This was not the book for me at all, but it was excellently written. Basically, Stand Firm is an application of Stoic philosophy to the modern era. It is serious anti-self help as opposed to the joke-y anti-self help of Sara Knight like Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do.

Brinkmann provides seven steps that outline his plan to apply Stoicism to your life and free yourself from the (as he sees it) needless, endless introspection and self improvement that plagues modern society. “In spheres like diet, health and exercise, a veritable religion has emerged that constantly churns out new edicts to follow and regimes to live by. … It seems that we- and I’m not afraid to count myself among the collective ‘we’- lack purpose and direction, and run around looking for the latest recipe for happiness, progress and success. From a psychological perspective, this resemble a collective state of dependency.” loc 118, ebook.

I disagree. I think that the myriad of different approaches are only of benefit to society. No one solution is going to fit everyone. The variety appeals to the varying needs.

Brinkmann also talks about using ‘negative visualization’ to build a sense of appreciation and gratitude: “Think about losing something (or someone) you care for and note how this enhances the pleasure you derive from it/them. Psychologists speak of the concept of ‘hedonic adaptation,’ i.e. that we very quickly get used to the good life. Negative visualization can counteract hedonic adaptation and make you more grateful.” loc 497, ebook. Just playing the devil’s advocate here, but you can also build appreciation through positive visualization. See Thank & Grow Rich: A 30-Day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy for more about that.

He explains why suppressing emotion is a good thing and should be practiced: “… the worship of authenticity in the pursuit of true feelings infantilises us. … As an adult, you should admire those who are capable of controlling- even suppressing- negative emotions. You should also be careful not to casually hurl around positive emotions. When repeated too many times, ‘Wow, that’s megafantastic!’ quickly loses its meaning.” loc 759, ebook. Again, I just can’t agree. It doesn’t feel right to me. That’s kind of the point of this book, that I shouldn’t trust those quickly passing ‘feelings’, but I do.

“Self-help literature is part of the problem, and should be ignored. However, since reading is generally a good thing, I recommend you throw yourself into a different type of literature instead- namely novels.” loc 983. Eh, read whatever you want, whenever you want, as much as you want- that’s my recommendation.

I guess I figured out that I’m not a Stoic. Not a huge surprise there, but if you think that you may be or you’re just generally interested in Stoic philosophy- you should read this book. As for me, I’m going to go back to my navel-gazing, infantilising feeling releasing, self help inspired life. Stand Squishy, that’s me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Polity Publishing for a free digital copy of this book. And, thank you for reading!

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One thought on “Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze by Svend Brinkmann

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