THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

WHAT MAKES A PERSON HAPPY--AND WHY

Myers, a research-oriented social psychologist whose views, he acknowledges, are colored by his Christian values, offers an ``interim report on a fledgling science''— the study of happiness. Noting that the psychological literature on happiness, life satisfaction, and subjective well-being has mushroomed in the past decade or so, Myers (who wrote the standard textbook Social Psychology) reports on what researchers have discovered thus far. Not surprisingly, some myths have been shattered, others reinforced. Age, sex, race, parental status, place of residence, and education appear to have little correlation with happiness- -nor do firewalking, astrology, subliminal tapes, or hypnosis, popular techniques for reprogramming unhappy minds that Myers debunks along the way. What does aid the pursuit of happiness? Optimism, self-esteem, feelings of being in control, satisfying work, realistic expectations, an outgoing disposition, physical fitness and health, friends, a good marriage, and religious faith. Myers suggests that feigning a desirable trait is a good way to acquire it—saying becomes believing as going through the motions triggers emotions, and acting becomes natural behavior. Two psychological principles emerge here: that happiness is relative to prior personal experience (e.g., although money doesn't buy happiness, getting a raise brings a temporary surge of pleasure as one experiences a relative improvement); that happiness is relative to social experience (e.g., comparisons to those having less money, success, intelligence, prestige, or good fortune tend to produce happiness, whereas comparisons to those having more of these prized attributes tend to produce unhappiness). Myers concludes that ``well-being is found in the renewal of disciplined life-styles, committed relationships, and the giving and receiving of acceptance.'' Not another quick-fix book, but a sober look at what's known about the nature of human happiness. (Twenty-five illustrations- -not seen.)

Pub Date: May 19, 1992

ISBN: 0-688-10550-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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