The first thing I understood after reading this book for some time is that I don't have depression. I never suspected I had, but this is still reassuring. From the stories Dr. Burns tells about his depressed patients, it's good to know you're not in the category.

And yet, this book is very helpful. Written in 1980 and now in a revised edition, it's clearly "no bullshit" material. These days self-help authors generate 20 books from a single idea, but things weren't always this way. There was Carneghie with his excellent books, and I gladly include "Feeling good" in the same category.

The author is a psychiatrist / researcher with years of experience: clinical, research and educational (teaching other mental-health specialists). In this book he presents several techniques to fight with low self esteem and negative thoughts. He notes, very correctly in my opinion, that at the basis of one's happiness are one's thoughts about himself. How a person perceives himself, judges himself "in his own eyes" is what really decides whether he's happy or not. Sometimes a paradoxical notion, but the way our heads work inevitably leads to it. You may not be worth much in the eyes of people around you, but if you respect yourself you're a happy human being. The reverse (you are respected by others but think you are a failure and have no right to be happy) is also true, and very unfortunately much more common.

Viewed from one angle, the techniques presented by Dr. Burns are numerous. But if you look really closer there are really quite the same - your negative mood results from your own thoughts. Not from external events - those are just triggers for the thoughts. Only your thoughts decide whether you're cheerful or sad. Dr. Burns proposes to "fight" these thoughts by generating positive thoughts against them. I have one reservation, though. Methinks that this method works only on logical human beings. To reach the basic conclusions that you deserve to be happy just like everyone else has to stem from logical steps. (I'm not even sure there's such a thing as an illogical person...)

I really like this book, more than most other books I've read on the subject. I'd say even that it's my second favorite - after "Stop worrying and start living" by Dale Carneghie, of course.