WHEN this book arrived, I felt uneasy about its purpose. Was it right for anyone to pursue such a self-indulgent goal, and how would such efforts be viewed in relation to Christian values? Surely the Pauline injunction to be content in whatsoever state we find ourselves should be our aim?
“Well-being” is a buzz word, and even primary schools have espoused it. Many supporters, though, are at a loss when it comes to accomplishing it. This challenging book will help.
The author originally trained in medicine and was a GP in inner London before moving into community work. He subsequently trained as a life coach, and his work resulted in successful “Happiness” courses. The back cover indicates that “he now works as a wellbeing coach, trainer and adviser.”
The issues that I queried are raised in his introduction, in which he explains that his purpose is to help readers journey through the eight chapters, seeking the way to a more fulfilled and, ultimately, happier life. Clearly, he views such a personal quest as valid, to gain greater contentment through improved self-awareness in the world that we inhabit.
He guides readers through a cornucopia of specialist approaches designed to help us function healthily and meaningfully in our increasingly complex cultures. These include scientific analyses how left and right sides of the brain affect our thought, psychotherapeutic approaches to relationships, and much else. He concludes that balance is the key to forming a robust world-view to unite our innermost longings with life’s challenges.
This is no easy-to-read handbook, but is the complex product of years of reflection and practice. Parnham says that his “Happiness” courses and their follow-ups have “scratched where people itch”, and appendices say more about them. There are also footnotes, exercises and diagrams. Apart from occasional biblical quotations, there is little acknowledgement of Christian influences.
In conclusion, the author touches on a wide range of theories as a useful guide to positive functioning in our increasingly unsettled world. He clearly believes that personal well-being is, and should be, within the grasp of us all.
The Revd Jenny Francis is a retired psychotherapist and a priest in the diocese of Exeter.
Lasting Happiness: In search of deeper meaning and fulfilment
Church Times Bookshop £9