In my last post, I wrote about why I was disappointed by bell hook’s book All About Love. On further reflection, I think it reminds me too much of how I’d listen to sermons in church that would lay out the very real human problems of emotional pain but then — while I was eagerly waiting a good bit of advice — would say something like “keep your eyes on Jesus” or some such useless guidance. I did read further into hook’s book, but the next chapter went into a sermon about how “perfect love casts out fear” according to the Bible and therefore if your love has any fear in it is not perfect. Sorry what? I think the problem here is the idea of searching for some sort of perfect transcendent ideal spiritual love — which, sorry, we are always going to fall short of. But that is fine because it not what we need. That is still basically religion. While hooks doesn’t advocate anything like fundamentalist religion — even harshly criticizing “organized religion” frequently — there is still this sense that we are broken as human beings and need something spiritual to fix us. But really what we really need is belonging and acceptance and personal worth and social support, not some unattainable ideal of “perfect love.”
I returned the book and went was looking for an alternative, and I think I found a good one. I was going searching though TED talks for something inspirational to watch and came across this.
After watching the TED talk I went ahead and got his book Emotional First Aid on my Kindle. While you can’t expect to buy a self-help book to solve all your problems, I have found this one to very accurate in describing basic emotional wounds — failure, loneliness, rumination, and others — and very simple and practical ways of helping them heal. (Also, importantly, there is guidance on when simple ‘first aid’ isn’t enough and you should probably see a professional therapist.) It’s what I always wished from those sermons but never got. And none of it involves praying, or looking to a higher power, or any spiritual fluff. It’s not an atheist book exactly, and I have no clue what religious beliefs the author might hold, but it’s godless in the best kind of way.
After my complaints about the other book, I decided it would be good to mention a good alternative. So here it is.