Book Review: Gratitude and Trust

Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life
by Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
The authors borrow heavily (and openly) from the Grandfather of Twelve Step programmes. Many of the concepts and expressions will be familiar to anyone who is, or has been, in A.A. or other Twelve Step programmes. I suspect most people will recognize something from the Programme whether through someone in their life or media/ pop culture references. Which is not to say this book is just for addicts and their loved ones. The authors say their book is for anyone in search of “a happy, centered, purposeful, healthy, constructive, spiritual (if we so desire) fear-free life” (page XVIII). This is followed by saying it can be done with just the six affirmations referenced in its sub-title.

Truth be told if I found a book with such an incredible claim in a store I would not purchase it. At best I might make note of the title and see if my local public library had a copy available.

However I received a free copy of an uncorrected proof via a Goodreads give-away. I entered the give-away specifically because Paul’s name is attached. I’ve elsewhere described Paul as a “song-writer, singer, occasional actor, and long-time hero of mine.” While Goodreads encourages winners to provide a review they are not required. I would not write one that misrepresented my opinion just because a copy was free, nor due to my respect for an author or the small earnings an affiliate link might bring**.

But back to this book, and my review. Much of the text was written jointly; each author does have ‘pull outs’ with personal stories or comments. Paul writes from the viewpoint of an addict in recovery (over 20 years). He is open about his addiction; how it damaged relationships, took over his life, and his ongoing battle with the disease. Stories are told without hyperbole. Details are insufficient to identify other individuals; they are used to illustrate the point at hand.

Tracey is not an addict. But she has spent many years in therapy. Like many (most, or if we’re being honest, perhaps all) of us in ‘the western world’ she has compulsive behaviours and tendencies that have not been helpful in leading to that happy, centered (etc) life mentioned above. I recall John Bradshaw saying that someone once asked him if he had really said that “90% of modern families are dysfunctional” to which he had replied that no, he had said that 100% are. Be that as it may, I identify strongly with Tracey and I suspect many others will.

Together they present a six-step approach to improving one’s life. My sense is that although the wording may be different, each of their steps is similar to one or more of the iconic Twelve Steps. Perhaps the book would be redundant for an addict active in such a programme or it may well serve as a powerful supplement; I can’t say. As I have only just begun to implement their six steps in my own life I can not say they work for people with compulsive or other self-destructive behaviours. An update will be provided down the road.

It may be argued that none of their approach is truly ground-breaking. Perhaps there is nothing new at the core of any ‘Self-help’ or ‘personal improvement’ programme; each new one just uses different language and packaging. Perhaps. And quite logical since we are, despite centuries of change, still very much a primal beast at our core. If a particular author’s approach, fame or personality appeals more to someone, if changed packaging leads people to make constructive changes in their lives, the world may well be better off for it.

As with many ‘self-help’ texts, mnemonic devices are used to aid in memory. For example, Accept/Except is an introduction to, and summary of, issues of responsibility. The book is a delight for those of us who love language play, puns and lots if colourful imagery. Others might find the language distracting. For example, a list of ‘maladaptive behavioral traits’ includes ‘Emotional Anorexia’, the ‘Bette Meddler’, ‘Any Porn In A Storm’ etc. More straight-forward language is used to great effect as well; “the butterflies-and-rainbows lifestyle is tough to maintain when face to face with a full-tilt, card-carrying asshole.” (page 191) One of the struggles we all face is how to remember what we need from our past without it trapping us and preventing us from moving forward. The authors suggest “Look upon the scars of your broken past as bookmarks to a bit of text you need to remember.” (page 235).

For me, Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life is far more than just ‘a bit of text’ and certainly is material that I need to remember and practise regularly.

** The Federal Trade Commission rules require bloggers to clearly identify when they have or will receive compensation. I will receive a small affiliate commission should you make a purchase after following any of the links in this post (in addition to the review copy noted in the review above

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