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self help

Jan 18 2013

When Biting Is Not An Option

by Veronica W

He lay on the floor, arms outflung and legs thrashing furiously. As his head whipped from side to side, his wails shattered the relative peace of the store. When his mortified mother tried to pick him up, he became board stiff, then proceeded to kick and pummel her,  screaming “No!” as she carried him out. Mothers of obedient children looked on smugly and shook their heads, but for a fleeting moment I looked on with envy and thought, oh to be two years old again and able to give vent to my anger and frustration that way.

As adults, of course, we have to find other ways to deal with that urge to yell at the rude sales clerk or pulverize the lady behind you in the theater who insists on giving a running commentary during the movie. There are countless articles on the subject and books such as Anger Management for Dummies or Dr. Weisinger’s Anger Work-out Book may help. However when your stomach is churning with anger and frustration at your impotence in a situation, what do you do? Experts tell us to:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Count to ten ( or a hundred)
  • Walk away
  • Visit your “happy place”
  • Do something vigorous, like exercising
  • Pummel a pillow
  • Write a letter to the offending party

I have tried a couple of these and, depending  on the degree of heat, they often work. Sometimes however, on rare occasions, after pummeling the pillow, I bury my face in it and yell. Then it’s pistachio ice cream time. How about you?

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Jul 18 2012

Please Be Advised

by Veronica W

There is a word that causes me great vexation of spirit. Place it in front of any commonplace word like book, meeting or speaker and my knee jerk reaction is annoyance. The word is motivational; actually I’m not too fond of its first cousin, “self-help,” either.

I’m sure it’s just (not so) pure contrariness  but I find intentional efforts to motivate me  doomed to fail. Queries that begin with “May I give you some advice” risk a polite but firm “No” in response and it’s no more acceptable when the advice is in print. I subscribe to the old adage about advice; wise men don’t need it and fools won’t heed it.

However as with any rule, there are exceptions and I admit to finding some motivational or self-help books less offensive than others.  A few even contain some basic home truths. If  forced to choose a  favorite, it probably would be Who Moved My Cheese. I thought Hem, Haw, Sniff and Scurry’s quandaries in the maze amusing and the whole presentation was certainly creative.

This book was written in the 90s, a decade which, along with the previous decade, spawned a number of these “helpful” books.  Among others, we were treated to What You Can Change and What You Can’tDon’t Sweat the Small Stuff and All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. (although any book which espouses afternoon naps, warm cookies and cold milk  and saying you’re sorry when you hurt someone, can’t be all bad.)

Please note  that I am not talking about DIY books which tell you how to fix a lawn mower, your credit or your ailing rose bushes.  If the number of people reading Divorce Yourself, Beat Your Ticket and Retire and Start Your Own Business  is any indication, there is definitely a market for this type of help. It’s those how-to-fix your-life manuals that set my teeth on edge.  Would a book entitled Does Your Life Need A Laxative really be helpful?

I know some people find books about relationships harder to avoid or resist.  Who hasn’t at least been curious about the popularity of books like Men Are From Mars Women Are From VenusThe Five Love Languages, Act Like a Lady Think Like a Man  or The Seven Dumbest Relationship Mistakes Smart People Make? If nothing else, these are good for a rueful laugh or two because occasionally we see ourselves or our experiences in them.

There’s a story of a man who went to work  each day, carrying his lunch  in a brown paper bag.  Every day at lunchtime he joined his coworkers,  opened his bag and pulled out a sandwich. Every day he looked at the sandwich and said with obvious disgust, “Peanut butter!”  Finally, after this happened over a period of weeks, someone at the table got tired of hearing him gripe and said, “What’s up with you and the peanut butter? Who makes your lunch anyway?”  The man took a bite of his sandwich, swallowed, then said, “I do.”  Umm. Perhaps he needs to read Excuses Begone: How to Change Lifelong, Self-defeating Thinking Habits.

I recently re-read the only undisguised advice I have ever thoroughly appreciated. Although written many years ago, it is still powerful reading.  If I Had to Live My Life Over, by Erma Bombeck, is not so much about regrets as it is about our daily choices.  Please let me know if you have found any other really life changing motivational or self-help books out there. I will certainly take reading them under advisement.

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The older I get, the more things I find to geek out that I never knew I enjoyed such as science fiction, reality television (RuPaul’s Drag Race is my current favorite) and, increasingly, self-help books.  I love the idea of growing and transforming oneself into the person you’ve always thought you could be (I guess that’s why I’ve gotten so addicted to a competition show about drag queens). Below are some of my favorite titles for helping you cherish your life and, um, remember your spirit (is that something that Oprah would say?):

Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man by Steve Harvey: This is a book that I never thought I’d have a crack at. When I requested it here at DCPL I was approximately # 148 on the list. Either way, it was worth the wait and I was done reading it in 2 days. Harvey, one of America’s Kings Of Comedy, offers down-to-earth yet highly insightful (and frequently hilarious) words of wisdom about men, women and relationships.

Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson: This little book caught my eye and challenged me to read it. “How can anyone be against happiness?” I asked myself as I read the back cover blurbs. The thing that I truly enjoyed about this book is that, despite its slightly snarky yellow frowny-faced cover, it was quite a soulful and erudite book. Author Wilson offers an intriguing discussion on what he calls generative melancholy, a feeling of discontentment that, if one allows himself to feel it, can be channeled into positive endeavors and authentic, emotionally-rich living. I’m not sure I explained that properly so I’d suggest simply reading the book.

The Shy Single: A Bold Guide To Dating For The Less-Than-Bold Dater by Bonnie Jacobson:  Shyness is something that I’ve lived with since I was a kid. I’ve outgrown my social awkwardness for the most part but I still find myself being anxious and feeling out of place in big gatherings, shindigs or on a dance floor. I can live with being introverted but I do often wish I could just be myself a little more. Jacobson’s book offers simple exercises, anecdotes and wisdom about the nature of shyness and finding ways to push through the anxiety.

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