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You're a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass): Embracing the Emotions, Habits, and Mystery That Make You You

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Why is there such a gap between what you want to do and what you actually do? The host of Ask Science Mike and co-host of The Liturgists Podcast explains why our desires and our real lives are so wildly different—and what you can do to close the gap.

For thousands of years, scientists, philosophers, and self-help gurus have wrestled with one of the basic conundrums of human life: Why do we do the things we do? Or, rather, why do we so often not do the things we want to do? As a podcast host whose voice goes out to millions each month, Mike McHargue gets countless emails from people seeking to understand their own misbehavior—why we binge on Netflix when we know taking a walk outside would be better for us, or why we argue politics on Facebook when our real friends live just down the street. Everyone wants to be a good person, but few of us, twenty years into the new millennium, have any idea how to do that.

In You’re a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass), McHargue addresses these issues. We like to think we’re in control of our thoughts and decisions, he writes, but science has shown that a host of competing impulses, emotions, and environmental factors are at play in every action we undertake. Touching on his podcast listeners’ most pressing questions, from relationships and ethics to stress and mental health, and sharing some of the biggest triumphs and hardships from his own life, McHargue shows us how some of our qualities that seem most frustrating—including “negative” emotions like sadness, anger, and anxiety—are actually key to helping humans survive and thrive. In doing so, he invites us on a path of self-understanding and, ultimately, self-acceptance.

You’re a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass) is a guided tour through the mystery of human consciousness, showing readers how to live more at peace with themselves in a complex world.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published April 28, 2020

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About the author

Mike McHargue

3 books758 followers
Mike McHargue is a public educator trusted by millions to use empathy and deep scientific insights to help them navigate some of the most difficult parts of the human experience. He’s the host of Ask Science Mike, co-founded the chart-topping show The Liturgists Podcast, is the bestselling author of Finding God in the Waves, and You’re a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass), and works as a science advisor and story consultant for film and television working with clients including Marvel Studios and Pete Holmes.

Mike has been featured in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, The Huffington Post, and scores of other notable publications. Mike is an in-demand speaker appearing all over the world—including appearances at Google and MIT. Mike’s next book You are a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass) comes out on April 28, 2020.

Mike lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife Jenny, his daughters Madison and Macey, and their beloved dog, Ruby.

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5 stars
634 (42%)
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571 (37%)
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244 (16%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 184 reviews
Profile Image for Mike.
Author 3 books758 followers
April 28, 2020
I left a joke review of my first book that read:

"It's easily the best book I've ever written. Of course, it's also the only book I've ever written."

The review I'm leaving for this, my second book, is no joke.

I love this book, because it is about how I am learning to love me, and it also an invitation for you to learn to love you. I believe that when we learn to truly accept ourselves, we gain the remarkable ability to experience the full range of human emotions in a way that invites us into relationships with others, true intimacy, and the courage to face difficult times. Of all the work I have done, and all the stories I've shared, this book is what I am most proud of.
Profile Image for Paul Wheeler.
23 reviews
April 20, 2020
I loved this book! The goal of the author is "to introduce you to the marvelous miracle you meet in the mirror every morning." The book is part memoir, and part an easily digestible analysis of some of the latest research. If you love science and psychology and want to learn more about your body and brain and how they work together to become "you", both for the good and bad, definitely check this book out. "Your consciousness is often on the losing side of a tug of war against your impulses, emotions, and environment. Weaving this beautiful chaos into the story you live, which you only become aware of when you tell it. We'll explore cognitive behavioral therapy, triune model of the brain, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, supernormal stimulus, and polyvagal theory." Just my kind of book!
(Note: I am a fan and received a free early copy of the book in a Goodreads giveaway).
133 reviews10 followers
April 28, 2020
I freaking love this book. I've been a fan of Science Mike's for quite some time now and he outdid himself with this one. It's full of fascinating research, heartfelt stories, and insight that's easy to understand. I learned so much about myself and why I do the things I do. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to review this wonderful book!

If you've ever wondered why you can't break that habit (or why someone you love can't break their habits), this is a book you need to read. Those who are interested in neural retraining, psychology, human behavior, and science will enjoy this too. It's also a great read for those who like memoirs.

I think this is an important book for the era we currently find ourselves in with COVID-19 taking hold of the world. It was insightful for me into the behaviors I'm seeing from some folks, any from myself. This book also invites us to explore our own habits and behaviors, which I think many people are naturally doing right now anyway.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a digital advanced reader copy of this book to share my honest opinions with you.
Profile Image for Becki.
405 reviews13 followers
March 8, 2020
I've been a fan of author and pod-castor "Science Mike" McHargue for a number of years. In fact, my first exposure to him was his *first* book (Finding God in the Waves), about how he left evangelical Christianity, became a closet athiest, then had a mystical experience that brought him back to... God, I guess he would say. That book was absolutely transformational to me, and it led me to start listening to his two podcasts, "The Liturgists" and "Ask Science Mike".

This book is really *nothing* like his first book. If you are a listener to his podcasts, this will explain it... "Finding God in the Waves" is to "The Liturgists" as "You're a Miracle" is to "Ask Science Mike". Where Finding God/The Liturgists is all about the intersections of faith and science and art, You're a Miracle/Ask Science Mike is all about the search to understand the biology and sociology behind why humans do the things that we do, and why those things are so often the opposite of what we *want* to do!

With chapters about the evolutionary development of the brain (and why that matters), the benefits of different types of therapy, the dangers of social media and AI, what right-brain vs left-brain *really* means, etc, this book is a treasure trove of important and relevant scientific information, shared in a way that is both easily digestible and incredibly gentle. McHargue is amazingly transparent and open about his own struggles and growth, particularly during the difficult 12-18 months of writing this book. I found myself cheering for him and for those who love him. If you already love "Ask Science Mike"- you'll love this book, too. If you don't know what I'm talking about, grab this book and you'll see!

I'm so appreciative to the author and publisher, who allowed me to read an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion, which I am always happy to offer. :) #NetGalley #YoureaMiracleandaPainintheAss
Profile Image for Clint Archer.
8 reviews
April 29, 2020
If your own emotions have ever confused you, and you also enjoy a bit of nerdy brain science, you’ll probably find this book super interesting. I can’t recommend this book enough!

I’ve followed the author’s work almost since he began his public platform with The Liturgists and his solo podcast Ask Science Mike. When he announced the preorders for the book were available, I happily clicked over to Amazon to support one of my favorite podcaster/authors. Through his public work, I’ve found “Science” Mike to be one of the most thoughtful, genuinely kind, and intelligent humans on planet earth.

This book combines interesting neuroscience and psychology with helpful insights about the inner workings of our emotional lives. He uses well-researched science as a tool to examine why we do the things we do, and often fail to understand ourselves. He uses examples from his own life, from childhood to adulthood, and all the emotional struggles common to “social mammals” to weave a story we can all relate to on some level. I’ll let him tell his own story, and it’s better that way. Trust me. Mike McHargue is a skilled storyteller.

Having finished the book, I walk away with new insights about how my own brain works to create consciousness and emotions. I walk away with a fresh perspective on how my brain works to help me survive. It truly is a miracle. And sometimes a pain in the ass.
Profile Image for Allie.
79 reviews13 followers
April 27, 2020
This book was a very interesting read, especially for someone like me, who doesn’t reach for non-fiction often. I love reading and learning about other people’s journeys of self-love and acceptance,a journey that I have been on for a long time now. I love that Science Mike offers his truth – as difficult as it is – for his readers to learn from. He shares how he has overcome his struggles in the past, the patterns of his behavior, the science behind those behaviors and how those behaviors can be changed. He shares the struggles that have started for him in school and how those struggles have impacted his life. This book is not an overnight solution to your problems, but it could help start a healing process or push you into the direction of seeking help.
Profile Image for Tracy.
91 reviews
May 11, 2021
Mike McHargue is a gift. So valuable and fascinating are the information and insights in this book that I listened to it twice in a row and would have again had it not been due at the library. Highly recommended to all humans.
50 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2020

Please stop reading all your reviews ❤️ But I know you will read them anyway, haha, so here’s a personal note of thanks. We are very different in many surface-level ways but deep down I feel such a connection to your inner spirit.

I was telling some other nines on the Liturgists slack group how I’m entering a really intense season of boundary-making. And I think reading this book, as well as hearing you talk about it with Hillary on your podcast, helped me come to the realization that self-erasure as a form of taking care of others is actually a form of self-harm. I have always felt confident in the idea that my purpose/calling in life is to be a listener and to support others. I’m now realizing that the wonderful parts of that are counter-balanced with that sinister self-erasure that is starting to spiritually kill me.

The ways in which you have set boundaries in your life, especially with the liturgists audience, are stunning. And I now have an example in which to model myself after. Thank you. Congratulations. Keep looking after yourself first and foremost you lovely human 💗
764 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2020
Interesting and thought provoking book. I didn’t expect to enjoy it, if I’m honest.

Thank you NetGalley for my complimentary copy in return for my honest review.
Profile Image for Benjamin Shurance.
255 reviews17 followers
March 28, 2021
I got this out of the library, part of a spate of books about emotions in prepping for a talk. I was vaguely familiar with the author as a public figure but am not a listener to either of his podcasts. It is a quick, easy read.

What was good:
1. The author's vulnerability in relating his own journey: "I’ve gone from thinking I could write a book about growth and transformation, to sharing a real-time sampling of loss and suffering in the time it took to write these words." (190)
2. Some wise advice garnered from science.

What was bad:
1. Attributing purposefulness to evolution: "Your brain isn’t here to show you an honest picture of the world, or to make you happy. It’s not here to make rational decisions, or to help you advance up the corporate ladder. Your body spent the energy it takes to build something as powerful as your brain for one reason and one reason only: Your brain helps you survive on a planet that is often hostile to life." (34)
2. Darwinism as metaphysics clothed in biblical language: "There isn’t a piece of you that hasn’t been fearfully and wonderfully made, tested by the unforgiving process of natural selection." (43)

Where it does science, it does fine. Where it attempts science as metaphysics, not so much.
100 reviews
February 16, 2020
I won an ARC of this book. It is very easy to read and filled with good advice. The author explains his points in clear simple terms and uses good analogies to enhance understanding.
There are basic explanations as to how the brain works, the evolutionary development process, and theories about why we behave the way we do.
The author suggests we try not to be manipulated into bad habits by the primitive functions of our brain, then explains methods as to how and why.
McHargue is very forthcoming about life and emotional issues he has dealt with, what has helped him, and how several therapies could help readers with similar issues.
The book is very positive and realistic, sometimes sad and sometimes humorous, and full of circumstances we may find in our own lives.
Profile Image for Morgan.
147 reviews84 followers
May 11, 2020
This is a wonderfully written book, showcasing raw insight from the author's heart and quite humorous interjections from time to time. Mike does an outstanding job teaching here--he takes sometimes dull, complex concepts and turns them into lively pieces of analogy, infusing them with the personal. I love Mike on The Liturgists podcast and enjoyed another book of his last year -- Finding God in the Waves. This one might read as more of a review for the more scientifically literate, but I highly recommend checking it out anyway, at least for Mike's analogies and the autobiographical component.

A special thanks to Rhett and Link for recommending the new book! Yo, can we please get a Good Mythical Morning and Science Mike crossover?
Profile Image for Sarah Kate Brewer.
40 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2020
I don’t have the words yet to describe what this book did for my soul.
I’ll probably make it a practice to read this book once a year, but that’s just me. If that’s not you then that’s alright.

This is NOT a self help book - praise God.
Real discussions about trauma and suicidal tendencies next to bird-watching and dance parties. Loss of loved ones and growing a tomato garden.
I read it as slowly as I could.
23 reviews
May 15, 2020
I love Mike McHargue's work, and this book is a great balance of anatomical analysis and emotional expression (two of his strengths), communicating complex ideas in a way that's very clear and very personal.
Profile Image for Allison Pickett.
312 reviews2 followers
April 29, 2020
Science Mike is a storyteller to the core. He writes kindly, honestly, and engages us with his life. Talking about his life while weaving in science and psychology is his gift. I am taking away some crucial information about the way I speak to myself as well as the way I treat my old wounds. Thanks, Mike!
Profile Image for Ian McLaren.
101 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2020
There's literally no one better at articulating what goes on in the head and the heart.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
16 reviews
July 6, 2020
In a world that is rightly uncomfortable right now, it feels warm to check in with Mike again, even where he shares his pain.
Profile Image for Ben.
277 reviews9 followers
April 28, 2020
Thanks to NetGalley and Convergent Books for an ARC of this book.

I'm a fan of Science Mike and the Liturgists podcast, and was excited to check this out. Ultimately, this book is a journey that doesn't quite end in the same place as it starts out - for reason Mike explains - and there's some focus at the start of the book that I missed in later sections (though this was remedied by the Appendix at the end explaining the brain). There are some great nuggets in this book on personal growth, and how to notice the bad patterns you may unknowingly be following, but like any self-help-y book, there are portions that felt super relevant and others that didn't. I think had I been reading a hard copy of this book where it was easier to flip back and forth between sections, parts of the book would have felt a little less disjoint to me.
Profile Image for Sara Gorman.
294 reviews5 followers
June 12, 2020
This was a great book to listen to especially if you are interested in how the brain informs and interacts with our daily lives. While there were parts that I wish I was reading because of the tables and appendices mentioned, I'm not sure it would have held my attention the same way. I also was easily able to relate to a number of the concepts and life situations mentioned which made it that much better.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the brain and daily activities.
Profile Image for Kathryn Maslanka.
44 reviews1 follower
November 22, 2020
While I found some parts very interesting and helpful; the book as a whole did not flow for me. Upon finishing, I’m not entirely sure what the message was. Or maybe there were too many messages that no one in particular stands out.

It’s part scientific, part memoir, part self-help. Each part interesting in its own way, but disconnected from each other. Each part could probably be it’s own book. I found myself wanting more applicable research, less memoir.

My favorite quote - “What good is it for a man to have a strong quarterly earnings but forfeit the ocean?”
Profile Image for Brenda Torres.
73 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2020
This book is an excellent example of someone who knows a little bit about everything trying to be the expert and failing. The scientific and psychological explanations were confusing, at best. And though I applaud the author's vulnerability, I have deep feelings about releasing a book about suffering and growth while still in the midst of it. It loses the proper perspective of hindsight.
Profile Image for Tara.
330 reviews
May 25, 2020
Ah, the plight of the middle-aged white guy. Your life is hard. How do you find the strength to continue?
There were a few good nuggets and I appreciated that he had done his scientific research, but mostly this was not for me.
1,373 reviews19 followers
April 30, 2020
How often do we ask ourselves why we do the things we do? A lot, I bet. In this book, Mike McHargue, whose podcast reaches many each month, discusses many of the issues, culled from emails he receives and his own vast experience in this area, we humans wonder about about ourselves and our actions. Mike Points to the myriad of things that drive us to do what we do, providing a glimpse in how we may be able to corral things and use them our benefit, so we might be able to come to terms with life and be more at peace with ourselves. The combination of neuroscience, psychology, insights into the ways and whys people act helps shed some light on just who humans are and how we can use our own psyches to make ourselves and the world a better place. This is a pretty good book that has helped me better understand myself and my life as well as that of others around me. It is not the normal genre of books I read on a regular basis, but one I am glad I had the opportunity to read. I received this from NetGalley to read and review.
Profile Image for Darcy.
88 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2023
I do this thing where I list a book that I'm reading...and then forget I listed it, even if I finished it months ago. Hence, the late review of this book, which I started listening too in early November 2022.

I worked for many years at a bookstore. I worked books, music, the cafe, and the back room where I was trained in multiple areas. That said, if I were still a bookseller...this book would definitely be shelved under self-help and *not* under science. The author repeatedly says over and over that it's "not a self help book" but I genuinely don't know how else to classify it. It's light on the science (which was disappointing) because I think that would have been interesting. If this book had been written as a memoir, I would have loved to read that book. But not this pseudo science/self help book.

I won't elaborate...but I think this book could be dangerous to someone with suicide idealization or other suicidal thoughts. I was really disappointed in it.
Profile Image for Heidi Gardner.
26 reviews16 followers
May 1, 2020
a book about your brain that will help you hear your heart

As you might expect from someone belovedly known as Science Mike, "You're a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass): Embracing the Emotions, Habits, and Mystery That Make You You" carefully curates facts, science and solid scholarship. It is a map of the well traveled avenues, the direct routes to compassion for humanity that asking and answering the question "why" and struggling to understand often are. But what this collection of words truly is, this science all intricately woven with story and heartache and deep love, is actually an unpaved path that will lead you to *the* most breathtaking view, compassion for your own being. I could not be more grateful for the lessons that remain as a result of reading, nor could I recommend a more appropriate book for surviving and ultimately thriving in the world's current emotional climate.
Profile Image for Rachel.
73 reviews
May 1, 2020
Thank you, Science Mike, for this book. It landed in my hands a time when your words could speak so meaningfully and directly to my life and heart. After pulling apart and examining the cultural and societal norms I was handed to describe me and the way I should behave in the world, I now find myself being more able to discover and examine ME. I have found many excellent sources of information and learning and have also been encouraged by others' personal accounts and memoirs giving me permission to feel - and this book marries what, until now, I experienced as two opposing sides (information versus feeling). It is empowering me on the journey to seeing myself more and more as the miracle I am.
212 reviews
February 20, 2021
I love books that make me feel good about being a human. There are so many things that are fooked up in the world, but science mike takes us on a journey towards understanding and loving ourselves. I honestly learned a lot from this book. But more than that I loved how it made me feel. It made me want to do good and honor myself and try to keep following Jesus. He talked about Rachel held Evan for lits a paragraph and I was in tears. He talks about some different therapy techniques or whatever
You call them that were incredibly helpful, shares intimate stories, and gives scientific insights to our brain. I could keep going and this is jumbled but I loved this book and will cherish it for a long time.
Profile Image for Charissa.
159 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2020
I find it hard to rate this book objectively as I'm a huge fan of Mike McHargue. Because of that fact, I also already knew a lot of what he discusses in this book. I attempted to rate it for someone who comes to the book without too much preexisting knowledge relating to brains and emotions etc. So it gets five stars.

For me, it was more of a review of important information and thoughts. Also important, because this is info worth internalising.
Profile Image for Erin Henry.
1,117 reviews6 followers
May 3, 2020
What a brutiful book! Mike is so open and honest in sharing his struggles and what he has learned this far. He details the why’s behind a lot of our subconscious thoughts and actions and explains how being aware of them and observing them can help to change them. I wish everyone had such an openness and intelligence about life. The author makes the world a more beautiful place. I definitely plan on sharing this book with lots of people and rereading it soon.
Profile Image for Julia Hannigan.
61 reviews2 followers
March 1, 2021
When I first started this book I didn’t think I would truly enjoy it, but getting into the depth of it, I have true appreciation for Mike and his words. He bravely shared much of his life and brain, which led me to feel understood in small and huge ways throughout my time reading it.

This book would be good for anyone to read, as we all journey toward a deeper love and understanding for others, and ourselves.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 184 reviews

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