The Art of Emotional Self-Defense - Sonja Carl Gilligan

Released October 2011

Sonja Carl Gilligan
Epigraph Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Art of Emotional Self-Defense has one goal: "To get you to feel good about yourself." The author does this by introducing you to the four feelings that shape you as a person: anger, fear, love, and pain. This all seems pretty simplistic at heart, but as you read, you really do start to take away important pieces that can help you change and improve your daily life.

Sonja Carl Gilligan's book sometimes reads like an autobiography, complete with pictures, and I think that's in part because the material within started as a very personal experiment of a sort. The book stems from a character study the author started after attending an "encounter group" in the 1960s. This led the author, her husband, and a friend to realize that people's behavioral patterns usually linked back to their mother. The husband and wife team eventually founded Fusion Groups and continued their studies of human behavior.

As I read, I found myself intrigued with the author's perceptions. In part because I started to relate to her. I have a family history of anxiety attacks. They go back to my maternal grandmother and in each case, the anxiety usually started in the 20s after the birth of a child. I've always suspected that hormonal levels play an issue, but the medical world really isn't all that advanced when it comes to studying anxiety.

When the author reached the feeling of "fear," for me, "fear" happens without explanation. I can be in the middle a relaxing activity (watching a movie in the theater, sleeping, reading a book, taking a walk, cooking a meal) and suddenly have that rush of adrenaline that something is wrong, though realistically, nothing is, it's just my overactive fight-or-flight response kicking in. For me, and people like me, fear often comes without a logical reason. The author had a reason, for myself, my children, my aunts, my cousins, and my mother - there seems to be nothing more than a genetic link. I'm still convinced it deals with hormones because in each case with older relatives, the onset of menopause eliminated the anxiety attacks completely.

As I kept reading, I found myself intrigued by her studies and classifications of people. This book does contain a lot of autobiographical content and pictures, and that really helps to personalize the author. In the end, I'm not sure how much The Art of Emotional Self Defense truly helped me. I supposed that all depends on what you want to get out of it. It did make for interesting reading though.


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