Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries

Image of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries
Release Date: 
July 24, 2013
Hudson Street Press
Reviewed by: 

“. . . a useful tool for anyone who wants to improve his or her outlook on life and resilience against its storms . . .”

After bemoaning the fact that people spend more time looking after their teeth than their emotional health, Dr. Guy Winch was persuaded to write a book dealing with common psychological problems and offering some helpful solutions.

In Emotional First Aid he sets out seven “injuries” which we may sustain or acquire during the course of everyday life, and exercises we can do to work on these.

With case studies from 80-year-old Lionel who finds it hard to develop friendships at his local chess club to Gladys’ work stresses and difficult client negotiations, Emotional First Aid puts into context many situations we can identify with, explaining the importance of a positive feeling of self-worth and the impact it can have on relationships, success, and our own happiness.

Although we are much better at treating physical ailments, emotional disorders carry a significant burden both in terms of morbidity and mortality. Anxiety disorders alone cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year and can affect physical health as well.

For instance, did you know that loneliness can shorten life expectancy? Or that rejection may cause us to score lower on IQ tests? And that more attractive people don’t have higher self-esteem? (Hope for the rest of us there!)

The claims are well backed up by a substantial number of up-to-date papers and research from the fields of psychology, sociology and sciences, drawing together results from multiple areas into a coherent and readable whole.

Emotional First Aid explores the link between rejection and violence and the self-defeating behaviors that cause us to withdraw when we are lonely or have low self-esteem, starting a vicious cycle and hampering effective relationships.

The book encourages us to silence the critical phrases that we use against ourselves and others, and instead to practice self-affirmation and “be kind to ourselves.” Some imaginative suggestions are also included, such as using your non-dominant hand for tasks to improve self-control and willpower. It also encourages us to use “psychological aspirins,” such as spending time with close friends or “snacking” on photos instead of junk foods after a rejection.

As the book comments, not all of these will help everyone, and people are encouraged to use it in conjunction with medical help in the case of more serious problems, but it is nevertheless a useful tool for anyone who wants to improve his or her outlook on life and resilience against its storms. It is by no means an indulgent book, offering clear challenges to consider the perspectives of others and seek forgiveness when our actions have wronged another party.

Loss and trauma are investigated, suggesting the idea of post-traumatic growth as a learning experience. The book also discusses the “Dobby effect,” a form of self-punishment in which we feel guilty for something we may or may not be able to control, encouraging us to move on from issues that may be holding us back. People with a tendency to ruminate may find the associated chapter helpful, including sections on praying for enemies, resisting urges to vent our anger, and reframing events in a more positive light.

The potential drawbacks of high self-esteem are also picked up on, with most of us swinging between the two depending on the situation and our mood. Although we may think that in this situation it is difficult to know what to aim for, this perspective offers a balanced viewpoint and allows us to be aware of and regulate our emotions.

Emotional First Aid covers multiple scenarios from how to sustain deep marriage relationships to dealing with failure, the latter using a scenario of four toddlers attempting to solve a tricky puzzle and the benefits of positive self-affirmation, even with a quality unrelated to the failure itself. It offers key tips for those struggling with assertiveness, such as Gladys’ troubles with clients and Bo’s friends who took advantage and borrowed money without repaying it, suggesting we raise our empowerment levels.

An insightful and practical book, easy to dip into and apply “as required” for anyone suffering from psychological problems as well as those curious to find out more about our emotions and how they affect us.

The combination of academic research and lifelike scenarios make this a book with depth and relevance.