Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts

Monday, September 23, 2019

12 Rules for Life Book Review

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jordan Peterson came to fame rather suddenly a few years ago because of a political controversy, but he's more than just a pop-sensation. He's a legitimate clinical psychologist who understands human beings better than the typical therapist. The book was helpful for me in understanding humans, including my own kids. It was filled with good recommendations for personal well-being, parenting, marriage, and other areas of life.

The book itself is written in Peterson's trademark manner. It's direct and to the point, but also sensitive and thoughtful. At times, it is a little bit of an over-the-top brain dump of seemingly unorganized thoughts, which is ironic since the subtitle is "An Antidote to Chaos." Despite this, I was still able to follow along by listening to it on Audible at an increased speed.

Content aside, the book was simply enjoyable to listen to. Peterson is a great storyteller and he can effectively weave together many trains of thought into one. I was interested in what was being said at every moment of the book and thought about re-reading it immediately after I finished it.

The content of the book was also informative and interesting. I think many of my Christian friends might not appreciate Peterson's continual mentioning of evolution, but I don't think it hurts the case he makes in his book. When he says millions of years of evolution have shaped people to behave a certain way, the same conclusion, and perhaps even a more powerful one will be reached by assuming humans have been designed by God to behave a certain way. Similarly, he often understands the Bible or other religious texts metaphorically, which might cause some people to be dismissive, but this is unnecessary. A true historical event, especially one orchestrated by God, can also be true in a metaphorical sense, so there isn't really any conflict to be had.

The conclusions and recommendations by Peterson all seem to be supported by psychological science. Even though psychology is my field of study, I'm not necessarily an expert on all that is in the book. I did not find myself disagreeing with any of the main points of the book based on scientific evidence. Where Peterson might get into trouble, at least with some people, is his willingness to draw conclusions beyond the science. Personally, I appreciated this because he shows a deep and rigorous philosophical thought. Scientists, at least psychologists, are often unwilling to delve into philosophy for fear of drawing conclusions that are not empirical, but by doing so, they handicap themselves. Peterson's willingness to do this, and do it well, was a breath of fresh air.

As for the personal growth aspect of this book, I think it could be very helpful for some people. I think most people will think the book is enjoyable to read even if they don't get huge personal benefits from reading it. For some, however, I think this book could be life-changing for them, or at least, it could be very helpful in their lives. I would only recommend that people who want to read to book for personal growth, actually read the book instead of listening to it. If they do listen to it, don't speed it up extremely fast and pause it to reflect often, maybe at the end of each chapter. I blew through this book very quickly on audio, and it was helpful, but it would have been even more so if I stopped to reflect and understand things better. This is why I said I thought about listening a second time, which I am still considering.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone. I think there's something in there for everyone. Even though the book is not Christian or religious, it fits with a Christian worldview and a non-Christian worldview.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Should Christians get Therapy?

The role of therapy is by far the most controversial topic for Christians in regards to the field of psychology. There are mounds of books devoted to the integration of therapy into Christian theology and the different views on it. Thankfully, I think there's a way to cut through all the rhetoric, at least in regards to the question of whether Christians should seek therapy for mental health concerns.

In order to think clearly about this issue, we need a very basic understanding of the brain and the mind, which is sometimes referred to as the soul. There are two main views: dualism and materialism. Dualism says that brain and mind are different things, the brain being physical matter and the mind being immaterial (the soul). Materialism says the brain and mind are both just physical matter and that consciousness is a function of the brain. Christians can be either one and often fall somewhere in the middle, often disagreeing just on minute details.

As for our brains, they are composed of glial cells and neurons. The neurons are what do all the works and they have three main parts: a cell body (nucleus), dendrites, and an axon. The synapse is the open space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrite of another neuron. We have nearly 100 billion neurons in our brains and between 100 and 1,000 trillion synapses. This is because one axon can connect to several dendrites. As we learn and develop, our dendrites grow so that our neurons become more interconnected.

Regardless of what position a person takes on whether the mind is material or immaterial, everyone agrees that the brain plays an important role in who we are and how we make decisions. Materialists say it's all in the brain while dualists say that the mind interacts with the brain in some unknown way. What this means is the people on both sides essentially agree that changing the physical structure of the brain will change a person's thoughts and behaviors.

If you've ever driven a car, you understand what this is like. Think of the windshield as your brain and your eyes as your mind. If your eyes work perfectly, but the windshield is covered in dirt, bugs, or rain, you cannot see well. No matter what you do to fix your eyes, you still won't be able to see better through the dirty windshield. Instead, you have to clean the windshield so your eyes can see to their full potential. In the case of mental health concerns, physical structures or chemicals in the brain are almost always, if not always, part of the cause. There may or may not also an issue with the mind or soul, but we simply cannot know without first addressing the physical aspects of the brain.

Therapy, whether done by a Christian or an atheist, attempts to heal the physical structure of the brain. It works by strengthening good connections in the brain and weakening undesirable ones. By healing the brain, the mind has a clear window through which it can see or work. God can and occasionally does heal people instantly of mental health issues, but just like with a broken bone, we are not guaranteed that He will. If you have a mental health issue, or are just going through a hard time, there's no shame in seeking therapy. It doesn't make you a worse Christian or less of one.

I do want to offer a warning though. There is secular counseling, Christian counseling, pastoral counseling, biblical counseling, and other non-Christian religious counseling. I would strongly advise you to avoid that last two. Non-Christian religious counseling should be obvious to avoid and most secular counseling methods do not conflict with with a Christian worldview so there's no reason to avoid it. The one secular practice that I hear criticized most often for not being Christian is meditation or mindfulness practices because of their association with eastern religious practices. However, as a secular practice that is removed from mythic practices, meditation or mindfulness is simply a state of relaxation and attunement to one's surroundings.

But what about biblical counseling? The issue with biblical counseling is that the people who do it are not well qualified. They're not required to have a degree in psychology or theology, which is problematic since they explicitly reject secular psychological science in favor of their own interpretation of scripture and lack the training to even know if the two contradict. Their healing techniques are fairly limited to what most people would consider spiritual practices such as memorizing scripture. While this can certainly be helpful, it's unlikely to completely resolve major issues. Here's a quick article on the differences and agreements between Christian counseling (a qualified therapist who is also a Christian) and biblical counseling.

There's no reason to hold on to mythical, pre-scientific views of the brain. Mental health problems are just as much of a physical issue as cancer or a broken bone. If you're having a tough time, seek help for it. Talk to someone, and if they're not able to help you, seek more qualified assistance. I'd be more than happy to talk with you if you send me a message. If someone you know if having a hard time, listen to them without being judgmental. You likely have no idea the depth of their suffering. Even if you know the cause, you probably don't know how it feels, so have some humility before thinking you'll be able fix them with a few superficial words.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Review: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author, John Gottman, is well known for his scientific research on marriages. Because of this, I have cited and read many of his academic and popular level works. This book may just be the best one so far, and certainly is the best marriage book I have ever read.

There are a lot of good marriage books out there, many of which I still recommend, but this one trumps them all, and does so for many reasons. First of all, most other marriage books probably cite Gottman at some point and refer to him as the expert, which he is. The principles laid out in this book are the basic framework that any other good marriage advice will fit into. This is because Gottman's advice comes from rigorous scientific study rather than anecdotal evidence from a small sample size. This is not to say any other marriage advice is irrelevant or bad, but if it does not seem to mesh with what Gottman says, it should be regarded highly suspiciously.

Another thing that makes this book so great is the excellent balance of intellectual advice, real-life examples, and practical solutions. This makes the book interesting, informative, and helpful all in one. The book explains many issues people run into with marriages and offers some solutions, but it also has exercises couples can use to help discover root issues and overcome the problems. It's also a surprisingly short book, at only 265 pages, many of which can be skipped or skimmed if you're not dealing with a specific issue or not actually doing the exercises. The exercises are to help diagnose problems in marriages, to help foster solutions, or to just simply build closeness between partners. Some are simple, one-minute questionnaires, others are longer exercises that couples can use to discuss and build intimacy over months, and some are in between.

A quick note of warning though. If your marriage is failing and you read this book, it might cause more difficulty, at least in the beginning. This is probably true of any marriage book because talking about personal issues, especially if they've been growing for years, is hard and painful for just about any circumstance. This book may simply increase that because it encourages couples to work on their issues instead of merely working around them. It can be hard in the short-term, but will have better long-term benefits.

Whether your marriage is good or bad, you've been married for 50 years or just starting in a relationship, this book can be tremendously helpful, especially if both partners read through it and do the exercises together. There really is something for everyone in this book. From now on, this book is at the top of my list as a recommendation for marital advice. Other books will certainly still be helpful, especially for very practical tips, but none that I know of can compare to the combination of practical advice and intellectual information in this book.

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