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The Myth of Self-Esteem

The Myth of Self-esteem: How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Change Your Life Forever

by Albert Ellis

Many psychologists preach the importance of self-esteem, but on closer analysis the meaning of self-esteem often amounts to little more than basing our sense of self-worth on the success of our achievements or relationships. In this insightful exploration of true self-acceptance, Albert Ellis criticizes the traditional definition of self-esteem, calling it conditional self-acceptance—i.e., we feel good about ourselves only on condition that we fulfill certain ambitions and personal desires. Ellis proposes instead Unconditional Self-Acceptance (U.S.A.)—learning to appreciate our unique personalities no matter what good or bad actions we do or how successful our relationships turn out to be. This more realistic approach, Ellis points out, helps us to avoid the common pitfall of failing to live up to our (often unrealistic) expectations and the consequent feelings of self-denigration, low esteem, and depression, which impede our ability to tackle life’s challenges.

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Authentic Happiness

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

by Martin Seligman

In his latest user-friendly road map for human emotion, the author of the bestselling Learned Optimism proposes ratcheting the field of psychology to a new level. “Relieving the states that make life miserable… has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the `good life,’ ” writes Seligman. Thankfully, his lengthy homage to happiness may actually live up to the ambitious promise of its subtitle. Seligman doesn’t just preach the merits of happiness e.g., happy people are healthier, more productive and contentedly married than their unhappy counterparts but he also presents brief tests and even an interactive Web site (the launch date is set for mid-August) to help readers increase the happiness quotient in their own lives. Trying to fix weaknesses won’t help, he says; rather, incorporating strengths such as humor, originality and generosity into everyday interactions with people is a better way to achieve happiness. Skeptics will wonder whether it’s possible to learn happiness from a book. Their point may be valid, but Seligman certainly provides the attitude adjustment and practical tools (including self-tests and exercises) for charting the course.

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Feeling Better

Feeling Better, Getting Better, Staying Better : Profound Self-Help Therapy For Your Emotions

by Albert Ellis

As the inventor of Rational-Emotive Psychotherapy (RET) more commonly known as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Ellis is generally considered the most influential living psychoanalyst. He argues that emotions that bother us anxiety, depression, guilt, anger are based on our thoughts about events that happen to us, not on the events themselves, and that we can systematically work to change these cognitive responses. This is the basis of most current short-term therapy and is the only approach that has been scientifically tested and found actually to help patients. One would naturally expect to welcome any self-help book written by such an important thinker. Unfortunately, this particular title doesn’t deliver the goods, the main problem being that it is extremely repetitive. The three sections, “Feeling Better,” “Getting Better,” and “Staying Better,” are essentially repetitions, reiterating the message that other approaches (e.g., meditation, religious faith, the quest for achievement) are palliatives, while RET will lead to lasting improvements.

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The Mindful Brain

The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being

by Daniel J. Siegel

Siegel, co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Center, blends personal experience with scientific research, attempting to capture the spiritual as well as the physiological phenomenon of “mindfulness”-or, in Siegel’s acronym-speak, COAL: the state of simultaneous Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love. Siegel’s endeavor is timely and well-intentioned, but his is an elusive subject, and his text is peppered with confusing, semi-technical descriptions of mind-states (like meditation) and processes (like egocentric and allocentric circuitry) that frequently frustrate. Despite this, Siegel does introduce persuasive scientific evidence that meditation and the mindful state not only produce improvement in well-being, but also detectable physical changes in the brain, such as a thickening of the middle prefrontal lobes. He also introduces exotic new vocabulary, such as “ipseity,” “the core sense of self beneath the usual personal identity.”

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Brain Rules

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

by John Medina

Multitasking is the great buzz word in business today, but as developmental molecular biologist Medina tells readers in a chapter on attention, the brain can really only focus on one thing at a time. This alone is the best argument for not talking on your cellphone while driving. Medina (The Genetic Inferno) presents readers with a basket containing an even dozen good principles on how the brain works and how we can use them to our benefit at home and work. The author says our visual sense trumps all other senses, so pump up those PowerPoint presentations with graphics. The author says that we don’t sleep to give our brain a rest—studies show our neurons firing furiously away while the rest of the body is catching a few z’s. While our brain indeed loses cells as we age, it compensates so that we continue to be able to learn well into our golden years. Many of these findings and minutiae will be familiar to science buffs, but the author employs an appealing style, with suggestions on how to apply his principles, which should engage all readers.

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Thank You for Being Such a Pain

Thank You for Being Such a Pain: Spiritual Guidance for Dealing with Difficult People

by Mark Rosen

It may seem impossible, or even undesirable, to generate a feeling of gratitude toward the people who make our lives miserable, but management consultant Rosen makes a convincing case for using the difficulties they engender as “one of our most important life lessons.” He draws on Eastern and Jewish mystical doctrines that teach that “life is like a school” and “conflicts that seem to be chance occurrences are actually orchestrated for our spiritual development.” Difficult individuals, whether they be relatives, bosses, co-workers, neighbors or clerks, can be seen as “teachers” delivering “a divine kick in the spiritual butt.”

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