cover image Taking Charge When You're Not in Control

Taking Charge When You're Not in Control

Patricia Wiklund. Ballantine Books, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-345-43334-3

Championing a philosophy that may be summed up with her statement, ""It's not dysfunction. It's life,"" Wiklund, a psychotherapist and memoirist (Sleeping with a Stranger), reminds us that we don't have ultimate control of our own lives. Illustrating her point with stories of lives dislocated by circumstance, nature, bad luck or malice, she offers an antidote to the current victim mentality: self-empowerment through changes in behavior and attitude. Deploring what she sees as a tendency to emphasize emotion over reason, Wiklund advocates hard thinking to determine the truth of a situation, to decide what to let go of and what actions to take. Yet her framework for action isn't really fleshed out in the chapters on thinking through issues and finding one's purpose; more intriguing is her discussion of the distinctions between forgiveness, pardon, letting go and forgetting. Unfortunately, Wiklund's voice is alternately simplistic (""Lots of people aren't smart enough to think for themselves"") and academic (as in her discussions of epistemology and moral development). Her self-assessment exercises at the end of each chapter only highlight her peculiar tone. Even readers who share her philosophy and cold appraisal of 12-step programs, (she labels the concept of co-dependency ""noxious"") may not be drawn to a work that expresses it in such a downbeat, oddly impersonal style. (Feb.)