Unfortunately, the book started going downhill after her introductory chapters. My “something is wrong” detectors started going off, so I went and Googled the author. While she calls herself a therapist, she could be prosecuted in the US for doing so because she is not officially licensed; however, Mah lives in Thailand where laws are likely different. Her website states, “I considered going back to school and being trained in psychotherapy, and enrolling in courses that would qualify me to work in the personal development field. But at the back of my mind, there was a voice that said I didn’t need to go through the traditional route of learning.” In the US, the correct term for Mah would be a life coach. However, in a very telling section of her book, Mah shames life coaches and declares them to be people who don’t help with healing. As a holistic life coach who focuses almost solely on healing, I am certain this is completely wrong. Despite the work she has done on herself, Mah’s own inferiority complex still includes needing to put others down to make herself feel better.
Mah is not well read at all and it shows. The book contains no footnotes or endnotes and only cites one other author whose work is on eating disorders. Mah makes a lot of claims about other studies that aren't true based on what I've read, but she claims theses studies that I have read don’t even exist which merely reflects her lack of education. Mah wrote Embrace the Unlovable in 2014 and published it in 2015. However, Brene Brown has been researching and publishing a lot longer than that, just for starters. To write a book on shame without mentioning her works is puzzling at best. In addition, Shakti Gawain has been publishing on topics and healing related to Mah’s work for decades. There are many more as well. Mah is not familiar with their ideas, and if she's writing on shame from a holistic healing standpoint, she needs to acknowledge the big names.
Throughout the book, Mah puts a great deal of emphasis on how The Compassionate Self-Love Method is different and special, and as a result, Mah comes across as one of those people who think they've invented the wheel. Yet this is the same method, minus the fancy name, that so many therapists have used with me in the past decade as I worked on healing. I think that the Mah has assembled ideas that other authors/healers have used for decades and put them together in a novel way, but if the author was better read, she would know that her ideas are not as stunningly new as she thinks. I absolutely believe that she was channeling this information, and I agree it is being presented in a new format, but at their core, the ideas are not new. As Audre Lorde said, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”
Instead of rushing to self-publish as Mah did, it would have been better for her to find an editor to help her correct lots of little errors throughout the text. Her writing is beautiful in terms of style, but the book is very repetitious and needs the help of an editor with a red pen with a lot of ink. As mentioned above, Mah needs to read and document other sources if she wants to bring her book up a notch. I understand that she was trying to function just as a channel, but the result is a weaker book. Many of the ideas she presents are not new, and if she’d done more research on the correct authors, she would have found this to be true. Mah also uses terms such as “projections” that actually have the accepted name of “mirrors” in holistic healing. Not having the vocabulary to communicate to her audience is problematic. I also strongly believe that Mah would benefit from a professional mentor, someone who has been practicing holistic healing for decades and who could point out to her where she is presenting old ideas in new ways so that appropriate credit is given.
So after all that criticism, did I find anything worthy in the book? Yes, though I will recommend the book with reservations. The Compassionate Self-Love Method (CSL) is in a way the opposite of the Law of Attraction which Mah indirectly but repeatedly bashes throughout the book. The goal of CSL is to embrace and love the parts of you that you don’t like rather than trying to wish them away through affirmations. To enact the CSL, one needs to:
- "Identify what that the problem/issue/judgment/shame is."
- "Connect with that aspect. Accept it as a real part of you."
- "Embrace and love the undesired aspect without trying to change it at all. Send love until you feel a shift in your perception of that aspect."
On the surface, this is a perfectly legitimate way to heal deeply buried wounds. As Mah argues, our culture tends to run from our pain rather than facing it. I have healed many stored pains in my body by working with them rather than denying them. However, part of the approach Mah advocates perpetuates judgment and blame. For example, she writes, “Send love to the aspect of you that is a bad mother.” Instead I would advocate people try a kinder, gentler way to facing our pain. In my words, people should “Send love to the aspect of you that doesn’t always live up to the ideals you strive for. None of us are perfect, and all of us make decisions and errors as parents that we wish we could change. Love this part of you that is trying its best but doesn’t always reach perfection. It is not a bad part of you. It is simply an area of you that is working on growth.” This way one is not re-injuring and/or harming oneself by continuing to place negative external labels on parts that are inherent to us.
I especially think that Mah missed the boat in terms of external labeling when she discusses terms like "whore" and "slut." Her female relatives called her by foreign equivalents of such names when she was eight years old. No eight year old child is a whore or a slut (and arguably no person should ever be called by those terms). If a child is sexually active at that age, it is likely rape, incest and/or sexual trauma. The child is not asking for sex because the child can not give consent. So as an adult, to go back and try to heal yourself by embracing the part of you that is a slut (Mah’s method) is very toxic. Instead, I would recommend embracing the part of you that loves sex and sexuality. That is a healthy aspect of all of us that society unfortunately shames in many instances. So when trying to rid oneself of that shame related to sexuality, embrace that you are sexual. You do love sex. But you are not the negative projection of sexuality that someone else forced upon you. That is their trouble, and you do not need to take it on or hold onto it. Love yourself for all your sexual decisions, even if you regret some of them, but don’t buy into other people’s judgments.
I believe Embrace the Unlovable is a step in the right direction towards healing deep wounds that mainstream psychology is not always able to heal. However, the book still needs a lot of editing and improving and the method needs some revising before it will be of true benefit to most people. I hope Mah is able to find the mentor and editor she needs to make this good book into an amazing one.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC