I did find some of the content repetitive, and the author is not in the American job market (she\’s from Australia), so some of her observations or terminology were a bit foreign to me but for the most part it was solid information. There\’s lots of inspirational quotes scattered throughout the book as well.

Rating: 3/5 ……… 223 pages, 2013

more opinions:
anyone else?

by Judith Rusky Rabinor

Another valuable book that nevertheless is a bit difficult to write about because of the personal nature in how I relate to it. I am not in the habit of accepting review copies from publishers anymore, but I took this one because it seemed very applicable to my situation.

Written by a clinical psychologist who herself has survived divorce and successfully co-parented her children, the book is a guideline to finding a way to build a new relationship with the person you were once married to. Not only for the sake of your children, but also because, the book purports, if you\’re going to have to deal with this person for the rest of your life- and you likely will- you might as well make it as pleasant as possible. (That\’s not an exact quote).

Rabinor makes it clear that this is not easy, nor is it always possible. In almost every stage and situation discussed, she points out when it is unreasonable to expect things to progress positively and sometimes you have to just let things be, knowing you\’ve done your best. I appreciate that she always showed both sides of the situation- for example, in the segment on forgiveness she discusses forgiving your ex, and then also forgiving yourself. The gender pronouns are also frequently switched, so it feels evenly unbiased.

The book goes in detail through many emotional states and uncomfortable situations you will have to deal with when attempting to turn what was a bad relationship (after all, it fell apart) into a working friendship, no matter how limited that might be. Moving through grief, handling anger, letting go of past wrongs, becoming allies (mostly for your children), recognizing the difference between big obstacles and small minor irritants, and coming together for celebrations or family rituals are all discussed in detail. There\’s also an entire chapter devoted to the difficult prospect of meeting your ex\’s new partner and/or including that person in your wider family circle. Along the way Rabinor offers professional advice, points the reader to more detailed resources when needed and recommends how to find assistance if necessary. She also includes many examples from a wide variety of couples\’ situations- some showing how things can work out, others when it doesn\’t. The book is also replete with activities to help the reader work through issues or recognize things- like making lists, visualizing, journaling and so forth.

I admit I didn\’t do any of the exercises, although I certainly thought most of them through. One that seemed very vivid to me was the idea of writing down things that have upset, angered or hurt you, crumpling and tearing the paper, then burning it. Seems very cathartic. The book helped me with many things, like recognize what stage of grief I\’m in, realizing what negative responses I habitually make to strong emotions, and remembering that it\’s often more productive to state a need rather than blame or accuse someone…. Regardless, I know I\’m not ready yet to do most of the things this book offers help with, but it will be waiting on my shelf when I am.

I did have a few problems with the book. It has no index, so when I wanted to look for something specific sometimes it was tricky to remember which segment it was in. Also the headings are annoyingly large, especially considering how many of them there are. When a heading within a chapter is as large as the small paragraph it introduces, following immediately by another heading nearly as large, it just feels like too much. Sometimes I felt like the author was shouting the headings at me, or assumed I wouldn\’t noticed them unless they were really big. Maybe they had to fill up more page space to make the book longer, I don\’t know. It is rather slender but don\’t be fooled, there\’s a lot of valuable information in there.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 203 pages, 2012


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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