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Friendship by the Book: Nine Rooms of Happiness

You can't change them. You can change yourself.

The Nine Rooms of Happiness: Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose, and Getting Over Life's Little Imperfections (Hyperion Voice, 2010) offers straightforward strategies, or "pearls" of wisdom, for resolving relationship conflicts. One gem that particularly resonated with me was: "You can't change them. You can change yourself." Having wasted incalculable time in my own youth trying to change others, I couldn't agree more.

Co-authored by Lucy Danziger, the editor in chief of Self Magazine, and Catherine Birndorf, M.D., a psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, this new book joins the burgeoning genre of happiness literature. The authors cleverly employ a house as a metaphor for a woman's emotional life. As in any house, the rooms (chapters) of this one are interconnected, but, of course, I took an immediate detour into the chapter named the Living Room, which represents the area of women's friendships and social connections.

In the Living Room, we're introduced to a number of women whose friendships are "messy" for a variety of reasons. Whether it's the friend who is insatiably needy, self-involved, mistrusting, or jealous, the authors provide insight into the unconscious motivations that impede these women from achieving healthier friendships that can enhance their happiness quotient. The book helps the reader identify and understand the psychological defense mechanisms that often undermine and destroy friendships. By offering readers tools, they can take ownership of their messy rooms and make changes that improve their friendships and their lives.

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"Friendship by the Book" is an occasional series of posts on The Friendship Blog about books that offer friendship lessons.

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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