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What You Can Change And What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement Hardcover – December 14, 1993
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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.
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.
Top customer reviews
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In the late 1980s he and his colleagues began exploring how they could build a science-based wellness model to help people who are doing fine elevate their lives to a higher state of well-being. Seligman’s 1990 book, Learned Optimism (highly recommended), laid the foundation for the now fast-growing field of positive psychology.
A cornerstone of positive psychology leading to higher well-being is building on our strengths. As we get ever deeper into helping our Clients implement strengths-based leadership development I’ve been tracing back the foundations of these powerful approaches.
What You Can Change...And What You Can’t was published a few years before Seligman’s presidency of the American Psychology Association and his subsequent founding of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Part of the book’s subtle is “learning to accept who you are.” This resonates very strongly with authentic leadership and playing to your strengths rather than fixing weaknesses. A key exception is a weakness that’s so large people can’t see past it to a leader’s strengths.
Seligman cites research that half of our personality is genetic. He goes on to conclude, “the other half of personality comes from what you do and from what happens to you—and this opens the door for therapy and self-improvement.” That’s what this book focuses on.
What You Can Change… covers a very wide swath of personal growth with focusing on changes to emotional life such as anger, depression, anxiety, and stress as well as changing habits like dieting (which he argues is largely useless) or alcohol, and shedding the skins of childhood. Seligman tells us that research shows “there are some things about ourselves that can be changed, others that cannot, and some that can be changed only with extreme difficulty.”
I found the book very useful to understanding the origins of the closely aligned new fields of positive psychology and strengths-based leadership development. It’s an insightful book for readers interested in the history of these areas or struggling with the topics covered. Otherwise I’d recommend you skip this book and read Seligman’s other books, Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, or Flourish.
It should be noted that this book is almost 10 years old and should be read in light of subsequent developments in therapy and pharmacology. Since it was written, for example, newer drugs have become available, and EMDR has come into wide acceptance as a potent treatment for PTSD. Nevertheless, the postulates that the self-help industry continues to recite seem to have changed very little, and I don't know of anything new that would invalidate Seligman's basic findings.