Insights on Love, Luck, and
Narcissism from a Longtime

Geraldine K. Piorkowski, Ph. D.

This book is a collection of eight essays that was written to communicate what the author learned working with people of all ages, sexual orientations, and walks of life for over fifty years. Besides reaffirming that all people are fundamentally the same, she discovered many psychological realities that run counter to popular culture. Among her insights is the observation that positive thinking does more harm than good at times, especially when it bypasses the normal processing of negative events and emotions. Another cultural misdirection is the overemphasis on romantic love as the be-all and end-all of existence, where unrealistic expectations lead to love’s downfall. She also notes that unhealthy narcissism, which runs rampant in American culture, is quite different from the healthy variety that is the bedrock of self-love.
Winner in the CIPA EVVY AWARDS Competition (2021)
in the Cultural Studies/Social Issues Category

These illuminating and provocative essays, titled
1) Positive Thinking Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be,
2) When Is Madness Better than Sadness?
3) Romantic Love Is Mostly an Illusion,
4) Vulnerable People Are More Likeable than Super-Confident Ones,
5) You Can’t Make Anybody Do Anything,
6) Luck or Chance Has Been Badly Underrated,
7) A Smidgen of Narcissism Adds Joy and Spice to Life, and
8) Empathy and Healthy Religion Go Hand in Hand, all provide a new understanding of psychological health and well-being.


Kirkus Review

A clinical psychologist offers a collection of insights into human nature.
Ruminating on 50 years of professional experience, Piorkowski opens this book with a burst of stern realism: “when we suffer pain, rejection, disappointment, loss, disease, death, and/or catastrophe…happy talk, whistling in the dark, or putting on a happy face do not work,” she writes. “They interfere with problem-solving and action.” The bulk of the book concentrates on how to tackle such difficulties while also holding forth on the nature of several aspects of everyday existence. She describes romantic love, for instance, as a social construct that, shorn of sustaining factors, is “subject to the love-eradicating effects of ordinary routine.” Likewise, she reevaluates the idea of autonomy and self-esteem; for instance, she advocates allowing children latitude in following their own paths instead of their mothers’ and fathers’ commands: “Only by opposing the will of our parents and other caretakers do we begin to strengthen our own resolve,” she writes, effectively expanding the subject to include an application to her adult readers’ lives: “Only by resistance can we feel our own strength.” In passages such as these, Piorkowski proves to be a pithy and highly readable guide, taking an authoritative tone without ever coming across as pompous. The ambitious range of the book—which even weighs in on the ineffectiveness of torture—is so unpredictable that it’s consistently compelling. In addition, the author includes winning notes of empathy throughout, putting her firmly on the side of her readers.
An intriguing and inviting series of observations on life’s motivations.

Dr. Kimberly Merenkov, Physician, Psychiatrist

I just finished Dr. Piorkowski’s book, BEYOND PIPE DREAMS AND PLATITUDES, today in snowy Chicago. I highly recommend this to anyone searching for insights about themselves, others, finding meaning, and dealing with our limitations. This book is pithy—it gets to the point about many issues that the general public may wonder about. It is refreshing, direct, and HONEST about our potential strengths and struggles in life, touching upon some of the dilemmas in our current culture. It has one of the best explanations for empathy, I have ever read—beautifully, simply defined. This book may help stimulate ideas in those who are already in psychotherapy or those searching for guidelines on their own.

Readers Favorite Book Review by Lesley Jones

Beyond Pipe Dreams And Platitudes is a compilation of essays in which clinical psychologist Dr. Geraldine K. Piorkowski shares her knowledge from fifty years of working with people from diverse socio-economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds Throughout these eight insightful essays, we examine the hopes, fears, and anxieties that bind every person in society. This book gave me such a clear understanding of why individuals believe and behave the way they do that it piqued my interest to read more of the research data and behavioral studies detailed, which backed up the arguments put forward. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their relationships with others and gain a deeper understanding of human behavior.

Dr. Richard A. Steffy, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Waterloo, Canada

Timeless wisdom for all ages! Dr. Piorkowski’s easy-to-follow writing style provides evidence of scholarship about many of the stresses in peoples’ lives. Of special value are Dr. Piorkowski’s views about tangled lives; her views do not rely on a simplistic sentimentality. Indeed, a portion of her book seeks to debunk “sacred cow” concepts, such as the “power of positive thinking,” the unlimited power of romantic love, the notion that all varieties of anger are equally destructive, that all narcissism is unfortunate. This precious book deserves a location on a shelf that family members of all ages can access..

Dennis Gieser, DDS

Seldom does one experience an attention-grabbing psychology book that challenges established notions about so many relatable topics, and does it in such a concise and easily readable fashion.

Alice Bernstein, Ph. D.

Dr. Piorkowski’s book is a wise, approachable, and wide-ranging analysis of contemporary life in the U.S.A. from the psychological point of view. “Beyond Pipe Dreams and Platitudes” will enrich readers’ understanding of themselves and others, with many relatable examples from Dr. Piorkowski’s personal and professional experience.

Anon, Review

In Dr. Piorkowski’s book, BEYOND PIPE DREAMS AND PLATITUDES, I especially valued her ability to turn complicated psychological ideas into everyday language.

I found the book quite interesting, filled with insights and perspectives which very often rang true and made me ask, “Why didn’t I see that before?” Here’s a book for anyone willing to see another perspective of what, perhaps, too many of us readily accept as dogma.

Wish I would have had these insights decades ago, maybe I would have made ‘better’ choices. Now I am moving into my retirement phase in life and frightened of the single scene. I learned a bit about myself in reflection reading this book and hope my eyes will be open going forward.
Mary Carlyle Carter

I was impressed by the author’s insights and knowledge of human behavior. As a writer and editor of educational materials, I was also impressed by her writing style: clear explanations, real-life examples to illustrate her statements, summaries at the end of each chapter, and citations to back up her findings.
Kathleen Gallo

The author’s experience and thoughtfulness show throughout the eight interesting essays in this memoir. By the end of the book, I felt I had a better understanding of why America has become so divided and left with some thoughts of issues we need to address if we are to change that.

Amela Parganlija

I am not the one to write reviews, ever, but this time I absolutely had to. Dr. Piorkowski opened my eyes to human behavior. She sure knows what she is talking about. After all Dr. Piorkowski has been in this business for over 50 years.

Ann Matasar, Ph.D.

This book is an interesting read. Dr. Piorkowski’s choice of topics such as positive thinking, anger, narcissism, romance, success, and the vagaries of life as well as empathy and religion reflect her extensive and varied career as a clinical psychologist who has been an academic, researcher, and scholar as well as a therapist.

Jon Piorkowski

Dr. Piorkowski discusses 8 practical conclusions from 50 years of practice! She has helped many patients navigate the difficulties of life and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way. A MUST-READ!!! Her conclusions are thought-provoking and deserve to be pondered by those who want healthy relationships with not only others but themselves!


A) “I think it is safe to say that positive thinking is not always helpful. Platitudes (trite remarks used too often to be interesting or thoughtful) and happy talk do not prepare us for disasters lying just ahead. Every cloud does not have a silver lining, nor is there a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.” p.iv.

B) “By way of scores of dating sites flourishing on the Internet, we run blindly toward the Promised Land of Eternal Love. We buy romantic novels, read manuals devoted to orgasmic ecstasy, and watch sophomoric movies filled with hormone-saturated teenagers groping their way to fulfillment. And yet, all this cultural energy devoted to love’s arousal and maintenance doesn’t alter the reality that romantic love (sexual feelings and emotional closeness) is basically an illusion.” p. vi.

C) “The United States is a country with entitlement and narcissism galore at the upper rungs of the social ladder, and at the lower end, many embittered, self-deprecating souls with little self-esteem. The widespread availability of social media enables us to measure our accomplishments regularly against those of our peers, and if we are doing better, we feel superior. If we are not doing as well, however, we wind up feeling deflated and inadequate. The reality that most achievers come from high-status families with many social and economic advantages gets lost in our self-appraisals and judgments of others, and the opposite awareness—that many low achievers come from impoverished families with few resources—is likewise missing in our evaluations.” P. 104.

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