This book was sent to me by Penguin Life in exchange for my honest opinion.
08.02.2018 / Penguin Life / Non Fiction / Hardback / 320pp / 978-0241976388
Target Audience: Readers who want a better understanding of emotions and how repressing or ignoring emotional impulses have serious ramifications. Those who enjoy a good self-help book.
About It’s Not Always Depression
Accessible psychotherapy to put us back in touch with our emotions, from the Mental Health Consultant to Mad Men.
We were all taught that our thoughts affect our emotions, but in truth it is largely the other way around: we have to experience our emotions to truly understand our thoughts, and our full selves. This is why we should think not only about cognitive behavioural therapy or medication, but also about our emotions, when addressing psychological suffering.
In It’s Not Always Depression, pioneering psychotherapist Hilary Jacobs Hendel reveals the most effective techniques for putting us back in touch with the emotions we too often deny – methods which can be used by anyone, any time, anywhere. Drawing on stories from her own practice, she sheds light on the core emotions (such as joy, sadness and fear), defences (anything we do to avoid feeling) and inhibitory emotions (anxiety, shame and guilt), and how understanding their interaction can help us return to mental well-being.
This is the basis of ‘accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy:’ it accelerates healing through having an emotional experience in the here and now.
It allows you to reacquaint yourself with your feelings, to recover a more authentic self and to be more calm, curious and connected.
I am not a person who enjoys reading self-help books. I didn’t even realise It’s Not Always Depression was one until I started reading it. Luckily for me, though there are exercises and experiments aimed at improvement, there is quite a lot of neuroscience and psychology content available within these pages too. After a slightly edgy foreword by Diana Fosha, creator of an innovative approach to psychiatry called Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP for short), Hilary Jacobs Hendel doesn’t waste any time getting us up to speed on the importance of re-balancing our repressed or misinterpreted emotions.
Through empathetic, refreshingly honest and visceral patient studies, a thorough breakdown of HJH’s work with AEDP and a collection of quizzes, tests, experiments and thought exercises, HJH implores us to rediscover our core emotions using the simple method in the form of the Change Triangle. I too was slightly dubious about this subject at the start of reading It’s Not Always Depression but as HJH hits her stride and begins to impart some much needed wisdom about our emotional needs and how to work towards restoring the flow of our core emotions, I became seriously impressed. Yeah it is not the neuroscience treat that I envisioned but it is only a step away from it. The Change Triangle is made up of defensive behaviour, inhibitory emotions and core emotions. Each step leads to deeper acknowledgements of our emotional brain and how it affects our bodies.
Now I know I make it sound a bit fancy but it is deeply rooted in science with plenty of theories, practical applications, analysis and functional moments a long with a big dose of understanding. HJH explains the sociological, biological and cultural ramifications of not dealing with shame, guilt and anxiety and the resulting defensiveness that accompanies these feelings. Anger, frustration, bad relationships and more can be avoided by taking more time to comprehend the emotional network in your body and how to deal with negative emotions and encourage positive ones that lead to compassion, empathy and control.
I was amazed by how open HJH was with her patient histories and the interactions that she took part in when treating each patient. I did feel connected to the material and the struggles people were working through, especially in childhood trauma situations (I did tear up quite a bit). I even walked away from this book with some incredibly helpful information that will help improve my personal life. HJH is dedicated to improving mental health across the world and in doing so hoping to improve physical health. Less stress related illnesses, less depression, less anger and more focus on enjoying the short lives we lead.
There were a few elements of this book that didn’t sit as well as the rest. I found HJH’s ‘doctor voice’ tone a bit patronising and grating at times. The content is quite repetitive as well, relying on reinforcement over new information. The introduction by Diana Fosha almost put me off reading this because it didn’t set the tone for the book very well at all. I understand that Diana has worked long and hard for this project but her opening words felt out of place and undermining, like someone who dashes to answer a question you’ve been asked before you can.
HJH does a fantastic and approachable job redefining AEDP for us all to use to improve our day-to-day interactions and our overall mental health. Giving useful information on parenting, relationships and workplace environments. Each chapter and the accompanying exercises and quizzes work towards achieving a state of openheartedness that will have huge benefits for any individual not matter how lost or conflicted. Life isn’t as black and white as we see it when we fight or freeze our emotions.
There is a lot of nuance to the emotions we experience, it just takes a few steps realise it. I did 100% agree with something that Diana said right at the beginning, this is a must read for any human being.
About Hilary Jacobs Hendel
Hilary Jacobs Hendel is a certified psychoanalyst and AEDP psychotherapist and supervisor, and has published articles in The New York Times and many professional journals. Her blog posts have been shared worldwide. She runs a full-time practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and was the Mental Health Consultant for the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning show Mad Men.