In 'Self Matters', Phil McGraw shows people how to get in the game and how to make self esteem an issue about possibilities rather than problems.
Sigmund Freud eventually concluded that human life is more to be endured than enjoyed, but that is not the attitude borne on the tide of relentlessly cheerful self-help books. Like others of its ilk, this one urges us to live by design, breaking free of the past events and encounters which shackle us in a perpetual victimhood. 'Dr Phil', who is 'known to millions' thanks to his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show, counteracts negativity and excuses for failure with folksy anecdotes, stern admonitions and the glowing offer of hope. Habitual consumers of manuals for the reinvention of the self will find nothing original or startling here, though the reader new to the genre may as well commence with this as with anything else, since this volume is entirely typical, though less poetic than some. In the main, the book consists of laborious explanations of the obvious, e.g. someone whose face is burned and scarred 'will tell you that it changes how they feel about their inadequacy. They become far more uncertain about going out into the world. In other words, the same disfigurement they suffer physically has also affected their psyche.' It also includes exercises, usually ones which require the making of lists with such headings as Ten Defining Moments, Seven Critical Choices and Five Pivotal People. The rationale for the specific numbers is not revealed, but it is at these points that the book becomes potentially useful, since reviewing those events, decisions and encounters which have had the most powerful effects upon us is a sensible way of tracing the patterns of our lives. Some readers may question the concept of the 'authentic self' which exists untouched by experience, while others will take it as the definition of the soul. Again, acting on the recognition with inner passion may be viewed as regressive utopian folly, or as an essential stage in continuing self-development, depending on one's persepective. Certainly, according to the book jacket, the techniques he advocates have worked for Dr Phil, who now runs a consultancy specializing in 'high-profile' litigation cases, as well as seminars on life skills. (Kirkus UK)