Martha’s Bookshelf: December 2010

Sometimes the best self-help books aren’t self-help books at all. This month, the most thought-provoking story I encountered was Portia deRossi’s Unbearable Lightness, a memoir of the television star’s eating disorder. The author is grimly revealing as she describes both the behavior and inner-life of someone in the grips of compulsion. What struck me most about deRossi’s account were her descriptions of the continuous self-talk that runs through every human mind — and in her case became monstrously destructive. Some people romanticize self-loathing; Unbearable Lightness reveals self-loathing to be monotonous, annoying and boring. By the time I finished this book, I’d made the same vow Jill Bolte Taylor describes in her book, My Stroke of Insight; to eliminate hostility and violence toward myself and focus instead on things like gratitude and compassion.

Ultimately, deRossi made the same decision. And while her book gives less detail about her healing than it does about her illness, you’ll feel an almost physical release as she releases her abusive self-control, moves into a zone and fills her mind with animals, nature, love, and self-acceptance.

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