A plastic surgeon observes that his art (or science, to be more exact) improves the lives of many, but not all.. some patients with perceived flaws don’t regain any happiness post-surgery due to an intrinsic lack of self-esteem (or negative perceptions of the world et. al) He set out to identify why, in the interest of maintaining his goal – to improve the lives of his patients. From extensive research, anecdotes from his practice, and social experiences, Maltz outlines the idea of humans as organisms in possession of a goal-directed machine. We are designed to function at optimum, he asserts, when chasing and fulfilling positive goals. Citing extensive references and examples, he demonstrates that we really do function better when we have a goal, and belief in our ability to overcome any obstacle.
He also suggests that we possesss the capacity to develop any skill, only slowing to a halt in life when we own our failures instead of realising they’re simply a step on a greater path. Additionally, as our nervous system reacts identically to a dream or vivid imagination as to reality, so too can we practice a task by imagination and retain our positive attempts just as if they were actual learning experiences. Maltz cites evidence that the creative imagination or mental practice of tasks can improve our skill at any task dramatically, without having to practice that task once in reality.
I was sold. The reflections, research, and ideas in this book have been a positive addition to my life, and elements have served as useful tools in pursuit of my own goals.
Personally, this book seemed like the inception of principles within cognitive behavioural therapy, though that branch of psychology wasn’t established until 20 years later. I don’t really know enough about the history of psychotherapy to comment, but perhaps Maltz additions to the field became a precursor. He certainly claims that his studies led to great interest from academics.
I gave this four out of five stars only because some of the research and Maltz reflections upon contemporary scientific understanding are now dated. And he presupposes readers are Christian and relates the occasional Biblical allusion – it’s my perspective that readers unfamiliar with these asides may be a little lost. His faith-based commentary and suspension of disbelief is curious to see, sitting so comfortably beside the exacting objective analysis. Yet the book rests on the conclusion: belief and ability are symbiotic brothers. For Maltz it appears believing that God is on his side has helped his endeavours. This doesn’t detract from the majority of the content, however.
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