Why Smart People Hurt (Review)

The habit of checking out self-help books is a hard one to break, but I’ve cut back considerably the past few years. I didn’t realize I slipped and brought home another one until I sat down to read my latest gleanings from the library. Like most self-help books, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, The Sensitive, and the Creative is a breezy read. Dr. Eric Maisel has put together one of the more intellectual books of the self-help genre.

smart-EricMaiselDr. Maisel is a San Francisco transplant who was born in the Bronx and grew up in Brooklyn. He’s a prolific writer who contributes to “Psychology Today”, “Professional Artist” magazine, and has authored some 40 books. Maisel developed the specialty called, “Creativity Coaching”. The specialized field helps creative artists and performers through emotional challenges. He is an advocate of “Natural Psychology”.

Right away, I picked up on the existential themes of this book. Dr. Maisel is critical of conventional categories of mental disorders. He posits that people suffer profound sadness, not depression. This book is an introduction to his “updated existential program” that deals with profound sadness.

After I read one chapter, I put the book aside for a few minutes to ponder whether or not to write a review of it. The title Why Smart People Hurt, raised a minor concern in my head. Would I come off as conceited if I wrote a blog post admitting that I read a book with such a title? In the next minute I said to myself, “so what”. Just asking this question made me realize that a read-through might be a good idea.
Although I might not be so smart, people have told me that I’m
sensitive and creative.

My reserve may stem from the fact that we are slogging through life in an anti-intellectual culture. Maisel specifically mentions this as one of the challenges that smart people face.  Right away, in Chapter One, he lists 15 specific challenges that society throws up against smartness and creativity. I can relate to at least a few of them.

Living in a society and a world that does more than disparage smartness, that actually silences smart people. Doing work that day after day and year after year that fails to make use of your brainpower. Feeling alienated from and out of sync with your culture, your family, and your friends. Getting trapped in a narrow corner of a field or discipline where you are forced to do repetitive work for a lifetime. Dealing with a racing brain that inclines itself toward insomnia, manias, obsessions, compulsions, and addictions.

The list intersected with my periodic angst. As I read more of the book, other challenges were presented. How do I find ideas worth loving? How can I deal with hypersensitivity and boredom? Have I struggled to achieve success? As a backdrop was existential questioning. How will I find meaning in life and work.

smart-coverLike many self-help books, Why Smart People Hurt is top-heavy with anecdotal examples. Each chapter ends with a short list of questions for the reader to answer. Self-help readers know this drill very well. Dr. Maisel finally gets around to suggesting approaches to the frustrating situations he outlines. First, we can be miserable about it. (unacceptable) Second, decide what constitutes a meaningful job then find steps to manifest it. Third, decide to let go of the worry for the day.

If a person’s main problem is a racing brain, then a different book is needed than this one. There are many books on meditation, mindfulness training, yoga, and so forth to explore.

The big problem is still largely unaddressed. How to define a meaningful job and how to obtain it. I’m guessing that this concern is addressed in Dr. Maisel’s workshops. The book doesn’t contain anything really substantial to help the reader obtain happiness in meaning. Solving a smart person’s hurt requires more than just advising somebody to decide to be happy.

The pointers laid out as help, turn out to be the usual platitudes we’ve heard and read before. “Make daily use of your available personality.” “Invest in being.” The ever- beloved self-help term, “paradigm shift” also comes into play.  The book presents solutions in the form of more questions to bedevil the reader. Actual techniques to heal the hurt are
not to be found in this tome.

If you’re looking for a source of commiseration and validation for your ennui, Why Smart People Hurt is the book to read.  It is a good way to focus on your problems. It may well be a more constructive way to procrastinate during your efforts to find direction.

I felt very positive and hopeful while reading this book.  When I finished it, I rhetorically asked, “Is that all there is?” It’s the same question that pops up at the end of most other self-help books. Hopefully, this will be the last self- help book I ever read.

{ Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative by Eric Maisel; 256 pages; published 2013 by Conari Press; ISBN: 978-1-57324-626-2 }

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, Health, Meanderings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Smart People Hurt (Review)

  1. gpcox says:

    This sounds more like a book that would help those that live with smart people – how to understand them.

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