A step-by-step guide towards self-discovery

Selfhood

A Key to the Recovery of Emotional Wellbeing, Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental Health Problems

Dr Terry Lynch

Mental Health Publishing, €16

Review: Jennifer Hough

From birth to death, the only ever-present relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. And for this reason, you must work hard on building and maintaining that relationship.

So says Dr Terry Lynch in Selfhood: a Key to the Recovery of Emotional Wellbeing, Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental Health Problems.

Writing with years of hands-on experience, the Limerick psychotherapist says he has yet to meet a person diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, or any other major mental health problem, who had a solid and strong sense of what he calls “selfhood”.

Best known for his best-seller Beyond Prozac, Dr Lynch calls the publication a workbook with practical advice and coping strategies — something people can dip in and out of, use as a reference book, life guide and self-help book.

Selfhood is not your average self-help book though, it is much more. The beauty of it is that for those who don’t have the good fortune to attend Dr Lynch, this is the next best thing. His voice and authority speak in every page and he gives solid actions and step-by-step advice for people to follow.

The book also tells stories of people he has seen in his practice over the years and these snapshots provide invaluable and insightful examples of the kind of situations he has dealt with, providing hope to people who may feel there is none.

Dr Lynch firmly believes childhood experiences can affect a person’s emotional wellbeing.

A major shock at any stage of life can erode selfhood, but for children the experience is every more damaging, he says. He maintains that if left exposed to anger, violence, abuse or emotional neglect, children can lose touch with parts of themselves which reduces self-confidence and sows doubts about their lovability, capability and acceptability.

Although this is clearly a book for people who have low self-esteem and may be in treatment, it is also for anyone who is feeling disconnected from life, or themselves.

The book talks about a journey towards self-discovery — one that can take some time depending on how damaged selfhood is. But it is a journey that needs time, energy, dedication and close attention.

Change, writes Dr Lynch, will not happen over night. “Changing your habits patterns, world view and self-perception will take time ... you are your own life manager. You are your own personal decision maker. You have choices in every situation and you are continually making choices and decisions whether you realise it or not. If you feel you are always depending on other people for safety, esteem, approval, acceptance and other aspects of selfhood this is occurring because of your repeated choice to live in this manner.”

Selfhood is for life, says Dr Lynch, so the journey to find it “takes as long as it takes”.


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