Click Here To Purchase The Problem Was Me: How to End Negative Self-Talk and Take Your Life to a New Level

Author: Thomas Gagliano and Dr Abraham Twerski MD.
Publisher: Gentle Path Press
ISBN: 978-0-9826505-7-8
The very authorship of this book intrigued me from the outset, as an unusual collaborative effort between two authors who at least superficially have little in common.
The latter of the two whose works I am familiar with is Dr ( and Rabbi) Abraham Twerski, a preeminent psychiatrist in the field of addiction and one of the world’s most prolific and popular authors of incisive and accessible self-help books.

As a Rabbi too his works grace the bookshelves of thousands of orthodox Jewish homes with their combination of deep spirituality based on his exemplary knowledge of Jewish life and texts and his vast experience as a mental health practitioner. Aged over 80 he is the author of 60 plus books.

Thomas Gagliano is to me a lesser known quantity but is the main author and principle subject of the book. A successful business man from a middle-class Italian American family it was his struggle to overcome addiction which led him in mid-life to change careers, he has a Masters degree in Social Work, and to become a coach and mentor to men and women who are attempting to overcome their own addictions.

And this is where the collaboration between the two authors makes sense. Thomas is a successful “graduate” of the famous 12 Step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1960s. Dr Twerski has worked with patients using the 12 step program and has integrated the methodology in several of his books.

The two authors met through and mutual acquaintance and on seeing the draft of Thomas’s book the more experienced author left a message on his answer phone which not only gave strong, and Gagliano would say I am sure inspirational encouragement, but led to the collaboration.

The co-authorship is essential to the reading of this book. Firstly because of the subject matter which is about addiction and how to combat it. Secondly the methodology and ideas on family dysfunction as the “parent” of addictive behaviour is the crux of the book’s narrative as Thomas Gagliano spares us little detail of his difficult family life as a child, an alcoholic father who gambled his wealth away and had extramarital affairs and a desperate suicidal mother. Both were inept as parents and functioning adults who physically and emotionally abused each other and through their neediness and self-absorption deprived their children of the love and nurturing they needed. Gagliano spends the whole of the first chapter describing his life with his parents; his lack of positive role models, for example the only time he mentions a wider family is a gambling alcoholic grandfather, and the almost inevitable trajectory of his own self-abuse, drinking, gambling and womanizing despite being a successful businessman.

Unlike his parents however he had a stable enough marriage and sufficient insight to see how this pattern of behaviour was destroying him and the people he loved to set him on the road to recovery. It was during this period in his life that he started to write the book and develop the main concepts.

The book is very good at describing some of the behaviour traits of addictive personalities. Hence a sense of victim hood, entitlement issues and the inability to trust are reoccurring features of the addict’s daily experience; adding to this the inability to break through these self-destructive patterns creates a living hell for the sufferers and those close to them.

The chapters are split into useful headings reflecting the problems they describe and the strategies Gagliano develops in order to overcome the processes which hold sufferers back.

These are for me two features apart from the creative relationship between the authors which make this book compelling. The concept of the “ Warden” described as a mini-baseball coach swinging his bat whilst whispering destructive and self-limiting ideas into your head is both funny and familiar. Visualizing the “self-talk” in such a way is not new, after all Winston Churchill among others described his depression as “ the black dog” and by personalising the process you are able to “see” it and in your imagination engage with it.

The other is the use of the first person singular. Gagliano is his own best case study and his remarkable honesty is laudable. But I have two criticisms of this method. Firstly he is dispassionate about himself and whereas this makes for interesting analysis it reads somewhat like a social work report by the social worker about himself and is somewhat artificial as a result. Secondly the whole book is devoid of social context which for me is a serious omission.

For some this may be both issues of style and politics in what is both a brilliant and brave book.

Click Here To Purchase The Problem Was Me: How to End Negative Self-Talk and Take Your Life to a New Level