Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (Anglais) Broché – 1 mai 1995
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This interests me to reread this, because having first read this book in 1994, I wrote so many detailed introspective notes that I too can say, I've learned a lot from thinking and writing about the "learning lessons" of my life.
And this is a life-time process.
So, what are the 6 Pillars of Self-esteem?
First, I'd like to say that a healthy dose of self-esteem is thinking for yourself, no matter what is going on around you; while you maintain the belief that you deserve to be happy.
And happiness is when you can say that you have more joy than pain in your life.
The 6 pillars are:
1. Live Consciously
This requires us to be fully in the present moment. And for
most, this takes a bit of practice, because many of us are
conditioned to disown the here and now, to survive what we
have thought that we cannot handle.
2. Accept Yourself
Yes. You have flaws and attributes. You also have the
opportunity to enhance who you are, by accepting everything
about yourself. In fact, the only way to enhance who you
are is to accept yourself.
3. Take Responsibility for Your Experiences
Through my journey, I have learned to be in conversations
where I say to myself, "It comes down to 'this is where you
end, and I begin,'"
Saying such an affirmation has helped me to congruently say
what I will and will not experience. And this is quite
liberating not only to myself, but also to my interlocutor
(most of the time)
4. Assert Who You Are
Honor what you think, feel, believe, need and want. Yes,
for many readers this may be a challenge. But the results
of accepting this challenge are wonderfully fulfilling.
5. Live Purposefully
Make an agreement with yourself to reach your highest
potential, while you maintain balance in your life.
6. Maintain Your Integrity
Know exactly what your principles are. And stick to them,
no matter what others think or do.
This is an easy to follow book that is also between the caliber of a "self-help" book and a "psychology" book.
The heart of this book is the sentence-completion exercises which Branden has developed during his decades as a practicing psychologist. The exercises are designed to bring about change gently. Because the effect is gradual and cumulative, you will begin to notice subtle positive changes in your thinking and behavior without having to summon superhuman resources of willpower. The exercises take about fifteen minutes a day to do and there are about a year's worth in the book. The most profound beneficial effect this book has had on me so far is to make me more aware of my own values and desires and to keep me honest with myself; this awareness of who I really want to be has served as a reminder when it comes time to make choices, and has helped me to make the right choices for myself.
Branden's 'Six Pillars' is the leading example of this presently, in my life.
After an insightful look at the roots of self-esteem, the sentence-completion exercises he leads you thru start stirring up powerful stuff.
(NB: I didn't believe mere sentence-completion exercises could achieve much before I began them.)
My first reaction was horror, at how low my self-esteem had sunk over the years. I'd bet that's a common response.
Then some new stuff started to be 'installed': in small practical ways I started feeling better about myself, and life.
Simultaneously I saw bad, old ideas dissolving - bad, old patterns breaking up.
Some are still there, of course: you have to keep at it.
Seven weeks now, and I'm still game for quite a bit more. Tho I don't want to become a lifelong therapy junkie - that's one of the more subtle form of addiction IMO - so will pull the plug at some stage.
I also exprienced (once) hitting bedrock: low self-esteem stuff that would not be moved, and felt it was as old as the cells in my body.
Just coming thru that now: it seems the exercises will shift that stuff too, or at least some of it.
All up, this is the most powerful therapeutic method I've employed. That might be because self-esteem is the most basic, or all-embracing, psychological phenomenon I've yet worked on.
I can't imagine anyone not benefiting from this book, tho the more assiduous you are in absorbing its message and doing the exercises - that is, the more desperate you are to change - the more you'll get out of it.
I posted an earlier review of the book, so I won't go into how special a thinker and writer I think Branden is. Or how carefully argued the Six Pillars is. I just wanted to point out that to Branden, logic and reason are sacred things, and to discredit him without using logic or reason is a bit of an insult to his work.
Branden says people need to "raise" their self-esteem, what they really need to do is change the image they have of themselves in specific areas. I don't feel Branden offers much framework in this area. The sentence completions are helpful but not life-changing by themselves. Throughout the book he points out people's problem areas but we don't see examples of people making life altering changes over time.
Another major flaw I find in Branden's writing, although not so much in this book, is his work on what he calls "social metaphysics". It sounds complicated, but it's what everyone else calls "people skills" or networking. Branden's philosophy doesn't have room for people who care about what others think or change themselves to "fit in". He dismisses this as people being afraid to think for themselves and thus relying on other to think for them, in the traditional Objectivist, Real Person-Second Hander model.
While Branden is right to an extent that people need to be able to think for themselves, the truth is their is an evolutionary reason behind why people act this way. I realized this why working on my resume and my paper on antitrust legislation. What I learned was that, in any given situation, there are just so many facts out there it's impossible to get them all, and that a lot of times the facts are just misleading. A lot of people with high GPAs are idiots who know how to brown-nose and take easy classes. As a result, when the facts aren't conclusive, you have to rely on people's judgement. In that manner, what people think is important. In addition, fitting into society and various smaller sub-societies requires people to adhere to certain subtle unwritten rules. For instance, I'd be happy wearing my wrinkled shirts every day because it's just as comfortable to me and I don't waste time ironing them. But people see that as sloppy, so I do iron my clothes. I also am nice to people I don't really like, because that makes life easier than the alternative. People have evolved characteristics to do these sorts of things automatically to make life simpler. You can read more about them in the book _Influence_ by Robert Cialdiani (sp). Branden is right, sometimes it's better to ignore these impulses, but his quick-fix, always be an individual philosophy is not going to make you a happier person. It's just going to make your life harder. Like most things, you have to find a balance.
All in all this is an ok book. It has some fundamental problems, but it is easy reading and can be of some help to someone who is caught in a rut in life. It is not Oprah book club worthless pop psychology or discussion on whether you're unsuccessful because you lusted after your mom or your sister growing up. However I think it is of limited benefit, certainly over-stated by many reviewers, and Objectivist ethics as a whole is not a healthy or satisifying way to live your life.
As an alternative, I recommend a book called _Psycho-cybernetics_ by Maxwell Maltz. The book covers much of the same material but offers real solutions and a workable philosophy. The key to getting rid of negative feelings and bad self-esteem is to relax away and ignore the thoughts and feelings, not dwell on them or neurotically try to make them go away by "proving" them wrong. That is something I learned from personal experience, reading Rand/Branden in 1999 and Maltz in 2002. As an aside, while Branden talks a lot about reason and facts in his book, Maltz actually quotes actual scientific studies whereas Branden rarely if ever does. Ever since 1999 I have been reading psychology and philosophy and after all this time I've come to the conclusion that life is keeping a positive attitude, keeping your cool, doing your best and letting the dice fall where they may. The rest is intellectual ....