In this self-improvement title, Heitler (The Power of Two Workbook: Communication Skills for A Strong & Loving Marriage, 2003, etc.) explores several major psychological problems, including anger, fear, anxiety, and addictive behaviors.
Rather than promoting a mindset or ideology that promises to absolve the reader of these problems like other self-help books seem to do, Heitler, a psychologist, continuously presents a theme of options. For every situation, there are choices, and for every emotional state, the author explains, there are directions in which a person can take that feeling. Heitler focuses on the “hand map” of five alternatives: fight, fold, freeze, flee, or Find a Solution. What makes this book different is the way it doesn’t just provide solutions: it maps out ways to arrive at a healthy selection and methods to build better emotional habits. For example, an exercise called “that was then, this is now” asks the reader to picture a negative response and the place in which it is “felt” in the body. Then the reader is asked to visualize an earlier time, perhaps in childhood, when that same emotion was felt. Heitler suggests that the reader analyze what has changed— such as feeling safer now or more powerless then. She recommends analyzing how the older self would console the younger self, if able to revisit the experience as a third party. This technique is common in hypnosis but asks the reader to rewrite old pathways of negative beliefs that continue to interfere with a healthy adult life. Heitler deftly weaves in anecdotes from sports psychology, marriage counseling, and addiction recovery counseling to illustrate the ways individuals can work through their negative emotions and arrive at positive outcomes—without the use of medication. The book’s greatest strength is in its specificity: the author spends time unpacking the particulars of depression, anxiety, and anger, asking the reader to reframe them and toss out old ways of viewing these emotions. For example, while she portrays anger as a “red light” that necessitates a full stop before proceeding, anxiety is a “yellow light” that should slow a person down long enough to assess the condition but not stop the individual from taking action.
A successful and detailed guide to using mindfulness to heal and redirect negative emotions.