With his insight into how and why we suffer, psychotherapist Dr. Bryan Bushman offers valuable advice on how to change behaviors that result in misery
Bushman introduces the human condition succinctly: “We experience pain because we’re alive; we experience suffering because of how we respond.” To relieve suffering caused by unhealthy responses, he offers a well-organized, two-part program: Part One explains how to decrease suffering. Part Two teaches how to develop acceptance, which he emphasizes is not resignation, self-blame, or passivity but a sound resolution to seek a better life.
Part One offers detailed, clinical explanations of the three pathways of suffering: avoidance, craving, and fusing (when “a person’s reality has temporarily merged with his or her pain.”) We may find ourselves on these paths, he posits, because of childhood influences, lies we tell ourselves, and self-defeating behaviors. To allow us to make healthier choices, he explains a strategy he has given the acronym TRIALS.
In Part Two, he introduces the concept of acceptance: acknowledging pain while acting to resolve its cause. He uses another acronym, ACCEPT, to break this down into actionable steps such as “explore possibilities” and “put aside pride.”
Although this is clearly organized and extremely thorough, Bushman’s prose reads more like a textbook for fellow psychotherapists than a self-help guide for patients. Readers struggling to feel better may not have the patience to delve into every child’s four core emotional needs or the five main dimensions of personality. Still, there are ample examples for how to use his strategies in various situations, many from his own clinical work. Two valuable chapters that conclude each Part do a terrific job of summarizing more succinctly the key steps to suffer less.
In About the Author, Bushman displays a quirky sense of humor that would have been welcome throughout. He’s a well-educated, experienced, companionable healer: Here, the former qualities overshadow the latter. Nonetheless, he offers a solid, helpful pathway to healing emotional pain.