on 12 April 2008
I read through the whole of this book in one sitting! I have read as lot of self help books and books on CBT, REBT etc. but this book is a great leveller - bringing you down to earth. It shows exactly how we behave to make ourselves unhappy and as a side effect shows how we can make ourselves feel better. I was in a wonderful state of mind after reading it. It is like suddenly realising the sense of things rather than the mind wirling with all the theories from the self help books. Makes things much clearer.
on 22 May 2006
Delicious! Wonderfully smile-inducing, playful and profound. This is Watzlawick at his best, utilising the MRI's whole gambit of tactics and ploys to induce an inverse state in the reader away from miserable thinking (darn it, and rightfully so!).
Watzlawick peppers his witty text with all manner of story and analogy that illuminates and delights. If you like this then also try his 'Ultra-solutions' (not quite as good but fine all the same) or his 'The Invented Reality' that has some very interesting ideas on self-fulfilling prophecy and also the sobering and scary essay (especially if you are either a mental health professional or service user) 'On being sane in insane places'.
A most fulsome read that seriously hopelessy fails to not en-wisen and transfix!
on 25 November 2002
A wonderful, witty, exposÃ© of our endeavors to live a more miserable life by Watzlawick, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University. The treatment of the subject will surely make you laugh at yourself and thus, perhaps, contribute to make you a better person.
W. deals with the fundamental, painful, necessity of the human being to be unhappy (in order to be quiet). And in fact, he contends that the best chapters of universal literature dwell with disaster, tragedy, guilt, madness, etc.
Dante's Inferno-W. writes- is very superior to his Paradise; same case as Milton's Paradise Lost compared with his Paradise Regained; Faust I's greatness is proportionally inverse to the tediousness of Faust II. So the author embarks hilariously in a methodic introduction to the best and more verifiable mechanisms to achieve unhappiness. Samples:
Always be truthful to yourself. A principle, from Polonius in Hamlet,of the outmost necessity for us ( its application is what gets the guy killed by Hamlet like a rat). So then, we must resist any temptation to yield to any other criteria or opinion, apart from ours. Never compromise or accept someone else's advice. The author then addresses the issue of the old saying: "time cures all wounds"..... According to W. four sound mechanisms exist if you want to avoid time's healing effects and transform the past into a present source of suffering. In the exaltation of the past we find those that only remember the good things about their youth and not the years of insecurity and anxiety. In so doing, they have a consistent reserve of sadness about their miserable present...... Also, this fidelity to the past, impairs our ability to enjoy the present and fully dedicate our efforts to the endeavors of the moment. Another mechanism is to consistently dwell with the guilt complex that past errors create, finding excuses or scapegoats (our parents, God, chromosomes, teachers etc.) while doing nothing to avoid committing the same mistakes again.
The author drives his point with practical examples. For instance the story of the hammer. A man wants to hang a painting. He has the nail, but not the hammer. Therefore it occurs to him to go over to the neighbor and ask him to lend him his hammer. But at this point, doubt sets in. What if he doesn't want to lend me the hammer? Yesterday he barely spoke to me. Maybe he was in a hurry. Or, perhaps, he holds something against me. But why? I didn't do anything to him. If he would ask me to lend him something, I would, at once. How can he refuse to lend me his hammer? People like him make other people's life miserable. Worst, he thinks that I need him because he has a hammer. This is got to stop ! And suddenly the guy runs to the neighbor's door, rings, and before letting him say anything, he screams: "You can keep your hammer, you b......"
Watzlawick not only discussess techniques to create false problems, but also the ones that make it actually possible to avoid solving problems and conver them into eternal torments. Here we get the example of the man that claps his hands every ten seconds. Asked why he does that, he answers: "to drive away the elephants..." -"But why, there are no elephants here"- The guy says: "Precisely".
This is a very funny book. It deals, with a fresh and delightful approach, with many of our karmas and mind bothering mosquitoes......
on 18 January 2014
This is a witty little book that starts from the premise that humans are ill suited to happiness and then proceeds to unravel, tongue firmly in cheek, the many foibles with which we can successfully prevent happiness, to which we are so ill suited, from breaking out. For example, nostalgia about the past based on selective memory guarantees that the present is viewed as an on going disappointment, failure to love yourself means you can despise anyone else who who loves you on the Groucho Marx principle that you would not want to belong to a club that would have you, trying be helpful locks you into a relationship of dependency in which the rationale of the relationship is based on its continued failure and so on. Look on the bright side. Those who keep buying into uplifting messages of human fulfilment are clearly doing so because they are in fact experts at unhappiness. Watzalwick is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford so these are not facile observations and they are conveyed with considerable humour and literary panache. I read this in little chunks but I think it's import would be more fully appreciated by reading in one sustained burst which one could probably do in about two and a half hours. I think I will read it again.
Watzlawick positioned this book as a reverse 'how to' guide for generating unhappiness in relationships. He presents some of the annoying peculiarities of inter-human affairs and explains their workings but with the perspective of how to achieve perfection in terms of unhappiness.
While the twist may look dubious to some, I find the result surprisingly effective in terms of getting to grips with the mechanics guiding one's own less successful relationships - the comical approach being fairly effective at allowing people to be more honest with themselves without feeling directly attacked.
Even if the quality of your relationships will not improve after digesting this book, you will still enjoy two or so delightful hours reading it - the way some mechanisms are driven to the pinnacle of perfection (and absurdity) and the easy way in which Watzlawick treats them are a real treat. And laughter reputedly has therapeutic properties of its own.
on 4 July 2015
Started off well, didnt really sustain it... possibly it would work better if written in a positive formulation (how to make yourself happy rather than how to make yourself unhappy)
I was expecting the governing idea of the book to be that happiness is not particularly important and that expression, growth, challenge, and diversity are, in the long run, more important. In line with the saying (Oscar Wilde ? Mark Twain ?) about Switzerland having 500 years of peace and contentment and only inventing the cuckoo clock, while Italy had 500 years of internecine strife and managed to produce fantastic art, architecture, music, cuisine, etc.... but this isnt that book.
Some useful insights and some nice touches of self deprecating mitteleuropaisch / jewish humour.
on 4 May 2014
I love books that say, so you got it, what are you gonna do with it, oh and by the way love every minute of it cause you are doing it to yourself. This book takes the angle that the actions you are doing to create you own misery is to be mastered so you can do some serious damage to yourself and helps you understand how to make yourself as miserable with your life as you possibly can. Fantastic!! A very perverse idea giving you permission to master your own misery. Get it for someone who is full of self pity. They'll realise they are doing it to themselves and loving every minute of it.