The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life's Challenges
Paul Gilbert. New Harbinger Publications, $24.95 (513pp) ISBN 978-1-57224-840-3
British clinical psychologist Gilbert (Overcoming Depression) integrates neuropsychology, Buddhist practices, and Carl Jung's concept of archetypes to illuminate the human mind and its potential for meaningful connection through compassion. Eschewing the standard self-help focus on ""learning to accept and love yourself,"" Gilbert explores the universal challenges stemming from conflict between the ""old brains"" humans share with other primates and the ""new brains"" unique to humankind (providing ""our ability to think, imagine, learn and use symbols and language""). Gilbert argues that it's necessary to accept without shame or guilt our ""many dark and cruel potentials,"" because compassion represents just as powerful a force in the human mind. Human brains, Gilbert explains, have ""evolved for social relating,"" and his approach to self-acceptance involves ""thinking about our internal world as being full of 'social-like' relationships"" with different personality aspects-the angry self, the compassionate self, the competitive self, etc. He also proposes a number of familiar techniques (mindfulness, controlled breathing, visualization, journaling) to help readers increase compassion, toward our ourselves and others, while dealing with the anxiety, depression, rage, and other uncomfortable emotions relationships can evoke. Though his writing is diffuse, Gilbert has an arresting but rational perspective that should appeal to self-help enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
Reviewed on: 01/04/2010