Everybody wants to be happy and successful, but what do these words really mean? There is no shortage of people to tell you: your parents, your siblings, school mates, teachers, work mates, boss; not to mention TV, films, novels, the Internet, society in general. In the rush to `get through’ life we are endlessly pressured by others and can end up asking ourselves, “”Who am I, and how did I get here?” These are questions that are central to Huljich’s book, and it is his belief that by ignoring the answers we end up in physical and emotional stress, and that this, at best, reduces the quality of our life, and, at worst, ends in psychological conditions like depression and bi-polar disease.
This is a book written by a layman for the layman, though it would be wrong to think that it is therefore not scholarly. Huljich was intelligent enough to be enrolled at university and he has written a well-researched book. There are pertinent references and an extensive bibliography for those who want to dig deeper, reading about particular experiments and epidemiological/sociological surveys. But the real strength of this book is that it comes out of Huljich’s own struggle with mental illness, and out of his determination not to be dominated by this condition forever. Huljich overcame his illness to a degree that is quite rare, and has spent a further 10 year researching the subject. As a result the book is immensely practical, full of common sense, balanced and written in such a way that the `ordinary person’ can understand it. Even more those suffering from stress will immediately relate to this book because it has an `insiders’ view.
As an example of Huljich’s wise insight into human nature I will quote the following passage:
“In my experience with people suffering from stress-related conditions, I’ve noticed a strong sense of denial and failure to realize that we have the opportunity to change our lives. We can take charge of our own health and peace of mind.” (p.39)
Later in the book Huljich devotes a whole chapter to “unconscious habits” (p.48) and behavior patterns. The philosopher and mystic G.I. Gurdjieff observed that most modern people are “sleepwalking”, unthinkingly going through life, guided entirely by outside pressures and never really reaching their full, individual potential. Society certainly tells us how to think, what success and happiness is, but what is it to the inner man, to each individual? Huljich, like Gurdjieff, and indeed others, believes that it is up to each individual to discover their own definitions.
As the subtitle suggests the book revolves around 9 steps to cope with stress. Steps 1, 2, and 3 deal with helpful mental attitudes and are foundational to the whole approach. Steps 4, 5, 6 and 7 are practical tools that can be carried out each day. Steps 8 and 9 encourage continued personal assessment and improvement.
The chapter of the book which will most come under criticism is: “Step4 : Affirmations”. Many people reading this will immediately dismiss it as new age hokum: totally ineffective. Huljich, however, points out that it is our thoughts that drive our behavior, and that these thoughts are often automatic, and the result of repartition over many years. We need to interrupt old thoughts and build new thought patterns. This may sound hokum to you, but it is the foundation of cognitive psychology, the most researched and proven school of psychology today.
The section on titled “Survival, My Story” of course narrates Huljich’s own battle with bi-polar disease. It adds considerable authenticity to the book, telling us clearly that that Paul has been there, suffering severely, and is not an armchair commentator. Also, those who suffer will immediately feel solidarity. Most of all this section shows that serious, chronic mental illness can be gradually and carefully overcome to the point of virtually total success.
One slight criticism I have is that the book is a bit repetitive, but Huljich needs to get his points through and, as I have pointed out, we tend to be woolly headed about life: asleep. Huljich indeed recommends that the whole book be returned to again and again to check that you are not straying into trouble, and to see if you can gain further insight into your own behavior.
Another slight criticism is that some minor details can be questioned. I did, for example, raise my eyebrows at the recommendation of decaffeinated green tea. The solvents used to extract the caffeine are quite unhealthy and certainly at odds with Huljich’s organic produce approach to nutrition. It must be remembered, however, that Huljich struggled with very serious neurochemical imbalances and that this probably justifies the inclusion of this beverage.
If you feel that this book is a little too `full on’ for you try Huljich’s novel BETRAYAL of love and freedom which contains some of the information in this book in a quite readable and entertaining form.
For those who still doubt Huljich’s approach a simple search of any database containing reports of health experiments will easily reveal that he is not talking nonsense.
Huljich has written a most practical, helpful, sensible and well researched book. This is in fact the best book on stress I have ever read. I studied psychology as a part of my Bachelor of Arts degree.