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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Take Charge of Your Emotions" (Linda J Solie)

TITLE: Take Charge of Your Emotions: Seven Steps to Overcoming Depression, Anxiety, and Anger
AUTHOR: Linda J Solie
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013, (272 pages).

Healthcare is a huge industry. From physical to mental well-being; from emotional to spiritual care; from the visible to the invisible signs or symptoms, more people are acknowledging that the holistic approach to medicine and personal health is key to a healthy life. Yet, the science of holistic medicine remains largely untapped. Medical professionals are well trained with regards to recognizing and treating symptoms of ailments and illnesses. When it comes to curing and enabling recovery, they require a lot of help from others such as psychological support, mental health counselors, spiritual guides, psychiatrists, medical technologists, and human care. In fact, self-care is also a critical component in the general well-being of a person. In this book, Dr Linda Solie, a licensed psychologist in Minnesota with 30 years of hands-on cognitive and behavioural experience, shares with readers about how one can learn to cultivate self-awareness and self-care, taking charge of one's emotions. Instead of not knowing what to do, this book is a guide for the perplexed, a breath of fresh perspective on understanding oneself, and wise steps to enable one to respond positively during times of depression, anxiety, and anger. Instead of using medication and antidepressants as a first step, Solie recommends it on the basis of three kinds of relationships:
  1. Relationships with our ownselves (mentally, emotionally, behaviorally);
  2. Relationship with Jesus (spiritually);
  3. Relationship with others (socially).

A) The First Relationship - Self Awareness

Here, Solie presents the case for the need for self-awareness. She is troubled by how many people give in unwittingly to fear and negative emotions. She is unconvinced about the effectiveness of "positive thinking" therapies. These she feels do not go far enough. Instead of positive thinking, try "helpful self-talk" that acknowledges truth and prevents oneself from sabotaging any routes to recovery. Harnessing the power of feelings, and adjusting one's responses and behaviours appropriately, recovery is possible, especially through the seven steps. Chapter Two of the book is the core framework for the "Seven Steps to Overcome" the negative emotions. Solie shines here as she gets propelled by her rich experiences, knowledge, and practice.

  1. In "Describe the Situation," one focuses on observations and factual noticing.
  2. In "Identify Your Feelings," Solie provides a comprehensive "feelings list" to help identify what exactly one is feeling;
  3. In "Uncover the Unhelpful Self-Talk," Solie pulls the carpet of unhelpful advice one often says about oneself, so that any irrational talk can be halted;
  4. In "Predict the Behavior," one learns to recognize the futility and uselessness of the negative talk by projecting the possible negative consequences that arise from unhelpful self-talk;
  5. In "Choosing Helpful Self-Talk," one begins to recovery track to offer evidence of hope, and reframing the situation in a truthful and constructive manner.
  6. In "Select the Feelings," one essentially let emotions be the fuel for the vehicle of "helpful self-talk." 
  7. In "Predict the Behavior," one sees the promise ahead and moves toward it.
B) Empowered Through Jesus Christ - Spiritual Association

Key to the Seven Steps is the awareness that we are worth it because God says so. All other human attempts to make worth out of self will not just be temporal but can potentially be disappointing. Instead of working toward "self-esteem," the way ahead is "Christ-esteem." Such a journey toward God needs to be sensitive to two aspects. The first is the awareness of sin and how the law is a powerful way to tackle sin. Going through the Ten Commandments, Solie shares the benefits of how the Ten Commandments can help one avoid unhelpful self-talk and recognize the negative consequences as they are. The second is to trust that God in Christ can "solve the unsolvable." It is a subject of faith, and truth that is faith-based. With this, Solie helps us on earth to see beyond earthly dimensions and to ponder on the spiritual dimensions that will be empowering and God honouring.

C) Empowered Through People - Social Interactions

Solie then furnishes plenty of tips and advice about a healthy self-image, a realistic and constructive self-appraisal of our weaknesses, and to recognize what we can or cannot control. Some ways to do that includes the cultivation of a curious mind that is not afraid of time alone, of learning, of enjoying the simple activities in life. One can choose responsible living instead of grouchy complaining. Solie gives tips on how to initiate conversations, building a friendship network, having a balance of giving and receiving in relationships, and to embark upon a life of serving others, just like Christ.

D) Taking Charge

The last part of the book then uses all that has been said and shared previously, and applied to the three major emotional challenges: Depression, Anxiety, and Anger. Solie describes the characteristics of the three emotions so that we can recognize them at the onset. She then utilizes the three relationships above to tackle them head on. The examples shared in the chapters further illuminates the principles shared. There are also exercises that are arranged in tabular format for quick use and reference. The Appendices summarize all the key points made in the book, and they serve as a easy dive in point for those who have read the book once through and desires a quick summary or memory recollection.

So What?

As a first-time author, Solie has done extremely well in terms of clarity and generosity of her sharing. Initially, the book reads like a self-help manual. I notice that Solie refers to chapter 2 (her main thesis) as something "more technical," and only for readers who are ready for it. When I read the other chapters, there are direct applications of the Seven Steps into the later chapters. It makes me wonder whether it is helpful in the first place to give readers a choice to "skip" chapter 2, when it is actually the core "seven steps" as stated in the subtitles. Safe to say, I think there are two emphases in this book. The first is of course the three relationships that Solie is trying to formulate. The second is the "Seven Steps" which she has brilliantly described. Solie makes a valiant effort to try to integrate the two as best as she can.

For me, the book's strengths lay in the psychological understanding of the human emotional make-up, and the different ways in which readers can learn how to identify the various helpful and unhelpful self-talk and behaviours.  The stepwise descriptions supported by clear tabular diagrams make it easy for readers to follow. Another strength is the mini encyclopedia of positive and negative emotions that can help readers discover their own blindspots. It will be most helpful if the list of emotions on pages 34-25, 98-99, and other helpful lists be included in the Appendices for quick reference.

Overall, this book is a very helpful healthcare resource that knits together the best of Solie's experiences as a psychologist with a fresh faith-based perspective.As far as holistic education is concerned, this book is a worthy addition for the shelves of medical professionals, counselors, caregivers, and anyone interested in total health.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Bethany House Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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