Elevate Difference

Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness

This short but meaningful book is a smart combination of self-help, memoir, and academic study. Gore does not surmise a remedy for the blues, she does not use her life as an anecdote to overcome defeat or as a guiding light toward beatitude, nor does she use statistics and theory to expose her education. Instead, Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness is a collection of wise womanhood, the crannies of optimism that are too often ignored.

With eloquent emotional pacing, Gore forms a convincing argument that happiness, particularly among women, has been historically understudied and oversimplified in her academic field. She asks, “How is it that psychology— once envisioned as a great healing art—has gotten to this place where our neuroses are considered so much more valid than our resiliences?” Gore bravely takes on the secret of joy by combining her personal memoirs with history, science, and first person accounts of real women experiencing real happiness. Her words have the contagious effect of positivism without the obnoxious, evangelistic ethos found so often in the self-help aisle. As Gore says herself, “I don't like to think I'm uncomfortable around cheerful people, but there's something of a missionary vibe here that seems odd…”

Perhaps there are so many of these self-help books because their authors know it's not just the ideas, but the time spent thinking about and interpreting those ideas that can actually improve lives. Just like thinking about food can make you hungrier, thinking about happiness can make you happier. If an author can induce self-reflection, they have done their part. Certainly Gore has, as she encourages us individually to use our hearts and minds to actualize a new psychology of happiness.

Using what she calls a "liberation psychology forum," hundreds of women give verbal and written feedback on issues raised by Gore. Combined, these issues allude to the macro question left open throughout the pages: whether we, at this moment, are living our lives. If our answer is no, this book proposes joy as the powerful tool that can give us “the courage to make the universe we dream.”

What Gore does is play hostess at a dinner party with a dozen fascinating women. She introduces us, and in brief encounters we are told stories of happiness, unhappiness, success and defeat. Before you know it the party is over. You drive yourself home without turning on the radio, just thinking, and you lie awake at night because you feel joy—you feel alive.

Written by: Katy Pine, January 19th 2010

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