Saul Levine MD
[iUniverse, 246 pages]
This book surprised me. I have to admit that after reading the first three chapters (introduction and two life stories out of ten), I put it down, I didn’t find it interesting, or rather delivering a message I expected. Then I gave it another chance and finished it quickly because the subsequent eight life stories grabbed me—I could relate to them more than the first two.
The book starts off with introducing the easy and telling concept of the emotional footprint: the legacy we leave behind after we part in our community, in our family. Similar to the carbon footprint, the emotional footprint is equally (or even more) important to take note of. This heritage can be positive if we favourably touched the lives of the people around us, and can also be negative when they have suffered from our hands (or words, or emotions).
The four B’s are defined as four essential ingredients for creating a positive emotional footprint. Being, belonging, believing and benevolence are central concerns of adult life and the book manages to help readers deeply understand these four concepts through very palpable examples, and also offers readers different routes for reaching a sense of being, belonging, believing and benevolence.
After a short introduction of these terms, which are further developed later in the book, we embark on an imaginary journey. We’re the observer in a train car with ten other people travelling with us. The book describes the life of these ordinary people and uses the four B’s and the concept of the emotional footprint as analytical tools to assess the emotional impressions these passengers had on their communities, their coping mechanisms with life’s difficulties and the quality of their lives. Stemming from Levine’s decades of experience as a psychotherapist, the stories depict characters with common past traumas and challenging events in their lives.
One of the most remarkable lessons of the book for me was how Levine explored the resilience of each of the passengers pointing at this crucial element in our attitude towards life’s challenges. Change is inevitable and the more resilient we can become in dealing with the random events of our lives, the better our chance is to come back stronger after misfortune or setback. Another important lesson to keep in mind: nobody does it alone, there are times in our lives when we surely need a “corrective emotional experience.”
I enjoyed learning through the diversified life stories of these passengers. It made me reflect on my own life and assess my own emotional footprint. It also helped me understand others with similar life journeys to those described in the book—I know the understanding I gained about their decisions in life made me more empathetic and tolerant. As a bonus, commonly used psychological terms (depression, ADHD, cognitive dissonance, PTSD and many more) are given proper definitions. The explanations embedded in the stories clarified these words for me, a layperson with an interest in psychology.
So what can you expect from reading this book? To strengthen your belief in your ability to overcome life’s trials and to encourage you to be on a mission to leave a positive legacy in this world. Since “a positive emotional footprint is the greatest gift we can bestow our loved ones and the world.”