Saturday, 16 February 2013


Mental exercises for building and mending bridges

The news lately has been depressing, whether it's paper or online. Team As versus Team Bs, dirty laundry aired in public, lawsuits and counter-lawsuits, and the seemingly endless string of celebrity infidelities. It probably won't be out of place to wonder if these people should work out their differences in a "mind gym" instead of the media.

The Mind Gym: Relationships
Turns out there is a "mind gym" out there, and they did publish a book. The Mind Gym: Relationships is the third book by this UK outfit called the Mind Gym, for those who can't attend (or afford) its £1,500 (around RM7,325), 20-member training sessions. The founders assure us that their Mind Gym training is great for relationships in and out of the office; "from boardroom to bedroom", goes one blurb.

And there's still more to come – possibly books for "prisons, cruises, second lifers and who knows what." From the witty, upbeat, and offbeat tone of the writing however, it's hard to tell whether it's a joke.

While some people sweated over the Y2K bug, Octavius Black and Sebastian Bailey came up with the idea of "bite-sized" 90-minute corporate training sessions or "workouts", each packed with tips, techniques and activities, which can be packaged into different programmes. Training is not a two-way street; the tools and techniques continue to evolve from the insights uncovered by the Gym's team of psychologists, and the real-life experiences of other Mind Gym-goers. The Mind Gym appears to be popular, if not effective, concept. Just ask its clients, a who's-who of recognisable brand names.

A password to the Facebook-like Mind Gym community web portal in comes with each copy of the book. Unless a basic online profile is complete, some features will not be available to try. Exclusive goodies for book buyer include back issues of Mind Gym "magazines", and a forum where other users discuss tips and share their own.

In Relationships, the workout programme's structure and content – both online and offline – are similar. Chapters in the book are grouped into four fundamental sections in the following order: "Relationship ready" (prepping yourself), "Coming together" (building a relationship), "Tough love" (resolving conflict), and "A different relationship" (whether to salvage or end a relationship). At the end of some chapters exercises marked "I Spy" (observation) and "I Try" (self-explanatory) await.

Readers will have to endure the tedium of filling out questionnaires, making lists and totalling up points. The results can be surprising, depending on your honesty or whether the questions and answers are correctly interpreted. The first questionnaire determines a reader's workout plan, namely the areas he or she should work on; the more lazy can refer to one of several default plans in the book. Read only what you need – a great option for the increasingly time-starved. On the other hand, it says a lot about a reader who needs to go through the whole book.

Of course, no book of this ilk would be complete without affirming quotes from the famous, and anecdotal evidence of "why it works": examples from pop culture, history, and results of research, which, unfortunately, aren't annotated with their corresponding sources (a bibliography is available, if one is curious).

Overall, Relationships is a relatively small self-help book that tries hard not to be boring. There aren't a lot of page-cluttering visuals; most anecdotal inserts are short and snappy, and each chapter is small and feels modular enough to stand on its own.

Relationships however, don't build themselves. As a young man Albert Ellis (1913 - 2007) overcame his shyness towards women by chatting up over a hundred ladies at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Though it didn't get him a date, it might have prepared him for his future career as a psychologist; in 1982 he was ranked above Sigmund Freud among history's most influential psychotherapists. ...No reward without effort, right?

The Mind Gym: Relationships
The Mind Gym
Sphere (2009)
304 pages
ISBN: 978-1847440631


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