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What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement Paperback


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What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement + Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life + Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400078407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400078400
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Psychologist Seligman ( Learned Optimism ) here examines common psychological disorders according to their biological and societal, or learned, components. Most enlightening are his analyses of the effectiveness of relaxation, meditation, psychoanalysis and cognitive therapies in the treatment of anxiety, which, along with depression and anger, he claims, can largely be controlled by disciplined effort. Tables demonstrating the success rates of various approaches to given problems, evaluative questionnaires and mostly jargon-free prose complement Seligman's comprehensive, unformulaic discussion. Maintaining that dieting will not help people who are overweight ("Weight is in large part genetic"), the author urges a focus on fitness and health; asserting that a child's psyche heals faster than an adult's, he observes that childhood trauma does not necessarily shape one's adult life: "the rest of the tapestry is not determined by what has been woven before." Direct, instructive and nonreductive, Seligman's observations and theories are positive, realistic and sound. 75,000 first printing; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Seligman (psychology, Univ. of Pennsylvania) has written a number of earlier books, including Learned Optimism ( LJ 11/91). In this latest, he examines the psychology of individual change. He begins by reviewing the history of psychological change and the role of psychiatric biology; he then examines the emotional changes that can alleviate everyday stress, panic, phobias, obsession, anger, and depression. Throughout, Seligman uses outcome studies to identify what works in making change. In the third section, he addresses physical change involving sex, diet, and alcohol. The author concludes by summarizing his beliefs that what you can change depends on the depth of the problem and that childhood trauma need not define an adult indefinitely. This extremely well-written book, while aimed at the lay reader, is appropriate for students and professionals as well. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.
- Kay Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills, Md.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., is the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the director of the Positive Psychology Network, and former president of the American Psychological Association. Among his twenty books are Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Read this book, and have your eyes opened! :-)
Geoff Puterbaugh
It also describes what can't be changed, and how to deal with those aspects of emotional disturbance, clinically.
Linda Mohr
Martin Seligman is such a well known Author & has such insite in his books.
Peggasus

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John T. Fleming on June 23, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book that everyone should own. In this book, Dr. Seligman wades through the swamp of self-help, psycho-babble,new-age gurus, common-sense ideas that "everyone" knows , medical thought, etc, etc in order to discover- WHAT REALLY WORKS. Not what we wish would work, not what seems like it should work, not what common wisdom believes works but what in clinical trials of real people has been demonstrated to work. What percentage has been helped, what are the side-effects and has this help been long-term or transitory. It is extremely readable, instructive and down to earth. He addresses the current state of treatment for: Anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, obsessions, depression, anger, post-traumatic stress, sex, dieting, alcohol. For most of these topics I learned more in his one chapter than in the several books which I have read on them. If you are on a diet, about to begin a diet, or considering professional help in one of the areas above - please read the chapter in this book first. You will save yourself an incredible amount of time, money and heartbreak in the long run. It will also give you the best chance of actually solving the problem since you will be directed towards the most effective treatment right from the beginning of treatment rather than (hopefully) eventually finding it by trial and error. I only hope that Dr Seligman writes an updated version of this book sometime in the near future in order to keep up with new research findings.
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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 1997
Format: Paperback
With all the authority of a long and distinguished reseach career in psychology, Martin Seligman sets out to present something like a consumer guide to self-improvement and psychotherapy. (This is not a recipe book for dealing with your problems.)

The results are sobering: from the range of most frequent psychological afflictions, only a few will reliably be relieved by treatment. You can - with appropriate help from a responsible mental health professional - do something about
- panic attacks
- specific phobias (snakes, spiders, flying, etc.)
- sexual dysfunctions.

With other problems, such as depression and addiction, "moderate relief" is the best psychiatrists have to offer, often (when psychoactive medication is used) at a considerable price.
Beyond that,
- enjoy your sexual orientation,
- enjoy your weight (dieting will improve it upwards, in the long run),
- stop blaming unsatisfactory results of your adult life on your childhood and your parents - it won't do you any good, and there is much less of a causal relationship anyway.

All this is presented clearly, with "whys" and "hows", and with ample references. If you consider undergoing psychotherapy, or if you're stuck with a self-improvement attempt, this book may save you lots of money and trouble. (Being more or less left to your own devices may be a letdown, but it may also give you a realistic chance to cope with your situation.)
If you're professionally working in the mental health field, you will find much food for thought as well, especially in Seligman's candid statements about the many relevant questions that have not yet been scientifically settled or which even have not been researched at all.
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74 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a navel-gazing self-help junkie, I was surprised and a little annoyed when I discovered this book -- after all, I thought to myself, who can tell me what I can or cannot do? Never mind that I was overwhelmed with boatloads of conflicting information -- I didn't think ANYONE had the answers, and that it was necessary to try everything once. Well, thank God for Dr. Seligman. The book is a brilliantly simple yet deep exploration of the research available on treatments for various conditions -- and it turns out that there ARE answers available regarding what works and what doesn't. (And what you shouldn't even bother trying.) This book is a valuable resource for anyone trying to make sense of the self-help and treatment industries.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A reviewer on February 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
First off, this book is very good.
Martin Seligman, ever the excellent research psychologist provides an overview over the big mental diseases and disorders. From everyday anxiety to panic attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder to sexual disorders, overweight and alcoholism Seligman has reviewed the literature and provides concise advice on what works for each condition and what does not. In between he mentions VERY interesting research results and historic developments in the treatment of psychological ills. These newest findings have changed his opinions as well. While in his 1993 Bestseller "Learned Optimism" he still supported the more behaviorist approaches of f.e. pessimism - the primary risk factor for later-life depression - being conditioned through "bad role modeling" by parent's dealing with adverse events (which could be UNLEARNED), he now, due to identical-twin studies, attributes virtually all mental disorders to heritability.
In a fascinating account on pages 39ff. ("Your genes and your personality") a picture of the human being as an essentially inflexible biological machine emerges, whose innate mental tendencies towards for instance anger, anxiety or depression can be at most mitigated by therapy and medication, but never cured.
Albeit I - as I'm sure he'd want to - stress that heritability in all twin-studies accounted for at most 50% probability that the personality trait of a parent would be present in the child. Incredible for example is the genetic link for criminal behavior in children and biological parents vs. adoptive parents.
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