BETTER DAYS

TAME YOUR INNER CRITIC

A novel and well-articulated approach to intentionality.

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With this debut motivation work, Allen teaches harried readers how to tune out their own negativity.

As the saying goes, we’re all our own toughest critics—we all, per the author, carry judgmental voices inside our heads that second-guess our decisions, undermine our successes, and chastise us for our mistakes. “My wife calls hers The Governess,” writes the author. “Mine’s The Gremlin. You have one, too. Everybody does. It’s your inner critic. If you wake up confident and raring to go, by noon it has beaten your self-esteem to a pulp.” Psychology has known about the inner critic for a long time: Freud called it the superego. Some call it the conscience. The author thinks of it as a parasite—an entirely unhelpful entity that feeds off our own insecurities. According to him, understanding the way the inner critic operates is key to confronting and silencing it. Developed as a tool for socialization when we are children, our inner critic reminds us to follow the rules imposed upon us by those around us, including parents, teachers, authority figures, and even our peers. As we age, we outgrow the need for this inner critic—even if the inner critic doesn’t get the message. With this book, Allen seeks to help the reader take back control from that judgmental voice. Offering a mix of exercises designed to help isolate and quiet negative thoughts and anecdotes from Allen’s long quest to conquer his own critic, the author demystifies this strange creation that is the human mind. As a means of challenging the superego, Allen encourages readers to do some of the very things that the inner critic proscribes, like purposefully wasting time and reveling in one’s ordinariness. He also treads into more philosophical territory, discussing the relationship between the inner critic and concepts such as love and God.

Allen writes with the breeziness of a man who has successfully gotten his superego to put a sock in it. Here he raves about the joys of letting go of the need to be a “special” person: “If I don’t have to be special, if I don’t have to spend all my time maintaining a valued self-image, if I’m not worried about being judged, then I can discover how fun it is to watch the world unfold without having a stake in it.” Though the foreword by author Anne Lamott might suggest this guide is specifically geared toward silencing the inner critic as it applies to writing, Allen’s project is much broader: he proposes a way of living in the world unrestricted by the harsh and arbitrary judgments of our least enjoyable selves. The exercises he provides are targeted and easy to perform. Some may balk at the idea of sloughing off their “conscience,” but Allen is not advocating for immorality or even a lack of self-discipline—the goal of this guide is to help the reader to live more intentionally by eliminating an unintentional decision-making party from the conversation.

A novel and well-articulated approach to intentionality.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781897238851

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Namaste Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

INTIMIDATING SHADES

WHY DOES MY SISTER HATE ME?

A stiff saga of righteousness overcoming a bad seed.

Skin color fuels sibling rivalries in this family melodrama.

Vernon and Verlene Mays, a multiracial couple in DeKalb, Texas, pass on a rainbow of complexions to their four children. Family discord ensues as their eldest daughter Verna, a light-skinned beauty, conceives an intense loathing for her darker, chubbier sister Viola Grace for no clear reason aside from Viola Grace’s unfashionable looks, studiousness and angelic disposition. Verna’s meanness blossoms in high school; she cuts classes, hangs with bad girls and sighs and rolls her eyes at everything her family does. Sounds pretty typical for a teenager, but Verlene, a woman with strict Christian values, is not one to brook a jot of rebelliousness in a child and packs her daughter off to a church boarding school. Verna runs away, taking with her the story’s sole element of trouble and complexity; with her off the stage for many chapters, the novel becomes a staid chronicle of happiness and achievement. Viola does brilliantly in college and medical school and acquires an upstanding surgeon boyfriend; her brother Vernon, Jr. and sister Vernice are also paragons. Verna-less, the family gathers for joyous yuletide celebrations (primly devoid of the “pagan symbolism” of the Christmas tree) where they toast their successes and give thanks to God before rushing out to buy new Bibles. “ ‘God is good all the time, and everything is just fine,’ ” Viola Grace observes in a fitting summary of most of the narrative. It’s a relief when the prodigal Verna finally resurfaces, beaten unconscious, with years of hard living under her belt; the tearful reunions have hardly subsided when a new rivalry develops over Verna’s neglected children, whom Viola Grace has taken in. Verna is an interesting character—bruised, often nasty, aching over her estrangement from her censorious family. Unfortunately, the author disapproves of her as strongly as the other characters do; the story is so intent on deploring Verna and applauding her perfect siblings that we never learn what makes her tick.

A stiff saga of righteousness overcoming a bad seed.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4415-8934-7

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2010

THE VALKYRIES

AN ENCOUNTER WITH ANGELS

A facile New Age story in which the author and his wife are initiated into the cult of angels by a band of women bikers in the Mojave Desert. Coelho (The Alchemist, 1993) tells how, at the bidding of his "Master," a wealthy businessman, he and his wife, Chris, go off into the desert for 40 days to look for his guardian angel. They find their enlightenment first from Gene, a young man who lives in a trailer, and finally from eight women, known as the Valkyries, who roam the desert on motorcycles and whose wild leader, Valhalla, becomes the couple's mystagogue. Coelho's basic message is that Paradise is open and angels are present if only we break the pact of our self-betrayal and learn to conquer fear and the distractions of our "second mind." Unfortunately, he fails to go anywhere with this potentially exciting but hardly original vision. What he offers is a kind of doctrinal salad in which belief in angels, channeling, and casual sex are mixed with references to Magic rites, Catholic worship, and reincarnation. Coelho uses his characters to emphasize the dubious position that spiritual knowledge can be gained without any connection to how one lives. At times his wisdom turns out to be the familiar exhortation to follow our dreams, and he asserts, without clarification, that we are all manifestations of the Absolute. Coelho's ignorance and superficiality are most blatant when he tells us that St. Mary of Egypt was canonized for her promiscuity and is remembered by almost no one today, whereas in fact, she was converted during her famous visit to Jerusalem, spent the rest of her life as a penitent, and is solemnly commemorated every year by the Orthodox Church all over the world. More pap for the spiritually challenged.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-251291-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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