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Constructive Living

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  427 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Constructive Living is a Western approach to mental health education based in large part on adaptations of two Japanese psychotherapies, Morita therapy and Naikan therapy. Constructive Living (CL) presents an educational method of approaching life realistically and thoughtfully. The action aspect of CL emphasizes accepting reality (including feelings), focusing on purposes ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published February 1st 1984 by University of Hawaii Press
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  427 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was intrigued by Morita therapy because I think many of my issues stem from being overly reflective and self-aware. Most therapies I'd previously encountered seemed to encourage me to delve deeper into the habits of thought that were the very problem. Constructive living takes the opposite approach - encouraging attentive action.

I was not going to give this book more than 3 stars until I got to the exercises section, maybe because I was easily sold on the underlying theory and found the initia
Emma Sea
2.5 stars in Nov 2018, but 4 stars in May 2020
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a close friend, and after hearing him talk about it, I was motivated to read it immediately. It is very short, and can be read in a few days, perhaps a little longer if one wishes to savour its contents. Essentially, it takes the therapeutic teachings of Dr. Morita and puts them into a context that Westerners can easily grasp. I enjoyed reading this book very much.

Its a methodology that can move one beyond how one feels into taking constructive action. Right f
Alison Smith
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting & useful book. Key ideas: BE HERE NOW. and: DO WHATEVER NEEDS TO BE DONE NEXT.
Mar 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
This is one of those books I'm almost embarrassed to post as having read. I don't go in for "zen" anything, really. In spite of it's new age description, for the most part this book is very practical and day-to-day - and whatever wasn't, I skipped.

What I got out of this odd book:

We are a feeling-centered society, but feelings are not reality. Feelings change, feelings cannot be helped or controlled. They can be useful, they matter, but when they become our focus it is harmful to us. History is
May 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Lesson of this book:
Recognize and accept what you know you are. Don't try to pretend, but at the same time don't waste your time focusing on what it prevents you from doing. Focus on what needs to be accomplished and do it, despite shyness, grief, pain. etc.

Morita Therapy
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Read this book years ago and it had a lasting positive effect in my life. Re-reading it now. Will be posting my summary/notes in the comments below...
Mar 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
I didn't pick this book up because I was looking for a different kind of self-help. I chose it because Will Schwalbe and his mother (The End of Your Life Book Club) had been huge fans.
First of all (audiobook) the narration, narrated by Reynolds was terrible. It is a universal truth that being a renowned psychiatrist does not automatically qualify you to be a great reader. Showing off your knowledge of Japanese by throwing in Japanese quotes is not on. However, I was determined to learn somethin
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book borrows its ideas from Morita and Naikan therapies. While some of the issues are addressed with a pragmatic outlook and some of the solutions also worth implementing, however, one cannot act on many ideas that the book suggests. One thing that sticks in my mind is the approach he advocates regarding concentrating all your energies in any activity that you perform - be it reading, writing, washing dishes, listening to somebody, walking etc. I know such ideas are not unknown to us, but t ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: mind-altering
Perfect for those at loose ends and constantly in emotional turmoil. For these people, a focus on mindful observation, behavioral restraint and mature action, generosity towards others, and acceptance of what cannot be changed could do wonders to calm the emotional storms. Yet just as he states that Freud’s introspective psychoanalysis was ideal for treating a specific hysteria brought on by repression but not ideal for today’s more obsessive neuroses, this treatment also seems to have its limit ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I found its basic messages valid, its author's superior attitude alternately annoying and amusing, and its exercises silly, though I could see their underlying purpose. He's as skeptical of "And how do you feel about that?" therapy as I am. He says that feelings are. They happen. You shouldn't blame yourself for them. While you're busy trying to figure out where they're coming from or telling yourself that they're bad, you could actually be accomplishing things. It's better to do something concr ...more
Brian Johnson
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-classics
“There are no neurotics or geniuses or failures or fools. There are only neurotic moments, flashes of brilliance, failed opportunities, and stupid mistakes. But these moments, pleasant or unpleasant, can never fix us into rigid, immutable characters. We cannot help but change. This book is about choosing the direction of your changingness and acting upon your choice.”

~ David K. Reynolds from Constructive Living

Constructive Living.

It’s a book a friend and favorite author of mine, Dan Millman (T
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Super book - a good companion volume to the work of Gregg Krech's 'The Art of Taking Action'. Wonderful account of Morita Therapy. The link with some of the central components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are sometimes downplayed by the ACT community. However, I think the parallels are striking - a focus on 'doing' and also, 'doing what matters'. A recognition of emotions and how they can get in the way - so the aim of 'co-existing with negative feelings' and taking the right action anyw ...more
Jamie Grefe
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: com-theory
I've studied Reynolds' work for the last ten years and have put a lot of these practical suggestions into effect. This is a short introduction to what Reynolds is up to in what he calls "Constructive Living," which is a blend of Morita therapy and Naikan reflection. I recommend this one as a solid starting point, but it is not as detailed as the "Handbook for Constructive Living." For those interested in a grounded approach to mental health, CL is quite useful. ...more
Peter Galamaga
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compact explanation of Morita Therapy. Bottom line - emotions FOLLOW action.
Bruno Arine
I feel oddly satisfied to know that a psychology school that is based on Eastern philosophies coincidentally shares the same precepts from my favorite Western philosophy (Stoicism). Maybe this is evidence that the values embraced by mostly independent sources are, in fact, sound, and bring tranquility to its practitioners.

The precepts are but accepting that some things are under our control, and some are not; one of those things that are not under our control is how we feel. Trying to subjugate
Alexan Martin-Eichner
just read morita's original writings!! or some contemporary zen

this is a poorly written, not-so-helpful, incredibly judgmental, and fundamentally orientalist book

the author's goal is not to linguistically translate morita's thought, nor to reinterpret or add to morita's thought, but to culturally translate morita!!! as tho morita's writings would b too "foreign" or even "oriental" for the western reader to grasp!!

every example is self-important, repetitive, and believes it is offering more
Laura Fitzpatrick
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best self help book I've ever read. Warning, it does not tell you what you want to hear. But, in a way, it does. The first half of the book convinces you that focusing your life on how you feel is a waste of time, because feelings are uncontrollable. The second half convinces you that you need to think carefully about what others have done for you and the trouble you have caused them--the idea is not to cultivate gratitude-- that is a feeling and therefore out of your control, but in ...more
Peter Mohr
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I found the maximes and the exercises pretty helpful and practical. Particularly, the realisation that feelings are comperable to the weather and not directly influencable (only indirectly through behavior). Also the recommended way to leave self-centered thoughts and feelings with carrying work for others will stick with me. However, sometimes I didnot agree with some of the statements in the text itself (e.g. Your body is your servant, not your master.). In the end it is like most books that a ...more
Becky Thomas
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was published in 1984 and it felt dated, but was interesting. It talks about Morita Therapy, which seems like mindfulness to me, but harsher? It was recommended on some enneagram 4 thread I was reading...I kind of felt like I was being fussed at, lol, but there were helpful nuggets in it...basically, stop thinking so much and get up and do the next right thing! It’s a book I will revisit, it was a lot to take in one chunk.
Donald A
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An introductory book to the principles of the Japanese Morita Therapy.

"Remember to begin by recognizing feelings pleasant or unpleasant. Don't begin by ignoring or denying them. See whether they have a message for you about some action you need to take. Then behave responsibly. If the feeling remains, is there something else you need to do? If not, go on about living without excessive interest in the feeling...Feelings follow behavior."
Robert Reynolds
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I appreciate the ideas from the book and am employing some of them. But I think the book itself is scattered and oversimplified. It oversells “do the next thing” at the expense of an honest discussion of how to incorporate planning along with doing. I could easily have missed the point here but I definitely do not buy the idea that I always just know what the next thing needs to be.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book does not promise instant results or great improvements, but it is the best self-help book I have read in a long time.
Roman Leventov
Sep 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
The idea that "more guilt is good for you" is paving the road to neuroticism, IMO. ...more
Oct 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Some helpful stuff, but needs tempering.
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
The wisdom in this book is in the doing. Although I'm not sure I agree with everything, there are several suggestions, that if put into practice in one's own life, can make a positive change. ...more
Dave Stansbury
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
The most practical, and yet, Zen book ever. Just this, here now...
Michael Huang
Apr 04, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: bought
The central insight, if I may, is that most our problems are result of egotistic feelings. We can’t tell ourselves to not feel those feelings, but we can influence it through actions and forming habit. So the exercises of “Constructive Living” are to pull us from self-centeredness. Write to someone inquiring about their state; go for a walk and memorize all the details in the environment; exercise regularly; go through your neighborhood and clean it up…

Wise suggestions, if we can remember to pra
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that is unquestionably top shelf for me. Having spent roughly half my life living in the west (the US) and the other half in the east (East Asia), I feel that Reynolds is one of the very few people who is able to explain concepts from one tradition to the other without watering it down or losing anything. This is absolutely a book that I read and reread with it generally coming off my shelf when I'm having a notably tough time in a particular area.

Of note, I own the Kindle and pa
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I stumbled on something about Morita Therapy and that led me down a few clicks of rabbit holes to this book, which provides a brief overview of both Morita and Naikan therapies.

Constructive Living is short on how one would actually go through this therapy (as are most of the websites) but it explains the premise in clear terms, and I found it to be at its most interesting when comparing these therapies to psychotherapy. It is by no means a comparative text though—I just found that portion of th
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