There are many books on the market which give advice as to how to improve your life. I feel attracted to this kind of book, which of course shows something about how satisfied I am with my own life. I particularly like the classic ‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie which I have read several times. This is an old book, going back to 1944, but this does not matter. Circumstances change but human nature, which is at the centre of this type of book, does not. I like Carnegie’s down to earth approach. I also like the fact that he makes clear that the main things he has to say are not new – his purpose is to remind us of things which in principle we already know but which are all too often forgotten. I feel that I have really profited from reading that book.
The reason I am writing this post is that I just read a book called ‘Anleitung zum Unglücklichsein’ by Paul Watzlawick, which I came across in the public library. I found this book very amusing and entertaining. The title can be translated as ‘Guide to being unhappy’. I am not aware that it has been translated into English. The list of references includes a book called ‘How to make yourself miserable’ by Dan Greenburg, which may be similar.Returning to the book of Watzlawick, it is not likely to make its readers unhappy. It is full of biting humour. It is a kind of parody of the self-help books I mentioned above but in a sense it can have similar effects. It lays bare certain mechanisms in human thinking and in the communication between individuals. This is not a easy book to read. It is necessary to pay careful attention so as not to occasionally take what is written there literally. Reading the book is a rewarding experience. It underlines the fact that the meaning of the word ‘happiness’ (Glück) is not so obvious as is generally assumed.