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The Breakout Principle: How to Activate the Natural Trigger That Maximizes Creativity, Athletic Performance, Productivity, and Personal Well-Being Paperback – March 2, 2004
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If self-help books usually fall short of delivering life changes, The Breakout Principle is a book of a different stripe: a science-based path to self-transformation. Herbert Benson, M.D. pulls together 30 years of mind-body research to describe the Breakout Principle: "a powerful mind-body impulse that severs prior mental patterns and--even in times of great stress or emotional trauma--opens an inner door to a host of personal benefits." Breakouts open the door to different kinds of peak experiences--self-awareness, creativity, productivity, athleticism, rejuvenation, and transcendence--and lead to lasting changes.
Benson explains the stages of stress/struggle, release (during which you give up unresolved destructive or negative thought patterns), breakout/peak experience, and "new-normal" state. He balances the science behind his concepts with practical, how-to tips. For example, many different activities and types of experiences can trigger your personal Breakout in the release stage, and Benson helps you figure out which ones might work for you: repetitive mental or physical activity, an absorbing personal encounter, expression of your personal belief system, "total abandon" to an intense experience, altruistic activity, or filling your mind with a dominant sensory impression. He and skillful co-author William Proctor illustrate points with case studies and personal reflections, making complex medical and philosophical issues more easily accessible.
Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and founding president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, is well known for his mind/body research, especially his work on the relaxation response. His other books include The Relaxation Response, Beyond the Relaxation Response: How to Harness the Healing Power of Your Personal Beliefs, and Timeless Healing. This powerful and empowering book is highly recommended as a guide for readers willing to do the work of making a life change. --Joan Price --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this well researched follow-up to the bestselling The Relaxation Response, which was first published in 1975, Benson and his co-author Proctor detail the intricate relationship between mind and body to uncover what they call a revolutionary "fundamental self-transforming principle"-the self-help solution to end all self-help solutions. The Breakout Principle holds that through a series of practiced mental and physical activities, an individual can achieve higher levels of self-awareness, creativity, productivity, athleticism, rejuvenation and personal enlightenment, as well as escape the stress and anxiety that can often block personal progress. Not the panacea it might seem, this method is a four-step method of tackling challenging life circumstances that begins with the struggle phase, followed by a "letting go," or mental release of the problem, and then by a Breakout experience (when you're completely released from familiar but unproductive thought patterns), and ending with a "new-normal" (i.e., enhanced) state of being. Benson and Proctor give plenty of "release triggers," including meditating, jogging, folding laundry and looking at nature, that may assist in bringing readers to a mentally freeing "peak experience." Anecdotes and case studies pad the text, and fairly extensive empirical evidence gives it weight. This may not be the cure-all the subtitle promises, but it's a good resource for anyone seeking a new path to self-understanding.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This is all very convincing and tends to be consistent with both reported experiences and the writing of other experts. For example, the breaking of patterns fits with Edward de Bono's notion of creativity coming from breaking out of fixed patterns. Benson's theory also fits with the notion that good ideas sometimes come after incubation, when a person struggling with a problem temporarily let's go of the struggle and arrives at a solution at seemingly odd moments - in the shower, for example.
My concern with Benson's claims is that a lot of the supporting studies he refers to are ones in which he participated. Other studies mentioned seem to be cherry-picked from a few select sources from a short period of time. Another problem is Benson's prescription for harnessing the breakout principle in the business world. In essence he encourages businesses to hire people who do not get along but can act civilly to create what he calls a "Grating Paradox" where conflict leads to productivity. I think this advice is naive and simplistic. I also don't believe that people who experience a breakout necessarily remain at a new higher level whatever peak they achieved. If so then everyone would be on a kind of perpetual improvement cycle, which I think experience contradicts.
There is no doubt that people definitely have moments where they suddenly emerge from a struggle in the way Benson describes. It also seems credible that Benson's theory is accurate. I have used the advice of breaking previous thought patterns in an attempt to stop worries and anxieties, though not necessarily to trigger a breakthrough, and it has helped. I just wish that he had provided more diverse sources of support and not extended the reach of his theory into the business world.
* Stage one begins with a hard mental or physical struggle.
* Stage two involves pulling the Breakout trigger, completely severing prior thoughts and emotional patterns - the doing "it" part.
* Stage three is the `peak experience', or performance element of the process.
* Stage four is a return to a `new-normal' state, meaning one with enhanced mind-body performance patterns.
In Part II of the book, the authors devote a chapter each to six types of Breakout resulting `peak experiences' - Self-Awareness, Creativity, Productivity, Athleticism, Rejuvenation, and Transcendence - before discussing how an intrinsic belief system can help trigger a Breakout and offer peak experiences beyond our analytical mind-set's capabilities.
Although the book is an easy read and does contain several descriptions of how the Breakout trigger might be pulled, I would not describe this as a self-help book. It more of an informative read than a practical how-to book for finding your `zone'.
Dennis DeWilde, author of
"The Performance Connection"
The book is clearly written, making it easy for the reader to grasp the principle and learn to put together his or her own personal breakout strategy. I like how anyone - individuals or groups - can apply this concept to his or her life. The authors give great examples of how people from all walks of life with different problems are able to trigger this breakout principle and transform their lives for the better - a family dealing with their fears after the September 11 attack, athletes trying to improve their game, a woman trying to find self-discipline to lose weight, a young man seeking deeper spiritual awareness, and more.
THE BREAKOUT PRINCIPLE is a very enlightening book.
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