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‘Searching for Meaning’ by J.T. Webb; book review by Rianne van de Ven

Rianne van de Ven wrote the following book review:
Searching for Meaning; Idealism, bright minds, disillusionment and hope by James T. Webb

James T. Webb: Searching for meaning;
Idealism, bright minds, disillusionment and hope

• English
• 210 pages
• Great Potential Press
• September 2013
• ISBN 9781935067221

James T. Webb, author of various books on gifted children and mostly known for his book on double and misdiagnoses in gifted people, brought out this book aimed at gifted adults in 2013.

By the end of the book the reader realises that this book is a sort of legacy that he wrote hoping that it will inspire others, and help them to inspire others in turn as well. He hopes that a ripple effect will be created (think of a drop hitting the surface of the water and creating ripples outwards).

I’m pleasantly surprised that the author is the kind of writer that approaches the reader with a real open mind. There is no condescension, moral judgement or in any way a feeling that the reader is not (yet) good enough. I found that a relief because there are many American writers of (self-help) books that have a different attitude.

I find it remarkable that he doesn’t use the terms gifted people and giftedness a lot, but the more generic (and less offensive?) term ‘bright minds’. There are many options on how to translate this to Dutch, we’ll have to think about this. To specify his target audience and subject he uses many terms in conjunction with ‘bright minds’, like inquiring minds, intensity, highly sensitive, sensitivity, idealists, emotional. Other words he uses a lot are: (existential) depression, despair, illusions, disillusioned, disappointment and meaningfulness.

The basic ideas are explained in chapter 1; chapter 2 is about idealism and illusions. And chapter 3 links intelligent people to the idealistic view of being successful in life. It’s nice that a number of Dutch authors are mentioned here. An article by Noks Nauta and Siewke Ronner mentioning the Delphi model, as well as the explanation of Xi by Willem Kuipers are used to describe the ‘bright minds’ in more detail.
Chapter 4 has a difficult subject, it’s about depression and despair. Existential issues and how depression is related to deep disappointment are explained in depth. Chapter 5 discusses a number of philosophers and psychologists that studied the meaning of life – like Viktor Frankl and Kazimierz Dabrowski – and in this chapter a link is made between disappointment and existential depression.
Chapter 6 is about awareness and acceptance. A number of exercises are described that you can do to get to know yourself and your values and belief systems. Chapter 7 follows with a description of 12 ineffective coping strategies. Both myself and my coaching clients recognised many of these strategies. Chapter 8 describes 13 coping strategies that are effective. This chapter really has a lot of tips to give your life direction and shape your idealism. The last chapter describes some tips from positive psychology, mostly based on the work of Biswas-Diener. A personal note ends the story: by writing this book he is putting into practice the tips he gave in the previous chapter and he hopes that he will inspire others by doing this.

I would recommend this book to any gifted person for whom meaningfulness is an issue. I would be happy if it was translated into Dutch very quickly.
This book helps you to understand yourself better; it explains why it’s logical that you feel the way you feel and that offers consolation and a feeling of piece. After this the book offers a range of possibilities to make your life more meaningful and you can select the tips that you find useful. You are never forced to do anything, Webb just tells you what your options are and gives you the choice to do something useful with it.

Webb has been thorough. He mentions many sources and the book has a long list of reference material.
As a coach this book is very useful to me. Because it puts into words some things that I knew already, but that are listed in such a way that their application is very practical.

Rianne van de Ven
Coaching & Consulting
Original dutch article:

Translation of this review into English: Yvonne Veltmaat

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