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BOOK REVIEW: The Missing Element: Inspiring Compassion for the Human Condition by Debra Silverman

The Missing Element was written for two reasons: to help the reader come to an awareness of the neutral, observant part of us, called the Observer, that we try to access through meditation; and to help us recognize when we are out of balance with the four elements that comprise our human makeup. The four elements being water, air, earth, and fire, and the missing element being the Observer. When we can Observe ourselves without judgment, we can be compassionate to the parts of ourselves that we’ve shamed because they weren’t accepted by others. Doing so will help heal the elemental imbalances within us, so that we can finally start solving the external problems that we as humans have created, like climate change.

I love this book on so many levels. First, the deeply nerdy part of me loves that this book is formatted so that it resembles a college textbook. It tells some deep dark part of my brain that I’m about to be learned something, and I hoard knowledge like a dragon hoards treasure. It’s just so satisfying, I can’t really describe it. Second, I love how right off the bat Debra tells us that we are the problem and the solution and that the way we start tackling the world’s problem is by coming into our own power first. This is just *chef's kiss* perfection. It’s impossible to clean up garbage when you think you are garbage. We’ve got to start seeing ourselves as the solution, or we will never be empowered enough to fix anything.

Third, I love that she hits us with the “Hard Truth” that we are both incredibly intelligent and damnably stupid. No other species on the planet destroy their ecosystem as efficiently as humans do. No other species on the planet is unwilling to take action on the myriad of solutions we have come up with for problems like mental and physical health. We are content to be stuck in our traumatized ego that can’t see past its nose. But by coming into our missing element—our Observer—we will be able to empower ourselves with non-judgment and compassion. We aren’t garbage humans, we are just creating garbage with our inattention

Lastly, there is a quiz. I love a quiz. I am a sucker for a quiz. It’s important to note that we contain all the elements and we aim for a balance between the four of them, but there may be an element that is easiest for you to embody. Your dominant one, for lack of a better term. I am fairly balanced (go me!), but I did have a slight dominance in one over the others. Reading about this element (fire) and how I expressed it in my life, and how it was often devalued when I was a kid literally made me tear up. I can’t remember the last time I felt truly seen from a book, but this was actually touching. And in a way I didn’t expect, it gave me permission to be myself and not feel bad about it. Maybe even extend some compassion to those parts of me that were too much for other people, and to tell myself that it’s okay to go full throttle and freak people out a little bit.

I absolutely recommend this book. It’s short (remember—books don’t have to be complex or the length of Nicholas Nickleby to be profound) and plain-spoken in a way that is conversational, and easy to store in your brain. The wounded emotional parts of ourselves often need to be spoken to in simple, clear words that don’t require much energy to decipher because so much energy is already being put into shielding our bruises. This book gets right past your unconscious defenses and convinces you that you are perfect as you are. It’s just that you would be even better if you Observed yourself from a neutral point.

I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review. These words and my opinions are my own.


DEBRA SILVERMAN works on an individual basis as well as in workshops to impart emotional wisdom through a simplified language that describes the qualities of Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. She received an M.A. in clinical psychology from Antioch University. She trained at York University and studied dance therapy at Harvard.


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