I Can't Believe I Just Did That: How (Seemingly) Small Embarrassments Can Wreak Havoc in Your Life-And What You Can Do to Put a Stop to Them

David Allyn, Author Jeremy P. Tarcher $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-58542-257-9
This perceptive self-helper puts its finger on the sense of shame that is such a prominent feature of social psychology. Social scientist Allyn (Make Love, Not War) notes the ways in which pervasive feelings of self-consciousness make us withdraw from social situations and lie or lash out to cover up embarrassing gaffes. The result, he writes, is a""spiral of shame"" in which our dysfunctional""image-control tactics"" compound the initial mortification, and can make us seem aloof, evasive or hostile. Writing in an accessible style, Allyn cites everything from Freudian psychology to Friends to explain the psychodynamics of shame, and provides a collection of case studies that will make readers cringe (perhaps the most humiliating is a lawyer's attempts to explain his boyfriend's job as a pet therapist), along with good examples of shame overcome, like Katie Couric's on-air colonoscopy. While his diagnosis is acute, Allyn's recommendations for a life of""everyday bravery"" are uneven. He admonishes readers to self-talk""red thoughts"" of failure into""green thoughts"" of success, and to avoid the occasion of embarrassment by being punctual, telling the truth and staying abreast of current events so one can follow conversations. Sexual inhibitions call for shock therapy:""I would encourage everyone who's never been to a nude beach to visit one as soon as possible."" As for dating, the epicenter of self-consciousness, he advises men to simply force themselves to talk to women until they get smooth at it. Readers will experience many jolts of self-recognition in this engaging book, but will also find that shamelessness is a hard task-master.
Reviewed on: 12/01/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-58542-361-3
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