Talk about a rough read. The entire time I was reading this, I kept thinking back to that phrase from the 2001 movie A Knight’s Tale: “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.” Please don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t solely from this book or the last few that I’ve read that this thought process stems from, trust me. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for the past year and a half and as much as I’ve improved, I knew I was still struggling with myriad issues.
I mentioned when I wrote about Crucial Conversations that I’d had one recently and that the feedback I got hurt like hell but was something that I needed to hear. And honestly I can’t thank that person enough for having the candor to tell me what they did and spurring me to take a long look at myself. Again, don’t get me completely wrong I’ve not been hiding that I’m a horrible person, but I’ve definitely struggled for some time and after reading this I’m wondering how long I’ve been struggling and not knowing or, more than likely, not admitting it.
It’s funny how quickly things change. Back in May and June of last year I spent a good amount of time complaining about running and if you asked me then, if I’d ever read a memoir about running I would’ve looked at you like your face just fell off. Needless to say, I’m still not enamored with running, but I can say I’m incredibly glad I read it and it’s made me think differently how I will approach the future (both running and normal).
I stumbled across this book randomly and once I got it from my local library I read it in less than two days. I requested it because Murakami’s fiction writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever read and I wanted to know how it translated to nonfiction. Not only did it translate amazingly, but this was the exact book I needed to read at the moment. I’ve been struggling to make it to CrossFit and to keep up my training/running.
I’m going to start with an apology as I know part of this post won’t make sense and most of this post isn’t really a reflection of the book. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have to make sense to you and it’s my blog so how I process the book is what you get. A large portion of this blog is for self-reflection and for internal processing. Unfortunately things will stay pretty vague as the purpose of this isn’t to air dirty laundry in public, but to help me process things. So stick with me.
Crucial Conversations is the second book my journey in my 2014 mental health improvement plans. However, it probably should have been book one, but I didn’t know this at the time and to be fair the books are pretty interchangeable. I only mention this as this book closes with the same examples Duhigg’s The Power of Habit opens with and references multiple times.
Charles Duhigg refers to this work as “a framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting with how they might change” (loc. 4405) and, not surprising, that’s exactly what it is. The Power of Habit provides an overview of how people, businesses and social movements have harnessed the processes behind building habits. And there is no doubt that Duhigg is a good writer. I found myself tearing up on multiple occasions, more for the story itself rather than his writing, but his ability to select the examples and write about them in such a way to evoke emotions is undeniable.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’re well aware that I spent 2013 working hard to make progress towards getting healthier physically. What I didn’t take the time on last year was my mental health. I knew coming in to 2014, I wanted to read books about various topics that I think could help me in my future relationships and friendships, my self doubts and even my future career (apparently a lot of the self-help books are found in therapy, business and self-help; odd?). So be forewarned this blog might get more personal than it ever has in the past.
As with most pop-psychology books, I’m a little torn: do the benefits of the book outweigh the drawbacks of the book? And, as with any book, I found both good and bad parts. I can say regardless, I am glad I finally read this book. It’s been on my to-be-read list for ages, but the push from my friend Dominic spurred me to move it up my list.
The largest challenge I faced while reading The Velvet Rage was having to constantly remind myself that Downs wrote this book for the “masses” and not for academia or research. And as often as I did this, I still wound up harshly judging Downs’ generic and stereotypical observations, which I do for anyone including my own. His generalizations were not wrong, stereotypes exist for a reason, but I did have to ask how Downs’ feels about this and whether he has since acknowledged this as he does not discuss it in the novel. There is an updated, 20th anniversary, version of this book which would be interesting to read.