In 2018 I set out wanting to read a psychology-related book per month. Over the last few years, I found little time to read applied psychology books. I have generally opted for gaining applied knowledge through podcasts, TED talks, social media and so forth. This year was my year of getting back into books (and yes some were audio books, but hey books nonetheless). For this, I decided to track the psychology-related books I have (or I am) reading and write a short piece about each. This was (and continues to be) about consuming valuable information on human functioning, being in the loop with what’s current in the world of psychology, psychotherapy, mental health, relationships and being stimulated by information, learning and development. Information that feeds my passion and that I can feed back into my work as a therapist while simultaneously adding value to my own journey. So herewith, Sian’s 2018 Recommended Psychology Books!
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, by Esther Perel
I ordered this in book in paperback and listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Esther Perel herself. A double read 😊 Esther Perel is a renowned couples therapist from Belgium who has traveled and worked across the globe, now practicing in the US. She is a therapist, author, trainer, presenter and speaker predominantly in the realm of couples, intimacy and spreading her knowledge in various mediums. She has incredible videos on her facebook page and website.
This book is a super-relevant foundation book for all couples navigating relationships in the present day. Mating in Captivity is about the balancing act of safety in a relationship without frying and fizzling the erotic energy that is so very important for a thriving relationship. Intimacy brings about great closeness, while erotic energy brings adventure, newness, fun and hot sex. Perel also reflects on needs in a relationship and that in this day and age we often expect all our needs to be met in a single relationship – A tall ask for one person to fulfill!
My big take away – too much safety can throttle the need for adventure in any committed relationships. We need to cultivate mystery to keep relationships alive.
Listen, by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore
This book is about practical skills to strengthen effective parenting and how to deal with difficult behaviours children present with.
My big take away – a concept named and framed: Special time.
Special time creates closer relationships between parent and child. but also helps understand your child, provide empathy, lower frustrations, and help with behavioural challenges. This is meaningful alone time with each child in a short, time limited spurt and doesn’t have to be endless time, the principle is meaningful time. In a nutshell: Name the time, create the boundaries and (most difficult for adults) let your child lead the play without interjection or you moving into leader role.
The Power of Vulnerability, by Brené Brown
I am an avid Brené Brown fan and read, listen and follow her work. Brown is a clinical Social Worker in the US, she is predominantly into research and calls herself a shame researcher, studying shame, guilt and vulnerability – tough topics. Brown is a researcher, academic, teacher and speaker.
This book is based on her TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ that went viral. The book looks at the need as a society to transform our misconceived notions that emotion and vulnerability is weakness, it is actually courageous and the key to a meaningful life or what Brown calls wholehearted living. This is a must read/listen for all humans, especially if you think emotions and vulnerability are pointless, weakness or difficult to tap into. For a glimpse of the book check out Brown’s TED talk.
My big takeaway – Vulnerability is fundamental to living meaningfully.
Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
This is a short book of poetry about pain and hurt. Each chapter covers a different topic, but all related to pain and heartache. A beautiful way of capturing such difficult and intense human experience.
My big takeaway – intense experience create beautiful poetry
The State of Affairs, by Esther Perel
Yes then I went back to Esther Perel. Her book on infidelity focuses on precisely that, the impact of adultery on a relationship but not just leaving it there. Delving into such a delicate subject, which is a grueling experience and process for a couple to go through and to try work through. looking at what could have happened and how to move forward from an affair without entering into the blame game. Esther Perel ends the book saying that with the right approach and healing from such a treacherous experience can even be the gateway to a “new” more fulfilling marriage with the same person.
My big takeaway – Infidelity is tough for the cheater and the cheated and yes this can break a couple. If the couple effectively works through the affair, a new relationship can flourish and be a brand new, incredible relationship.
Where Should We Begin, by Esther Perel
In addition to reading Esther Perel’s books this year, I have also listened to her audible series, Where Should We Begin, where she allows a sneak peek into her therapy room, hearing a couple’s therapy session in action. She covers a different presenting difficulty each episode and it is simply brilliant. I have completed Season 1 and 2 and currently exploring season 3.
Get Me Out Of Here, by Rachel Reiland
Get Me Out Of Here is written by Rachel Reiland, who writes about her struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder and her subjective experience of her therapy process. An interesting look from behind the eyes of the client’s experience of Borderline Personality Disorder. Particularly her subjective experience of a long-term analytical type therapy process. This looks at Reiland’s rendition of her therapist, her therapy process and road to feeling way more regulated.
My big take away – the roller coaster that borderline is experienced as can be brutal, floured with self-sabotage and experiences of rejection. Rachel captures the essence of this. Therapy was intensive here with some key points covered and yes boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.
The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
And we are back to Brené Brown. We are bombarded with what we are supposed to be, should be and must be. This all translates to pressure and expectation often followed by disappointment, shame and guilt. Brené Brown unpacks how to embrace who you are, as you are. Human’s are imperfect, and it is a gift. Stop proving yourself to and start living. In my view, this is a brilliant read.
My big take away – try be your imperfect self, it’s way more fulfilling than striving for some idealistic (unreachable) ideal created by society.
And then, in July we started a book club. The book club held in is a small forum where we meet online as psychologists with similar psychology interest. Good timing for my personal book goal for the year. Basically, we each choose a book and then some time later discuss it from an applied psychology perspective.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
A book that has hit the world by storm and I had to see what the fuss was about. In the book, Mark Manson makes somewhat difficult concepts accessible, often alluding to the paradoxes we are faced with in life and how these keep us stuck. I really enjoyed his explanation of the metric system we use to measure success.
My big take away – choose what you give a f*ck about – a very personal decision. Every one’s metric system is different and no financial wealth does not bring happiness.
Becoming Myself, by Irvin Yalom
This book had me captured from page 1. I have immense respect for Yalom and his contributions to the field of psychology.
A bit about Yalom. His contributions to the field include:
- Existential psychotherapy: The view that mental health problems arise from struggles with existence. The underlying struggles are commonly centered around fear of death, drive toward freedom, desire to avoid isolation. The most frequent aspects that all human struggle with and that arise from these underlying contributors are isolation, meaninglessness, mortality and freedom.
- Group therapy: Yalom was instrumental in exploring factors that influence change and healing in group therapy – a powerful therapeutic medium for growth.
The way Yalom worked as a psychotherapist and his profound contributions in the field are the underpinning of my admiration for Yalom. Reading this book was incredible as it enabled access to the way Yalom lived and worked.
My big take away – authenticity and vulnerability are beautiful ways of living. The only downside of the book for me was reigning in my envy that one book club member had met Yalom and was reading her signed copy of the book.
I would say this book is positioned for those that are sort of familiar with his work or interested to see a bit more, he points out the arbitrary-ness of diagnoses in mental health and talks of his approach within his work. He has many other books that might add value and are not biography based.
Tuesday’s with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
The true story of Morrie Schwartz, Mitch Albom’s college professor. Morrie was a mentor for Mitch and Mitch visited and spent time learning from Morrie every Tuesday. Morrie had Motor Neuron Disease (MND) also known as ALS. This book is about the lessons learnt in those Tuesday “classes”. Lessons about how MND develops and impacts ones functioning in its totality. Meaningfully for those that live on, this book looks at how to live fully.
My big take away – living fully best taught when facing death. For me, this was a very meaningful book, having personally witnessed, journeyed through and said goodbye to a loved one with MND.
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, by Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson is an Australian journalist best known for her book “I Quit Sugar”. Here though she journeys through her own life with anxiety. Diagnosed with Bipolar, OCD and having had a number of suicide attempts. Wilson’s quite familiar with psychiatrists, psychiatric meds and therapy from different theoretical orientations. She has consulted much of her life. This book looks at living with anxiety and not trying to punish it, push it, medicate it into submission. It is not about suffocating from anxiety but understanding and thriving with anxiety. There is a lot to like about this book. An insightful read into anxiety, without dosing anxiety with negativity! And with some great, practical (and usable) tools.
My big take away – anxiety is made even bigger when moving from the feeling anxiety space to thinking about anxiety and rationalizing and fighting back against it. Get out of your head and into your emotions or simply put Stop and Drop!
Lean In: by Sheryl Sandberg (started)
This book is about women as leaders juggling work and family and how to thrive through taking risks and facing challenges. My interest in this book emerged after watching her TED talk. Let’s face it Sandberg is well versed in this topic being the COO of Facebook and ranking eighth on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. More on my thoughts of the book when I’ve completed it.
Rising Strong, by Brené Brown (started)
Being vulnerable and brave in life means falling too. Looking at how to emerge strong after disappointments, failures, heartaches and more. I will give my thoughts when I’ve completed the read.