The illustrations are fine in terms of artistic skill, but they are often terrible in terms of content. In one depiction, a young child is crying while another has a lollipop and is laughing at the crying child (29%). This is called bullying, and it’s not something to laugh about. Likewise, there is an illustration of a groom smashing a wedding cake into his bride’s face (33%). Wedding cake smashing is immature, petty, and inappropriate. It’s not something to laugh at.
Many of Asayag’s ideas don’t feel like they’ve been reviewed by a modern psychologist. In one section, the author declares that “You can make fun of yourself” (65%). Being able to laugh at one’s mistakes is a sign of maturity and healthiness; making fun of oneself because of low self-esteem is a totally different story and is a sign of a major problem. Along the same lines, the author doesn’t see the problems in taking “boring routine tasks, and turn them into a game or competition” (26%). Competition can be very detrimental to building positive relationships especially when young children are involved. It’s far better to set activities up as team building exercises. (See Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish for more information on this topic.)
Like most authors of general psychology, Asayag lacks of true understanding about severe and chronic pain. Her comparison to her wedding being canceled by her fiancé just before it was supposed to happen is in no way the same. Her presumption that everyone can and should laugh or enjoy humorous activities is also lacking in perspective. Whenever an author says something like this, an unhealthy and vindictive side of me wants to spend time with them the next time they have a violent stomach bug and are clutching the toilet so that I can try to convince them that they should be laughing and smiling. It’s not an exact comparison, but it might help the authors understand that their overconfident ideas aren’t always applicable to all circumstances.
Asayag also doesn’t seem to understand that people have different senses of humor. She’s also clearly not an intuitive empath or an introvert. For instance, she declares, “We kept looking for a different joyful activity that will suit everyone in hospitals, even to those that [sic] did not have enough energy to laugh” (24%). She claims that she found the solution in karaoke which she brags even brought patients in pain out of their rooms. However, as an intuitive empath, I find karaoke extremely unpleasant to enjoy most of the time. Many people are terrified of performing, and others’ self-worth takes a huge hit as those around them laugh at their lack of singing skills. While karaoke may be enjoyable for some, it’s a nightmare for others including the empaths listening to it.
And yet despite all these critiques, there are still some very redeeming qualities to this book. It provides some really great concrete ideas for reprogramming oneself from a negative outlook on life to a more positive one. If you are fighting mild depression, are feeling stuck, are needing a new start, or are trying to find a way to change your world a bit, this book probably has some suggestions for small steps forward that you can make. I can also see the book providing inspiration in a time of job loss, an undesired move, an accident, or similarly trying times. The variety of activities and ideas it suggest for creating positive emotion are really helpful. Some of the activities presume that the reader has spare income for recreation, but a great number of the suggestions in the book can be done for cheap or free. Smiling certainly doesn’t cost a thing!
The book also addresses a few larger concepts outside of just laughter and adding joy to one’s life. It discusses concepts like mindfulness when it suggests taking boring activities and transforming them so that they don’t cause you suffering. By removing some of the negativity in your life, you can also can create more room for positive energy.
Overall, I’d rate the book as three stars, though had it been properly edited, it might have been four.
*Percentages designate the location within the digital text.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance