Seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey
This book can help you gain insight and control over many aspects of your life, from relationships, to family to self-esteem. If you are looking for in-depth insight into the process of remaking yourself, this book will provide you with a good foundation. Covey believes that to be a healthy human being, you need to set out towards a goal, and then make progress towards that goal, whether as a business person, an artist or a parent. In fact, we all have many roles, and defining goals within each role keeps us engaged in our own life and the lives of the people around us. Before reading this book, the word "effective" may not have come to mind as the best word to describe what you wanted to become, but after you've gone through Covey's plan, you may change your mind. This is more than a good read. It provides guidelines for a way of life.
Awaken the giant within by Tony Robbins
The mind is a powerful force, and when left on its own, takes us in directions that may or may not please us. By learning how to understand and influence our own mind, we can become happier and get where we want to go. Tony Robbins is a master teacher who shares hundreds of tips, tricks and tools for working your own mind. While its not easy to change the automatic tendencies of our own mind, if we do our best to learn how, and then apply ourselves, we can make a difference in the way we feel and behave. It's a long learning process, and not one that comes through one or two simple lessons. There are many ways to look at ourselves and how we think, feel and act in the world, and so, it's valuable to read through Robbins' many insights. Learning a little about each one, we learn a lot about ourselves. The only problem with the book is that there is so much information you won't know where to start, and may feel overwhelmed. Developing one's self is a lifelong project, so consider this as a step on the way. Use it as a smorgasbord of ideas for getting out of a personal slump, getting unstuck and attaining your dreams. As with other truly great motivational leaders, including Wayne Dyer, he assumes that what you want to achieve has more depth and breadth than simple financial success. Success centers around personal satisfaction and achievement.
Wherever you go, there you are, mindfulness meditation in everyday living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book provides many insights into an attitude of introspection that can provide peace and fullness of living. It introduces meditation, "mindfulness" and just good common sense about the best way to approach life, especially life's challenges. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and has become widely respected for his work with all kinds of relentless stress. This book shares his methods and extends them to everyday life. The book is a good read, often inspiring, and very helpful to promoting a sense of introspection and reverence in each moment.
Artist's way by Julia Cameron
Creativity provides an endless wellspring of energy and self-confidence, and a source of pleasure. When we're feeling good, creativity arms us against downturns, and when we're feeling bad, it can pierce through the darkness. Yet many of us have a hard time sparking our own creativity. We make all kinds of excuses. We can't find the time. We're afraid we're not good enough. Obstacles to creativity are so common they deserve the special attention of this classic workbook specifically designed to help us get beyond our excuses and buckle down to the rewards of creative expression.
Yes, your teen is crazy! Loving your kids without losing your mind by Michael J. Bradley
This wonderful book, written by a therapist who specializes in adolescents, gives so many insights into the teen experience, the parent experience, and the therapist experience, it feels like an education contained within a book. Highly accessible, clear writing conveys the compassionate understanding and detailed, useful advice. This is a must-read for anyone who lives or works with teens. If, in your journey of self-discovery, you want to try to fill in the blur of your own teenage years, this book can help you make sense out of one of the most powerful periods in the human experience.
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist born in Austria 1905, says that to be healthy and happy we need to find meaning in our lives. Frankl speaks from personal experience. As a survivor of the concentration camps during World War II, he recounts how, even amidst the horror of brutality and death, he was able to draw strength from his own sense that there was meaning to his life. Since it was first published in 1947 this book has remained popular, offering the fascinating perspective that if he could find meaning in the death camps, each one of us, in the pressures of our own lives, can build a foundation for mental health by finding meaning. Frankl went on to teach his brand of psychology for decades, but this book continues as a classic with two million in print. It's readable and compelling, offers hope that the strength of the spirit can triumph over adversity, and gives insight into how we can best tap into that strength.
The relaxation and stress reduction workbook by Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman and Matthew McKay
While stress weighs us down, many of us don't really know what it is, whether or not we have it, or how to get rid of it. The Stress Reduction workbook answers all these questions, with step-by-step exercises to help us get a handle on the internal pressures that make us miserable. Stress is more than just restless sleep, volatile temper and pressured feelings. Stress hurts our heart and blood vessels, and weakens our immune system. Without even realizing why we're doing things we wish we weren't, we may be trapped by unproductive and even self-destructive responses to cope with stress. Using the methods in this workbook, we can get our feelings under control, and reap many lifelong benefits.
The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns
There are many reasons why we're not satisfied with life. Someone at work is making us crazy, or we don't have enough energy, or we worry too much or we're lonely or we feel smothered by or agitated with family members. Some of these issues seem to be caused by other people and circumstances, and we can't change them, while other issues seem to arise mysteriously from deep within us, and we don't know how to fix those problems either. To feel better, we must challenge ourselves to find the things over which we have control, and then work to change them. While we have little control over other people's actions, or over our own mysterious emotions, our thoughts are more accessible. Once we become aware of our thoughts, we can talk about them, and mysteriously, we can even think about them.
One of the most profound "discoveries" of the twentieth century was that what we think really does matter. Our thoughts affect our feelings. While this idea was incorporated into psychotherapy in the 1950's it's not a new idea. The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus said 2,500 years ago, "What disturbs people's minds are not events but their judgments on events." But how can we make use of this information, when our thoughts are such a deep part of our habits, we barely even hear them, let alone know how to change them? The Feeling Good Handbook is a classic place to start, giving practical advice, and more importantly, question and answer worksheets to get us thinking more clearly about improving internal and external issues in our life.
This book tends towards somewhat academic word choices and concepts, which can make it a bit slow going, but if you are willing to put in some time working through the ideas and exercises in this book, it can deliver on its promise, and arm you with fundamental strategies.
How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Raising an emotionally intelligent child
by John Gottman
To solve problems with kids, or better yet, to prevent problems before they start, parents should learn the art of two way communication. You may think you communicate well. These are your kids. You know them, and they know you. What's the problem? The problem for most of us is that we don't pay enough attention to what they're saying, and as they get old enough to realize we're not listening, they stop talking. As conversations become superficial we blame them for being distant without realizing the part we play.
Hearing them is not as easy as it sounds. When they were little, if they hurt themselves they came to us and expected us to make it better. As they grow older, and they must face the world, we continue to think that somehow we can fix the hurt, but in trying to get them "better" we tune out their ideas, and try to insert our own.
Most parents will say they are aware of their children's emotional needs. For example, we may realize we criticize too much, and try to introduce our fair share of praise. That's good, but it's different than listening. Listening lets the child become aware of his own internal world, and lets him grow from the inside out.
More important than simply listening to facts, we need to listen to the emotions behind the facts, and encourage dialog that lets the child know her emotions are important. When she tells us about emotional situations, instead of fixing them or sticking to the facts, we should put names on the emotions. "Were you afraid?" or "that sounds upsetting." By putting names to her emotions we help her gain valuable coping tools for dealing with her feelings.
You can't be there to offer advice on every decision, and frustratingly, even when you offer advice, they tune you out. So it's critical that you start early to show them how to make their own choices. When a problem arises, instead of fixing it, ask them what remedy they would suggest. Imagine the power of a brainstorming session in which you honor their suggestion, even if you disagree. Giving them this voice gives them the confidence to recognize that there are choices and that they have a say in how to choose. By listening you become both their teacher and their partner. As you add your own opinions, instead of telling them it's the "right way" leave room for them to gradually become the masters of their own destiny.
Like the two wings of a bird, dialog requires both speaking and listening in order to fly. Learning how to balance our speaking with open listening requires coaching. And these two books are excellent sources for that coaching.
Getting the love you want, a guide for couples
by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.
Seven principles for making marriage work
by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver
So much of our emotional well-being rides on the harmony of our intimate relationship. And yet so many relationships flounder, leaving us bickering or withdrawn, and wondering how to return to the magic of our original romance. When we're in such a state, our old methods don't work, and we need to find new ones. These two excellent books can help.
Hendrix says that two people fall in love because they see in their partner the one person who can heal unmet needs from their own childhood. This idea may seem a bit abstract at first, but as Hendrix tells his tale, he makes so much sense you wonder how you missed it: that when we fall in love we are looking for the satisfaction of our deepest emotional needs by connecting with another person. What takes a little more time to grasp is that we want from each other what we missed as children.
In seeking fulfillment we are often attracted to people who have what we lack. In other words, opposites attract. So for example one partner, who ran free with hardly any supervision is attracted to a controlling partner to give him the attention he missed as a child. On the other hand, a person who believes in the importance of strict rules may be attracted to the partner who has a sense of freedom that she lacked as a child. At first these opposite characteristics seem attractive but later the very same characteristics seem threatening. It's this flip-flop from attraction to disappointment that sends couples into therapy.
To get to the other side of these frustrations, couples must come to terms with their own needs, and then instead of blaming the other, work together to help each other grow. Instead of looking for a savior, they learn to build a partnership so both can heal their wounds. Instead of focusing on the other person's faults, we learn to look more closely at our own reactions and ask "What is my irritation telling me about myself." As Harville Hendrix says, "Many of your repetitive emotional criticisms are disguised statements of your own unmet needs, and may be an accurate description of a disowned part of yourself."
Learning to look at our own faults is difficult and often even seems unnatural. It's so much easier to think of fixing the other person. But Hendrix says that every couple must learn to change their focus from the other's faults to their own if they want to cross the valley of frustration and disappointment. He says, "When you accept the limited nature of your own perceptions and become more receptive to the truth of your partner's perceptions, a whole world opens up to you."
Anyone who has ever been in a relationship that causes frustration (and that may include all of us) should study these books carefully. And these methods can help improve your dealings with everyone in your life, including your own parents and children.
(A note of caution: When looking at your own role, it's tempting to blame yourself. The habit of looking for a culprit and then attacking that culprit is a strong one. But self-attack only makes you feel worse, and doesn't help anything. Harmony requires compassion for self and others.)
John Gottman's book, "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," rather than looking at the childhood causes of tension, takes a more direct approach. He digs into the process that stirs up arguments, and gives tips for reducing them. He also gives guidance for injecting energy and trust into the marriage partnership. Gottman provides advice like "move towards each other", tips for reducing the intensity and frequency of arguments, and agreeing to disagree.
Combining Hendrix's method with Gottmans' would give any couple a valuable set of tools that can help them achieve and maintain a sense of safety and trust.
Stress management for dummies by Allen Elkin
The relaxation and stress reduction workbook by Martha Davis, Elizabeth Eshelman and Matthew McKay
When we feel helpless and out of control, our feelings get bottled up and start to eat away at us. Helplessness undermines our power, and we suffer in many ways. Emotionally we feel drained, trapped and overwhelmed. Stress even tears down our immune system. But we don't need to feel trapped. We can learn strategies that relieve stress, and improve our feelings.
Knowing how to get through situations comfortably is a prerequisite for a satisfying life, so the life-skills of stress management should be basic knowledge for everyone. Unfortunately these skills are not taught in school, so we have to learn them on our own. Simple techniques such as breathing deeply, visualizing light, and speaking soothing words to ourselves can help balance out our internal state, and return us to comfort.
These two books provide excellent introductions and step by step instructions for the entire spectrum of stress management techniques. You can use either book as a source book. The Dummies book is a bit more user friendly, while the Davis, Eshelman, McKay book could be suitable as a workbook for therapists.
Seven kinds of smart, identifying and developing your multiple intelligences
by Thomas Armstrong
Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century
by Howard Gardner
When asked if we're smart, most of us think it's a simple question with a yes or no answer. We also think that people who are not smart are excluded from an elite club, and will never have the mental advantage that smart people have.
Over the last 20 years, a richer definition of intelligence has emerged that includes more than just book learning. For example, someone can be musically smart, picking up new instruments easily, learning and remembering tunes, skillfully composing music and so on. Such a person may not be considered smart in school but may go to the front of the orchestra and stay there. It's fair to say that this person is smart.
In "Seven kinds of smart," the author defines the various types of intelligence and then provides a wealth of suggestions for taking advantage of your unique ability in each of the areas.
If you are not at the top of your class academically, you might have other brilliant assets such as business sense or personal skills. Realizing these special strengths can open up a path to help you bring your skills out in the open.
By becoming aware of your own unique mix of smarts you can point your career in the best direction. And you can also maximize the balance of your personal activities. For example, if you use mainly problem solving abilities at work, you could enrich your mind by practicing a musical instrument at home, or if you work as an athletic coach during the day, you may enrich your down-time by working on puzzles. Stretching yourself across multiple intelligences provides a broader basis for a satisfying life.
Howard Gardner, the father of multiple intelligences, provides in-depth background and explanation of the way scientists are expanding our understanding of intelligence.
The heart of addiction by Lance Dodes, M.D.
In the Heart of Addiction, Dr. Dodes makes the case that addiction is the acting out of a frustrated part of the self, that is unable to find expression in normal healthy activity, and so it finds expression in the displaced, and usually destructive acts of addiction. Dr. Dodes believes that the addiction is driven by emotional conflicts similar to the ways that emotional conflicts drive other unhealthy behavior. This differs from traditional addiction therapy and Twelve Step approaches, which see addiction as a different type of problem than emotional problems. This division runs so deeply that many mental health institutions are split apart into two organizations, one for addictions and the other for all other mental health concerns. Dr. Dodes thoroughly presents his ideas and then explains in detail his reasons for disagreeing so emphatically with currently accepted approaches. He makes a good case for rethinking the entire field of addiction treatment, and his ideas may offer comfort and support to the many people who have failed to find satisfactory help from within the existing addiction treatment community. Those people who wish to press into action his treatment methods may wish for a larger number of examples, with more detailed therapeutic instruction.
While the book is definitely a "reading" book, rather than a textbook, and is directed to both therapists and those who suffer from addiction, his points are at times more abstract and his language slightly more sophisticated than some people will enjoy. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain deeper insights into the causes of addiction and the way addiction is treated. As a bonus, the book has excellent chapters on special problems of teens, couples, gambling and sex.
What Color is my Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles
When we work full-time, we spend more waking hours preparing for and attending our work than any other activity. Our job environment and our attitude towards our work can make us miserable or happy. And not having work can negatively impact our emotional as well as our financial health. Despite the importance of getting into the right job, most of us are novices at job seeking. We only do it a few times in our life and we have hardly any training. To become more conscious of this life-changing process, we can learn from experts. Career counseling has more to offer than most people realize. And this book provides a wealth of tips, insights and strategies. If you are seeking a job, you will increase your chances of a successful outcome buying, reading and following the advice in this book.
Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw
While we grow up, we do our best to cope with our circumstances, and this coping becomes the training ground for formation of our self. While, as adults, we eventually form our own opinions, and make our own choices, the adult self, the being through which we operate, is layered on top of the self that was created through our childhood experience. When we decide that we want to change things about ourselves, more often than not, we run into obstacles that keep us trapped, and that seem to be built in to the very fabric of our being. How do we unravel behavior and feelings that seem to be written into our soul? As we search for clues to the things that prevent us from being happy, we keep going back to the childhood that seems long forgotten. To understand who we are and we want to be, it helps to understand what we've gone through before. This book is one of the classic tools that help us get in under the surface and start putting together the pieces of ourselves. Of course, growing consists of what we do today. The effort we make today, the insights we make today, the compassion we have for ourselves and our caregivers, forgiveness, and then filling in the gaps, are all part of moving on. Working with our inner-child is also especially valuable for parents, because the more conscious we are of the things that affected us as children, the more conscious we can be with our kids.
When Anger Hurts, Quieting the Storm Within by Matthew Mckay, Peter D. Rogers and Judith McKay
Anger stirs up primitive drives, increasing our heart rate, tightening our muscles, drying our mouth. Such a powerful emotional surge makes us feel as though we're caught up in a drama that was written by ancient ancestors, fighting to defend their lives. There are two main problems with anger. First, while it occasionally looks like it immediately resolves a problem, most of the time angry responses don't change the situation that bothers us, and in fact may make it worse. So anger is a poor resolver of issues. Secondly, anger comes with many penalties. It upsets the people around us, and while they may appease us at first, they withdraw their intimacy and may try to run away. And it upsets us. The stress of our own anger hurts our mental and physical health.
The power of anger may convince us there's nothing we can do about it. But as thinking animals, we have more power over anger than we realize. This book gives us a variety of tools that can help us understand where our anger is coming from and how to respond more constructively. Reducing anger helps us solve problems, reduces stress, and increases the trust and safety of relationships. And as a bonus, if we chase anger back to its source, we can discover and heal parts of ourselves that continue to hold us back. This book has all the best qualities of a good self-help book. It's readable, thorough, methodical, compassionate and is filled with examples and worksheets that make the material more accessible and help you apply it to your own situation.