Date Completed: 1/4/2016
I know this is a popular book and may have helped you in some way, and that’s wonderful. In that case, perhaps you want to skip over what I have to say about this book.
I found the writing style incredibly difficult to get through. Singer seemed incredibly pompous, and I felt as though the entire time he had a secret that he thought I didn’t know and he wanted to bestow wisdom to me, the lowly reader, so that I might better myself to be on his level. Furthermore, he tried to express this to me using Freud and Plato, incredibly outdated thoughts, don’t you think?
Anyway, the concept that he was trying to write about is a good concept. I don’t think he gave enough credit to the Eastern thought(s) that have presented this idea for hundreds and thousands of years. BUT, the idea was good nonetheless. Several parts made a lot of sense to me:
“You said to your mind, ‘I want everyone to like me and I don’t want anyone to speak badly of me. I want everything I say and do to be acceptable and pleasing to everyone. I don’t want anyone to hurt me….. Now, mind, figure out how to make every one of these things a reality, even if you have to think about it day and night.’ And of course your mind said, ‘I’m on the job. I will work on it constantly.’ Can you imagine somebody trying to do that?”
A lot of what Singer wrote about was externalizing internal concepts, such as taking the mind and pretending it is a person outside of yourself and analyzing its actions. That seems pretty interesting and fruitful to me. I surely want to think about why I think about things.
Or the age old “A relationship is not going to solve your internal problems, only you can solve your problems” is rephrased and rehashed here: “External changes are not going to solve your problem because they don’t address the root of your problem. The root problem is that you don’t feel whole and complete within yourself. If you don’t identify the root problem properly, you will seek something to cover it up. All you’re doing is trying to see if a relationship will appease your inner disturbance.” He really did a good job of rephrasing that one in a way that made sense and helped me examine my relationship with my fears.
I also have to say that a lot of this was just reiterating that you need to let go over and over and over. I mean, couldn’t I have just watched the movie Frozen and gotten the same result?
It’s a similar trajectory, as Singer talks about examining why we choose to please others time and time again and what it would be like if we just lived in the moment and let ourselves be? Obviously there’s some faulty logic if you push this principle too far, because lots of people want to do lots of things that would hurt themselves or others, but ultimately Singer is talking about really letting go of the need to please people constantly and have everything be okay. He claims it’s okay to just feel the pain from what seemingly hurtful things people say, and I have to agree. I will give it to him that he did make me think about why I would hide pain or retaliate. What am I trying to cover up? Why do I need to be right? What really is perfect? Who am I?
If you like having existential crises, this book will certainly give you a run for your money.
In the end, I took Singer’s advice and decided not to do something that didn’t interest me and put down this book. I skimmed the last four chapters. I can imagine a lot of people being resistant to Singer’s ideas as well, because he’s not providing an accessible approach to the topic. He starts off saying it has to be all or nothing. Which is fine, but I think a lot of people will feel negatively towards an all or nothing approach.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this book. I might broach the topics mentioned within with some of my friends and family, but I won’t force them to suffer through reading it for themselves.