Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Friends and Enemies by Dorothy Rowe

The chapter I am really struggling with at the moment is on "Popular Psychology."
Now, the term "popular psychology" is sometimes interchangeable with self-help, but in my dissertation it is referring to books that specifically draw upon the writings of Freud and Jung, normally written by trained psychologists and psychotherapists.
The author I am using principally is Dorothy Rowe, an Australian clinical psychologist who established a very successful academic career in the UK and has been a prolific writer of books of popular psychology.
I have been reading her book Friends and Enemies: Our Need to Love and Hate, but have been finding it terribly hard to really get writing the attendant chapter. I guess I feel a little uncertain because I don't really know much about psychology. Of course, I am not pretending to make any comment on psychology, as I am looking at quite distinct aspects of the books - but at the back of my mind is always this lingering fear that I am out of my depth.
Fortunately Rowe is an Anglican, and makes reference to her religious life in her books, so that is helpful - gives me an angle.
But every day I sit in front of my computer, a huge pile of books at my elbow and think, "I can't do this." I am having a crisis, I guess. The psychologists I am writing about would probably thoroughly approve.
Friends and Enemies is a long and meandering book whcih drifts from psychological analysis to political commentary and autobiography. Rowe frequently references Australia and her life in Australia, so that is helpful - that is what I wan to be writing about.
It is a book about personal growth in relation to groups, and the ways in which we operate as a member of the group and the community. Quite a quirky topic, I guess, and periodically fascinating.
Rowe wants us all to "understand the nature of our existence" so that we may grow and become better adjusted and happier people. Of course, at the basis of all this is the assumption that growth is what we should be aiming for - the basis of all self-help books. Psychological evolution is taken for granted.
It's hard to place Rowe's own philosophy. At times she can be painfully politically correct, with the exact assortment of right-on plolitical positions that go much of the way to building a somewhat cliched vision of the world. And, as I mentioned before, she also admits in the book that she is a Christian, with an affiliation to the rituals of High Anglicanism. And so I am perplexed when I come across a phrase like:

"I do not create theories that have to do with the influence of the planets or evil spirits or God's mysterious ways..."

The absence of God's mystery leaves me wondering about the nature of her Anglicanism.
Anyway, leave me with the book for some time longer (not too much longer - I am already behind schedule) and I may have figured out just what exactly her theories are.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Books - Self Help

Oh dear.
Here is the pile of books I need to knock over for June. There are actually more - these are just the new ones. No wonder I get to feeling a little anxious. Anyway, from the top:

The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer - I bought this one at the books stand when I took my mum to Dr. Brian Weiss' day-long workshop in Sydney. I quite enjoy Dyer's recent work, and find his drift towards a more overt religious expression quite interesting. And I love this kind of large-format Hay House production.

4 Dale Carnegie books - The Leader in You, Pathways to Success, How to Enjoy Your Life & Your Job and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Rich Brother, Rich Sister by Robert & Emi Kiyosaki - One is a stock trader the other a Buddhist nun. I love the conceit of this book, and it almost perfectly describes the trajectory of my thesis. I have been wanting to read it for ages.

Worshipping Walt by Michael Robertson - I heard the author being interviewed by Ramona Koval on ABC Radio National's The Book Show ages ago, and it sounds absolutely fascinating. An account of the bizarre people who gathered around Walt Whitman and became his acolytes.

Prayer & Living Without Fear by Ernest Holmes - Now that I have finally finished The Science of Mind I can probably start reading Holmes' other books more closely.

Pragmatism by William James

The Art of Spiritual Healing by Keith Sherwood - My chapter on self-help and health is coming up soon.

Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina

Success is Not an Accident by Tommy Newberry

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy - I have doscovered that Brian Tracy is one of the clearest and most concise communicators of self-help currently working. Even in my cynicism I find myself called to action by his books. This one will fit into my business chapter.

Representative Men by Ralph Waldo Emerson - This will come in handy because I am delivering a lecture next month on Emanuel Swedenborg's influence on self-help writing, and Emerson includes him as one of his Representative Men.

Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer - I have only recently discovered Schopenhauer. Of course, I have always seen his name bandied about, but once I finally started reading him I couldn't believe how practical and "self-help" his philosophy was. Quite a fascinating figure.

New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America by Mary Farrell Bednarowski

Evil Plans by Hugh MacLeod - I have heard this one being discussed on many of the podcasts I listen to. Actually, this one is more for pleasure/interest.

Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck

The Tyranny of Guilt by Pascal Bruckner - Promises to be a controversial read.

Stoking the Creative Fires by Phil Cousineau - Also because I am researching a possible book on creativity.

Daily Word for the Spirit by Colleen Zuck - Also a Unity FM Hooked on Classics book that I have to catch up on.

The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse by Debbie Ford.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"The Map of the Soul" by Tricia Brennan

I have noticed lately that one of the more significant trends in self-help books is the elevation of intuition as the main force behind finding one's true life purpose. Australian Paul Fenton-Smith has just published a book called Intuition, and British author Angela Donovan has written a book called The Wish which sets about helping the reader get into touch with her intuititive side.
Adding to the zeitgeist is this handsomely produced new book from Australia's Rockpool Publishing. Tricia Brennan, the author, is described as an "intuitive counsellor" and the entire book is about using intuition to help recognise the forces and conditions that most fully resound with your life's central purpose.
It is a rigorous 12 level program for personal discovery, and I think that following such a program would indeed prove enormously beneficial. It is certainly a book meant to be read over an extended period, as each level requires a signifcant commitment of time and personal exploration. Brennan is a geat exponent of many of my own enthusiasms, including journalling, meditation and the use of affirmations.
The central premis of the book is that we need to get into alignment with our "Authentic Self" - the premise of many self-help books, of course, and one that intrigues and perplexes those who don't understand the genre.
This isn't really the kind of book to buy and read on the train. It requires a large amount of practical engagement, and following the program would appear to be a significant commitment.
Brennan is a subtle writer, and she explores the different shades of self-enquiry with sensitivity and intelligence. She is also not a propnent of self-indulgence, as is evidenced when she says:

"Feeling genuinely compassionate toward yourself is what alters negative behaviour - not self-pity but compassion."

A fine point, and one worth making.
How do we shift our lives "from mediocre to magical?" Uncover a practical plan to lead us toward our true purpose in life? Discover once again the great depths of meaning in which we used to dwell? Tricia Brennan's practical book will show you how.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Daily Word

Probably the most influential work of the New Thought church The Unity School of Christianity is its monthly prayer guide and day-book The Daily Word. This little square journal has been in print since 1924, and its influence has been credited by people as diverse as Will Smith and Toni Morrison! Rosemary Fillmore Rhea tells a great story in her autobiography about meeting Robert Wagner's mother at a Beverly Hills hotel and discovering that not only was she a long-time subscriber, but had given gift subscriptions to all of the hotel staff.
The Daily Word is a pocket-sized monthly magazine (which has recently become bi-monthly, and is also available on-line) which provides a daily inspirational quote and a relevant section of scripture.

The page-a-day format makes it pretty much a modern-day version of the antique format of the almanac.
Its longevity has afforded it a special place in American popular religious culture, and by all accounts it has fans across the Christian spectrum, despite its central theology being decidedly unorthodox. Each issue starts out with a couple of stories by devoted readers who credit the miraculous effect of The Daily Word during specific periods of struggle or hardship in their lives. The little journal seems to hold for some a talismanic power, an I have read stories of people giving away its pages to those they perceive to be in need.
The magazine also serves a function within the structure of the Unity church itself. It is the focal point of prayer and meditation for all members, and it is freely available to newcomers and visitors to the church.
The vast amount of text that must have been produced in creating the magazine over the years has been put to good use in recent times with the compilation of book-length guides on specialist topics, a la Chicken Soup for the Soul. Daily Word for Weight Loss and The Daily Word for Women are two examples.