By Heidi Simmons
by Gary John Bishop – Nonfiction
With the New Year comes new beginnings and resolutions. I believe February still counts for starting, or restarting, our resolve.
Self-help books are always popular and it’s a good way to get insight and perspective without burdening your friends, family or paying costly professionals. This year, I am resolved to understand the voices in my head. No, I am not schizophrenic, thank goodness, that’s a whole other ballgame – God bless those folks.
Gary John Bishop’s “Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life” (HarperOne, 209 pages) suggests there’s a lot going on in our minds that may not always be true.
More of a handbook, than a lengthy, psychological tutorial, author Bishop has refined his spiel into nine chapters.
The first page has a quote that sums up Bishop’s mission: “This is a conversational slap from the universe to wake you up to your true potential, to unfuck yourself, and get spectacularly into your life.”
Who doesn’t want to live fully engaged in the world while being your authentic self?
Bishop begins with some statistical data and academic studies that make it clear that we, as human beings, are inclined to fucked-up thoughts. And, we are not alone in being plagued with automatic or reactionary negative thinking.
Each day, a person has over fifty thousand thoughts! These thoughts can either help or undermine us. Bishop says: “Self-talk is fucking you over and in ways you can’t even begin to image.”
The good news, as Bishop points out, is our conscious self can have a say in the significance and importance of the thoughts running heedlessly through our heads. Bishop reports that those thoughts that surface and impact us most are not “preloaded.”
The kind of talk we engage in has a profound impact on the quality of our lives. “…the language you use to describe your circumstances determines how you see, experience, and participate in them and dramatically affects how you deal with your life and confront problems both big and small.”
The chapter titles are the positive statements of thought that can help confront the deep-seated negative thoughts and redirect thinking. These seven chapters are like mantras. They are: “I Am Willing,” “I Am Wired to Win,” “I Got This,” “I Embrace Uncertainty,” “I Am Not My Thoughts; I Am What I Do,” “I Am Relentless,” “I Expect Nothing and Accept Everything.”
There are a lot of good things in every chapter. Most of it, I believe, is not new or groundbreaking, but it is the direct way the author confronts your personal thinking. He says how our thoughts can actually change the physical structure of our brain and how easy it is to let emotions determine our thoughts.
I appreciate that Bishop shares how the voices that surface in our heads is universal and part of our human condition. We are not unique when we have moments of self-doubt, self-destruction and self-loathing.
I like the active, present tense of Bishop’s statements and I agree we each must take responsibility for actively changing the current of our thinking. Indeed, it requires practice and mindfulness. Throughout the book, Bishop includes terrific quotations from philosophers, scholars and leaders. It is easy to thumb through the book for a quick refresher or positive affirmations.
At times, Bishop seems to be directly addressing Millennials and the challenges they face regarding jobs and relationships. While most of Bishop’s examples and anecdotes can be applied across the board to all ages and conditions, there were times I could not relate. But, ultimately, the message is helpful and even powerful.
Bishop also directly discusses death. This is important. It is inevitable for us all, yet for reasons that have yet been explained to me clearly, in the United States, no one likes to write or talk about dying.
Life is short, and sometimes we need someone to give us permission to free ourselves and live a bold and courageous existence. Unfu*k Yourself delivers a direct approach to improving your life and discovering your authentic self without too much bullshit.