Book Review: Mind Whispering: A New Map to Freedom From Self-Defeating Emotional Habits, Tara Bennet-Goleman, Rider Books, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, 2013 paperback, 325 pages, latest edition $14.99 U.S., ISBN 978-1-84604-338-3

Your dysfunctional habits do not define you!

That is the takeaway message for me after reading Tara Bennet-Goleman’s book, Mind Whispering; A New Map to Freedom From Self-Defeating Emotional Habits.

In Mind Whispering, Mrs. Bennet-Goleman borrows principles from her study of Buddhism, Horse Whispering, and Cognitive Therapy to try to explain how the brain slips into dysfunctional habits or “modes” of behavior when triggered by stressful events.

These dysfunctional “modes” are patterns of behavior that we typically learn and adopt as children to help us manage and cope with a stressful childhood.  Mrs. Bennet-Goleman points out that these coping methods are useful to help us survive as children, but once we reach adulthood, they become firmly entrenched as habitual behaviors which are dysfunctional and no longer helpful.  Many of these key dysfunctional modes are labeled as, Anxious, Avoidance, and Predator, Prey.  As adults, we may deem these habitual behaviors as part of our personality and just accept them as being endemic to who we are.

For instance, due to pressures that I had growing up, I have a dysfunctional habit of Avoidance.   This means that my fallback behavior is to avoid intense emotional encounters and quite honestly, RUN AWAY SCREAMING!  I have always considered that as part of my personality.  I simply accepted it as a fact that that is who I am.  After reading Mind Whispering, I realize that this avoidance behavior does not have to define me. It isn’t me.  It is simply a habit that I learned as a child to avoid the pain of growing up in a divorced family.

How does this help from a health and fitness standpoint?

 It helps HEAPS!  

One of the author’s main points is that having “Awareness” of our Dysfunctional Modes and recognizing the triggers that initiate the habitual response gives us the power to choose a different response.  

I realize now that one of the habits that I adopted to help me avoid intense or uncomfortable emotions is to, quite frankly, eat.  I have been aware of this emotional eating habit for a while.  I particularly succumb to this Behavioral Mode when I feel that I am not being heard or understood or when I feel frustrated with life in general.  When my avoidance mode gets triggered, especially if I am at home, I want to head right for the refrigerator.  A lot of you know what I’m talking about!


Yes, the personal trainer has to deal with these issues, too!


I have been aware of this habitual drive towards emotional eating for years, and I have some strategies for dealing with it, but it is something that I always have to be mindful of to manage.   My point is that my awareness of the impulse has not stopped the impulse from occurring.  I’ve only managed to create coping mechanisms to deal with it.  Hopefully, now that I am Aware that the root cause for the impulse to emotionally eat is Avoidance of uncomfortable situations and intense emotions, I can work to eliminate the drive to emotionally eat all together.

More importantly, I can work to change this dysfunctional habit of Avoidance; a life-long habit, but a habit nonetheless.  A habit that I had previously thought was an unavoidable part of my personality!  

I can also start to apply this new understanding in my personal and professional life.  It can help me face my fears and achieve new fitness goals and professional milestones.

This type of belief and empowerment can mean huge changes for a person.  Believing that you have the power to change a dysfunctional habit that has a major impact on your success both personally and professionally is profound. You may find that this book opens up a better understanding of your situation as well.  Hopefully you will gain a little perspective as to why you behave the way you do when stressed.

Take the knowledge and run with it!

You have to be patient with this book and read the whole thing.  It is not outlined or categorized by dysfunction mode type or laid out as a step-by-step guide. There were times that I wished it were. You have to read the material and take note of the excerpts that apply to you.  It may be a bit frustrating at times, but if you stick with it, you may find some helpful insights that apply to your situation.