Mike Kueber's Blog

April 16, 2012

Sunday Book Review #70 – In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 4:34 am
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A few weeks ago, a cycling friend and I were talking about personal-relationship problems.  She had recently broken up with a guy she was planning to marry and was attempting to move on.  In jest, she told me that to get over someone you needed to get under someone else.  Although this was not her first major breakup, she was still struggling with it.  Losing a relationship that you are invested in is never easy.  To make sense of it all, she was doing what many of us do – we get drunk.  No, just kidding.  Actually she was trying to read her way out of it.  The book that she was reading was a 1998 book by Iyanla Vanzant titled In the Meantime. 

Although I had never heard of the book or author, the internet revealed that Vanzant was an inspirational speaker, had sold over 8-million books, and was a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey.  (Of course, I have only seen a few Oprah shows, so that probably explains why I hadn’t heard of Vanzant.)  This weekend, in the course of corresponding with a new, literate eHarmony friend, I mentioned the book and Vanzant, and my new friend suggested that Vanzant trafficked in “pop psychology” that was often incorrect.

Despite my friend’s characterization of Vanzant, or perhaps consistent with it, I found that In the Meantime contain numerous useful insights.  Her essential point is that an individual is responsible for her own happiness and it is counter-productive to expend any energy blaming others for your unhappy fate in life.  The author’s secondary point ws that you can’t love and be loved by others until you learn to love yourself.

In the Meantime is structured like a house.  It begins in the basement, where Vanzant explains why it is essential for an individual to understand all of the baggage created by a lifetime of living.  On the first floor, Vanzant describes how an individual learns self-love.  One of the phrases used is Obama-esque – “You are the one you are looking for.”  On the second floor, Vanzant discusses the most important relationship a person will ever have – the relationship you have with yourself.  Vanzant describes the third floor as the place where you still “have the natural, normal, emotional responses to life and its nerve-wracking situations,” but “you will quickly recover from an emotional upheaval because you will apply love to situation.”  I don’t know if my cycling friend was living on the third floor, but it sounded like she was.  Paradoxically, Vanzant attempts to leave us in the attic.  That is a place where an individual has developed a child-like consciousness – totally accepting of self and others.

As I drafted this review, I was struck by how accurate my eHarmony friend’s characterization of Vanzant was.  This book is pop psychology.  The term is given two definitions by Wikipedia:

  1. The term popular psychology (frequently called pop psychology or pop psych) refers to concepts and theories about human mental life and behavior that are purportedly based on psychology and that attain popularity among the general population. The concept is closely related to the human potential movement of the 1950s and ’60s.  The term “pop psychologist” can be used to describe authors, consultants, lecturers and entertainers who are widely perceived as being psychologists, not because of their academic credentials, but because they have projected that image or have been perceived in that way in response to their work.  The term popular psychology can also be used when referring to the popular psychology industry, a sprawling network of everyday sources of information about human behavior.
  2. The term is often used in a dismissive fashion to describe psychological concepts that appear oversimplified, out of date, unproven, misunderstood or misinterpreted; however, the term may also be used to describe professionally produced psychological knowledge, regarded by most experts as valid and effective, that is intended for use by the general public

 Although my eHarmony friend was probably describing Vanzant according to the dismissive definition, I don’t think that description is accurate for the contents of In the Meantime.  I believe this book fits the more favorable definition in the sense that it provides practical, useful guidance to the public without asserting any reliance on scientific, psychological principles.

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