A comprehensive breakdown of the ways in which people subvert and sabotage their own happiness.
Bushman begins his nonfiction debut by defining his terms, specifically warning readers that when he writes about “acceptance,” he’s not talking about resignation, indifference, or any other species of fatalism. His real target is the complacent idea that happiness is somehow a universally guaranteed right and that, therefore, any unhappiness is wrong—a flaw to be corrected, an unfairness to be redressed. “Acceptance does not mean we like or deserve the experience of pain,” he insists. “It also does not mean we like losing something pleasurable.” Rather, he recommends a personal system akin to ancient stoicism, in which one notes that unhappy things are part of human life and can’t be avoided. His book argues that a slightly less immediate perspective is conducive to healthy living: that is, that pain and disappointment can be acknowledged without further reactions such as resistance, pursuit, anger, or judgment. In a series of densely packed, well-written chapters, Bushman anatomizes the various components of “self-lies” that people use to soften their disappointments and rationalize the unfairness of life, and what emerges is a clarifying system of thinking about the world. “We ignore the complaining engine of our psyches because we don’t perceive any other choice,” he writes, and in his chapters on self-destructive behavior, unhealthy emotional strategies, and the paramount importance of self-care, he lays out a program for exercising control over debased habits and lazy patterns. The author packs a great deal of complicated information into his pages, and he delivers all of it with the smooth skill of an expert teacher (he’s taught classes on comparative religion in the past). He also includes many illustrations, including graphs and charts designed to convey multiple steps at a glance; particularly helpful aids crop up during his discussions of brain chemistry.
A powerfully detailed method of dealing with life’s pains and injustices.