4 out of 4 stars
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I’ve been going through a life situation that’s unquestionably tough for quite some time now. I became determined at an early stage to stay strong and positive and am always looking for ideas and inspiration. Perhaps many of you are also confronted with challenges in today’s world. I am so lucky to have found Resilience: A Workbook by psychologist Kathryn Den Houter. She notes that people don’t come to therapy because things are going well, but because of pain. However, being broken can be a powerful catalyst for change. Den Houter wondered why some individuals could not sustain therapy gains while others triumphed over their circumstances and went on to do well. She identified seven qualities shared by the strong and the durable.
Part One is devoted to the seven resilient qualities. Each is illustrated in a chapter pairing Den Houter’s clients who leveraged that quality with a famous person who did likewise. In Part Two, the focus switches from theory to practice. The tools include relaxation exercises and activities to help raise self-esteem by cultivating positive yet realistic self-talk. Each chapter is rounded off with study questions that can be answered alone or, preferably, discussed in a group setting.
Sometimes, I felt that Den Houter was stretching the similarities between the qualities of the famous people and her clients a bit too far. However, I enjoyed thinking laterally to understand the connection. In the best examples, it became clear that the author was considering the resilient quality from different angles. The chapter on what she terms dark walking, for example, is about fear of literal darkness as well as of the dark side of our nature. I was awed by how moved I was by the story of Stevland Morris (Stevie Wonder). Told that he had 'three strikes' against him because he was black, blind, and poor, he chose to consider himself worthy, talented, and rich in imagination.
I appreciated the opportunity to transform my own dark thoughts in Part Two. I loved the way the book became interactive here. The tools are arranged meaningfully into chapters with eloquent, memorable headings. ‘Reverse the Curse’ helped me to find alternatives to feeling doomed in my current situation, for example.
A red thread throughout is the significance of faith and spirituality in resilient people’s lives. In that connection, I found the book overly centred on Christianity. This is not to say that it’s peppered with biblical material; its substance is story and evidence-based psychology. However, I was missing an acknowledgement that strength and encouragement can be derived from other religions, or from non-religious sources. Diversity was apparent in Den Houter’s selection of noteworthy biographies. She featured both men and women and people from different backgrounds. In the story about a transgender person, however, there seemed to be considerable emphasis on finding a medical cause. Both there and in the story about someone who was worried about being homosexual, I was missing a clear statement that there is nothing wrong with being transgender or homosexual.
I believe, however, that this was an oversight rather than an expression of prejudice. The book appeared professionally edited and was virtually typo-free. As it is an excellent resource that is quick to read yet packed with valuable information and exercises, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs guidance on staying strong in tough circumstances – you will truly find what you need. Although the book is worthwhile for individuals, the study questions are aimed primarily at groups, so I recommend it to those as well. If you really dislike biographies or can’t stand self-help books in general, this might not be the book for you.
Resilience: A Workbook
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