Friday, December 22, 2006

Book Review: Mental Traps

No matter how good we think we are at thinking, we inevitably fall into mental traps that paralyse us, waste energy, waste time, and reduce productivity or cause pain and suffering. Andre Kukla, a philosopher and psychologist, identifies eleven mental traps after a chapter discussing the general nature of these thinking traps. Some examples: Persistence: continuing to work on projects that have lost their value. Amplification: working harder than necessary to achieve our aim. Fixation: when progress toward a goal is blocked and we become immobilised. Mental Traps is full of practical wisdom and, as we read it, we are jolted time and time again when we recognise ourselves in its pages. The book is beautifully and simply written with no jargon; and the typical cliched New Age mystical nonsense found in so many self-help books is absent. The last chapter of the book gives some guidance on how to avoid mental traps when we recognise them and an appendix on a strategy Kukla calls thought watching which encourages deep reflection on our thought processes. Some readers will, perhaps, find his affirmation of feelings as primary in leading to beliefs and decisions uncomfortable. But that's ok -- when we experience discomfort it is a sign that we need to think critically and more deeply about the issue. If you check out the Amazon website for details of this book (just click on the book image at the start of this review) you can read an interview with the author. Kukla is clearly informed by a number of Eastern perspectives, particularly Buddhism. But the book avoids religious language or psycho-babble. Wisdom, wherever it is found, should be listened to. And this book contains a lot of wisdom. A thoroughly worthwhile read.

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