Heart Searching: Love? Super . . .: Rachel Lipman gets in touch with her inner self in the quest for a happy relationship. 'Superlove' - Anne Naylor: Thorsons, 5.99 pounds

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THIS BOOK should be available on the NHS, and seems likely to put most psychotherapists (not to mention the Heart Searching page) out of business.

That, at least, is the implication of Anne Naylor's claims at the outset of an often exhilarating, occasionally irritating and entirely fascinating book. She confidently promises that her approach 'will lead you to enriching yourself and to bringing lasting pleasure in your relationships with others'. For her, 'Super' stands for Self- Acceptance, Understanding, Peace, Expansion, and Rejoice - put them all together and you will learn to 'love life in all its forms'.

Subtitled The Guide to Happiness in Personal Relationships, Superlove follows hard on the heels of last year's Superlife: The Seven Steps that Spell SUCCESS. And Ms Naylor's talents do not stop at merely writing books: she is a veritable one-woman industry on life transformation, offering a 'Superlife Consultation' that gives people the chance to 'improve their life circumstances in order to experience greater fulfilment and satisfaction in their career, relationships or overall well-being'. She also organises corporate 'Superlife' courses and numerous other presentations, seminars and workshops.

She is, according to her publishers, 'successful, radiant and seems to love everybody'. Just reading her CV is exhausting, from the 13 (13]) O-levels she gained at school in Kent to the period of 'intensive training in personal development' she underwent in the United States during the 1980s - not insignificant, since her upbeat, breathless, all-action (and at times all- jargon) writing style has a distinctly transatlantic flavour.

So how does it all work? The Naylor principle is that the key to success in relationships with other people is to achieve 'peace of mind and contentment in the relationship with yourself'; making the most of the potential to show more kindness and compassion towards yourself, she believes, will enable you to bring 'ease, harmony and fulfilment' to all your relationships. 'The solid foundation for Superlove,' she continues, 'is self- acceptance and learning to love those aspects of yourself that in the past you may have rejected or denied. In order to more fully accept yourself and successfully grow in your relationships, you will need to see, without shame or blame, who you are.'

By learning to love our 'inner child' we can resolve emotional conflict such as self-doubt, guilt, resentment or loneliness, and the resources within our own 'inspirational self' can give us the wisdom and guidance to deal with such difficulties.

It all sounds very impressive in theory. How does it work in practice? Each section contains exercises that I found great fun to do. For example, as we take the first steps towards self-awareness, we are invited to make a list of all the things we dislike about ourselves, then review the list in a more detached way, perhaps by imagining ourselves as a visitor from another planet; thus 'I am ugly' becomes 'I have an interesting and unusual face' and 'I lose my temper a lot' becomes 'I have a quick mind and strong emotions so sometimes I explode like a firework'.

Finally, we are asked to return to the original list and make a distinction between the things we can change and those we cannot. The next exercise offers a way to come to terms with the latter category, turning a negative characteristic ('Beanpole. I am too tall') into a positive interpretation ('I am a sunny person and my height lets me extend my warmth to many people'). We are on the road to self-acceptance, 'the foundation of a happy life well lived'.

The exercises, many accompanied by ingenious diagrams and charts - the 'Triangle of Trust', the 'Mind Map', the 'Fairy Godparent's Charter' - range from the straightforward to the more elaborate. One of my favourites was one of the simplest: 'Select three actions in the next week to promote happiness within yourself, in a relationship with a loved one, and in the outside world.' (I'm not saying what I did, but it was wonderful.)

The book unfolds into a series of variations on the central theme: understanding yourself and others, becoming a friend to yourself and establishing a peaceful co-existence with others, being true to yourself and always choosing the positive option; but, amid the copious theory, there are genuine insights into what happens between real people in real relationships. For example, she says: 'When we fall into the pattern of negatively trying to 'score points' in a relationship, we lose sight of both the loving within ourselves and our 'opponent', the net result being loneliness, isolation and a kind of inner separation.' Ring any bells?

Some of Ms Naylor's ideas might sound odd, even silly (I have to admit failing to find much evidence for her assertion that 'you can physically locate the Inner Child in your body as the area around your navel'), but much of what she says is common sense. I certainly enjoyed the exercises and felt better after some of them, but the jury is still out on whether I can expect to reap the full rewards of the programme, since it is best followed in short steps over a period of months rather than squashed into the hurried timetable of a Heart Searching reviewer.

Not all the insights will work with everyone, but the sheer volume of ideas on offer means that you would have to be unusually cynical or unadventurous not to derive some benefit. And it is hard not to warm to a book whose final thought is: 'Rejoice . . . It's a Wonderful Life.' For those who remain unconvinced, a third title in the series is on the way: Superyou, The Possible Dream. Super]

(Photograph omitted)