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on 12 May 1997
With all the authority of a long and distinguished reseach career in psychology, Martin Seligman sets out to present something like a consumer guide to self-improvement and psychotherapy. (This is not a recipe book for dealing with your problems.)

The results are sobering: from the range of most frequent psychological afflictions, only a few will reliably be relieved by treatment. You can - with appropriate help from a responsible mental health professional - do something about
- panic attacks
- specific phobias (snakes, spiders, flying, etc.)
- sexual dysfunctions.

With other problems, such as depression and addiction, "moderate relief" is the best psychiatrists have to offer, often (when psychoactive medication is used) at a considerable price.
Beyond that,
- enjoy your sexual orientation,
- enjoy your weight (dieting will improve it upwards, in the long run),
- stop blaming unsatisfactory results of your adult life on your childhood and your parents - it won't do you any good, and there is much less of a causal relationship anyway.

All this is presented clearly, with "whys" and "hows", and with ample references. If you consider undergoing psychotherapy, or if you're stuck with a self-improvement attempt, this book may save you lots of money and trouble. (Being more or less left to your own devices may be a letdown, but it may also give you a realistic chance to cope with your situation.)
If you're professionally working in the mental health field, you will find much food for thought as well, especially in Seligman's candid statements about the many relevant questions that have not yet been scientifically settled or which even have not been researched at all. And unless you're a practicioner of that method, you may be slightly amused with the author's treatment of psychoanalysis - with disorder after disorder, it doesn't have much of an effect... Given the way our culture is soaked with psychoanalytic beliefs and assumptions, this is something that can't be said often enough.
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on 8 May 2012
This is a remarkable book because Martin Seligman manages to bring scientific research to life and write in a meaningful way to a mainstream audience. I read Flourish and wanted to know more about the field of Positive Psychology and having a personal and professional interest in self improvement the title of this book intrigued me.

"All Successful therapy has two things in common. It requires froward looking and assuming responsibility." Is the core message I took away, the ability to imagine and plan toward a better future by taking responsibility for our own actions resonates throughout. I also like the level of detail given in specific chapters on the main issues people face in life and what works for each of them.

The book answered a lot of my questions about therapy and overcoming life issues, particularly the Inner Child healing in Chapter 14. I have seen many people have the big cathartic release type change experience and experienced a few myself on various self improvement courses. I often wondered why the change did not last. The research and the answers are in this book - catharsis feels good but there is no evidence that it works. I did find myself smiling at the evidence that catharsis has the same effect on imagined memories as real ones. Seligman's advice "Let the buyer beware" is one of the gems of this book.

For anyone starting out on the self improvement/development journey this book would be a good place to start. Once you know what works and lasts, rather than just gives you a feel good high, you can select the appropriate intervention. From here forward I will be judging any future self development books and courses against the evidence in this book. Highly recommended.
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on 11 January 2010
If you are looking how to solve problems properly and with results then this book is for you. It is not easy to read but then that's why I like it because it is trying to make a comprehensive resume of myriads of methods and that is not going to be an easy task. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it for its depth, wide range and smooth flow of logical thought. It just gathers all the possible mental disorders and gives evidence on rated methods to cope with them. It was sincere pleasure to read it. I have read many books on positive thinking; this one is the first to make real positive changes in my life. Brilliant!

I seriously cannot understand anyone who would give it a low rating. My conclusion for those would be ' they have not read it properly, or jealous, or else and etc.
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on 20 August 1999
Some readers find this book "depressing" because it seems to imply that their efforts at "self-improvement" are doomed. I found it cheering because it confirms what I've always felt: we are what we are, and most of our life problems arise because we're led to believe that we can't or shouldn't accept ourselves as we are. For example, my family tree is full of women who, by modern standards, would be considered "morbidly obese" -- but they ate well, stayed physically active, and lived healthy lives well into their 80's and 90's. I have the same body type, but at age 12 I was labeled "overweight," so I spent the next 25 years on the dieting roller-coaster before concluding that I hadn't been too fat in the first place (I was just too buxom to fit my doctor's idea of how a 12-year-old "should" look). Doctors are still nagging me about my weight today, but I lead an active life, eat a balanced diet, and am healthy as a horse ... which drives them nuts! I also totally agree with his analysis of "alcoholism" -- in most cases I know of, excessive drinking was either learned behavior (a type of machismo) or a response to feeling "trapped" by life in some way. If the drinking has become life-threatening, then something like AA can help solve the immediate problem ... but unless the long-term problem is addressed too, it's all too easy for lapses to occur. Furthermore, I've known people who became "addicted" to AA meetings rather than trying to fix what was wrong in their lives, and I don't see that as much of an improvement! All in all, this is a very balanced, sensible, and encouraging book, and I recommend it highly.
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on 14 November 2015
We all seek control of our lives, as humans. But the more we try to exercise control, is the more elusive life feels. That is because life will always please itself, regardless of what we want. Seligman spells out why lives become problematic when we try to control the uncontrollable, and gently shows us how to let go off certain things that are detrimental, while homing in on what really matters, and we really can control, to make our lives far more enriching and enjoyable. A great read from the master of Positive Thinking.
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on 4 August 2014
overall the book was brilliant, easy to read and not dry in the slightest. He doesnt shy away from an unpopular opinion and destroys popular wisdom. HOWEVER do beware at taking all his statements as fact. while the book is very well researched, he dots in his on opinions (though i respect him for stating clearly what is his opinion and what is researched). before you go lecturing your friends like you know everything (which, after this book is almost irresistable) make sure you know which statements are supported and which ones come with a "probably" or "my best guess" attached. not to say they arent right, but they may not be.

other than that, i massively enjoyed this book!
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on 18 August 2010
I found this to be an excellent book. I feel I understand the human condition better for having read it. Many of the chapters focus on a single difficultly, e.g. Anxiety, Phobias, Depression, Anger, Weight, Alcohol. Seligman describes what is known about each, and considers the outcomes of various treatments based on scientific studies which he references (without this intruding on the main text's readability). He is honest about it when he goes beyond the evidence and ventures his own opinion. As an example of the kind of question he considers: In treating alcoholism, should the goal be total abstinence, or controlled moderate drinking?

It's best to point out this is not a book about Positive Psychology, as that is what Seligman is probably best known for. And yet probably very relevant to Positive Psychology all the same - not much point in studying human strengths without some sort of primer on human weaknesses.

I found the book very readable, comprehensive and enjoyable (for some reason I struggled with "Authentic Happiness" by the same author).

Just in the chapter on dieting I would have liked more detail, or suggestions for further reading at the popular science level of this book (as I've already said, there are plenty unobtrusive references to original research). It's still a great chapter though, and in my view this stuff about dieting can't be repeated enough in our weight-obsessed culture:

- You can lose weight in a month or two on almost any diet.
- Most people gain almost all their weight back in four to five years, with perhaps 10 percent remaining thin (there are about a dozen well-executed long-term studies involving thousands of dieters, and all of them show basically the same dismal result).
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on 18 September 2013
It sounds like a self help book ... but it is a collection of the most recent and authoritative scientific research to help us realise exactly what we can and can't change. Weight, childhood trauma, alcoholism, depression, propensity for anger and violence ... it's all in there.
One of the most underrated books available
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Psychologist Martin Seligman acknowledges that psychology sends us two contradictory messages about change. Psychotherapists and the self-improvement literature tout our ability to change ourselves for the better, whether with help from a trained professional or on our own. The biomedical model of psychology claims that mental illness is really a form of physical illness, emotion and mood are determined by brain chemistry, and personality is determined by genes. Neither view is true in the general sense--the things we struggle to change are either more or less changeable. The author cites research findings to help us see the difference.

The author plays it straight. "This book walks a political tightrope. On one side is the racist segment of the right, fervently hoping that intelligence, femininity and criminality are all entirely genetic. On the other side are many aging 1960s liberals and their 'politically correct' campus heirs, condemning all who dare to speak ill of victims; failure, they say, results from poverty, racism, a bad upbringing, a malevolent system, underprivilege, deprivation--from anything but oneself." Examining therapy outcome research, Seligman finds that panic and sexual dysfunction can be easily unlearned, destructive moods can be controlled, depression can be cured by conscious changes in thinking patterns, and optimism can be learned. However, it is vanishingly difficult to make dieting work, change the gender orientation of children, shortcut the natural course of recovery from alcoholism, change homosexuality into heterosexuality, or fix adult personality problems by reliving childhood trauma. Seligman takes us through these and related issues examining what research tells us about realistic possibility for change.

This book is recommended for those who want to understand personal change, to attempt it when it can be achieved and avoid frustration and unrealistic expectations when it cannot. Readers may also enjoy Seligman's The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and BuildLifelong Resilience.
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on 17 July 2016
A peer in modern-day Self-Improvement. No BS from this professor. Research studies support his comments and if they are insufficient he will say so. Genuinely and sincerely giving helpful information, knowledge and wisdom. Highly recommend reading his literature.
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