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You Can't Un-Ring the Bell by Shirley J. Gilbert

You Can't Un-Ring the Bell

It Is What It Is

by Shirley J. Gilbert

Pub Date: March 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5127-3431-7
Publisher: Westbow Press

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.