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Book Review | Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down by Corey Keyes

From the publisher: Languishing—the state of mental weariness that erodes our self-esteem, motivation, and sense of meaning—can be easy to brush off as the new normal, especially since indifference is one of its symptoms. Languishing is a must-read for anyone tempted to downplay feelings of demotivation and emptiness as they struggle to haul themselves through the day, and for those eager to build a higher tolerance for adversity and the pressures of modern life.

I don’t read a lot of self-help books, but like a lot of people post-pandemic, I find that I am struggling to stay engaged and find energy and meaning. Languishing wants to take its readers from languishing to flourishing. Author Keyes hit home with me right from this passage in the Introduction: “The simple question ‘How are you?’ can feel like an unwelcome pop quiz, leaving you casting about for a socially acceptable response, not quite knowing the answer yourself.” Keyes includes a list of 12 symptoms of languishing, and all 12 of them rang true.

That said, I don’t feel like this book presented me with a clear path to change. I agreed with a lot of what I was reading (much of which I’ve read elsewhere but not all in one place), but I don’t feel inspired to run out and act on the Action Plans. I guess that’s the real challenge though, if you aren’t feeling inspired, to find inspiration and change.

Some of the sad but true areas the author covers are an epidemic of loneliness, the need for a certain amount of adversity to find a high life satisfaction, the necessity of finding purpose in life, and the joy of play. The chapter on play especially resonated with me. He writes about how many people these days are so obsessed with documenting whatever they are doing that they forgot to live in the moment. A lesson for everyone: “Don’t let your smartphone and your obsession with social media remove all the joy from your joy, okay?” (chapter 9)

This book is part memoir and part self-help. The author lived through an abusive childhood and continues to struggle with his own mental health. This helped me feel that this person at least understands what he is writing about. I also agree with him that we need to spend more time, money and effort on mental health, not just mental illness.

This is a gently encouraging book that I continue to think about. If you are feeling worn down and are struggling to find meaning, you may find Languishing worth a read. I read an advance reader copy of Languishing. It is scheduled to be published on February 20, and Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Book Review | Us by Terrence Real

From the publisher: Not much is harder than figuring out how to love your partner in all their messy humanness—and there’s also not much that’s more important.

At a time when toxic individualism is rending our society at every level, bestselling author and renowned marriage counselor Terrence Real sees how it poisons intimate relationships in his therapy practice, where he works with couples on the brink of disaster. The good news: Warmer, closer, more passionate relationships are possible if you have the right tools. 

This is one of those books that I think everyone should read. Even though it’s designed to help those in romantic relationships, this book changed how I see all of my relationships. Real encourages readers to question the individual-centric culture that is prevalent in western society and reminds us that social connections, on multiple levels, have been necessary for a healthy society since the dawn of humanity. He encourages people to be more patient and empathetic with one another, asking the reader to ask themselves: how is what I’m about to say going to make the other person feel? Real also reminds readers that if the goal of arguing with their partner is to win the argument, both parties end up losing. Though it’s easy to say what one should do when not upset, Real provides sound advice by asking readers to take a deep breath and remind themselves that they love the person they are arguing with before hurling insults or attacking that person’s character.

Having worked with thousands of couples, Real provides clients’ stories as case studies to exemplify his points. Real proves to be a trustworthy source, as he is able to admit his own biases when working with clients. I listened to the audiobook, which is available through Libby. Real himself narrates the book. I always appreciate it when authors narrate their own books, because I think they know the most effective intonation and inflection to convey their message. Clocking in at 10 hours, this book was so easy to digest and flowed so smoothly that I listened to it in pretty much one sitting.

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