A well-intentioned but meandering meditation on pain and healing.

You Can't Un-Ring the Bell


A seasoned psychologist offers wisdom and experience about facing life’s hardships in this compact self-help volume.

Gilbert (What Are You Pretending Not to Know, 2005) uses the metaphor of a ringing bell to illustrate the myriad challenges that one must confront in modern life. The bell, in this case, is a signal that one must deal with something, whether it’s cancer, failure, addiction, past trauma, or the death of a loved one. By sharing her own experiences as a mental health professional, as well as lessons from her Christian faith, Gilbert encourages readers to acknowledge the bells in their own lives and asserts that everyone holds the power to heal themselves. She introduces several tools to begin the healing process. Reframing, she says, helps people see their problems in a new way (“if we think we are powerless, then we are!”), while acceptance allows them to address said problems: “We can’t face what we haven’t identified,” she writes. When not discussing these tools, she shares anecdotes, including her experiences counseling incarcerated people and helping members of the Columbine, Colorado, community in the wake of the fatal 1999 school shooting. Some of her advice is global (“What a positive difference we could all make if we were committed to helping each other heal”), some is scaled-down and personal (“we CHOOSE our emotions!”). The positive tone continues to the concluding chapter, which includes a helpful summary of the tools and ideas set forth. Gilbert writes in a welcoming voice, and her vast experience effectively colors advice that otherwise might have fallen flat. But although the book begins with a clear desire to help people understand their problems, the bell metaphor quickly gets muddled. Bells are said to be challenges, but they’re also said to be truths that can be “rung” by others. In the end, the most consistent message is the use of Christian faith in facing life’s difficulties: “God’s grace is big enough to cover all the bells.” This may disappoint readers hoping for more psychological advice than spiritual comfort. 

A well-intentioned but meandering meditation on pain and healing.

Pub Date: March 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-3431-7

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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