Foreword Review — Jan / Feb 2001
Confident, kind, knowledgeable, Everett puts his psychiatric and philosophic tools in the hands of his readers. He sets an example of that aspect of human nature called “instrumental,” devoted to improving the world and making people happier in the process. “It is contagious, and it gets stronger with exercise.”
It takes nerve to distill the wisdom of William James, Albert Schweitzer, Karen Horney, Jesus, Buddha, the Dalai Lama and a dozen others into a page or two each; Everett does it admirably. Though he must oversimplify, his treatment is both serious and enthusiastic and should whet readers’ appetites for more. Everett, who taught psychiatry at Harvard, livens the text with significant sentences: “Childhood is the wrong way to start life.” “Pain is just fear leaving your body.” “Effort can only be made in the present. You are not responsible for what you cannot control. The past, by its nature, is out of your control. Let your present effort to do the right thing be the standard by which you rate yourself.” This last point illustrates the principle of “The effort as the standard” referenced in the chapter “Forgiveness.”
Simply but nicely illustrated, the book has five chapters: Self-Management Strategies; Solving Problems; Moral Problems; Religion, Philosophy and Self-Help; Invincibility. There are three appendices: The Brain and Emotion; Psychotherapy; Social Inventions. (This is a revision of the author’s From Adversity to Invincibility; the technical material on psychiatry has been moved to the appendices.)
The appendices present a good summary of psychiatry, including genetics, medication, psychotherapy, and addiction. Everett is comfortable talking about Freud, Skinner, Viktor Frankl, family therapy, and anti-depressants. This is a refreshing book by a thoughtful pro and a rare generalist who wants to help and really knows how.