The self-help has had decades to prove its effectiveness as a therapeutic resource and it has come up short. In fact, it hasn’t just come up short, it has proven to be counterproductive. Professor and psychiatrist Glynn Harrison exposes the failures of the self-esteem movement in his 2013 work Ego Trip. The work, however, is more than just deconstructive. Harrison offers readers a constructive, and more fruitful, therapeutic resource for our insecurities in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The book could be broken down into three parts, though this is not how Harrison has overtly constructed the book. Chapters 1-4 essentially trace the development of the self-esteem as an ideology and then movement. He walks us through the big names, the concepts, and the various approaches to promoting and expanding the reach of self-esteem as an established therapy. In chapters 5-7 he turns attention to the evaluation of this movement. Hear readers are given access to the insights of several big studies that explored the results of “boosterism” and we are given some startling news about its utter failure to produce convincing results. Furthermore, as Harrison points out, there are also some suggestions that self-esteem therapy has caused more harm than good, especially in the area of narcissism. Finally, chapters 8-12 offer readers an alternative therapeutic resource, one grounded in Christian doctrine. Harrison walks readers through the fundamental philosophical beliefs that lie at the heart of self-esteem, the ways those clash with our own experience of reality, and the ways they clash with Christian doctrine. He them directs readers to consider the claims of Scripture regarding the Imago Dei and the grace of God. He helps readers see that globalizing self-judgment is unnecessary, and that our union with Christ forever alters our status.
This is a truly underrated work. I had never heard of the book, or its author, until I started researching a project I was working on, but this book is excellent. Not only is the author very well informed about his subject material but he is also a careful writer. Harrision exposes the flaws in causal thinking as it relates to self-esteem and is careful not to make the same mistakes in his critique. Correlation, he points out, is not the same as causation. He is also very sensitive to the real struggles people have with identity, insecurity, and “status anxiety.” He explores these concepts Biblically without minimizing the pain and reality of their presence. He combines, wonderfully, his work in psychiatric care and Biblical truth to provide us with a robust picture of the problems of insecurity and the solutions found in Biblical truth.
I highly recommend this book. While many will find the first several chapters too dense for their personal interests, the latter half of the book is wonderful for all readers. The insights, compassionate counsel, and hope that Dr. Harrison gives are worthwhile and would be valuable to all kinds of sufferers. This book is a hidden gem and I found it useful not only for the research I am doing on an upcoming project, but for my own counseling practice and my own life. I hope many more readers will pick up this book.