Review: Everyday Magic: The Power of Memes

Everyday Magic: The Power of Memes is traveling down a well-worn road. Ken Renshaw resurrects the ideas of Mesmer, suggestibility; Freud, that sometimes fears are disguised wishes; Alfred Adler and family influences; the archetypes of Carl Jung; even Eric Berne’s concept of “scripts” all are stuffed into a vast system of “memes.” These memes are vaguely defined as just about any idea that prompts you to behave in one way or another. There is no discussion of drives or reinforcement, and very little on habits or another psychological concept, “magical thinking.”

However, this is not all bad. In fact, it may be good. What Renshaw has done is simplify how to understand why you do dumb stuff and how to stop doing dumb stuff. His thinking is similar to Harold Greenwald’s direct decision psychotherapy approach first presented in the 1960’s suggesting that people should decide what payoffs they want and do whatever it is that accomplishes that. Gestalt, rational-emotive, even NLP fans will be attracted to his approach.

He says two things very well. First, that if you believe something to be true, you will live in such a way that it becomes true. Second, that you can change this pattern. For this reviewer, he spends too much time on the former and too little on the latter.

I found one concept to be especially useful. Years ago, a rival of Alka Seltzer showed an ad on television where two tablets were plopped into a glass of water and began to fizz, releasing all that medicine. Almost immediately, a hand reached in and pulled them out, showing that there was nothing special in what was happening with the tablets and bubbles. The message was; there was no magic in those dissolving tablets-you can safely switch to another product. Renshaw’s message is equally clear; that there is no magic in your current memes. They are just the “spell” you’re currently operating from and that you can change it when you want.

To include all he does under the definition of a meme is not a true meaning of the concept nor faithful for how complex we humans are. At the same time, if you’re looking for a simple way to understand why you do what you do, this is a good place to start. He gives you tools to take a clear look at who you are and what you want to be and left me with the clear impression that although we are buffeted by the memes of others, we are responsible for what we become and have the opportunity to take control over it.

Although overly simplified for my taste, Renshaw does a good job of making sense of life and offering practical ways of improving it. His enthusiasm for the topic is clear. I think sitting down for a cup of coffee with him for an hour or so would be enlightening. Second best is to read his book, which I recommend doing.

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