book review
Book Reviews

Why you should read It’s Not Always Depression by Hilary Jacobs Hendel

Spoiler! This is not a book about depression.

The primary focus is core emotions.

Emotions? Why should you care about them?

I always thought emotions are fickle and we should ignore them because eventually they die down.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel explains in her book that when you neglect your emotions and don’t experience them fully, you start to feel distressed and anxious.

‘Knowing what we are feeling helps calm the emotion(s) in the moment and mitigates any anxiety around that emotion. Knowing the specific emotion helps us know what to do next that is adaptive, helpful, alleviating, productive, and good for us.’

Hilary Jacobs Hendel

This review is written from a personal angle. I want you to know how this book helped me. Even though I cannot offer you a professional opinion, this review might be an example of how this book may work for you.

This book focuses on The Change Triangle, a conceptual tool used by the author to help her clients to manage anxiety disorders, traumas, depression and other mental struggles. What I appreciated, in particular, was her effort to explain in a simple manner what could have been a tiring string of difficult terms that only those who have years of experience in the field could understand. 

The main parts of The Change Triangle are explained in separate chapters so in the end, you understand what are core emotions and what defences we use to avoid pain and discomfort. The third element of the Triangle, the inhibitory emotions, was eye-opening. I didn’t know that anxiety is a sign that I am experiencing a hidden emotion that my brain tries to escape from. 

The Change Triangle is approachable because anyone can benefit from it, not only people with mental health issues. It is a tool used by therapists to uncover repressed emotions and bring the patients to a state of clarity, peace and confidence. The author tells the story of her patients and how she used this tool to help patients with serious trauma and mental disorders. This way she guides the reader on how it works and how to benefit the most from it.  

For me, one of the most important aspects of this tool is that it takes you from chaos to clarity. It was such a breakthrough. Many times I experienced emotions and anxiety that I couldn’t understand. The Triangle helps me locate the source of my anxiety and once I name it things get easier and the distress is alleviated. For more about anxiety management, click here.

This tool gave me hope. Hope that whatever comes my way, I will be able to handle it much better. Once anxiety installs, I can take time to slow down, get out of my head and tune in with my body. But it takes considerable practice and patience. I found out that I need to go back to certain sections of the book sometimes. A potential drawback is that it won’t work when you are in panic and you need to decide on the spot unless you have solid experience with it. For example, if I lose my flight at the airport, it is hard to go through the triangle and get calmer. Still, I can work out my anxiety about travelling with an aeroplane long before the journey takes place. It gives me hope that I have much more control over my anxiety so I will tackle challenges easier.

The use of patient stories is relatable and rich in details. The author writes with such authenticity that it makes it easier to empathise with the patients and their struggles and traumas. For a moment, you forget you are the distant reader but you feel like you are there next to Hilary and her patients. The stories of those patients and the description of how the triangle is used in therapy gives you a glimpse of how it is to work with a professional. I am saying this for the readers who didn’t experience therapy before. 

What impressed me was her honesty. With some patients, she had to work for years using the Change Triangle until they restored their emotional well being. This helps the readers in setting realistic expectations about this therapy. It is a journey and one must have tremendous patience when using the Change Triangle because it takes time for certain emotional patterns to change. Also, what I particularly enjoyed is the fact that she often depicts how she uses this tool to process her own emotions in different situations.

Sometimes I don’t have enough patience to take my time to slow down, to connect with my emotions and fully experience the physical sensations until a shift happens, and the emotion is no longer uncomfortable or painful. It takes time and practice. When the emotion is overwhelming, it is better to work with a specialist.

The emotions and sensation word list at the end of the book is quite handy. When you notice certain emotions it is easier to name them using the list so you don’t struggle to express yourself.

This is a book I will re-read over two times. It changed my life and it can change your life too.

hilary jacobs hendel

Author Bio

Hilary Jacobs Hendel is an experienced psychotherapist with a focus on emotions and the body.  Her passion is to educate people on how to live more connected with themselves by working with their emotions. She is a successful blogger and speaker.

Hi! I'm Maria and I am a mental health advocate! I am determined to learn as much as I can about mental and emotional wellbeing.

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