Can Be Happy
No Matter What
didn't have any real major issues with this
book--but I also didn't come away from it feeling
that I had learned anything new and different.
I didn't feel that Carlson had addressed anything
that hasn't been addressed in many other works by
many other authors, and in fact, I felt that it
could have been titled something like
"Happiness Comes from Within," or
something similar, because that's his major
focus: that happiness (or unhappiness) is a
result of our thoughts, moods, and feelings.
He gives us five principles that supposedly
determine whether or not we're happy, and he gives
us true and hypothetical real-life situations that
shows how people feel when they don't follow these
principles, and when they do follow them.
issue that I always have with Carlson is that he
always seems to over-simplify on the side of
generalities. For example, one section of one
chapter is titled "Your Mood Changes, Not Your
Life." This statement is fine for what it
is, but he doesn't seem to respect those truly
life-changing moments and situations in which a
person has to dig very, very deeply just to survive,
much less thrive and be happy. In fact, the
whole premise of the book tends to diminish the
relevance and importance of many of the true
difficulties that we face. I get the idea that
he hasn't lived through many of the trials that his
readers have lived through, and thus doesn't
understand how they can be brought down by those
problems. At times, the book feels like simply
a "Don't Worry, Be Happy" approach to
That said, there are many, many important ideas and
principles to be found here. There's very
little that's new or different, but they are
together in one place for a quick read that can be
very helpful to someone who isn't familiar with this
type of material. For someone who's done a lot
of reading in this area, you probably won't find
much here that will affect you; if you're just
starting out reading in the self-help/self-awareness
field, this is a good synthesis of material that's
been proved to be helpful to people who are having
difficulties feeling happy.
Part one of the book introduces the principles, and
part two is titled "Applying the
Principles." In this section he addresses
relationships, stress, solving problems, happiness,
and habits and addictions. Again in this
section, Carlson tends to generalize and
oversimplify, as in, "stress is not something
that 'happens to us,' but rather something that
develops from within our own thinking."
The implication is that if I'm feeling stress today,
then it's my doing, even though many situations
arise in my life to which I don't contribute at
all. The student who's acting up in my class
isn't doing so because of my thoughts. And
yes, how I react to that stress is up to me, but the
stress itself has an outside origin.
All in all, a decent read, but not one I feel
compelled to revisit any time soon.
The five principles are:
1. The principle of thought
2. The principle of moods
3. The principle of separate realities
4. The principle of feelings
5. The principle of the present moment.
Amazon rating (October, 2012): 4.3 of 5
excerpt from "The Principle of Moods":
Our Moods Are Always Changing
People don't realize their moods are always on the
run. They think instead that their life has suddenly
become worse in the past day, or the last hour. Take
the example of a client who came to me initially because
he perceived himself to have serious relationship problems
with his wife. He came to my office on two
consecutive days. On the first day he was glowing,
even bragging, about how much fun he'd had with his wife
over the weekend. As he described it, they had
laughed, played, talked, and taken romantic walks.
Clearly, he was in a high mood. The next day he came
in complaining about the lack of gratitude he felt from
his wife for all he was doing for her. "She
never appreciates anything I do," he said.
"She is the most ungrateful person I've ever
"What about yesterday?" I asked.
"Weren't you telling me how wonderful everything was
"I was, but I was dead wrong. I was deceiving
myself and have been for our entire marriage. I
think I want a divorce."
Such a quick and complete contrast may seem absurd, even
funny--but we're all like that. In low moods we lose
our ability to listen, and our perspective flies out the
window. Life seems serious, important, and urgent.
Moods Are Part of the Human Condition
Moods are a human condition. You can't avoid
them. You aren't going to stop changing moods by
reading this book--that can't happen. What can
happen is that you can understand that moods are a part of
being human. Rather than staying stuck in a low
mood, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can
learn to question your judgment when you're in this
state. You will always see life and the events in it
differently, in different moods. When you are in a
low mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an
unavoidable human condition that will pass with time, if
you leave it alone and avoid giving it too much attention.
With an understanding of moods, we can learn to be
appreciative of our highs and graceful in our lows.
This contrasts sharply with what most of us do in a low
mood--where we try to think, figure, or force our way out
of it. But you can't force your way out of a low
mood any more than you can force yourself to have a good
time doing something you don't like. The more force
(or thought) you put into it, the lower you sink. . . .
When we understand the power that our moods have on our
perspective, we will no longer need to react to or be
victims of them. Things will eventually appear to us
very differently if we just let them be, for now.