Abraham Twerski has been inspiring people for decades as one of this generation's most eminent psychiatrists, focusing on the area of self-improvement. He is a rabbi, an author, a frequent speaker on spirituality and self-esteem, and the founder and medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center. In this book he identifies a malaise which afflicts many people: Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome (SDS). Its main symptom is chronic discontent. It lies behind the frantic search for a relief from discomfort people turning to alcohol, mood-altering drugs, sex, shopping, and eating to escape from the meaninglessness of their lives. Twerski believes that happiness consists in "becoming the best human beings we can be."
In chapters on being self-aware, being humble, choosing, being patient, making the most of circumstances, having perspective, having a purpose, and searching for truth and changing, and other abilities, he guides the reader through pathways that meet the demands of the human spirit. Twerski has many wise things to say about human imperfections, narcissism, addiction, and perfectionism. He also shares some touching stories, like this one kindness:
"A rabbi was once sitting with several of his students. He said to one student, 'Could you please bring me a cup of coffee with two spoons of sugar?' The student brought the coffee, and the rabbi sipped it slowly, continuing his discourse with the students.
"A bit later, the rabbi went into the kitchen himself for coffee, and just as he was about to put the sugar in the coffee, his wife said, 'Don't do that! That's salt, not sugar.' It turned out that the student had mistaken the salt for sugar and had put two spoons of salt into the rabbi's coffee.
" 'How could you drink the coffee with all that salt in it?' the rabbi's wife asked.
" 'What else could I have done?' the rabbi asked. 'If I had refused to drink it, that would have embarrassed the student who made the mistake.'
"This rabbi was a spiritual person."
In the last section of Happiness and the Human Spirit, the author presents ten steps to happiness, including these:
• "I realize that changing my character traits is a slow process, but I am willing to persist. I'm going to work on my character defects, one by one.
• "I am going to look for ways to overcome my negative character traits.
• "I will laugh more.
• "I will work to keep setbacks from discouraging me.
• "I realize there is never an end to spiritual growth."
It's great to see Twerski's praise practice as the way to spiritual growth.