Perceptive and useful.

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THE EMOTIONAL CALENDAR

UNDERSTANDING SEASONAL INFLUENCES AND MILESTONES TO BECOME HAPPIER, MORE FULFILLED, AND IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE

Psychiatrist Sharp (Harvard Medical School) provides a guide to understanding how seasons, events and anniversaries work together to affect human emotions.

In simple, concise language, the author examines how seasonal changes, along with environmental factors—light and dark, hot and cold, wind and storms—can impact moods and behavior. He grounds his argument in the fact that human physiology is highly sensitive to the physical world. Even the smallest variations in external conditions affect everything from the respiratory system to blood pressure to hormone secretions. Sharp also suggests that culturally ingrained seasonal expectations—renewal (spring), relaxation (summer), work (fall) and darkness/death (winter)—can aggravate or enhance the physiological changes brought about by the environment. Further complicating how an individual feels on a given day or during a particular period are memories from years past of that same day or period. Through carefully delineated case studies, the author shows how events or anniversaries on the cultural calendar (from the beginning of the baseball season to the first day of school to the Christmas holidays) or on a more personal one (birthdays, wedding anniversaries, death dates) can become especially fraught times. These external and internal influences combine to create what Sharp calls “emotional calendars,” which, unlike paper calendars, are unique to each person. To find the inner balance necessary for mental and physical well-being, individuals must understand how external conditions, working alone or in tandem with event-memories, can create “emotional hotspots” in a given year and lead to negative or positive patterns of behavior over time. Sharp’s great strength is his genuine concern with moving beyond definitions and fostering awareness in readers about their own emotional calendars. However, while he provides useful “emotional hotspot” coping strategies, he does not do so in the same illustrative detail that characterizes other parts of his argument. Nonetheless, Sharp offers an interesting and original way to think about the underpinnings of psychological health.

Perceptive and useful.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9130-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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