Instaread Summary of Feeling Good The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
Four out of five stars
Despite the title, there is really nothing new in the book that is being described in the summary. Originally published in 1980, the premise put forward by Burns is that you can do a great deal towards curing your depression if you better manage your negative thoughts and moods. Certainly, if it works, such an approach is preferable to medication. However, with advances in the understanding of brain chemistry, the new knowledge that depression can be caused by chemical imbalances renders the tactic of curing yourself by keeping your thoughts properly aligned dubious. The vast majority of these new discoveries have taken place after 1980.
The twelve key takeaways could be used to describe the contents of a large number of the self-help books that have been published over the last several decades. There is a bit of oversimplification. For example, the first one is:
“All emotional states, good and bad, are first preceded by thoughts.”
This is of course a logical tautology, all functioning human brains contain thoughts. To be useful, it should have a suffix attached that is something like “... that drive the person to the next emotional state.”
Key takeaway 11 is:
“Periodic sadness is normal; depression is abnormal.”
This is again a statement of an obvious fact.
Most of the data put forward in the summary in support of the approach taken by Burns is in the form of anecdotes about specific individuals. While such examples can be uplifting, they cannot be used to argue to the general population. What works for one person is generally not transferable to others, at least in the achieving of similar success. Human brains and personalities are just too complicated for that.
From this summary, the independent minded reader will conclude that the approach taken by Burns and also enunciated by many others will help some people and is of course unlikely to cause any harm. However, it has limitations, the most likely people to be cured are those that are only suffering from a bout of periodic sadness.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.