Summary of What You Can Change and What You Can't

The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement

Vintage Books, more...

Buy the book

What You Can Change and What You Can't book summary
Sometimes, the best way to deal with depression and other negative emotional states is to accept them – and move on.


8 Overall

8 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


The self-improvement industry spends billions to convince people that their psychological and physical problems are fixable. The magazine covers at the checkout counter extol the latest miracle diet, but most of the people in line with you are overweight. Seasoned mental-health professional and former president of the American Psychological Association, Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., has bad news for the seriously overweight: Diets don’t work. Plus, he tells alcoholics and people with deep-seated emotional afflictions, there are no definitive cures for them. He notes, however, that a large minority of alcoholics do recover, though no approach is guaranteed. Seligman, whose views have generated both gratitude and controversy, details which psychological problems are treatable and which are not. His candid attitude is laudable and his advice seems well-informed, if perhaps generalized. If you’ve gotten thin, you’ve beaten the odds. Meanwhile, he recommends that people learn to live bravely with daunting emotional issues they cannot completely master – because, he says, mastery probably isn’t possible. getAbstract finds this treatise about what is and isn’t fixable both sobering and valuable.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why some psychological problems can be eliminated while others cannot;
  • How to determine the difference between problems that are amenable to change and those that usually are not; and
  • Why it is healthier to accept courageously those deficiencies and disabilities that you cannot control or change.


One Cure for Psychological Problems: Courage
Are you depressed? Addicted? Obsessive? Anxious? Do you overeat? Do you suffer post-traumatic stress? Years ago, most therapists would try to use a Freudian, analytical approach not only to treat but also to cure such problems. But, with ever...
Get the key points from this book in less than 10 minutes. Learn more about our products or log in

About the Author

Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., is a psychology professor and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the former president of the American Psychological Association.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Customers who read this summary also read

More by category