A Review of "How to Get What You Want and Want What You Have," by John Gray

Updated on January 31, 2018
louiseelcross profile image

I am a writer from the UK. I have a degree in mental health as well as qualifications in mental health counselling.

John Gray


How to get what you want and want what you have

John Gray was born in Houston, Texas, in 1951, and he is an author and marriage and family therapist. One of his most famous books is Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

In his book How to Get What You Want and Want What You Have, he shares proven tools that help to achieve personal success. He offers practical advice on dealing with negative emotions, improving communication and resolving conflict skills. I decided to share the contents of this book with others in the hope that it will help others as much as it helped me in my life. It is a book I use over and over.

John claims that we can all have the life we desire and do what we want to do in life as long as we truly know what we want.

When I came across this book I was in a bad place mentally and emotionally. It was difficult for me to identify what I was feeling and I felt lost and confused. Just about every experience I had was negative and I did not know how to change my situation. The book explains how, when we are stuck in negative emotions we attract negative situations as we tend to mirror experience on the inside to the outside.

When I looked at the main list of negative emotions I realised that I felt them all at the same time and did not know how to separate them or identify them all separately. By reading John's insights I was able to identify each feeling and begin to process them.

‘To the extent that you dwell on negative emotions you will attract that in your life. To the extent that you deny your emotions you will disconnect with the power to create what we want’ (pg. 138).

We all have the inner power to create what we want from life but when we deny our negative emotions or we do not feel the negative emotion we become blocked from creating the life we want as we are disconnected from our true want.

Twelve negative emotions

  1. I am angry.
  2. I am sad.
  3. I am afraid.
  4. I am sorry.
  5. I am frustrated.
  6. I am disappointed.
  7. I am worried.
  8. I am embarrassed.
  9. I am jealous.
  10. I am hurt.
  11. I am scared.
  12. I am ashamed.

John says that all other emotions stem from these 12 negative emotions. When we are stuck in a negative emotion we lose the ability to feel our true desire which is to be happy and loving. We become blocked and unable to connect to the positive feelings of our true selves. We need to process these negative emotions so that we can re connect to our true desires. Only by feeling our negative emotions can relief from that emotion be felt.

‘Dwelling on and feeling negativity only works when we are feeling our negative emotions. Pure negative emotions help us to find our way back to balance as we are moving away from the true self’ (pg. 216).

My Personal Experience

As a child I was abused by my alcoholic parents and unloved. I felt that I would never get the love I needed. I developed beliefs that I was unlovable and that there must be something wrong with me. John teaches that although we cannot change the past we can change the beliefs, we can also change how we feel.

As an adult it was very difficult for me to identify what I was feeling and so felt lost and confused and was experiencing constant intrusive thoughts. I would constantly hear myself say that I was stupid or that I was not good enough. My mother’s words of how useless I was were haunting me even though my mother had died over forty years ago. Once I understood the emotions and what emotions I was feeling it got easier, in time, to release my negative emotions and come back to my true self and my true needs. My intrusive thoughts decreased dramatically and I was grateful for that.

We feel emotional pain when we are accepting or experiencing negative beliefs. We usually develop negative self beliefs in childhood. So, by going back in time and reliving the pain we felt as children that resulted in a negative belief we can heal the pain and reconnect to our true selves. By revisiting the past and by using the processes shown in this book we can reconnect to our true selves who are always beautiful and loveable. We know we are not connected to our true self and true desires in life when we are not experiencing or attracting what we need in life to feel good about ourselves.

With a fuller understanding of how we become blocked in a negative emotion by reading Johns insights we can process the negative emotion quickly and return to feeling happy.

John says that by going down the list to identify what we are feeling we can begin to process those negative emotions. As I was lost and confused with many negative emotions I decided to start at the top of the list of negative emotions and work my way through them all and it worked. Soon I was feeling less confused and able to identify fairly quickly what negative emotions I was feeling.

Anger and Blame

I felt angry and believed that I could not get the love I needed because of my parents abuse. I blamed my parents for the way that I felt which was a feeling of being unlovable. I needed to let go of blame with forgiveness for my parents actions in order to bring myself back to a sense of inner peace and harmony. By doing so I could focus on what I really wanted which was to be loving and happy.

By holding onto pain and blame I could not reach my inner power to heal my pain. I felt powerless to create the loving life that I wanted. By learning to let go of blame with forgiveness I was able to stop focusing on my pain from the abuse I had endured as a child and move on with my life.

The Feeling Letter Format

The first step is to become aware of what we are feeling. John suggests that we identify our block and link it to the past.

"Recall a time when you felt betrayed and then explore the four emotions of anger, sadness, fear and sorrow and then write a feeling letter. Address the letter to whoever you feel has left you feeling anger.

In my case I was angry and my block was blame. My letter was addressed to my mum.

I feel betrayed that....

I am angry that...

I am sad that...

I am afraid that...

I am sorry that....

I want....

The Feeling Letter

Dear Mum,

I felt betrayed when you hurt me and did not protect me from the constant abuse.

I felt angry that you were so cruel to me and that you were selfish by putting alcohol before me. Angry that you only thought of your own needs and angry that you did not protect me.

I felt sad that you could not show me love and left me feeling unlovable and unloved. I was sad because I could not please you and that you felt the need to hurt me.

I felt afraid that you would hurt me. Afraid that I was not as important to you as my sisters and brother and afraid that I was not good enough for you. I was afraid that I could not trust you.

I am sorry that I could not please you. Sorry that I got on your nerves and irritated you. I am sorry that we did not have good times together. I am sorry that I could not trust you so that I could come to you, my mum, when I was hurting.

I love you and want you to love me. I want to feel free of pain to enjoy life and to be loving. I want you to feel proud of me. I want to feel happy and to feel loved. I want you to accept me and love me for who I am.

Now write a response letter and imagine what you would feel like if you got the response you wanted to hear.

The Response Letter Format

I apologise...

Please forgive me...

I understand...

I promise...

I love you...

Dear Louise,

I apologise for being so cruel and abusive towards you. Sorry that I allowed you to get hurt by putting my need to drink before you.

Please forgive me for hurting you and for not showing you love. You did not deserve to be hurt.

I understand why you are hurt and angry with me. I understand why you could not trust me to tell me that you were hurting.

I promise I will do better and promise I will never hurt you again.

I love you and have always loved you. I want you to know that you are lovable and are not to blame for anything I did. You are loved and you were always loved. I want you to enjoy life because you deserve a happy life filled with love and joy. I love you.

Feelings Chart

From the list below choose the emotion you are feeling that is causing your block to fully enjoying life and then explore the next three emotions down the list. I started from the top of the list with anger and then explored the emotion of sadness, fear and sorrow.

By writing the feelings letter we become aware of how we really feel and why we feel the way we do. We can voice that pain through the feelings letter without fear of anyone reading the letter. No one needs to read the letter. You do not have to show the letter to whoever it is addressed to. You could destroy the letter or, if you feel that you share then share it. I could not share my letter with my mum because she died of an alcohol related illness when I was aged 11.

Feelings chart

1. Blame
2 .Depression
3. Anxiety
4. Indifference
5. Judgement
7. Procrastination
8. Perfectionism
9. Resentment
10. Self-pity
11. Confusion
12. Guilt

Before finding this book I could not imagine feeling any better than I did which was not good. Once I started processing my inner pain I felt a sense of relief. I was able to feel calmer and more positive about life. I learnt that the key to developing much needed inner peace was to first become aware of my negative emotions and then to let them go, As I let go of the negative emotions I felt free to focus on more positive experiences in my life,

I am truly grateful to John Gray for sharing his insights in this book. My life changed dramatically after reading it. I now have life skills to deal with negative emotions and without those skills I was truly struggling with life. I am now aware of what negative emotion I am feeling and why I am feeling it. I am then able to let go of the pain the negative emotions brought.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.