Sometimes you find a book you need and sometimes the book you need appears at the right time. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and thrive in Work and Life happened to play a later role in my life. Embracing change? Good at it. Getting unstuck? Suck at it big time. Talking to a professional only chipped away at a rather large emotional iceberg and some books provided an angle here or there, even fictional characters. Around December, I felt worn out and stuck. I picked up the book as an audiobook from Audible using my credit and listened to it in the car, before bed, as I washed dishes. When I finished the book, I started it again, I picked it up from the library to look at passages catching my attention, and now consider either the space-saving ebook or paperback.
I guess the first paragraph is a roundabout way of saying go get this book. Self-help books do have a reputation for being fuzzy or capitalizing on people need for affirmation. David, much like Brene Brown, bust the self-help market by not only talking about their experiences to build bridges with their readers but have something else I like-years of research and writing about a subject.
In Dr. David’s case, this topic began as an article in the Harvard Business Review. (Note: You can read three free articles on the site, but someone at your friendly-neighbourhood library can see if it’s available in a database.) If you are not sure about investing time or money in the book, a TED talk from TEDWomen2017 can give people a taste:
Emotional Agility explores the hooks in our thoughts, those ruminations colouring our life stories either at home or at work. Those hooks include the feelings we try to ignore, gaining more power in ignorance than blurting them out publically. Sometimes just acknowledging we have emotions such as anger or sadness can provide a giant step forward to fully embracing our humanity. Sometimes, in my experience, the most relentlessly cheerful person harbours torrents of rage. The same goes for the angry person to acknowledge the soft-centre underpinning of their anger, maybe regain their humanity by going beyond having the anger and understanding why.
The book has many useful chapters beyond the ones outlining the ‘hooks’ and ways of acknowledging them. The chapter on work proved useful as I thought yup, I do that to oh, so that’s why so-and-so says/does this. A chapter on writing builds on research by James Pennebaker about the relationship between writing and emotional processing. As the reader of her own audiobook, David’s voice projects warmth, confidence, and an understanding of her field. It’s the perfect book for long commutes on crowded buses or in traffic. However, I did find myself taking out a library copy to read specific chapters over again, rather than dealing with the fast-forward function on the audiobook. Some concepts need annotating after repeated reading and processing.
I dub books like David’s ‘Springboard Books.’ Emotional Agility provides a jumping off point in changing behaviours either on your own or in partnership with a professional. (Susan David is a psychologist by training.) When people say, a book is ‘readable’ it doesn’t have to mean ‘simply written.’ Susan David can break down research into forms needed for a given topic whether it’s an anecdote from her life or lives of others or summarizing concepts from the social sciences or business. It’s a book of substance, needed substance, for those noticing patterns but has no means to name them and claim them. Sometimes naming those emotional hooks can help a person stop being a fish on the line and actually swim in the river of their own lives.