This is one of the books where the loss of my notes and highlights hits hard. Would’ve loved to actually summarise the book here rather than giving an abridged version of my thoughts. Here goes nothing:
The premise is that there are four questions that can help you reframe any problem and appreciate it in a way that might resolve it. Let’s make the huge, incorrect assumption that you’ll only use this process in appropriate situations, and never for purposes like making yourself accept abusive situations, then those are actively good and helpful:
- Is this true?
- Can you really absolutely know that that’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Q1 is meant to take care of obviously emotional statements. Q2, charitably seen, is meant to make you spell out the error margins, and also takes away any moral statements or Shoulds. Q3 is super solid introspective practice, I like it. Q4 is extremely powerful introspective practice.
Now here are the weaknesses and drawbacks, from my POV:
- She does the same thing Courage to be Disliked does, where she stresses one’s own responsibility for one’s life. The problem is the same, too: Taken to extremes, that she herself takes it to, it turns into useless victim blaming without any actionable advice.
- She wants you to make all these steps automatic, and I don’t think having Q4 as a constantly running thought is a good thing. Occasionally considering that and how you can change your thoughts and your entire Self: very powerful. Doing it constantly: how do you retain any Self. Remember the sage advice about being so open everybody can put thoughts into your head.
- At its core, her assumption boils down to “Reality never lies.” The resulting attitude is extremely passive. “Husband cheated on you? He’s still living with you and says he wants to stay, so why feel bad?”.
I feel like self-help books have a somewhat moral duty to qualify their advice and describe who it is for. A very controlling or neurotic person could definitely benefit from this book’s advice, assuming they can look past the patronising tone, and, depending on their gender, the very female slant. But somebody already given to being passive can easily talk themself into bearing all kind of terrible situations just because Reality Never Lies.
(Despite the drawbacks, I thought some of the actual content was rather good and helpful, but you definitely have to go digging a bit.)
This book is part of the 2022 Backlog Incident.