Review of Loving What Is, by Byron Katie


Loving What Is

Four Questions That Can Change Your Life

by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell

Harmony Books (Random House), New York, 2002.  258 pages.

Starred review.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #4 Other Nonfiction

Loving What Is is hard to describe.  It doesn’t quite fit into the box of any religion or philosophy I might try to fit it into.  In my view, this is a tool that a person from any religion can use to move further along their own spiritual path.

The title probably says it best.  With her process, Byron Katie shows you how to begin to stop arguing with reality and start loving what actually is happening in your life.

Katie doesn’t tell you what to think.  The Work she presents consists of four questions you ask yourself.  She doesn’t tell you how to answer them.

You start with a stressful thought.  She even suggests you fill out a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet to find thoughts you are thinking that are causing you stress.  I can use the example, “My husband should not have left me.”

Question One is:  Is it true?

It’s a simple question, and usually our gut reaction is Yes, of course it’s true!  In my example, the Bible even says that he was sinning, so of course he should not have done that.  He hurt people, didn’t he?

Question Two asks, Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

This question takes you deeper.  After all, what do I mean by “should”?  I’ve got a much closer relationship with God than I did before my husband left.  I’m happier and healthier, and am enjoying pursuing my own interests and passions more than I was able to when I was living as a wife.  Can I absolutely know that he should not have left me?

Question Three asks, How do you react when you think that thought?

For my example, the answer’s easy.  When I think the thought, “My husband should not have left me,” I get angry and sad.  I start wanting some kind of compensation.  I feel sorry for myself.  I want to make him change.  Bottom line, none of those reactions make me feel good.

Question Four asks, Who would you be without the thought?

Notice that she doesn’t tell you to give up the thought!  Katie’s far more gentle than that.  She just asks you to envision what you would be like without the thought.  In my example, I’d be happier, freer, and much more satisfied with my life now.  I’d have a lot more joy in the present.

Finally, she follows up the questions by suggesting that you look at “the Turnaround” and see if that statement might be even more true.

In my example, “My husband should not have left me,” there are at least three turnarounds:

I should not have left me.

I should not have left my husband.

My husband should have left me.

Just looking at the first one, when I’m in my husband’s business, brooding about what he should have done, aren’t I in that moment leaving myself?

Besides that, I can’t do anything about what my husband does, only about what I choose to do and think.

My example is not as complete as the many examples given in the book of people from a wide variety of circumstances going through the four questions with Katie’s help.

I find my resistance to the ideas here is mainly centered on the idea that no one “should” sin.  I don’t like the turnaround “My husband should have left me,” because it sounds like condoning sin or calling evil good.  (How arrogant I sound even admitting that!)

I can deal with it better when I realize that Katie’s ideas greatly help to get me to a Joseph place:  “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to accomplish what is now being done.”  After all, if I am happier and healthier than before my husband left me, what is there still to be angry with him about?  Who am I to get hung up on what he should or should not do?  What business is that of mine anyway?

This is why I think that Katie’s ideas can be helpful for anyone from any religious background.  Unless that religion encourages you to judge your neighbor — but I don’t think there are many of those out there!

She helps you examine what you are thinking and how that fits with reality.  You can become much more joyful about what actually is happening to you.

Definitely ideas worth thinking about!

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Review of Forgive for Love, by Dr. Fred Luskin


Forgive for Love

The Missing Ingredient for a Healthy and Lasting Relationship

by Dr. Fred Luskin

HarperOne, 2007.  234 pages.

Starred Review.

After my husband left me, I did a lot of reading about forgiveness.  What do you do when your life falls apart?  Well, I look to books to help.

Of all the books I read about forgiveness, the one that made a breakthrough for me in helping me actually DO it (instead of just thinking about doing in) was Dr. Luskin’s earlier book, Forgive for Good.  (

The key thought that helped me was this:  This person has already hurt me.  Why in the world should I give them power to continue to hurt me by brooding over that hurt?  And he has some practical tips to help you get your mind away from all the ways you were wronged.

I thought that book was so outstanding, when I learned that Dr. Luskin had written a book about forgiving in the context of romantic relationships, I knew I had to read it.

So much of this book rang true for me, quotes from it fill up five pages of my Sonderquotes blog (

I have come to believe, along with Dr. Luskin, that forgiveness is the essential key to a lasting marriage.

“Think about it.  The centrality of commitment in relationships is expressed through the marriage vows, which ask us to love our partners through richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, and for better and for worse until death.  That means that we promise to love them when they are not doing well, when they have failed, when life is not exactly turning out as hoped, or when we’re going through a financial reversal.  What I see in the marriage vows is a basic prescription:  if we want our relationships to last, we better be prepared to forgive.”

But Dr. Luskin doesn’t only tell us we should forgive, he also shows us how.  This book is full of wise and practical tips toward becoming a better forgiver, and thus a better lover.

As he says in the final chapter, “Both the good news and the bad news about being in a relationship is that you will get many opportunities to practice forgiveness.”

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Review of In the Ever After, by Allan B. Chinen


In the Ever After

Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life

by Allan B. Chinen

Chiron Publications, Wilmette, Illinois, 1994.  203 pages.

I love Allan Chinen’s collections of fairy tales.  This volume deals with tales from all over the world that involve “elders” rather than the youthful protagonist going off to seek his fortune.

After presenting each fairy tale, he speaks as a psychiatrist about the insights the fairy tale gives us and the light it sheds on living the second half of life.

Fairy tales are full of wisdom.  Allan Chinen helps you see how that wisdom can apply to your life.  This is perfect for people like me who love symbols and images.  It’s fascinating how the same concepts come up in fairy tales from completely different parts of the world.

“In most familiar fairy tales, the Prince and Princess battle against terrible enemies and survive overwhelming ordeals.  Then they meet each other, marry, and live happily ever after.  And surely true love and finding one’s own kingdom represent symbolic goals for all individuals.  But much more remains of life in the “ever after,” and perhaps the most important:  restoring innocence and wonder to a world that has forgotten them.  That is the ultimate promise of elder tales, and their challenge — infusing the magic of myth and childhood into real life.”

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Review of Tell Me No Lies, by Ellyn Bader and Peter T. Pearson


Tell Me No Lies

How to Stop Lying to Your Partner — and Yourself — in the 4 Stages of Marriage

by Ellyn Bader, PhD, and Peter T. Pearson, PhD,

with Judith D. Schwartz

Skylight Press (St. Martin’s Press), New York, 2000.  241 pages.

Starred review.

I think of myself as a truthful person.  So I was a little offended by the first paragraph of this book.

“Everybody lies.  Friends lie to friends.  Children lie to their parents.  Politicians lie to constituents.  And, certainly, husbands and wives lie to each other.”

However, they do point out that these lies definitely don’t start out mean-spirited.  For example, classic lies of the Honeymoon Stage are “I like everything about you.” and “We like all the same things.”

The authors show common lies in the four stages of marriage and how they can lead to the marriage getting off track.  Their explanations ring true.  I was able to realize that the belief that I always tell the whole truth was definitely a lie I was telling myself.

They define four stages of marriage as The Honeymoon, Emerging Differences, Freedom, and Together as Two.  They explain the pitfalls of lies in each stage:

“Certain types of lies arise at different points in a marriage in response to the specific challenges of each stage.  Deception will stunt development in each stage, creating an emotional gridlock that leaves both partners stuck.  We call these stalled points “Detours and Dead Ends.”  From the Honeymoon, you can veer into The Dark Side of the Honeymoon.  When deceit obscures your Emerging Differences, you can end up in the Seething Stalemate.  The failure to negotiate independence can thrust you into Freedom Unhinged.  The only way to get on track is to confront the truth.”

The authors don’t place all the blame on the person doing the lying.  They include a chapter on “The Lie Invitee” explaining why there are times when we really don’t want to hear the truth.

This is a fascinating and helpful look at what makes an open and honest marriage.  You can’t really know one another if you don’t tell the truth to each other.  If you are beginning to feel distant and “so different” from each other, maybe it’s time to take a look at what truths about yourself you are hiding from your partner or maybe from yourself as well.

This book is full of good advice for building a good marriage.  It can also help you understand the dynamics of what went wrong if your marriage falls apart.

“Intimate relationships are difficult, despite what cultural myths would have us believe, and every couple will encounter some tough situations.  The grit to withstand those challenges — and to keep your marriage growing and alive — requires that you find the courage to voice the truth.  And the resolve to listen to it.”

Here are more helpful quotations from this book:

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Review of The Verbally Abusive Man, by Patricia Evans


The Verbally Abusive Man

Can He Change?

A Woman’s Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go

by Patricia Evans

Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts, 2006.  269 pages.

Starred review.

When you think of verbal abuse, most people think of name-calling, yelling or swearing.  Patricia Evans gives us a clear definition.  I knew I didn’t like it at all when someone talks to me as described here.  Now I understand why.  It is verbal abuse.

She gives a clear definition, a definition that enables me to spot exactly which sentences are not only not true, they are abusive.

“Verbal abuse defines people in some negative way, and it creates emotional pain and mental anguish when it occurs in a relationship….

“Any statement that tells you what, who, or how you are, or what you think, feel, or want, is defining you and is, therefore, abusive.  Such statements suggest an invasion of your very being, as if to say, ‘I’ve looked within you and now I’ll tell you what you want, feel, etc.’  Similarly, threats are verbally abusive because, like torture, they attempt to limit your freedom to choose and thus to define yourself.  Of course, if you have defined yourself to someone, ‘I’m Suzy’s Mom,’ and that person says, ‘That’s Suzy’s Mom,’ they are affirming or validating what you have said.  On the other hand, verbal abuse is a lie told to you or told to others about you.  If you believe the lie, it would lead you to think that you are not who you are or that you are less than you are….

“Another common way the abuser defines his partner is by walking away when she is asking a question, or mentioning something, or even in the middle of a conversation.  By withholding a response, he defines her as nonexistent.”

Here is a nice explanation of why being defined negatively by your partner is so painful:

“Clearly, when one person defines the other, the person doing the defining (abusing), has closed off from the real person.  When a person is told what they are, think, feel, and so forth, it is not only a lie told to them about themselves, but also it means that the abuser is closed off from the real person.  The abuser cannot really hear, see, and take in information from the real person.  It is as if he sees someone else.  For instance, if the abuser says, ‘You’re too sensitive’ or ‘You’re not listening,’ he is talking to someone whom he defines as ‘made wrong’ or as ‘not listening.’  So, the real person isn’t seen or heard.  It is as if a wall has arisen between the verbally abusive man and his partner.  This is why, when a man defines his partner, she feels pain.  At some level, she experiences the end of the relationship.” 

One refreshing thing about this book is that the author does NOT blame the person being abused for the abuse she receives.  However, she does help you understand better what’s going on and equip you to respond more effectively.

The crux of this book is about giving the abuser a wakeup call in the form of an Agreement — an Agreement for both parties in the relationship.  She also gives the reader guidelines as to whether the abuser is likely to actually change back to a loving, empathetic partner.

Even if the relationship is not in a place where you can use the Agreement, this book is invaluable in its presentation of how to respond to verbal abuse.

One important point is to learn not to try to respond to verbal abuse with logic.  That only dignifies his viewpoint, as if it had a basis in reality.  If you think about it rationally, how can he possibly know what your motives are?  Verbal abuse is inherently irrational, so defending yourself with a rational argument is an ineffective response.

“Realizing that verbal abuse is not rational, it becomes clear that the man indulging in it can’t hear a rational response from his partner.  But it is difficult for the partner not to respond with a rational explanation.  For instance, she may say she didn’t deserve to be yelled at, or she didn’t do what she is being accused of, even when she knows that rational explanations just won’t work.  It takes enormous conscious effort for the partner not to explain herself to her mate.  It usually seems to her that he is rational and will apologize and not do it again.

“Women often talk about how hard it is to remember that there is no point in their ever responding rationally to verbal abuse, even when they know that verbal abuse is a lie.  However, it is important for you to keep in mind that since the verbal abuse is a lie, it is incomprehensible.  You must decide to see it as so untrue, so unimaginable, so unreal, that you simply say, ‘What?’ or ‘What did you say?’ or ‘What are you doing?’  This may gently prod him toward hearing himself if he starts defining you in any way.

“If in the past you told him, ‘Stop!’ when he was abusive and he didn’t, it is likely that he accused you of being abusive, saying, ‘Now you’re giving me orders and trying to control me.  That’s abuse!’

“A good response to this lie is to simply say, ‘What?’ or even, ‘Did I just hear you tell me what I was trying to do?  What did you say?’  After all, he just told you what your motives were and what you were trying to do, as if he were you….

“Ultimately, since you know that blaming is a category of verbal abuse, it should be easier not to blame yourself in any way for his behavior.  You can see it as abusive no matter how much he blames you, tells you that you ‘made’ him mad, or tells you that it is your fault.”

If you still have a relationship with the verbal abuser, this book does offer hope of change: specific steps you can take to issue a wake-up call. 

Even if the book only verifies that change is not likely, I found it well worth the cover price for two key ideas that it presented:

— Defining verbal abuse so you can easily recognize it and won’t be tempted to believe it.

— Teaching you to respond to it as incomprehensible, not as something you can reason away.

As with some other books I have read on unpleasant topics, I can’t help but think of the Bible verse, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  Understanding and naming the situation you’ve been living in is a huge step toward healing and being better able to cope.

This is truly a wonderful, helpful, and healing book.

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Review of What Happy Women Know, by Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg


What Happy Women Know

How New Findings in Positive Psychology Can Change Women’s Lives for the Better

by Dan Baker, PhD, and Cathy Greenberg, PhD, with Ina Yalof

Rodale, 2007.  252 pages.

Starred review

Awhile back, I read and loved the book How We Choose To Be Happy, by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks ( ), so I was already familiar with the science of positive psychology.

What Happy Women Know did not present new ideas to me, but it did provide a fresh look at some extremely good ideas.  Reading this book was a huge encouragement.

I’m in the middle of divorce negotiations, for a divorce I didn’t choose and don’t want.  But I firmly believe that I can still live a happy life, if that is what I choose.  I even found a t-shirt to buy that says “Happy Woman” surrounded by the pink circles from the book’s logo!  ( )  I DO choose to be a happy woman!

The authors begin the book by saying,

“How happy are you right now?  Do you even know?

“Most women know what makes their partners, children, or friends happy, but when it comes to recognizing what lights up their own lives, they often come up short.  If you’re looking for happiness, you have to start with the relationship you have with yourself.  Is it healthy, loving, and nurturing?  Or do you defer to your nay-saying inner critic, as so many women are prone to do? . . .

“Why not dream about a joyous life?  Why not overcome the self-constructed barrier between what your life is and what you want it to be?. . .

“What Happy Women Know is intended to help you understand the importance of positive emotions and to make it easier for you to find your own happy place.  It is also meant to point out how easy it is to fall into the many traps that hinder women in their quest for happiness.

“A “happiness trap” is something that appears to offer the key to happiness but does just the opposite:  It promises happiness but doesn’t deliver.  In fact, it often becomes more of a trap because when happiness doesn’t ensue, people respond by redoubling their efforts. . . .

“Woven throughout the chapters is a series of tools — instructions or prescriptions that offer ways to avoid falling into a trap or ways to pull yourself out if you find yourself in one.  There are single tools for some of the traps and multiple options for others.  Not every tool fits every person, so as you work your way through this mosaic, select the ones you believe will work best for you.”

The book looks at six happiness traps:  perfectionism, wanton wanting, people-pleasing, revenge, “I’m nothing without him,” and inability to separate life and career.  They close off the book talking about loss, health and happiness.

“The subject of loss may seem misplaced in a book about happiness, but in fact just the opposite is true.  Over the course of our lifetimes, we will all lose someone we love, someone we will grieve for.  This chapter suggests ways to transcend grief by celebrating life — giving it meaning and purpose and making count those precious moments you spent with the person for whom you now grieve.”

This book was lovely, uplifting, and encouraging.  The perfect book to read when you’re going through a difficult time, to help you see beyond the trouble to bright new horizons.  Okay, it sounds trite when I put it like that, but this book gave me hope of going on to a joyful, vibrant life and in fact living that joyful life right now.  It reminded me of things that, as a happy woman, I already know myself and do not have any intention of forgetting.

I love the t-shirt because I’m proud to be a happy woman!

This book had lots of quotable lines and sections.  Here are ones that especially hit me:

The authors say:

What Happy Women Know is intended to provide a blueprint to help you find happiness in your life without having to win the lottery or marry Mr. Right or whittle yourself down to a perfect size 2.  In fact, I hope you are already a happy woman and that you’re reading this book to broaden your blissful horizons.”

I like that.  Broaden your blissful horizons and read this book!

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Review of Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend



When to Say YES

When to Say NO

To Take Control of Your Life

by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.  304 pages.

I finally read this book that I have heard recommended or referred to many, many times.  It struck me as the Christian version of Melody Beattie’s book, Codependent No More.  Boundaries deals with many of the same issues, but I do think that the term “boundary” is easier to understand than the term “codependency.”

What are boundaries, anyway?  Drs. Cloud and Townsend say:

“Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries.  Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”

“Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.  If I know where my yard begins and ends, I am free to do with it what I like.  Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options.  However, if I do not ‘own’ my life, my choices and options become very limited.”

The authors definitely take a Christian perspective.

“The concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God.  God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself.  He defines and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes.”

Often, Christians think that we are supposed to be “nice” to everyone, and it doesn’t feel nice to hold onto our boundaries.  The authors are good at showing why this doesn’t truly help anyone.

“Two aspects of limits stand out when it comes to creating better boundaries.  The first is setting limits on others.  This is the component that we most often hear about when we talk about boundaries.  In reality, setting limits on others is a misnomer.  We can’t do that.  What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right.

“Our model is God.  He does not really ‘set limits’ on people to ‘make them’ behave.  God sets standards, but he lets people be who they are and then separates himself from them when they misbehave, saying in effect, ‘You can be that way if you choose, but you cannot come into my house.’…

“Scripture is full of admonitions to separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways (Matt. 18:15-17; I Cor. 5:9-13).  We are not being unloving.  Separating ourselves protects love, because we are taking a stand against things that destroy love.

“The other aspect of limits that is helpful when talking about boundaries is setting our own internal limits.  We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire, without acting it out.  We need self-control without repression. 

“We need to be able to say no to ourselves.  This includes both our destructive desires and some good ones that are not wise to pursue at a given time.  Internal structure is a very important component of boundaries and identity, as well as ownership, responsibility, and self-control.”

It’s struck me that there are several boundary issues going on in my life right now.  The big one is negotiating a divorce settlement.  I started feeling guilty that we might have to go to court.  But then I realized that if I don’t stand up for what I need and deserve, who will?  Sometimes if being “nice” means allowing yourself to be mistreated, it’s not really very nice at all.

The authors warn us,

“No weapon in the arsenal of the controlling person is as strong as the guilt message.  People with poor boundaries almost always internalize guilt messages leveled at them; they obey guilt-inducing statements that try to make them feel bad….

Do not explain or justify.  Only guilty children do that.  This is only playing into their message.  You do not owe guilt senders an explanation.  Just tell what you have chosen.  If you want to tell them why you made a certain decision to help them understand, this is okay.  If you wish to get them to not make you feel bad or to resolve your guilt, you are playing into their guilt trap.”

I also like what they have to say about blamers:

“Blamers will act as though your saying no is killing them, and they will react with a ‘How could you do this to me?’ message.  They are likely to cry, pout, or get angry.  Remember that blamers have a character problem.  If they make it sound as though their misery is because of your not giving something to them, they are blaming and demanding what is yours.  This is very different from a humble person asking out of need.  Listen to the nature of other people’s complaints; if they are trying to blame you for something they should take responsibility for, confront them.”

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the writing in this book; I still find Melody Beattie’s books more inspiring.  However, the concepts are basic and important and life-changing.  This book deserves its status as a classic.

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Review of You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise L. Hay


You Can Heal Your Life

by Louise L. Hay

Hay House, 2004.  First published in 1984.  251 pages.

I picked up this book from the library’s New Books shelf with some embarrassment.  I tried to carry it to my desk and check it out unobtrusively.  After all, that New Age mumbo-jumbo is ridiculous nonsense, right?  Or worse yet, with demonic roots?  What will people think if they see me reading it?

I had some of the same misgivings when I thought about reviewing this book.  But, bottom line, there are some tremendously helpful ideas in this book.  I’m definitely not the least bit worried that there might be an evil source.  Perhaps the book doesn’t seem “scientific,” and perhaps I’m not completely convinced that affirmations can heal all your diseases, but I am sure that I’ve gleaned some good from this book, and perhaps others can do the same.

The basic premise of this book is similar to teaching I found in Christel Nani’s writings:  Your deep-seated beliefs, beliefs so ingrained you think they are fact, can dramatically affect your body and your health.  You can heal your body by changing your thinking.

Now, I’m not sure how much I believe that we “choose” the things that happen to us.  However, I do find some things interesting.  When she describes the beliefs that can contribute to ailments I have had, they do ring true.

For example, soon after my husband left me, I had major gynelogical troubles.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I’m sure it didn’t hurt me to examine and confront my beliefs about how only bad people get divorced.  This was from Christel Nani’s writings, but the same ideas are reflected here.  Louise Hay recommends the affirmation, “I rejoice in my femaleness.  I love being a woman.  I love my body.”  Even if this does not to any good, it certainly doesn’t do any harm!  And to me, those words even feel healing.

Another example is my lifetime struggle with headaches.  Louise Hay says, “Migraine headaches are created by people who want to be perfect and who create a lot of pressure on themselves.”  Now, that description certainly fits me and has fit me since I was a child.  (And I have gotten migraines that long, too.)

However, for the past few years, also about the time my husband left me, my headaches have gotten dramatically better, and I rarely get a bad one.  Now, I’d been attributing that to a change in preventative medication.  However, in the past I’d experimented with preventative medication after preventative medication, and nothing ever worked.  Currently, I’ve used three different ones, and they have all worked beautifully.  It does make sense to suspect that something further might be going on.

If Louise Hay is right, and migraines are created by perfectionism, then I’m attributing my cure to Flylady. (  Her messages about Finally Loving Yourself and “You are not behind; you do not need to catch up,” are truly healing me from perfectionism.  Maybe it’s no coincidence that my headaches left at about the same time.

I do realize that it would be dangerous to start applying these ideas to other people and their illnesses!  That’s all we need — diagnosing other people’s beliefs that are making them sick!  But for self-analysis, this book has plenty of food for thought.

Now, you may not agree that “Every thought we think is creating our future.”  However, even if you don’t agree that it goes so far, surely you can only do yourself good by doing as she recommends and releasing resentment and self-criticism.

She lists “Some Points of My Philosophy” at the front of the book.  Some that stood out to me are:

Resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns.

Releasing resentment will dissolve even cancer.

We must release the past and forgive everyone.

We must be willing to begin to learn to love ourselves.

I’m facing a divorce that will most likely be finalized in the next few months.  Her teachings are helping me to purpose to let go of anger and resentment about it, to choose to forgive.  And I’ve got to start my new life not looking at myself as damaged goods.

This completely fits with Christian teaching.  Forgiveness is key and God forgives us.  C. S. Lewis has stated that “Joy is the hallmark of the Christian.”  If Louise Hay is right, Joy is also a key to good health.

How do you examine your beliefs about yourself and about life?  How do you change thinking that isn’t good for you?

It does take practice.  This book is full of affirmations:  New, healing messages you can fill your mind with.

I just looked at the author’s website,, and read the affirmation of the day:

“Forgiveness is a gift to myself.  I forgive, and I set myself free.”

Whether all the author’s claims are true or not, I certainly don’t think that telling yourself a message like that can do you anything but good.

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Review of Beyond Codependency, by Melody Beattie


Beyond Codependency:  And Getting Better All the Time, by Melody Beattie

Harper/Hazelden, San Francisco, 1989.  252 pages.

Starred Review.

In Codependent No More, Melody Beattie explains codependency to those trapped in it, and helps them start down the road to recovery.

In Beyond Codependency, she celebrates recovery and revels in the fact that life does get better.

She says herself, “Codependent No More, my last book, was about stopping the pain and gaining control of our lives.  This book is about what to do when the pain has stopped and we’ve begun to suspect we have lives to live.  It’s about what happens next.”

As such, this is a hopeful, encouraging, and uplifting book.

Here are some examples of quotations I found helpful:

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Review of Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie


Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie

Hazelden, 1987.  231 pages.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2008:  #5, Personal Growth

Starred Review

Codependent No More is by now a classic work on codependency.  If you want to understand what people are talking about when they mention “struggling with codependency,” this book is a good place to turn.

My friend Doris Rauseo gave me this copy of the book when I was a newlywed.  Interesting.  I have a feeling she saw many codependent traits in me which I was oblivious to.  Though I did read it and thought it had some good ideas.  However, 20 years later, I found the book in my moving boxes, and reading it now as an abandoned wife, I could suddenly see myself clearly.

Who is a Codependent?  The author describes in the introduction how as she became a codependent she began to understand them better:

“I saw people who were hostile; they had felt so much hurt that hostility was their only defense against being crushed again.  They were that angry because anyone who had tolerated what they had would be that angry.

“They were controlling because everything around and inside them was out of control.  Always, the dam of their lives and the lives of those around them threatened to burst and spew harmful consequences on everyone.  And nobody but them seemed to notice or care.

“I saw people who manipulated because manipulation appeared to be the only way to get anything done.  I worked with people who were indirect because the systems they lived in seemed incapable of tolerating honesty.

“I worked with people who thought they were going crazy because they had believed so many lies they didn’t know what reality was.

“I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people’s problems they didn’t have time to identify or solve their own.  These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves.  The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.

“I saw hurting, confused people who needed comfort, understanding, and information.”

In this book, Melody Beattie manages to convey comfort, understanding, and information.  She helps you understand what codependency is, and helps you understand why sometimes being helpful ends up being hurtful.

Best of all, she offers hope of recovery:

“Codependency is many things.  It is a dependency on people — on their moods, behaviors, sickness or well-being, and their love.  It is a paradoxical dependency.  Codependents appear to be depended upon, but they are dependent.  They look strong but feel helpless.  They appear controlling but in reality are controlled themselves, sometimes by an illness such as alcoholism.

“These are the issues that dictate recovery.  It is solving these problems that makes recovery fun.  Many recoveries from problems that involve a person’s mind, emotions, and spirit are long and grueling.  Not so, here.  Except for normal human emotions we would be feeling anyway, and twinges of discomfort as we begin to behave differently, recovery from codependency is exciting.  It is liberating.  It lets us be who we are.  It lets other people be who they are.  It helps us own our God-given power to think, feel, and act.  It feels good.  It brings peace.  It enables us to love ourselves and others.  It allows us to receive love — some of the good stuff we’ve all been looking for.  It provides an optimum environment for the people around us to get and stay healthy.  And recovery helps stop the unbearable pain many of us have been living with.

“Recovery is not only fun, it is simple.  It is not always easy, but it is simple.  It is based on a premise many of us have forgotten or never learned:  Each person is responsible for him- or herself.  It involves learning one new behavior that we will devote ourselves to:  taking care of ourselves.  In the second half of this book, we’ll discuss specific ideas for doing that.”

This is a helpful, encouraging, and liberating book.

Here are more quotations that struck me as I read it:

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