The Home of Student Journalism at Lesley University

Book Review: “Do You Want to Be Normal or Happy?”

I was going through divorce. Three years before, I had lost my daughter to illness.  Grieving the loss of a child was heartbreaking, and so was the realization that I was ending a relationship with the one person who had a shared memory of her.  I had been through divorce before, when I was in my twenties.  Had I not been able to learn from that experience? Why did it happen again? Have I ever really been happy in a relationship? Have I ever been happy with my life choices in general and career choices in particular? Have I ever been happy with myself? Do I even know who I am?  All these questions were on my mind when I entered a book store in Germany in 2014. I was just strolling around when all of a sudden a title caught my attention: “Do you want to be normal or happy?” What an interesting question. I grabbed the book and couldn’t put it down. Reading through the contents, I could see that here they were, the answers to many of the questions I had been asking myself for quite some time. So I bought the book and have read it several times since. This book has changed my life. Let me give you a brief introduction.

The book consists of three parts. Part one is about “How normal people make themselves unhappy”. Robert Betz, a German psychologist, describes how all of us are influenced by the environment we grow up in. According to the author most people learn at a young age that in order to be accepted, we have to behave in a certain way. We have to meet certain expectations to be loved. We are not just loved for who we are, but love has to be earned. In the author’s opinion, the way people around us treat us and what kind of feedback we get about ourselves will shape us and will determine how we will think about ourselves going forward. For example a girl who is constantly being told that she could have done better instead of being praised, will not be able to build up self confidence. She will learn not to believe in herself and see herself as inferior. As a consequence of this thinking she will meet people who will confirm this negative opinion about herself. She expects to fail and will keep failing as this is what her mind is focused on. We are always looking for confirmation of our thinking and therefore we will experience what we expect to experience. In this first part of the book the author also describes the importance of our relationship to our mother and father and how this relationship will define all other relationships we will have. He states that most parents are still “enmeshed” with their mothers and fathers and have not yet found who they really are. They cannot teach us how to be happy, as they are not happy with themselves. Most of us are accepting things the way they are, because we are afraid of change. We don’t dare to be different, because we want to fit in. He points out how we often blame others without realizing that we can take responsibility for what happens to us.

The second part is about transforming our lives. Robert Betz wants to help us change our thinking. He motivates us to listen to our thoughts and to feel our emotions. He recommends asking ourselves the following questions: “What does no longer feel well-rounded and balanced in my life? What is not flowing? Where is it stuck? What is blocking it”? He thinks that there is a close connection between what he calls “outer house”, for example a messy room, or things in our lives that we keep postponing and our “inner house”, which consists of our sensations, emotions, thoughts and feelings. He distinguishes between the physical body, the emotional body, the mental body and the spiritual body. If your “outer house” is messy, your “inner house” is as well. Disorder does not feel good. Robert Betz wants us to deal with our emotions, to feel them and acknowledge them instead of repressing them and keeping ourselves busy and by doing the latter running away from ourselves. “Repressed emotions make us unhappy and our bodies sick”. The author also points out the importance of loving ourselves first, before being able to love others. “If you don’t take good care of yourself, then you burden your fellow men with your unhappiness”. He emphasizes the influence we have on our children and how we should be good role models. In his words “children don’t have to be shaped by us like the body of a car. Instead they need a loving and validating environment, within which they can discover and develop everything that is contained within them. If we respect and treat children like independent personalities who want to express and show themselves then you will be surprised, how much wisdom there is within them.”

The third part finally gives the reader very clear and easy to understand suggestions how to “embark on a new path of living and loving”. If you are interested in learning more about these ideas you will have to read the book. ”Even if millions of people view themselves in the same way, this does not prove that it is true. Yet this belief, the power of mass consciousness, has a strong, seductive suction-effect on the individual, tempting him or her to join this unfortunate way of thinking and, at the same time, the collective path of suffering. Do you want to continue to follow the blind masses? Or would you rather live your own life independently?”

Chances are that you will completely fall in love with this book, like I did, or perhaps you won’t agree with it at all. It is definitely not for everybody and it will depend on what you are currently dealing with in your life, whether the book will resonate with you or not. Just allow yourself to think differently, be open-minded. In my case this book has been highly inspirational. It has helped me to see the patterns I have been stuck in and I am now on my way to finding the happiness I have always been looking for.

You can find the book on Robert Betz’s website. It is a German-language site, but this book has been translated into English.  You don’t need to understand German to go through the check-out process, and yes they are willing to ship it to the United States.  The link is right here:


1 Response »

  1. Thanks for sharing this in-depth book review, Anita. I loved hearing you talk abou this book in class, and now I want to read this book even more.

Fatal error: Uncaught Error: Call to undefined function ereg() in /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/wp-content/themes/mimbopro/comments.php:41 Stack trace: #0 /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/wp-includes/comment-template.php(1532): require() #1 /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/wp-content/themes/mimbopro/single.php(46): comments_template() #2 /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/wp-includes/template-loader.php(106): include('/data/16/2/16/1...') #3 /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/wp-blog-header.php(19): require_once('/data/16/2/16/1...') #4 /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/index.php(17): require('/data/16/2/16/1...') #5 {main} thrown in /data/16/2/16/158/2994321/user/3322953/htdocs/wordpress1/wordpress/wp-content/themes/mimbopro/comments.php on line 41