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He Wrote the Book on Being Happy

January 8, 2009 By:
Rita Charleston, JE Feature
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The memories came rushing back to him and were responsible, in great part, for his latest book, A Course in Happiness: Mastering the 3 Levels of Self-Understanding That Lead to True and Lasting Contentment.

Inspired by a father who, in his adolescence, yearned to be a rabbi and enjoyed reading the Talmud, Mardi Horowitz, M.D., says he learned a value system he's kept close to his heart.

"Along with our Jewish traditions, I was strongly influenced by my father's struggles. He was admired by everyone who knew him as a man of integrity," recalls Horowitz.

"He was a happy man with a marvelous ability to connect with others in spite of all the economic hardships he faced, and in the midst of all kinds of stressors we lived with. And that happiness -- no matter what -- was a gift I got from my father, " he explains.

And then there was Horowitz's wife, who helped him write this book even though she was dying of cancer.

"She was happy and contented no matter what she was going through, and persuaded me that I must publish this book to help others."

So Horowitz, a practicing psychiatrist for more than 40 years, did just that, providing a road map to self-understanding in a book he hopes will lead others to a happiness that can be achieved by anyone --even those who cannot afford traditional therapy.

Comprised of a series of lessons -- with each chapter containing examples, exercises and teaching points -- Horowitz's book is an easy-to-follow course in the achievement of happiness. It introduces the reader to a new process of thinking about oneself, one's goals and the choices one makes in life.

Not the Same Old Same Old
Rather than a rehashing of old psychoanalytic ideas, the work provides the tools and insight to be one's own wise counsel -- from learning how to look at oneself objectively, reassessing dilemmas, and finding opportunities for growth in times of grief and hardship.

It also, according to the author, provides invaluable tools to anyone who would like to live a happier life.

"Over the years, I have read a number of books on happiness," says Horowitz, "always looking for something to recommend to others. I found books that were good but mostly stemmed from psychologists who'd been working in the last 15 to 20 years in the field of positive psychology.

"Their focus was on positive things, such as experiencing calming thoughts, letting go of negative thoughts and trying to shift into a happier state," continues Horowitz. "That was excellent advice; however, in my experience, that's not enough.

"People needed to be given workable techniques in order to lead a life of more contentment. My book is different from others in that I provide an additional way to master your stresses, and gain courage and stamina in dealing with them."

Horowitz, who is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as the director of the Center on Stress and Personality at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, says that his book focuses on achieving the three "I's" -- Integration, Intimacy and Integrity.

Integration, as he defines it, is the ability to assemble all the pieces of one's self into a whole, complete, understood and respected "me."

Intimacy, he continues, is the capacity to remain closely connected to the warmth of relationships with one's family, friends, colleagues and others in a social community.

And then there's integrity -- the knowledge of which of one's values are the most dear and which are lower in priority, and then working to be true to what is the most important, even in the midst of conflict.

For example, Horowitz continues, the "I's" guide readers to the best methods for evaluating an emotionally difficult situation; the book also provides 10 activities that might make you happier.

There is also an appendix outlining the book's therapy plan, complete with tables and additional resources, as well as relatable examples from Horowitz's very own practice.

"Each and every one of us will experience stressors in our lives, from job losses to the loss of our loved ones to facing our own demise," writes the author.

"In my book, I never try to define happiness as constant moments of joy.

"People have been trying for all of recorded history to define it, but happiness has always been an elusive emotion for many of use, rarely a simple accomplishment.

"But," he concludes, "by putting in the necessary work, we can achieve it." 

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