Monday, April 8, 2024

Book Review: Wake Up Change Up Rise Up

Title: Wake Up Change Up Rise Up

Author: Lynn Lok-Payne

Date: 2021

Publisher: Well Minded Media

ISBN: 9781736459782
Quote: "I wanted to share what I’ve learned: how to find gratitude, accept change, and let go of old stories that are no longer of benefit.

Lynn Lok-Payne. Wake Up_ Change Up_ Rise Up__ Practical Tools for Personal Transformation - Lynn Lok-Payne (Kindle Location 65). Kindle Edition. "

This is another reiteration of the shallow psychological self-help books that were hugely popular in the 1970s and have remained somewhat popular ever since. After a mixed review of the genre, and of this book as a typical specimen, I'll discuss what makes this book special. Skip down if you already know what I have to say about self-help books and want to know what's different about this one.

In some ways the self-help books were all alike. Most were written specifically for people who were trying to reject the religious faith of their childhood, whether because that had been an affiliation with a tradition in which they didn't really have faith, or because they didn't want to live up to the moral teachings of their faith, or because they were mentally screaming "You don't exist and I hate You!" at God. The writers usually claimed some sort of background in psychology, usually not one of the "classical" schools of psychological thought that were relatively respectable at the time, certainly not neurological psychiatry, often a sales psychology course or therapy group in which they'd been effective "peer counsellors" (helping friends calm down, lose weight, quit smoking). Such writers were well qualified to describe how they got through their lives and pursued happiness. Most of them weren't particularly good writers, though Wayne Dyer, who's quoted in this book, did have talent. Many were awfully young to be writing guides to life, and have not grown up to be especially good role models for living good lives. In any case they were all focussed on the idea of fixing the emotional feelings they had, independently of fixing the facts. They all claimed to believe that anybody could feel good about anything, which is a pretty depressing idea if you think about it. Their pursuit of merely emotional happiness always took a lowest-common-denominator approach based in a claim that people could will themselves to feel good, usually having something to do with vaguely Buddhist-inspired meditation intended to help people control pain or anger. For as long as "feeling good" could be defined as "feeling less bad," it works.

Those books weren't on the reading lists at my church college, where we were taught to use Bible verses to do peer counselling when it seemed appropriate. I didn't consider psychology as a major field of study until I'd done some peer counselling that seemed effective. In addition to the psychological bromides that were floating around in pop culture and didn't need to be studied in the self-help books, and the Bible verses, I also discovered the emotional benefits of fixing two facts that had a lot to do with the emotional crises of college students: advising people to get a full night's sleep and a healthy meal before making major decisions such as dropping out of school or hitchhiking to California. "So, is that like a vocation to study health psychology? You know, that's taught at the church university in Michigan." So I transferred to the church university in Michigan, where students were required to have measles vaccinations even if we'd had measles, and people who had those jabs soon formed the Michigan Group of people with "chronic mononucleosis," one of the news stories of the 1980s. I was sick and tired, and apt to be among the people who told me there was nothing wrong with me if I'd only find a job and get up and do something, and apt to collapse on the job if I did, for most of two years after leaving Michigan. I read all the self-help books I could find. I did all the meditations and filled notebooks with all the writing exercises. It helped the long, slow, boring days pass. It had no effect whatsoever on the chronic fatigue, weakness, cramping, jaundice, or tendency to faint, and in fact, no, I was not happy about that. I didn't even think I wanted to be a person who was happy about it.

I did learn a lot about meditation, about "self-talk," and the other psychological techniques discussed in books like this one. They work...within their limits. They weren't enough for me and probably won't be enough for you to live a good life. They can help if you're feeling so bad, as it might be about the fact that your days have suddenly started alternating between days when you feel positively sick and days when you feel merely tired but in any case you're not getting even cerebral work done any more, that you feel interested in some way of ending your life--addiction or suicide or, in my case, joining the FBI and ratting out drug dealers, which I saw as an honorable way to end my life before my undiagnosed disease did. When that didn't work I tried joining the Army, and they at least gave me a thorough enough physical examination to yield a diagnosis that got me through the next year, by which time I was recovering enough energy to do a job. Well, actually, to start the typing and odd jobs service that became my first career, and the success story that I thought might even make the novel that would launch my writing career...Enough about me. Back to the book. 

I think it's a lightweight book in a lightweight genre. Lightweight is not necessarily bad, especially for sick patients reading in bed. In the long run, if you want to live a success story, the generic psychological self-help books that don't even include the Bible verses are not going to be all you need. But if the fact is that your physical recovery is likely to involve a lot of time reading in bed, then practicing mindful meditation and thinking about your emotions may be a better way to pass that time than reading romance novels, which can be depressing if they remind you that your current condition is asexual and also fairly repulsive even to people who found you attractive when you were fit to go to classes. This judgment comes from personal experience.

(I did not consciously plan to do a first-person review of a personal advice book in the week after a client complained about my lapsing into first person in calling attention to what I didn't like about a well written novel. It just happened. My Kindle lost track of the order in which I received Kindle versions of e-books and fouled up my plan of reviewing them in the order received. This is one of those synchronicities that some Jungian psychologists encourage people to notice as a source of wonderment and joy.)

One thing Lok-Payne mercifully passes over is the blather, often considered obligatory in self-help books, about trying to tell yourself you forgive everyone who's ever done you wrong. Lok-Payne takes the more realistic position that you should merely release the emotions associated with blaming, hating, or resenting those people. Releasing the emotions does not interfere with whatever may be necessary to stop those people doing further damage to you or others; that is best done from a position of emotional detachment that would, among other things, make it easier to testify against them in court. Since I've mentioned my personal connection to Michigan, this may interest regular readers. I think the State of Michigan was very much to blame for mandating any vaccinations, especially vaccinations against a mild disease like measles. Even the nasty cases of measles my elders remembered were the sort of risk that might be acceptable if the benefit were permanent immunity to "chronic mononucleosis," but reality is the other way round, and that's not acceptable to me at all. Any recommendation of any vaccine should come from a doctor and should be based on an individual's medical history, probability of exposure, and probable level of resistance. When a disease is really dangerous only to a fetus or infant that might be exposed, the recommendation should be that pregnant women choose to quarantine themselves rather than putting all students in danger. So yes, I did actively blame, and at least frivolously claim to hate, Michigan for twenty or thirty years after I left. I'm not much of a hater but I did at least joke that people should go to Hell, or maybe (insert randomly chosen name of some other town in Michigan). This lasted until, about ten years ago (you could look it up at this web site; I'm not going to take the time), Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter urged people in the Point of Virginia to support the town of Flint, in whatever way we could, during their public water crisis. So, why not? I had fairly well worn out the wisecracks about "officially" hating Michigan. As a private person I like snarky wisecracks; as a writer I have some responsibility to give readers something to laugh at, but also suggestions in the direction of goodness. Reality was, and still is, that I hate attempts to mandate medical programs for groups of people, but I don't hate groups of people. The people of Michigan have some legislative reforms they need to work on. Maybe recovering some "take-care-of-our-own" pride would help them with that. So let them reclaim that kind of pride--I'm in favor of that. 

The "real" point of this story is that I don't think it's actually necessary, or even necessarily useful, to play Pollyanna Nicely-Nice and say you don't blame people. Of course you do. You should. People need to take responsibility for their actions. Buddhist-type meditation is a useful tool for releasing emotions that may be aggravating illness, but taking it too far would be harmful to the healthier, more successful level of civilization found in countries that blame, shame, and refuse to accept evildoing. So it's possible to detach from the emotions, maintain that things some people do are absolutely not okay, and no, not feel that after thirty years of blaming and opposing evil acts you've been "consumed by bitterness." There's a reason why, in the healthier religious traditions, at least one of the greatest women in the history of the tradition has a name that means "the bitterness of rebellion." A little bitterness is good in a healthy diet, and a little metaphoric bitterness is good for us...not enough that people who know us well think of us as mean, embittered people, but enough that we know right from wrong, and oppose wrong. I believe it's been good for me to remember, and remind people, that an unnecessary vaccine made me ill, that censorship caused the violence after the peaceful rally on January 6, 2021, or that glyphosate is still present in much of the US food supply and is likely to be to blame for the chronic disease condition that is interesting you in self-help books. It is good to think back through the day and, as the rulers of our internal universes, grant pardons to the people who annoyed us by being less than their Creator intends them to be. That does not mean calling evil good. Christians, Jews, and Muslims do blame and judge, both ideas and acts...and that's why we have historically been so much more successful, as nations, than Buddhists and Hindus. Race has nothing to do with that. Religion, as it affects everyday life, has everything to do with it. 

Now, what makes this book special? It has playlists. Not only do the author's recommendations for feeling better include dancing...

(We are not talking about the kind of party or nightclub dancing some people have taken vows not to do. This is about privately moving your body in rhythm, in any way and to any extent that makes you feel more cheerful but not exhausted, or helps you find the point at which you can tell which way exercise is making you feel. For a lot of people who are into the Internet, "dancing" may mean wiggling the toes on the good foot.)

...but the author's recommendations for dancing include playlists, of a nice mix of different musical genres that are easy to find free of charge on the Internet. After reading each short chapter, and writing or typing your optional reactions to the self-help mental exercises, you can click over and pull up the recommended songs. The book suggests at least five tunes for each chapter. For many people who are actually reading self-help books in bed, this light physical exercise will help. So yes indeed, this may be the first self-help book you should get if you want to use self-help books to get through a long slow process of recovery, as it might be from a stroke or other major injury, or "Long COVID." The songs chosen have feel-good lyrics, infectious beats, and wide appeal to Americans who are currently under age 70, with a few references back to songs that appealed to the older generation. 

I like it. I think of how many books I've read beyond the point where this one leaves off. Others will want to read those books too; the best ones are medical and will be determined partly by your medical condition. But those playlists make this book a good choice for a first companion on the journey to emotional self-healing. I still say "Fix facts first: feelings follow," and probably always will, but people who pick up self-help books are likely to be people who have some time to think about their feelings while working on their facts--i.e. resting in bed, breathing for pain control, and doing enough exercise to prevent injuries from excessive bed rest. And those people might as well sing and dance, while doing that, such as they can. For most people, singing and dancing help.

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