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PRODUCT (Book)F*CK FEELINGS:  One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems

Authors:  Michael I. Bennett, MD & Sarah Bennett

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster [2015]


When I was growing up on the Hawaiian island of Molokai in the early 1950’s, there were two pineapple plantations still going strong:  Del Monte (California Packing Corporation) at Kualapu’u and Libby McNeill at Maunaloa – small isolated communities in the western hills of the island.

World War II had recently ended.  Hawaii was still a territory of the United States of America.  The “plantation camps” – collections of aging, ticky-tacky worker housing – were owned by these corporations.  The workers lived surrounded by the fields where they worked.

The mindset among the people in that place was even smaller and more limited than “small-town” or even “village.”  It was like growing up in a large extended family with all the same rivalries, alliances and hierarchies.

Interactions between people in the camps were multi-layered and sometimes intense.  Often there were insurmountable inequities.  For many people life was hard.  Despite it all, however, almost everybody agreed that life was good.

‘As how,” (that’s the way it is), they would tell each other when bad luck struck.  It was a given that this neighbor would help and that one would turn away (or maybe even snicker.)  The faults and flaws of individuals were recognized, acknowledged and mostly accepted.  When everybody’s busy trying to make ends meet, little time can be spared for trying to improve how other people walk.

“Enduring” what could not be changed in life, in others, and in yourself was a life-stance.  People got along – or not – as best they could.

Many of the people in the camp were from my grandparents’ generation.  They remembered coming from places where life was much harsher.  They had already made the Big Change:  they had given up everything they knew to come to a foreign place where all the rules were different and “culture” became a thing they made up for themselves along with all the folks around them who were also mostly from other places.

Life was “better.”  Whatever challenges and obstacles they encountered in the camps were still “not bad” when compared to the trouble they had left behind.  They knew the odds were good that the lives of their children and their grandchildren would be better than theirs had been in the old place.

In all the hard there was time enough and space to laugh and sing, to notice and appreciate beauty, and to dream.  There was room to cherish each other, to honor the ones who helped smooth the rough places and to forgive the ones who could not.


I grew up in that mindset.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always been fascinated (and confused) by the world according to people who write self-actualization and self-help books.  In their worlds, any problem or challenge or obstacle can be and should be resolved.  “Closure” can be achieved.

All you have to do is build up your willpower and determination and attack the thing with all your might until it falls down in abject surrender to you, the Master Blaster.  If you put enough effort into this exercise or that method or the other technique and pass on through every obstacle and challenge, then WHAMMO! you can win through to happiness and all good things.

They assure you that it is imperative that you “fix” this issue or that one so you can find “closure” and then you can get ON with your life.  Uh-huh….


I have slogged through acres of bookshelves full of those books.  Finally there comes one that tells you that Life is really a LOT bigger than you.  There are many problems you will never fix.  There are many issues for which “closure” is impossible.  And it only matters if you choose to believe that it does.

It seems to me that this witty and practical book, F*CK FEELINGS, can help you make useful and sustainable life choices that make sense to you.  It was written with great warmth and humor by a Harvard-educated, medically trained practicing psychiatrist with over 40 years of clinical experience together with his daughter who spent years writing sketch comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York.

In the introduction, the authors say they aim at helping their readers accept that (a) life is hard, and (b) the reader’s frustrated efforts in trying to deal with assorted serious life problems are a valuable guide to identifying what cannot be changed.  Once the reader has that one down, the authors detail sensible, positive and possibly effective suggestions for managing this stuff that can’t be changed.

The authors do this by breaking down their advice for dealing with each major self-help issue (self-improvement, self-esteem, fairness, helpfulness, serenity, communication, parenthood, and the assholes in your life) into three parts:

  • What you wish for and can’t have (all the unrealistic wishes and hopes people have about “fixing” an issue),
  • What you can aim for and actually achieve,
  • How you can do it.

There are examples and scenarios of each of the major issues and explanations of how and why what you wish for probably won’t happen.  There are reality-check moments and stories about how the more practical suggestions may play out (or glitch up).  All of it is very down-to-earth and the commentary feels real.

There’s also a bonus chapter about when and how to find appropriate medical treatment for a problem and how to decide when it’s time to stop.


This book has been like a breath of fresh air to me.  It is a good reminder that there’s no such thing as “fair,” that feelings are mostly stupid, and that life is hard on everybody.

Still, as the authors point out, you can be relatively “okay,” no matter what, if your goals and how you reach for them are appropriate for the problem you are facing.  The good doctor’s suggestions, more likely than not, have a good chance at helping you decide which moves are effective.  He tells you that if you can manage to stay human despite your own inner demons, that is good enough.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to read the thoughts of someone who apparently does not believe that he is God’s gift to the wretched.  I think you will too.



Picture:  Sunrise at Koki Beach by Tim Szlachetka via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):   A disinclination to keep looking for evidence of all the ways your life is hard.  [There really is no point in counting all the ways you suffer because they are endless and the list will turn you into a bitter thing filled to the brim with resentment.  Counting your blessings on the other hand….]

Here’s another poem:


She’s found compassion.

It was lying there among

The instruments of pain

And torturous circumstance,

Amid the detritus she has uncovered in

The excavation she is making of her ancestral past.


She’s found compassion for

The bits of humanity that beget her,

And it’s made her face and body human-soft and warm.

The heavy-hard no longer presses now.

She’s lost the strain of pulling such a heavy load –

A wagon train of recrimination and regret.


The why-me has evaporated

Leaving an evanescent residue.

She’s even put up that brilliant sword she wields so handily.

Now the light shines in her

And it’s the beauty of Kwan Yin

Glowing through her.


Gone the marks of a mortal soul

Battered by the exigencies and

Actions of other mortals

Slogging through this world of dust,

As she climbs back on her immortal steed

And takes off, into the endless sky.


She’s made it back into the Infinite Game,

The one that pulses underneath

The boundaries of Time.

She’s flying back to the Real now,

And it’s a glorious thing to see.

You go, girl….

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  via

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Self-actualization books can be an addiction.  You can get caught up in the joy of being seduced into believing that the untapped “potential” inside you is just sitting there waiting for some wise person to unlock the door for you.

Self-help writers try to massage your head and marinate it in self-actualization juices that are supposed to help you reach your “full potential.”  Many of the books they make are wordy, high-flying tomes that are a bargain by the pound.

CLICK HERE to check out a You-Tube video, WHY YOU SHOULDN’T GET ADDICTED TO SELF-HELP by another self-help maven and would-be “mentor,” Tai Lopez.  (I am not sure what I think of Mr. Lopez, but his videos are a bit of fun….)

Right now I’ve got three little books sitting on my work-table.  They are all less than 160 pages long.

One is a fairly new book by a prolific author on leadership and success who is one of the top motivational speakers in the world.

One is written by an inspired educator at Stanford University who introduced many students to the art of improvisational theater.

The last, a book that is mostly pictures and artfully designed pages with large text, was co-written by two friends in 2010.  At the time the book was written, one of them was a business management coach of some renown in Japan and the other a musician who worked in magazine publishing.

All three books are extraordinary.  Each one is a fast read.  Each one reveals deeper levels of insights if you ponder on the messages they hold.  They all tell you the same thing:  “Change is an inside job.”


Book:  BULL’S-EYE:  The Power of Focus

Author:  Brian Tracy

Publisher:  Simple Truths, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.  [2015]

I have a friend who swears that Brian Tracy changed her life.  She was once an easy-going sort going nowhere slow.  Tracy’s motivational books, she says, turned her head right around.

Now she is calling out her shots and making them one after the other.  All her wishes and daydreams have become goals, complete with plans on meticulously prioritized lists.  She is either knocking off the targets she’s made for herself one after the other after the other or picking herself up from a stumble and moving on to the next plan.

The girl is going for it; and she credits Tracy with her turn-around.

The man’s been working in the fields of economics, history, business, philosophy and psychology for over 30 years now.  He’s a top-selling author of over 70 books, translated into dozens of languages.  His books are the business Bible on many folks’ shelves.

Besides that, he’s produced hundreds of audio and video programs and has been a business consultant for more than 1,000 companies.  Some of them have been among the biggest companies in the world.

In the book he tells you, “You have the ability right now to achieve more than you ever have before, as long as you incorporate three essential mental skills into your life:  clarity, focus, and concentration.”

Tracy tells you that you can learn each of these skills through practice and repetition.  Then he tells you how — step-by-step-by-step.

This little book – just 100 pages long — is like a distillation of the business master’s long immersion in human development.  It’s heady stuff.   As are all of Tracy’s books, this one’s straightforward and full-speed-ahead.


Book:  IMPROV WISDOM:  Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up

Author: Patricia Ryan Madson

Publisher:  Bell Tower, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, division of Random House [2005]

The year that Patricia Ryan Madson retired after four decades of teaching drama at Stanford University, she published a delightful book, IMPROV WISDOM, that basically tells us that since we’re making up life as we go along anyway, we might as well try to get good at improvisation and have a bit of fun along the way.

She says, “Improv points to ways of being more and better alive, ways of cutting through our patterns of procrastination and doubt.  It is up to each of us, however, to make the move.

She declares, “A life of meaning and value is achieved through purposeful action,” and she directs, “Step on stage.  Take a bow.  Have a good time.

Using the ways of improv as her guide, her whole way of moving through the world is based on NOT developing a script.

No matter how well-designed our script may be, she points out, it starts unravelling when we interact with others who have scripts of their own.

Then the fun really starts.

The result can develop into a duel of conflicting scripts that ends up in either a major blow-up and falling-apart or an unsatisfactory capitulation by one or the other leading to compromises that work for no one.

Or, it can become the start of a new third thing that works for both…if there is spontaneity and flexibility and good will on both sides.

In improvisational theater, the performers think on their feet.  They accept everything their co-creators offer and they try to work with it, exploring options, capitalizing on and supporting each other’s moves in a grand effort to produce…a vaguely defined Something.

Sometimes they succeed in producing a lovely bit of work and sometimes, not.  There is joy in the effort, however, and beauty in the struggle.

Madson points out that the addition of spontaneity to an ordinary, everyday life beats back the fearful grayness of spirit induced by our uncertain times.   It can be used to add the color back into your life.

In order to help you do that, she refined what she calls “the maxims” of improvisational theater to 13 simple strategies that can help you find a better way to deal with life’s challenges.

If nothing else, her way of looking at the world is a beautiful kind of madness that finds the goodness in any situation and makes full use of whatever happens.  All it takes is being willing to be completely present.


Book:  WOW:  A Handbook for Living

Authors:  Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono

Publisher: One Peace Books [2010]

On the back cover of this book there is a statement:  “This book will not change your life.  You will change your life.

The book began because Zen Ohashi, a Japanese business management coach, was asked to put together written material that would explain his methods for a company that was implementing his program and techniques.

He had two weeks to do it and immediately suffered writer’s block.  Nothing was coming out right.

So, he got help.  He called a friend, Zono Kurazono, a fellow member of his music band,  to come and help him.

Kurazono was a magazine editor as well as an active songwriter, singer and guitarist, so he was a good choice for the work.

Ohashi described what he needed.  Ohashi was thinking of a straight transcription job:  Ohashi would talk about his method and Kurazono would write it down on paper exactly. For that, Ohashi offered to pay his friend $100.

Kurazono came over right away carrying a large rolled-up piece of paper.

Ohashi gave a 15-minute presentation of his method.  Then Kurozono unrolled the two-foot by two-and-a-half foot Post-It note he was carrying and stuck it on a wall.  The Post-It listed three levels of service.

  • Standard: $100 (simply transcribe exactly what’s said directly on to paper)
  • Premium: $500 (take notes on what’s said and prepare materials)
  • Executive: $1000 (take notes on what’s said and prepare materials that will not only be presentable and clear, but passionate and interesting.)

Ohashi went for the Executive level.

The project took a year.

During that time Ohashi broke down his methods into 31 techniques, each with its own exercise.  Kurazono added pictures and massaged the typography until every page was an engaging bit of design.

It was not boring, and the techniques were all tiny little steps and changes that made sense and seem easy to do (but are really not).

Somewhere in that process, by the time the book was done, it had become more than a business technique manual.

Ohashi’s techniques and exercises that helped people increase their productivity at work became tools and practices for addressing issues that might be holding back a person from having the kind of life he or she wanted.

After it was done the friends decided to self-publish their manuscript.  They thought that they might be able to sell it on the Internet.  They took the manuscript to Kinko’s to be printed and bound.

Their first customer was the girl who worked at Kinko’s.  She fell in love with the book while she was putting it together.

The new published authors left the print shop with 24 copies of their new book and their first $18.  It went on from there.

Apparently this is the only book these authors wrote.  At least, it’s the only one that became an international phenomenon in its time.

The book itself is deceptively simple.  It’s an easily digestible, practical guide to ways that enhance communication, build relationships, and preserve emotional balance.  The pictures are eye-catching and often have little to do with the words, but somehow they do work to help you retain the thoughts presented.

It is a short read and, if you like the style, might have you going back to it again and again.

It is very open-ended.

It asks questions and presents novel ways of looking at assorted issues.

It points fingers toward directions one could take when trying to deal with a challenging situation and it creates a process where you can find your own answers, often with the help of a friend.

An interesting read.


All of these books (like any other book in this genre) only work if you actually implement and consistently use the moves they lay out for you.  If you don’t do the work, THEY don’t work.  That’s just how it is.

In any case, I must say, collecting insights is a good hobby and if you’re close to a decent public library, and you don’t go in for attending massively expensive conferences and get-togethers of like-minded beings, it’s even cheap.

The insights do not take up a lot of space and they make great starter points for assorted writing projects, including Life-Built Poems.

Who knows?   You, too, might even get to be a blog-writer.  Woo-hoo!

Here’s another poem:



When you’ve moved mountains of crud out of the way,

Hammering out a window, a door, a tunnel entrance

From inside to outside

So the light from a million million suns

Can shine into your self-made cave and

You can see where you sit….

After all that effort and painful exertion,

You are tired,

But it is not the time to dawdle.


Your next goal is clear:

With the help from the light and from time and change,

You must spread the universal solvent of

Understanding, balance, and return

And rub it all over the mountain, inside and out,

Until the thing’s dissolved into the light….



This could get to be a full-time job.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture:  Three Books (my files)

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.









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