Book Review: The Compassionate-Mind Guide To Overcoming Anxiety

The Compassionate-Mind Guide To Overcoming Anxiety, by Dennis D. Tirch

As someone who reads more than my fair share of books about dealing with anxiety and PTSD and other issues related to dysfunctional family backgrounds [1], it is helpful to ponder the worldview that produces a book like this. Even, as is the case where conscience forbids a positive review, it is worthwhile to ponder the effort that is taken to produce a counterfeit Christian view out of materials, and the reasons why this would be done. This particular book advocates a technique for self-compassion therapy that combines elements from three disharmonious sources: an oversimplified [2] view of the brain and a misguided devotion to evolutionary biology, Buddhist techniques in meditation, and an eclectic blend of Jungian archetypes and cognitive behavioral theory dressed up with kinder, gentler language. With this unholy Frankenstein monster of a mosaic approach, the author seeks to stitch together the compassion and desire for growth of biblical Christianity and the desire for salvation from anxiety and torment without the need to honor God and Jesus Christ as Creator, Lord, or Savior. While I wholeheartedly disapprove of the author’s efforts, there is something striking in the fact that the author made such an effort, and made the incompatible elements open enough to be recognized for what they are.

In terms of its structure and contents, the book is short at under 200 pages and consists of ten chapters in two parts after an opening preface, forward, and personal story. The first part, explaining the compassionate mind approach to overcoming anxiety, gives a fallacious discussion of the emergence of anxiety and how it has evolved, and also comments on the supposed evolution within psychology towards a compassionate-mind approach, and explores the attributes and skills of the compassionate mind. The second part provides more practical discussion of compassionate mind training for anxiety, starting with a sandy foundation of mindfulness, compassion-focused imagery, and then a detailed approach on compassionate thinking and behavior and also beginning again, constantly. This part of the book contains various useful techniques for controlled breathing and relaxation to help someone calm down in the grips of a panic attack, as some of us are prone to having from time to time.

The faulty philosophical and political worldview of this book makes it impossible to recommend. The techniques the author recommends are of practical use in calming someone’s anxious nerves, but can also be used in suppressing one’s conscience in order to feel more at ease with behaving according to one’s selfish lusts as opposed to the ways of God. The book’s marked hostility towards biblical law and its ethical demands suggests that the author has tried out many of the techniques of the book in suppressing his own conscience so as to be more at ease with being a fallen being, without the healthy longing for moral improvement. As a result of the author’s consistently antibiblical approach, this book is of extremely limited value, except insofar as it provides a classic example for the longing for compassion and mercy without the longing for repentance and reconciliation with God that is rampant in our contemporary world, and insofar as it provides practical techniques for dealing successfully with a stressful world. Whether that is sufficient reason to read this book I leave to the reader to decide.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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