Read Happiness Is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman Free Online
Book Title: Happiness Is a Choice|
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Reader ratings: 5.6
The author of the book: Barry Neil Kaufman
Edition: Ballantine Books
Date of issue: January 3rd 1994
ISBN 13: 9780449907993
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 6.85 MB
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Take What Works, and Leave the Rest Behind
"Happiness Is A Choice" was recommended to me by someone I highly respect, a very happy and successful professional. My reading this book paid off with immediate dividends when application of a passage at the beginning helped me end a tiff I was having with my then-girlfriend. That passage reads: "I realized that neither one of us held the truth, only a vision we had each created and then used to embrace our situation" (page 4). Recognizing this reality worked nicely in my own particular circumstance, and for that I was grateful. However, while delving deeper into the book, I soon discovered a major recurring problem: the principles espoused are often overly broad and cannot and should not be applied in all situations at all times, as the author, Barry Neil Kauffman, suggests (e.g. on page 8, the idea that you can "just claim happiness at any time."). But since there is some very valuable information within the pages of "Happiness Is A Choice," I would on the whole recommend the book while cautioning readers to be alert for concepts that get stretched too far.
I very much like the author's overall focus on the importance of happiness, and truly appreciate his stressing of the benefits of remaining positive. I also found the shortcuts to happiness that begin on page 172 to be quite useful, but unfortunately routinely overstated.
For example, the first shortcut is to "Make Happiness THE Priority" in your life. I would agree that happiness should be "A" priority, but making happiness "THE" absolute priority in all circumstances, as the author suggests, is untenable. If, for example, your beloved pet gets crushed by a bus, should you prioritize your happiness at that very moment and look on the bright side, or go thru the process of tending to the remains, grieving the loss, and later making it a point to return to the pursuit of happiness? For the author, the former approach is preferable. For me, the latter would be more natural and valid.
The second shortcut stresses the importance of maintaining "Personal Authenticity" and I would most certainly agree with that. As the author states, "We often uphold standards without questioning them" (page 191). Not a wise approach, to be sure! However, the suggestion that we "allow ourselves the full expression of who we are" (page 192) essentially nonstop in every single circumstance, is too unwieldy to be taken seriously. Mr. Kauffman then goes on to chastise psychotherapists "who claim we are victimized by the dictates of our unconscious and subconscious mind" (page 194). Can there really be any doubt that psychotherapy has helped many many people? I submit not. Thus, Mr. Kauffman's indictment of the entire psychotherapeutic community as a whole--based on the author's own narrow negative experiences with psychoanalysis--comes across as wholly inappropriate, even for someone who sees himself as becoming "a co-creator (with God) of an ever evolving me" (page 195).
"Letting go of Judgments" is shortcut number three. "Misery...comes from judging ourselves, other people and events as bad or terrible for us," the author says, and the way out is to let go of those judgments (page 206). Not a bad idea to become less judgmental. But how? "[V]iewing events as bad for us, we can decide now to see them as good for us or, at the very least, useful opportunities to learn and benefit from the." Very true at times, but always? Apparently so, for Mr. Kauffman. As an example, he writes, "My employer fires me without notice.... How interesting! This can be my chance to re-evaluate who I am and what I really want." And then what? Go home to your spouse and say, "Great news, honey! I got fired today!" Please!
The fourth shortcut is "Being Present," and again the author stretches his concept beyond the bounds of credibility. Yes, of course, it can be very uplifting to "stay in the moment," like "When playing with a child, we can jump into the game with total enthusiasm, allowing our spontaneous, curious self to surface. When exercising, we can focus on each muscle and each movement, attentive to the miracle of our bodies and our abiding desire to make our bodies work healthfully" (page 238). But what if the moment involves a truly negative experience, like breaking your ankle as you slipped going down the stairs? Should we jump into the pain with enthusiasm? Or should we perhaps prioritize seeking medical attention?
I very much liked the fifth shortcut. "Being Grateful" is indeed a good way to be (or is it too judgmental to say "good"?). The author writes, "To be grateful means not only to delight, enjoy, and appreciate, but also to recognize simultaneously the blessing and the wonder of an experience. In such moments there is only happiness...Whenever we think we have lost our way or have noticed joy to be absent from our daily endeavors, we can look around and find a host of things, events or people to appreciate " (pages 243-244). Yes, nicely put. A very practical and powerful technique, I have found.
"Deciding to be Happy" is the sixth and final shortcut, and can replace all the others. The author advises that we simply "choose our beliefs and feelings" to create our own happiness (page 249) but I would suggest that at times, our beliefs and feelings are accurate and to change them is to create a dangerous illusion. This point, in fact, is my main objection to Mr. Kauffman's work.
Example: If I am severely underweight due to anorexia and am unhappy about that, should I change the belief in between the stimulus (anorexia) and the response (sadness) from "Anorexia is a serious and potentially fatal illness that needs to be addressed, and I look horrible," to "Anorexia is fine and I am perfect just the way I am?" Following Mr. Kauffman philosophy, the answer could lead one to say, "Yes, do change that belief, because it is the belief that is making me unhappy, and happiness is THE top priority." Suffice it to say, I disagree.
Nor can I accept the idea that in between a stimulus and a response, there is always a belief that needs to be changed in order to secure your happiness. (See e.g., page 33, "We design the world by the way we choose to see it.") For instance, if you are trying to get to sleep and you hear the faucet dripping, should you (a) lie in bed and try and change your belief as to what is going on, or (b) recognize that your belief (that the faucet is dripping) is accurate, get up, and turn off the faucet?
Finally, as a person who highly values truth and the pursuit of truth, I find myself at odds with Mr. Kauffman's disdain for truth, e.g., "[S]o much for the `truth,'" he says, " I'd rather be happy!" (page 119). To be sure, if one is to accept as true the wondrous anecdotes the author presents about himself and his family, he has had phenomenal success with his "happiness first and foremost" approach. More power to him! But for me, the search for truth is an important endeavor whether or not the knowledge gained ultimately makes me joyous. And I firmly believe that it is crucial to be true to oneself.
In sum and generally speaking, as with many things in life, it's a good idea to "Take what works and leave the rest behind." I did so with "Happiness Is A Choice" and reaped some benefits and rewards. I continue to apply some of the valuable principles in the book with success, and will readily admit that I am a happier person as a result. On that basis, I would recommend reading "Happiness Is A Choice" but with the caveat that readers need to be aware that the author often extends the application of his "happiness first and foremost" philosophy beyond the bounds of reason, logic, and common experience--it is this aspect of the book which tends to significantly devalue the work as a whole.
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