Bud Harris,
Sacred Selfishness: A Guide
to Living a Life of Substance

(Inner Ocean, 2002; 2005)

In Sacred Selfishness, Dr. Bud Harris doesn't say anything new. His premise that our materialistic and success-driven society leads to shallow lives is as old as pop psychology itself. But Harris says it all so well, in such comforting tones and accessible language, that you just might look at your life in a warm new light after you read his book.

Harris is a Jungian analyst (for the uninitiated, Jung, a student of Freud's, is most known now for his archetypes -- a type of symbolical representation of life experiences that are passed down through the ages through story, myth and dream -- as well as for his influence on Joseph Campbell and George Lucas). Now, the idea of Freudian psychology, even diluted through Jung, can send some people running for the nearest defense mechanism. But Harris is a modern man, with a compassionate eye on the alienating forces of modern living. To hear him (and to look at him, from his jacket cover) is to hear your warmhearted granddad or that soccer coach who always gave such great advice. He avoids the Oedipal complexes and sticks to demonstrating how we are conditioned from early childhood to please others.

In America, pleasing others means orienting your life around the pursuit of success and money, which leads to the eventual repressing of real desires. Again, not new ideas. But Harris' suggestions for re-directing ourselves to more authentic lives are refreshingly simple and non-intimidating. And, unlike some self-help swamis, Harris does not insist that you shred your life and begin again, leaving behind everything -- like family, friends and career success -- you earned along the way. Rather, he encourages you to learn the source of your dissatisfaction and then find ways to alter your current life to fit.

For example, he might urge an unhappy trial lawyer with a secret yearning for environmental activism to do pro-bono work for the Nature Conservancy, or encourage a rootless hippie to form her own housing cooperative. And he thickens his stew of suggestions with dozens of real-world examples, ordinary people with which anyone can empathize. These lead to a powerful message: know thyself and change thyself to fit! With Sacred Selfishness, Harris points a kindly finger towards that knowledge, and turns the Pandora-style fallout of personal change from a curse to a blessing.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 18 December 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.