Posts Tagged ‘self help’

The Chimp Paradox

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020 | Books

The Chimp Paradox is a book by Dr Steve Peters. In it, he describes his model of the mind as two parts: the chimp, an irrational emotion-driven strong animal, and the human, the higher part of our brain that we often like to pretend is the “real us”.

It is a generalist book in that it is a useful read for anyone, not just those struggling with their own mind, but more of a popular self-help book with applications for every day relationships and problems.

I found it an interesting read, most of the time, but I don’t think I ever made it to the end.

12 Rules for Life

Friday, May 17th, 2019 | Books

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is a book by Jordan B. Peterson.

He’s a controversial figure and I’ve written about this before. I can’t really work him out. He says some thought-provoking things and a lot of people who I respect have a lot of time for him. However, he also says a lot of silly things and digs himself into holes. Some would argue that people are misinterpreting him. But he makes a huge deal out of picking your words carefully, so saying he has been misinterpreted seems a feeble defence.

In any case, I read the book. He wrote a more academic book, Maps of Meaning and openly talks about the lessons he learnt from that, making this one a more popular and accessible read. That said, it’s not for those with a lack of concentration. There is a lot of philosophy in here and he doesn’t always do a good job of explaining what he means. Other parts are just a ramble.

He talks about hierarchies and how they are inescapable. Why? Because lobsters have them. And we’re only very distantly related to lobsters. Which is true. But then we also see a lot of rape and killing in the animal kingdom. Should we also accept these things are inevitable and just live with it? I see no such reason to be pessimistic. Society has been an incredibly powerful tool in overcoming these evils. Of course, we should strive to find a way that is compatible with human nature rather than fighting against it. But we often already do this.

Many of his rules I am on board with. Telling the truth, even when hard, is something I strive for. Sam Harris makes a similar argument in Lying. Pursuing what is meaningful in the long-term is another great rule. And assuming the person you are talking to knows something you don’t is good advice for anyone who doesn’t want to look really stupid at a later point in the conversation.

I think this is a book for fans. Peterson rose to prominence because he sticks by the evidence, even when the left tried to make that politically unsayable. And he continues to do that in this book. But he goes beyond that into ideology. And in a way so complicated that you have to like him to bother to keep reading.

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 | Distractions


Joe Berlinger is a film maker known for his documentary series Paradise Lost. He also made Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, a film that I really enjoyed, once I understood just how the studio had butchered it after it left Berlinger’s hands. His latest film is a documentary about motivational speaker Tony Robbins’s Date With Destiny events.

It is interesting to see inside the event. But that is where the interest stops. A review in Variety earlier this year pretty much hits the nail on the heat. It is a completely uncritical look at the whole show, with no interesting journalistic merit to be found.

For example, there is no mention that I noticed of the price tag. It is around $5,000 for the basic package and goes up from there. There is plenty of footage of Robbins transforming people’s lives though, at least for the few minutes they were on camera. Still, I am sure Penn & Teller are completely wrong about these type of events being complete bullshit that never sticks. Especially at that price.

Far from Robbins graciously granting access to a documentary crew for the first time, it seems to be that he simply allowed them to make an infomercial for him.

To be fair to Berlinger, he doesn’t pretend that it is anything other than that. He decided to make the film after being invited to a Date With Destiny event and said in an interview that this was more of a “concert film”.

If you want to watch it, it’s on Netflix.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 | Books

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a book by Susan Jeffers.

You might think it is a book for people who have a lot of anxiety. However, in my opinion, it really isn’t. It’s a self-help book for people who like to be sold self-help books. There is a big difference there. Self-help books are generally full of unhelpful nonsense, for example.

The book does not read like something written by someone who has experienced anxiety, nor does it offer sensible advice to people who have. It’s in the title: feel the fear and do it anyway. Oh, if only we had to tell everyone that. It doesn’t matter if you are so wracked with anxiety that you have not been able to leave the house for six months. Just go to a party and talk to loads of strangers! Then you will feel much better. Problem solved.

Apparently, the answer is that people simply need to decide not to be afraid. Trying to adopt a positive attitude can be helpful of course. However, this goes back to my point that this book is for people who feel a little nervous about something, rather than people with genuine anxiety. If you’re pitching the book at those people, it might well be helpful.

She also recommends filling your life with positive people. This is a difficult line to walk. I want realistic friends. Friends that will provide me with some grounding in reality. Can you be both positive and offer rational, honest advice? I hope so, but I’m not sure.

In short, I don’t think this book is worth reading.


The Happiness Trap

Saturday, July 4th, 2015 | Books

The Happiness Trap is a self-help book based on ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy).

It starts with a simple but profound message. Humans are not happy to be default. They are not designed to be happy. Happiness is not required to continue the species along. So if you’re not happy with your life, that might just make you completely normal.

It puts aside things like cognitive therapy, point out that we have a lot less control over our thoughts and feelings than we would like to think. Instead it focuses on accepting negative thoughts and feelings (indeed, it claims all feelings are just feelings, rather than good and bad ones).

The techniques it teaches including connecting with the world around you and accessing the observing self. Which is a fancy way of saying mindfulness, being in the moment rather than over-thinking life.

It gives you exercises to do, and tells you off if you do not do them! I stopped reading the book for maybe two months because it said I could not continue until I had done one the exercises and I did not want to go back and do it. When I did, it turned out it was really easy. As are almost all of the exercises – they are designed for busy people. This is kind of stupid really, how can I be too busy to look after my health? But I also suspect many of us all into this trap.

The end of the book is a little more strange. It has a section about how ACT is not a religion. I know that. But stating it puts up a red flag against the book’s version of ACT (Scientology isn’t a cult remember…).

Then it talks about connecting with your values, the things you think are genuinely important in life and pursuing those. This is a good thing to do, but not something I expected in a book about managing my feelings and anxieties.


First meeting of Anxiety Leeds

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 | Foundation

On Monday, we held our first meeting of Anxiety Leeds.

I’m pleased to report that it was a success. For a first meeting it actually went very smoothly and the feedback we received on the nigh was positive. We’re not waiting for formal feedback which should hopefully tell a similar story.

The group will be meeting every month on the second Monday. Our next event is on 14 October. The best way to stay in touch us to visit the website and sign up for the mailing list.

Rip It Up

Sunday, September 9th, 2012 | Books

I’ve recently finished reading Richard Wiseman’s new book Rip It Up.

If you’re not familiar with Wiseman, he is a psychologist based in Edinburgh, and the man that showed expensive wine doesn’t taste any better.

It’s an excellent demonstration of Wiseman’s brilliant business skills. The book encourages you to change your actions and this is done by literally ripping the book up – you are supposed to tear pages out. This was somewhat difficult on my Kindle but means if you really want to get the most out of it – you have to buy a new copy every read. Genius.

Beyond that, the book looks at the As If principle, first proposed by William James, that suggests that rather than our thoughts influencing our behaviour, it is actually our behaviour that influences our thoughts.

Take this example – we often assume that we smile because we are happy. But the As If principle suggests that it is actually the other way round – we are happy because we smile. The book goes into hundreds of examples of this, but if you want to test it out now, why not spend a minute or two smiling and see if you feel any different?

Assuming that for the moment we put some stock into this, why does it mean? Well, there are lots of real-world applications.

For example, if you’re dieting, and you have a chocolate bar on your desk – try pushing it away from you. According to the theory, this will create the idea in your mind that you like it less, and so will less tempted to eat it. I’ve often done this anyway, though I’ve often attributed it to getting it further away from my eye line.

Another example, get over procrastination by allocating a few minutes to starting a task. This should be easier, as you can just tell yourself you’re going to do 2-3 minutes and then take a break. But once you find yourself doing it, it will be easier to continue.

In any case, it certainly makes for an interesting read. You can find out more on the book’s website.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Thursday, March 15th, 2012 | Books

I had heard a few good things about 7 Habits by Stephen R. Covey, so I decided to give it a read.

I have to say, I was very much disappointed. I guess there should usually be some kind of flag when the author needs to foreword his own book, though this can be forgiven – after all, our once great leader, now deposed for his crimes against Darwinism on Radio 4, Professor Richard Dawkins, has previously foreworded his own books in revised editions.

The book sets itself up to be the anecdote to the nonsense that has been published in recent times – there is no quick fix, the fads don’t work, etc. But the author then goes on to discuss how he uses many of these techniques, which Penn & Teller have devoted entire episodes of Bullshit to rubbishing, in his personal life.

He then goes on to set out many obvious points which simply don’t offer any value. Perhaps there is some merit in simply codifying already known or obvious values, but then we don’t ascribe any praise to books such as L. Ron Hubbard’s The Way to Happiness which makes valid, but obvious points such as “set a good example” or be honest.

Covey’s constant reference to his religious faith (he is a practicing Mormon) also add a large amount of bias to the book. Indeed, some of the arguments that he puts forward I could only really get my head round by looking at it from a religious perspective – they simply don’t make much sense from a secular perspective.

So overall, not too impressed with the book.

Tina tells it like it is

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 | Distractions

I’m just watching Pen & Teller’s episode exposing self help schemes. Tina, who is doing a fire walk as part of a self help scheme to remove her fear just said…

Live is divided into love and fear

Donnie Darko anyone :D.