Most helpful critical review
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Interesting science, light on self help
on August 22, 2012
I bought this book because I am by nature pessimistic and I was hoping to get some insights into how to change that, based on solid scientific research rather than just someone's pet theories. I have read a lot of books on psychology and subscribe to Psychology Today, so many of the concepts in this book about the structure of the brain and the neurological basis for emotions and their impact on personality were not new to me. However, I still found it mostly interesting reading about the science behind it all in more detail.
Over all though, I was disappointed in the limited recommendations to come out of this book towards becoming more optimistic. This was confined to one short, final chapter and didn't really tell me anything new - meditate, practise focussing on the positive things, use mindfulness. There was a description of some psychological interventions which entailed subconscious brain retraining using responses to images, but no information was provided as to how to gain access to that type of therapy. This method has apparently been used successfully to treat PTSD sufferers, and the book suggested that it could be readily delivered via the Internet, but it seems this may not be available to the general public as yet.
The book read as though its intention was to explain the science to an average, well adjusted reader, rather than to someone specifically seeking help for pessimistic thinking. There are a number of short self evaluative tests in the book (the marking of which could have been better explained), and it is clear that the author thinks it just as likely that the reader will have an optimistic result as a pessimistic one. So I don't blame the author for what seems to be a misrepresentation on the cover - "How to retrain your brain to overcome pessimism and achieve a more positive outlook". This is probably something the publishers added to help the book sell. Well, it worked, for me, but others who are less interested in the science and more focused on self help might have felt ripped off.