Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cathy Alter Takes Advice

Cathy Alter's "Up For Renewal" is the antidote to Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love." In much the same way that coaching is the antidote to therapy.

Where Gilbert tried to put her life back together by eating her way through Italy, praying her way through India, and loving her way through Bali, Alter takes an entirely different approach to solving her problems: she decides to take advice. From women's magazines, no less.

Gilbert's is a spiritual journey, a voyage of inner self-discovery. Even where she is dealing with more bodily needs she is more concerned with the inside, not the outside.

Alter's is a retraining exercise in which she spends a year following the advice she finds in the pages of Elle, Cosmo, In Style, Marie Claire, O, etc.

Of course, I am somewhat late to the "Up For Renewal." But I am not its target demographic either.

I am happy to have discovered it, even at this late date, because its approach has great value, even for people who have never picked up a copy of Cosmo.

I would certainly recommend it over Gilbert's far more costly, and more dubious effort to engage in three kinds of self-indulgence.

As Alter's book begins, she is traumatized by a divorce, and making bad life choices. She does not try to discover why she is making these mistakes, but decides to solve the problem by outsourcing decision-making.

This is an excellent approach to overcoming the effects of trauma. If trauma causes you to make bad decisions, then the solution to the problem is not to explore the trauma, but to outsource decision-making.

If you can succeed in following those decisions rigorously, they will help you to exit the pain of a trauma. Alter's book demonstrates that taking advice is beneficial, even if the advice seems to be somewhat dubious.

When you set your mind to take advice you put your judgment on hold and you disable your ego. Taking advice puts you on the path to discipline and humility.

It also gets you out of your traumatized mind and back in touch with reality.

In fact, when you are taking advice you are not prejudging whether it is good or bad. You are trying it out, to see how it works. You are engaging in trial and error.

As you know women's magazines often come under attack for offering bad advice or for leading women away from the true path of feminism. Link here.

Alter brings her own experience to the debate. For her the lessons she gleaned from women's magazines were life-changing. Basically, they gave her life back to her. Why would anyone want to argue with that?

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