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How to Stop Feeling Like ShitReview - How to Stop Feeling Like Shit
14 Habits that Are Holding You Back from Happiness
by Andrea Owen
Seal Press, 2018
Review by Christian Perring
Aug 7th 2018 (Volume 22, Issue 32)

This book was published by Seal Press, which was founded in the 1970s and used to be explicitly feminist. The publishing industry has had a great deal of change in recent years, and Seal Press got bought and moved around many times. For the last two years it has been part of Da Capo Press, which is part of the Hachette book group. That Seal Press published this title is notable because while Andrea Owen is focused on women, the book doesn't have any indication of providing a feminist analysis. It's a self-help book that targets shame and encourages women to change themselves in order to achieve happiness.

This is one of a current surge of self-help books that use cursing in the title and all the way through the text. (Other titles are Unfuck YouselfUnfuck Your BrainGet Your Shit Together,How to Make Shit Happen, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, Fuck Anxiety,  Fuck Feelings, and Fuck Your Feelings.) Surely this is a trend that can't last.

Author Andrea Owen is a life coach and has previous published 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve. It's funny that Owen claims to have "BS-free wisdom" because that wasn't my impression on reading How to Stop Feeling Like Shit. The book does contain plenty of plainly written advice delivered with feisty energy and some compassion. The problem is that a lot of its claims are pure speculation or maybe even just flat-out wrong, and sometimes her ideas are so open-ended that they are not saying anything. To give a couple of examples, Owen claims that all problems ultimately come down to shame, and that emotions should never be bottled up, and should always find some way of being expressed. There may be some truth to these claims, but they are at best partial truths. That seems true of a lot of this book: The exercises that Owen provides for her readers often resemble very simplified versions of work done in cognitive behavioral therapy, where people have to identify and express their beliefs behind their self-defeating behavior, and once they recognize these beliefs they will be able to see their error and thus behave more rationally. It's a nice idea, but Owen doesn't acknowledge how deeply entrenched these beliefs can be and how doing a 5 minute exercise to recognize their error isn't going to do shit, to use Owen's vernacular.

Owen's web page says she has a degree in fashion merchandizing. There's no mention of a background in psychology. She has a podcast series and she holds retreats. She has a good sense of humor and she has experience in getting people to help themselves. Some of her ideas seem like common sense and it is quite likely that the very act of sitting down and doing some self-examination prompted by the book will be useful to a reader, no matter what the particular recommendations of the book. But basically there's no reason to take Owen's book seriously. A lot of Amazon readers seemed to like it, while Goodreads contributors are a bit more critical of it. Potential readers should listed to some of the podcasts first, and if they relate to those, then the book might give more of the same but with more detail.

 

© 2018 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring teaches in NYC.


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