This book is one of the least comforting but most helpful I've ever read. It examines what brings us into conflict with ourselves, and the very difficult route to make that conflict mean something. It's worth buying for the advice about trying to become a "happy carrot" alone.
This is a wonderfully subversive book written by a man who many would view as a model of achievement in our society. I'm surprised there isn't a special Guantanamo Bay style camp for writers who quietly and unobtrusively plot the downfall of the established order. Make no mistake, if everyone followed his suggestions our society would be utterly transformed and the game would be up for the souless, manipulators that run this world.
He simply suggests that we step back, examine our lives and stop being a cog in the machine. Stop putting our faith in others (even self-help gurus!) and become the person we were destined to become. Sounds easy in theory but in practice it requires us to address the brainwashing that we've all received from our parents, our tribe and our culture. In a memorable passage he points out that we either live life reflexively or reflectively and if you don't learn to reflect you'll always be dancing to someone else's tune.
But don't expect him to tell you how to go about all of this. This is a true self-help book that demands that you help yourself. It poses the questions but refuses to provide neat one-size fits all answers. Essentially it's a book for middle-aged people who've hit the buffers and feel their life has become devoid of meaning. His message for the young is go out and conquer the world because your personality can only be forged in the fires of living. The time to read Hollis will come when those fires no longer warm you but begin to consume you.
Hollis writes clearly and warmly so that the reader can feel safe while their own psyche is challenged. I find Hollis the most lucid of the popular Jungian writers. I've only read three of his works and this one sets out the path of individuation systematically while making it clear it is also an organic process. I found Hollis's personal anecdotes useful and generous, making it clear he too is on this challenging but rewarding journey.
This is not a conventional self help book. It raises more questions than it answers. But it asks these questions of the Self. It is an inspiring read for anyone who is looking for "the life the gods intended us to have" (Page151). The author is a graduate of the Jung Institute in Zurich and he writes with compassion for and an understanding of the human struggle for individuation. I would recommend it to anyone who is genuinely interested in finding their individual path. Thank you James Hollis.