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Book review


Book review

This book can help you learn how to break bad habits and overcome your self-destructive behaviours, just in time to tackle your New Year's resolutions!

Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior
By Richard O’Connor, PhD
Hudson Street Press, 2014, 304 pages, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594632563

Reviewed by Victoria Stratton

Ask a procrastinator to review a book about overcoming bad habits and self-destructive behaviour and you have a recipe for a good joke, or perhaps a missed deadline. Unless the book helps, and in this case, it did.

In Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior, Dr. Richard O’Connor, a practising psychotherapist of 30-plus years and author of several self-help books, showed me how to get to work sooner rather than later.

According to O’Connor, procrastination is one of the more common forms of self-destructive behaviour. He lists dozens more, ranging from mildly destructive, such as constant tardiness or disorganization, to severe, including stealing, substance abuse, or suicidal gestures. The good news is that, no matter what the behaviour, O’Connor states positive changes can be made.

In Rewire, the first few chapters concentrate on the interesting psychology behind many behaviour patterns. In accessible language, noticeably without complicated psychology jargon, O’Connor explains how actions can become entrenched in one’s character to protect a certain concept of self and the surrounding world. Subsequent chapters focus on particular behaviours, how they might have emerged, and how to work on changing them. 

Drawing on his years of experience and the results of dozens of studies, he illustrates how the brain, once considered a finished product in adulthood, can develop and change at any age, growing new brain cells and neural pathways, or “rewiring,” in response to regular practice. Suggesting that we have “two brains,” one determining conscious choices and the other our automatic behaviour, he teaches how to move conscious actions into the automatic category.

Exercises found at the end of each chapter are designed to strengthen willpower and self-control; help overcome guilt, fear, anger, shame, and self-destructive tendencies; and lock good habits into place. While not difficult, they are not a quick fix. They call for thoughtful self-evaluation and commitment to regular mindful practice over time, the result being a brain rewired to a desired behaviour.

Rewire is a fascinating, useful book. It illuminates the whys and wherefores of our actions and provides real tools to effect change. Whether tackling a single New Year’s resolution or a new outlook on life, readers will find it encouraging and helpful. I did. This review was submitted on deadline.

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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD