After the Darkest Hour: How Suffering Begins the Journey to Wisdom

Kathleen A. Brehony, Author
Kathleen A. Brehony, Author Henry Holt & Company $23 (274p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6435-3
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 274 pages - 978-0-8050-6436-0
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4299-3323-0
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Psychotherapist Brehony (Awakening at Midlife; Ordinary Grace) believes that psychology and self-help have focused almost exclusively on dysfunction, rather than on healing and ""resilience."" Revealing her lack of familiarity with the recovery and inspiration genre, this dubious notion propels her into a lecture on how ""suffering builds character."" Part One offers a theoretical take on the subject, with many religious and philosophical references. To explain why some people withstand emotional losses better than others, Brehony draws a parallel with the tale of the little pigs, with houses made of straw and brick: a traumatic or abusive childhood builds a house of straw, easily toppled by the vicissitudes of adult life. Unfortunately, Brehony offers little help to those who are ""less equal than others,"" and implies that because some people with bad childhoods become healthy, competent adults, there's no excuse for others who still feel overwhelmed. In the context of her own idyllic childhood, followed by the death of her mother (from cancer) and a car accident involving her father and stepmother (they survived), she encourages those whose houses are already made of brick to roll with life's punches and grow from suffering. Part Two provides a compendium of excellent ""strategies"" for turning suffering into wisdom and personal growth. However, Brehony's counsel to ""count your blessings,"" ""express your feelings,"" ""help others,"" ""pray and meditate,"" ""find courageous role models"" and ""keep a sense of humor"" have all been offered by many others, often with greater clarity and compassion. (Sept.)
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