Around 5 years ago I really started to use self-learning as a way of understanding and healing myself from negative experiences and feelings. I’ve since read several books in an effort to understand. From this though, there were 10 books which really stood out for me and spoke to me, which I will share with you now:
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1. “The Art of Happiness” by The Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler
Compassion was the main theme I took away from this beautiful read. Compassion for self as well as others. I used to be quite hard on myself and probably still am a little. It’s good to be driven, ambitious and set yourself goals, but if your internal critic is always on high alert it leads to a bit of a miserable inside world. It’s so important to give yourself some compassion. I always like to think of it as putting myself in a friend’s position and what advice I would give them or how I would support them. More than likely I would be saying something like ‘don’t be so hard on yourself’ or ‘give yourself a break’.
2. “Games people play” by Eric Berne
This book particularly gave me a lot of insight into the behaviours of others. how people use games unconsciously without even realising as a way of coping or relating with the world. This could be examples in life, marital relationships, or at work. This was a recommended reading for a counselling course I undertook so wouldn’t really be described as self-help, and it can be quite tricky to follow at times. After reading this though, I was able to understand others and realise when people acted out or did something, it wasn’t a reflection of me it was about them – it was their own ‘stuff’ they were dealing with.
3. “I’m OK – you’re OK” by Thomas A Harris
Again, this was another recommended reading when I undertook my counselling course. It does refer to theories and analysis in counselling and psychology so again can be difficult to follow at times. The book centres around the theory of transactional analysis. The idea that we operate in different states throughout our lives – parent, adult and child. We don’t only do this throughout the years as we grow older, we can slip back and forth into any state on a daily basis. For example, a common theme we often see is the sick husband (acting in the state of a child) and the nurturing wife (acting in the state of a parent) there are lots of different scenarios this can apply to. It’s helped me to understand sometimes when I slip into these different states without realising and so I can then work to bring it back to a more adult state of mind.
4. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers
Feel the fear and do it anyway was one of the books I’d heard of and is obviously very well-known. I read it at a time when I was struggling with anxiety, I was experiencing a lot of irrational fears at the time, and this book gave me the confidence to try to work through them, to feel the emotion and go through with whatever it was I was anxious about.
5. “John Bowlby and Attachment Theory” by Jeremy Holmes
John Bowlby is well-known in the field of psychology and his works are recommended reading for psychology and counselling students. I found though that understanding attachment theory and how this is formed in childhood and carried through into adulthood really gave me insight into the problems and issues I was facing with my own attachments, with friends, family, and relationships. The great thing about it as well, is once you’re aware and understand the attachment style you have developed you can work to challenge this and move to form more secure healthy attachments not just with yourself but with others too.
6. “Counselling for Toads” by Robert De Board
This is much like a short story, it’s a great introduction to the world of counselling and therapy and told using the story of the Wind In The Willows. A very lighthearted and easily relatable book to read for everyone.
7. “The subtle art of not getting a F*ck” by Mark Manson
I picked this book up at an airport, and must admit I was drawn in by the title which I could really relate to. I could really stand to not give a f*ck as much as I do sometimes! This book explores the idea that we should all be happy all the time otherwise what’s the point – we aren’t and that’s ok – its ok not be happy all the time, its ok to be angry or sad. It is only when we experience these upsetting emotions that happiness has any true value. It is only through suffering or failure that we learn and grow and change.
8. “How to overcome your secret fear of failure” by Petruska Clarkson
I managed to find a copy of this book by chance in a charity shop but it caught my eye as we were due to study Petruska Clarkson in the counselling course I was on at the time. I found though that this book really taught me the factors around fearing failure. For example, the author explains ‘pseudocompetency’, which is the idea that the individual feels incompetent at a task but all of those around them regard them as successful. There is a fear of being found out and of shame. However, this is because we are beholden to the opinion of others. The key is to move away from this, giving up the need to be perfect and admitting our flaws.
9. “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson
This book is chock full of bite-size chapters on so many relatable issues we all face in life. Ideal to read during a short commute to work or some light reading before bed. For example, ‘Chapter 15. Be the first one to act loving or reach out’, just practicing this could transform your relationships with others. Many of us sometimes harbour resentment or find it so difficult to let things go. When actual fact when we let go of little things and show love and compassion it makes for a more pleasant world. ‘Chapter 66. Think of what you have instead of what you want’ I’m sure many people can relate to this one. We have evolved into a world of consumers, with the media forever showing us what we’re lacking. To stop and think about what we actually have is a totally different mindset and one worth adopting.
10. “It’s all absolutely fine: Life is complicated so I’ve drawn it instead” by Ruby Elliot
Part comic, part serious reflections on mental illness, this book weaves them together beautifully. On the one hand scribbled images of different scenarios that someone might face experiencing mental health difficulties. To the deeply personal and insightful writing of this author, make for a very relatable read to anyone who has experienced or been affected by mental health issues.
These are just my own personal favourites. It’d be great to hear for you and what books resonated with you too! Please leave a comment below to share some of your top picks.
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