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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2012
I was thumbing through Epictetus' `The Art of Living - the classic manual on virtue, happiness and effectiveness' interpreted by Sharon Lebell at the same time as reading this book. Epictetus' writings in the first century Roman Empire, a founder of Stoicism, are considered by some to be a primer for living the best possible life.

Centuries later, Stoicism is a foundation for the new behaviour therapies, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, (ACT), the third wave of behaviour therapies.

Robertson's book rests on the assumptions of ACT. What makes the book different to many self-help books is that `Build Your Resilience' does not attempt to mend a specific problem, but instead aims to serve a higher function by `improving resilience to both current and future adversities...enhancing positive qualities like psychological flexibility, social skills and problem solving ability'.

The Behaviourists assert that sometimes we need more than talking about our problems in order to change. I might add here that we need more than reading about our problems. We may need to recognise the difference between where we are and where we want to be and how we can go about getting there.

Robertson makes a clear point that it is not enough to read this book if you want things to be different or better - insight is not enough to create change, you will actually have to do the work! Having made his position clear, he then presents an evidence based self-help approach, fully referenced.

Building self-acceptance is a key theme in the book. Robertson points out, for example, that `having a history of mental health problems statistically (is) quite normal. Depression and anxiety appear to be part of the human condition'. Now there is a revelation in itself. What he means by self-acceptance is an acceptance that we can, and do, all have unpleasant feelings and thoughts. We tend to avoid these, or try to pretend they don't exist. However, ACT proposes that the best way to `control' our thoughts and feelings may be to accept them and allow them to come and go naturally.

ACT differs from CBT in that CBT aims to help us be aware of our thoughts and, challenge their reality. ACT suggests that we have thoughts, they exist, they may or may not be true and we don't have to pay attention to them or act on them. ACT, says Robertson, views thoughts as the `automatic flotsam and jetsam of our mind, thrown up by our personal history rather than anything particularly meaningful that we have chosen to think'.

Robertson, with many years clinical and teaching experience, goes on to present a process for the reader to help us clarify our own personal values and goals, and then to commit to living the life that we value, dealing with barriers along the way. The aim, he proposes, is to pay more attention to the quality of our journey than to our destination

Robertson gives practical advice, and shows the reader a variety of useful exercises such as mindfulness exercises, progressive relaxation and assertiveness skills.

This book contains a lot of information. This will not be news to anyone who has read Robertson's previous work, or attended his training courses. I felt as if I could read almost any paragraph in the book and spend a week reflecting on it. To gain most from this book, I think the reader needs to take it slowly, absorb the information, work with it, and be prepared to return to it again and again.

For this reason the book might not suit everyone. Those who need positive strokes from a self-help book will find this hard going. But then, perhaps that is what Stoicism is all about. And, by Robertson honouring his reader with an intelligent and enquiring mind, he may provide just too much detail for some. But, for the rest of his readership, he has created a well-researched yet down to earth approach, somewhere between a text book and a self-help book that basically states, if you want something, work at it, and here is how to do it.

As well as being a therapist in private practice, writer of self help, I am a tutor of psychotherapy. Under the banner of self-help, this book is also a good reference volume for therapists and students. As value for money, this little book is 270 pages stuffed with information, research, examples, advice and exercises based on the most current therapeutic understanding. A modern day manual for living.

Lorna Cordwell
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2012
There are a number of self help books and programs designed to build and maintain resilience. Donald Robertson's 'Build Your Resilience' draws upon established resilience training programs but is perhaps the first to also offer a powerful toolkit of therapeutic techniques and strategies from ancient stoic philosophy right the way though to the cutting edge new wave cognitive behavioural therapies of acceptance and commitment and mindfulness meditation. If you think this sounds dry and overly academic think again.I found the book to be practical and action orientated. It starts with a thorough explanation of resilience then goes on to teach the reader how to build and maintain it.Early on in the book Robertson emphasises that resilience does not mean completely eliminating anxiety, stress, worry or any of the other common emotional problems that we all experience at some point in our lives. In fact struggling to control unpleasant thoughts and feelings can backfire. Most resilient people will experience strong emotions but cope well with them. Build your resilience will teach the rest of us how to accept unpleasant thoughts and strong emotions while moving on with healthy goals and personal values.

The book also covers ..

*Progressive and applied relaxation
*Worry postponement
*Problem-solving training
*Assertiveness and social skills
*Stoic philosophy and resilience.

The book will appeal to the general reader as well as to therapists and coaches who may wish to recommend it to there clients.
We all have some resilience or at least the potential for resilience. This book teaches the reader how to put that into practice. I highly recommend it.

Michael Cohen author of

Identifying,understanding and solutions to stress

The power of accepting yourself
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2012
This is an excellent read on the increasingly popular topic of resilience. It manages a good balance between outlining history and basic theory but still making it very accessible to the layman. I think the exercises are very useful for exploring our own psychological responses to stress and would similarly be a good overall guide for a practitioner looking to apply some of the principles of resilience to their current practice. Well worth a read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2012
The title of this book appealed to me as I've had a difficult year this year and found life generally hard to cope with. The first few pages of this book were captivating. As I read more I've found myself agreeing with some of the examples set and the practical information has really helped me to feel stronger. I understand now that I don't have to change who I am. I just have to be comfortable with who I am. The book's not just about me though. It'll help me to be resilient when coping with some other family issues that keep copping up from time to time.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2012
I really liked this new book. Building resilience is something that can help everyone get through situations that life throws your way. The book walks you through a menu of different techniques with practical exercises and tips on each. I particularly liked the final chapter on philosophy. Recommended.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2013
A quote from Marcus Aurelius near the start of the book sums it up for me:
"The human soul degrades itself above all, when it does its best to become an abscess, a kind of detached growth on the world. To be disgruntled at anything that happens is a kind of secession from Nature".

It might seem reasonable to be worried or stressed or overwhelmed, but humans are designed to withstand almost any kind of pressure or setback.

The American entrepreneur Ping Fu's world was thrown upside down when as a young girl Mao's Cultural Revolution began. But just before she was told:
"There are three friends of winter: the pine tree [strength], the plum blossom [courage], and bamboo [resilience]. When you are like the three friends of winter, you take everything in your stride with grace".

Robertson's book provides useful ideas, tips and strategies for actually being able to achieve this.
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4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2013
If you are looking to help or coach someone, or are looking for ideas to improve your own response to challenges then I suggest you look elsewhere. There are very few do-able tasks in this book. The exercises, if they can be called that, are often just vague suggestions. They are not very well written either, so I found I often re-read paragraphs to try to understand what the author was saying. If, on the other hand you are looking for a more academic view on the psychology of personal values then this is the book for you.

The first third of the book is all about personal values and discovering what you aspire to be and admire in others. Not much use if you are advising a friend, dealing with a job loss or divorce, or coping with relationship or work problems. The style is also a bit dry. There are some ideas in the book, but they are deeply hidden and I would suggest that its difficult style might make it less useful in a crisis.

The book is slow and will almost certainly not help with coaching anyone through a crisis. By half way through I still could not work out what this book had to do with resilience since it was all about living ones life in accordance with core values. I really could not see a parent at their wits end turning to this book getting any use from that. Finally, core values are all great if one has the luxury of them. But most people are happy to make it through another day.
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