Book Review: Constructive Wallowing How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them, by Tina Gilbertson

The reason you are here, I am guessing , is because polygamy is a struggle for you. It certainly is for me, and the main struggle is the inner torment of thoughts and subsequent negative feelings. We’ve looked at jealousy and betrayal and feelings about self-worth. There are no doubt a lot of feelings going on because we are talking about emotional relationships. And even if the men (and some women) involved here say “Stop being so emotional!” or something along the lines of “This is your religion and you can’t dislike something Allah (SWT) has prescribed!”,  having negative feelings isn’t a choice you make – it’s how you handle them that is important.

I have mentioned how some people just simply block their feelings off, but those feelings are still there, just stored up for the future.  So how can we deal with our negative feelings more effectively?

I found this book, Constructive Wallowing: How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them, by Tina Gilbertson, pinpoints a sensible approach. I think the title containing  the word ‘Wallowing’, however,  is a bit misleading,  as we have negative connotations of this word, but in fact the author does early on in the book put a bracket around the ‘w’ which then emphasizes the word ‘allow’.  It is perfectly fine,  and we should allow ourselves, to acknowledge and dwell to a certain extent on our feelings, including what we see as negative ones. As long as we do this with kindness to ourselves and not attempt to manage them (by blocking them off for example; Gilbertson refers to this as ‘stuffing’ our feelings and describes the consequences as the Escalation Cycle) or act out our feelings,  such as violence or maybe in the case of jealousy, verbally harm someone. So the book gives us the permission to have these feelings without feeling bad about this (we are hard on ourselves aren’t we!) and to allow us to put a name to those feelings, work through these and let the tears flow if we feel like it. The author also emphasizes self-compassion, much like the area of self-esteem I wrote about here.

There is also a chapter where the author talks about how life is about the good and the bad times,  the fact we appreciate the good because of the bad. We don’t try to manage or stop good feelings and accept that they too will pass – all good things come to an  end. There’s no reason why bad feelings will not also end, if we work through them.

Overall the book is written in a lighthearted style, with practical examples and  exercises, quite a few diagrams to explain things along the way, and I particularly like the fact there are summaries of each chapter as when in a funk, my brain is not functioning at its best!

I like to remember that even the Prophet’s wives felt jealous – they didn’t restrict themselves by not allowing themselves to feel jealous. If a husband says to you as his wife, “Don’t be jealous,” this is really a waste of his breath.  Helping you acknowledge you are feeling what you feel and finding out why (in which case he might be able to rectify a jealousy-inducing situation) will be more helpful, and that these negative feelings will pass, if you work through them. 

Have you read any good self-help books, perhaps especially useful for those in polygamy? Do share the titles in the comments section!



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