You see, Wood, a Tucson author and psychiatrist, is a natural optimist, and she believes that optimism is meant to be shared. In fact, she's so incredibly optimistic that she makes Norman Vincent Peale seem like a suicidal depressive who's been up all night reading Sartre. Well, maybe not that optimistic, but she definitely has the ability to find a silver lining in just about any dark cloud you could point to. And that, of course, is exactly the kind of attitude you want to find in a self-help book.
People don't usually pick up this kind of reading material for recreational purposes. They almost always go to the self-help shelves in bookstores, because they're in discomfort and want things to get better. Whether they're dealing with a specific issue or free-floating dissatisfaction with life in general, they're seeking comfort, hope and solutions. Wood provides a bountiful helping of all three.
If it's solace you're looking for, you've certainly come to the right place. This book offers so much warmth and empathy that you may feel it's going to jump up and hug you at any moment. Wood, clinical associate professor of medicine at the UA Program in Integrative Medicine, comes across as a person who understands suffering and genuinely wants to alleviate it. She encourages readers to be gentle, patient and nonjudgmental with themselves, while honestly exploring the reality of their current situation.
"In giving voice and space to what exists now," she writes, "you open the door to incredible growth and health."
Indeed, Wood is a tireless cheerleader for self-actualization, and almost every page blooms with inspiriting promises of success and happiness.
"You can find options," she declares, "where there were none, joy where there was only pain and fulfillment where there was just despair."
Of course, as Wood acknowledges, transformation rarely occurs without a lot of effort, but she maintains that the answers we're looking for are closer than we may think.
"Somewhere in the back of your mind," she says, "or deep within your soul, you know who you are, where you belong or fit, and what you're meant to be doing with your life."
Wood furnishes an ample supply of case histories and exercises to motivate and assist us in accessing these inner truths, examining some of the obstacles to this process, including fear of failure, the inability to trust what we know and the feeling that we're unfit to be our own torchbearers.
In an especially helpful chapter, Wood looks at faulty, self-limiting beliefs, those pesky gremlins, generally hatched in childhood, that can chase us down a path in life that's completely wrong for us.
"Our biggest challenge," Wood states, "can be trying to figure out how to live the life we're meant to have, as opposed to the one someone else might have taught us."
The search for our natural selves also entails, according to Wood, the art of listening to our bodies. They produce, she says, disquieting symptoms when we stray from our true path: building a strong network of support, developing a personal form of spirituality--with or without the belief in a higher power--and learning to live in a world of possibility.
"Living (in the possible)," she asserts, "means challenging your negativity, false assumptions and laziness. It involves committing to affirm yourself, push yourself and surround yourself with those who believe in you. It requires you to monitor yourself for those 'impossible' messages, to challenge them ... and to remind yourself of what just might be."
As a physician, Wood also tells us that certain seemingly implacable situations may signal a need for medication, and she spends several chapters discussing mental illness, medication guidelines and various alternative and complementary therapies.
This is a wise, compassionate--and did I mention optimistic?--book, affirming the value and uniqueness of each of us.
"You were born with everything you need," Wood writes, "You came with special gifts, intuitive wisdom, burning passion and a particular purpose for entering this wondrous planetary sea of beings. You exited the womb ready to manifest your own special greatness, and those of us already here were waiting for you to arrive. This is a spiritual law of the universe."