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4.6 out of 5 stars63
4.6 out of 5 stars
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2012
Philippa Perry's 'How to Stay Sane' is a rare gem of a psychological self-help book. Full of practical insights based on sound, up-to-date theory, it is written in a straightforward, sometimes humourous, friendly style that doesn't patronise the reader. Also, importantly, it doesn't offer simple solutions to complex problems, but takes us on a realistic journey towards greater self-acceptance and mindfulness.

The signposts on this really quite deeply philosophical journey are described under the headings 'Self-Observation', 'Relating to Others', 'Stress' (I couldn't help wanting to think of this more as 'self-challenge') and 'What's the Story (Our Personal Narrative)' She provides thorough references for each chapter and ends the book with a section describing detailed exercises that enable us to `embody' the theories she has discussed. "It is one thing to know about something and another to embody it" she says and, "The point of a set of instructions that comes with a model-aeroplane kit is not to supply you with reading material, but to guide you in the practical steps you need to apply in order to build the kit." These excellent exercises, she rightly tells us, are not for reading but for doing. Based as they are on sound principles they are well worth the investment of time.

As a now retired psychotherapist I can honestly say I wish this book had been available to recommend to clients while I was still employed. I especially liked it that Philippa Perry quotes Peter Lomas ("Hold your beliefs lightly") and also that she communicates to us that the most meaningful changes will come about when we stop trying to be who we are not and simply become more mindful of who we are. I do recommend it, it's a great little book!
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2012
...though it is genuinely helpful, and wonderfully free of jargon or new-age fuzzy feel-good thinking. This is a scientifically-based, clear-headed and practical approach to overcoming our weaknesses which brings real results - though of course you have to do your share of the mental work: nothing comes without effort and sustained focus. But it CAN be done, with patience, good sense, and realistic discipline. Ms. Perry is well plugged into these, and her book is permanently useful, to refer to again and again. Five stars for this much-needed breath of fresh air amongst all the perfumed pastel clouds of fantasy floating around the popular psychology genre, which so often mislead those seeking help via false promises and empirically dubious factoids. I'm always suspicious of books which try to peddle magic solutions to what are often complex, deeply-ingrained and long-standing problems. But this is the real thing. Definitely one to recommend to friends.
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100 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2012
It's a heart sink moment for most psychotherapists when your client asks if you can recommend a good self-help book. How to say 'not likely!' without sounding like you take yourself way too seriously?

It's not that I disagree with the the self-help book in principle: I am not the hairdresser who gets cross when you cut your own fringe. It's just that the vast majority are too prescriptive, reductionist and fail to interrogate the fundamental philosophical presuppositions of our peculiarly Western obsession with self-gratification. Promises of snake-oil and change-your-life moments are seductive but the net result when the quick-fix stalls is that the individual feels even more of a failure.

Philippa Perry has come to our rescue with a smart, pithy, readable book that everyone with even a passing interest in their psychological health will find useful. It has a wealth of useful advice based on sound, psychological theories without making the mistake of assuming a one-size-fits-all road map.

The book treads a path towards self-knowledge and self-growth over the pursuit of happiness per se and so places itself firmly at the philosophical end of the the self-help market. She avoids the pitfall of most self-help books by acknowledging that absolute control over our conscious mind is a fallacy and uses the neuroscience of the unconscious to explain this. Nor are we a slave to our unconscious and the final section provides a range of brilliantly simple and easily do-able exercise to help us work mindfully with our unconscious aspects.

But the part that gives me most joy is that she fully embraces what Beisser called 'the paradoxical theory of change': Beisser tells us that 'change occurs when one becomes what he [sic] is, not when he tries to become what he is not'. Perry weaves this through the book as a fundamental assumption about the nature of the self, and it is precisely this, in my opinion, that sets her work head and shoulders above any other self-help book on the market. Most self-help books focus primarily on change so we can be 'more' something: more confident, more assertive, more likeable, more courageous. Perry holds firm to the principle that the most meaningful changes only occur when we stop trying and simply become more mindful of who we are.

I loved this book. It fills an important gap in the self-help market and is set to become a firm favourite in my practice library.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2012
This little book is very well written with relevant theoretical references, inspiring stories illustrating the points made by the author as well as useful exercises in support of self-discovery as a way to cope with the challenges of life. It has an attractive format and style - and a cover that is a pleasure to hold! Philippa Perry gets the balance right and offers here a "self-help" book that guides without being too prescriptive, that teaches without being patronising and that leaves the reader with useful tools to take with them on their journey of self-discovery and growth. As a professional, I would be very happy to recommend this little book to anyone interested in growth and self-development.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2012
Self-help books are often too long and sometimes patronising. This is short, informative, encouraging and practical. It focuses on the way the brain works, and how you can make changes to the way you think, offering a very manageable series of suggestions that you can implement almost immediately. The structure of the book is also clear and sensible: sections on self-observation, relating to others, stress and re-writing your own narratives are followed by a final section of exercises to help you develop in each of these areas. I like the way Philippa Perry has illustrated her ideas with information about research that illuminates human behaviour. She gets the balance right between explaining the theory behind her suggestions, and giving you practical advice about how to go about the pro-active business of living and reflecting on life.

Not only an interesting read, then, but the kind of book which could genuinely change your life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2012
I'm not one for reading 'self help books', but I bought this for my other half and read it when she was finished. It's only short, and I read it in a day. But that's because it's very readable and interesting. There are some good exercises to try in back too (I haven't done them all yet) to help you stay sane (become more self aware etc). It is well thought out and clearly explains how to get into good mental habits and why you should.

I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who is having a down period (it's not really aimed at those with serious depression etc) or who has been in the past or has a family member who can have blue periods.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2012
Like the other reviewers, I thought this book was a helpful and practical guide to increasing happiness. It takes a very balanced and reasonable way of looking at people's lives and encourages the reader to look objectively at their life and improve it.

This is something I think I will return to as it does provide useful advice. I've bought a number of self help books over the years, and the only ones I've found at all useful are the books that give clear and reasonable advice, as this does. It also breaks things down into easily manageable areas, so clarity is a good feature here. My only criticism is that it wasn't very long and could have included more advice, in my view. But I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

The best book I've read recently isn't self help but a humour book that was a real surprise - Sherlock Holmes and the Flying Zombie Death Monkeys, which was hilarious, so if anyone wants to take a different approach to happiness, try a really funny book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A short book this nevertheless gives food for thought to anyone who has ever considered whether they can do anything to preserve their own sanity. It is divided into four sections: - Self-Observation, Relating to Others, Stress and What's the Story? The last section heading may seem a little off the wall but it is about the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives and the world around us.

The most important section of the book is, in my opinion, the exercises at the end of it. If carried out properly these are likely to improve anyone's ability to analyse themselves and to make sense of the way they behave and think.

There are also notes on each section and a chapter headed `Homework' which is about books consulted and which provides further reading for those interested in exploring the subject further. I found the book easy to understand and it was written in a relaxed style which made the subject matter easily accessible.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2013
This is a really practical book especially useful for developing self awareness. A massive bonus is the exercises at the back of the book - i'm a coach and i will be using these in my coaching sessions.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2012
An extremely interesting and wide ranging book - I don't think I have read anything else like it for it's knowledge of modern science, psychoanalysis, philosophy as well as psychotherapy. Saying that, it is very accessible book that's wise and full of sane guidance.

The cover, the rounded corners and it's squarish size make it a beautifully packaged book. Fully recommended.
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