"The main message in our book is simply this: If it's meant to be, it's up to me."
So says Harold Shinitzky, co-author with Christopher Cortman, of Your Mind: An Owner's Manual for a Better Life.
Both men are practicing psychologists in Florida. Shinitzky was the director of the assessment/intervention team prevention services at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, department of pediatrics. Cortman serves as a consultant to government and law-enforcement agencies, frequently testifying as an expert witness in civil and criminal courts.
Together, they claim that after a combined total of some 80,000 office hours counseling patients, they have discovered that most people are unaware of 10 significant psychological truths that can help eliminate many forms of unhappiness.
These truths, according to Shinitzky, "are imperative to maintaining mental health and well-being. As a result, people become anxious, depressed and generally unhappy — until they learn the l0 truths, and become more likely to lead productive, fulfilled lives."
The result of their work, they write, "identifies these truths and how the mind works. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and these truths will protect you from many of the mistakes you currently make because you lack sufficient knowledge about your mind."
The "truths" are:
· Emotions are not mysterious visitors; they can be identified and understood.
· You can change you compulsive behaviors if you change your thoughts and address your feelings.
· Every behavior has an underlying purpose, and it's not always what we think.
· We all sabotage ourselves unless we confront our internal saboteur.
· All behavior requires permission, so we must learn what we're permitting ourselves to do.
· Emotional energy is finite and needs to be invested, rather than wasted on wishing, worrying and whining.
· Our relationships depend on self-empowerment and not on enabling others.
· Ego boundaries protect us from rejection, insult and intimidation.
· You can trust people to be who they are, not who you want them to be.
· Time doesn't heal all pain; we heal ourselves by learning how to let go.
The authors go on to illustrate each point with examples, and not only offer practical advice but insightful explanations.
For example, says Shinitzky, "it's not uncommon for people to hold onto anger or resentment, as if forgiveness would somehow devalue the importance of whatever upset them in the first place."
The authors go on to explain where feelings like guilt, panic, anger and anxiety come from, help us learn to identify them in the moment, and to ultimately avoid letting them take over our lives.
Additionally, says Shinitzky, people have an internal voice that questions their capabilities. "We refer to that as self-limiting thinking, or the saboteur, as discussed in Chapter Four of our book. Often, people are raised to have negative self-esteem, and how they lead their life actually sets them up for failure."
But change is never easy, he agrees, "and many people fear change for a variety of reasons. It is our hope that we can help facilitate change."
With exercises at the end of each chapter, readers are encouraged to go from passive reading to active participation.
"That's one thing that makes our book different from other self-help books," says Shinitzky. "Many others kind of take a superficial point of view, just covering the entire watershed. But we decided to do a combination of points — not just something that was research-based and not just concepts tossed at people, but something that contained a lot of supportive data.
"You know," he concludes, "I was raised as a Jew, and taught that the Messiah would come when the world was a better place. So in doing my work, and helping others, I hope I can do just that" — make it a better place.