Bookshelf Additions- Fall 2017

The Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey

“Every time we rescue, hover, or otherwise save our children from a challenge, we send a very clear message:  that we believe they are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy of our trust.  Further, we teach them to be dependent on us and thereby deny them the very education in competence we are put here on this earth to hand down.”

“What research has shown over and over again:  children whose parents don’t allow them to fail are less engaged, less enthusiastic about their education, less motivated, and ultimately less successful than children whose parents support their autonomy.”

“Out of love and desire to protect our children’s self-esteem, we have bulldozed every uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of the way, clearing the manicured path we hoped would lead to success and happiness. Unfortunately, in doing so we have deprived our children of the most important lessons of childhood. The setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoved out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative and resilient citizens of this world.”

The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with Doug Abrams

I LOVE this book.  And now I want to read everything I can get my hands on by and about Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He spoke at my graduation from William & Mary in 2006, and my admiration of him keeps growing.

“Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak.  In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too.  Perhaps we are just more alive.  Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters.  We have hardship without becoming hard.  We have heartbreak without being broken.” DT

“…more research…suggests that perhaps only 50% of our happiness is determined by immutable factors like our genes or temperament, our ‘set point.’ The other half is determined by a combination of our circumstances, over which we may have limited control, and our attitudes and actions, over which we have a great deal of control…three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.” DA

“The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves, but to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you….so being more joyful is not just about having more fun.  We’re talking about a more empathic, more empowered, even more spiritual state of mind that is totally engaged with the world.”

“The English word courage comes from the French word coeur, or heart;  courage is indeed the triumph of our heart’s love and commitment over our mind’s reasonable murmurings to keep us safe.” DA

“We try so hard to separate joy and sorrow into their own boxes, but the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama tell us that they are inevitably fastened together.  Neither advocate the kind of fleeting happiness, often called hedonic happiness, that requires only positive states and banishes feelings like sadness to emotional exile.  The kind of happiness that they describe is often called eudemonic happiness and is characterized by self-understanding, meaning, growth, and acceptance, including life’s inevitable suffering, sadness, and grief.”

“We’ve always got to be recognizing that despite the aberrations, the fundamental thing about humanity, and humankind, about people, is that they are good, they were made good, and they really want to be good.”

“I say to people that I’m not an optimist, because that, In a  sense, is something that depends on feelings more than the actual reality.  We feel optimistic, or we feel pessimistic.  Now, hope is different in that it is based not on the ephemerality of feelings but on the firm ground of conviction.  I believe with a steadfast faith that there can never be a situation that is utterly, totally hopeless.  Hope is deeper and very, very close to unshakable.  It’s in the pit of your tummy.  It’s not in your head.” DT

“The only thing that will bring happiness is affection and warmheartedness.  This really brings inner strength and self-confidence, reduces fear, develops trust, and trust brings friendship.  We are social animals, and cooperation is necessary for our survival, but cooperation is entirely based on trust.  When there is trust, people are brought together- whole nations are brought together.  When you have a more compassionate mind and cultivate warmheartedness, the whole atmosphere around you becomes more positive and friendlier.  You see friends everywhere.” DT

Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott

“Mercy means compassion, empathy, a heart for someone’s troubles. It’s not something you do – it is something in you, accessed, revealed, or cultivated through use, like a muscle. We find it in the most unlikely places, never where we first look.”

“Every one of us sometimes needs a tour guide to remind us how big and deep life is meant to be.”

“Kindness toward others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all.”

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Mindy Kahling

This one was just for fun  😊

Bookshelf Additions- Summer 2017

As I completed this post I realized how much I’ve been reading this season, as well as last.  To me summer = reading, which can be a challenge while managing other responsibilities.  But I did get a nice variety of great books in-

I Thought it was Just Me, Brene Brown

I finally got around to reading Brown’s first book, after loving the 3 I’ve read before.  This one didn’t disappoint.  Her desire is to “give voice to the voiceless and give ears to the earless…Courage gives us a voice and compassion gives us an ear.”  In it she dives into ordinary courage, which is the courage to tell our story from the heart.

“Shame is all about fear…the fear of disconnection, and of being exposed or revealed that would jeopardize our connection and our worthiness of acceptance.”

“Harriet Lerner said ‘We cannot survive when our identity is defined by or limited to our worst behavior.  Every human must be able to view the self as complex and multidimensional.  When this fact is obscured, people will wrap themselves in layers of denial in order to survive.  How can we apologize for something we are, rather than something we did?’”

4 elements of shame resilience:

  1. Recognizing shame and understanding triggers
  2. Practicing critical awareness- understand issues in their social, political, and economic contexts
  3. Reaching out- Relational-Cultural Theory says we heal through our connections with others; “Regardless of who we are,…all of us fight hidden, silent battles against not beign good enough, not having enough, and not belonging enough.”
  4. Speaking shame

We are charged with hard but important work of:

  1. Practicing courage in a culture of fear (choose growth over perfection!)
  2. Practicing compassion in a culture of blame
  3. Practicing connection in a culture of disconnection.


Narrative Therapy, Stephen Madigan

I enjoyed the fresh ideas gleamed from this book that I think will be helpful in working with clients.  I believe that the stories that we tell ourselves, particularly about ourselves and our problems, are hugely powerful…and that by re-writing some of those stories we can get unstuck and make steps toward health and happiness.

“We are multistoried…there are always multiple stories about what and who persons and problems might be.”

“People and problems are not fixed or fossilized.”

“NT places the site of the problem within the relational action of the person/culture/discourse/power, not inside the person’s body.”

“NT is based on the notion that people organize their lives through stories.  People make meaning in the world about who they are.”

  • Uncover biases underlying authority for knowledge: “Who has the storytelling rights to the story being told?”
  • Spotting and undermining the life support systems of problems
  • Turning pathology into valor, courage, intrigue
  • Encouraging celebrations, awards, diplomas, and parties to commemorate achievements
  • Re-storying: re-authoring conversations- assists people out of the constraints of problem-saturated stories of passivity, shame, less-than worthiness; “do you think this feeling of ___ is a final description of yourself?”;  “Whose word is ‘depressed’ or _____?”; “Is there someplace else you’d rather be?”…opens space for other possibilities and undermines problem’s saturation
  • Unique outcomes- a neglected part/event that’s an “in”- a starting point for reauthoring…therapist can build scaffolding around this emerging subordinate story. As they’re id’d, therapist plot them into an alternative (preferred) storyline about their lived experiences.  Find stories outside the dominant problem and give them a thicker description.

Types of questions/ conversations:

  • Reauthoring conversations- take full accounting of who was involved in the creation of the problem story, how client came to know self in problematic way, the life support of the problem, losses in relation to the problem
  • Relative influence questions- maps the influence of the problem on the person, encourages persons to map their own and other’s influence in the life of the problem, begins to map out unique outcomes.
  • Unique Outcomes questions- that exclude the problem, even if only briefly
  • Unique Accounts questions- Use grammar of agency, link to resistance to the problem
  • Unique redescription questions- invite to re-describe self
  • Unique possibility questions- next step questions; let client speculate
  • Unique circulation questions- to include others; “who will be most pleased?”
  • Experience of experience questions- be an audience to own story through eyes of others; “what do you think I’m appreciating as I hear…”
  • Preference questions- do you see this as a good or bad thing?
  • Consulting your consultants questions- given your expertise is problem, what would you want to warn others about?
  • Counterviewing questions-

8 internalized conversation problem habits:

  1. Self surveillance/ audience
  2. Illegitimacy
  3. Fear
  4. Negative imagination/ invidious comparison
  5. Internalized bickering
  6. Guilt
  7. Hopelessness
  8. perfection

Therapeutic Letter Writing campaigns- to remember lost aspects of self, secure subordinate stories, recap appreciation and survival, and ask more questions about knowledges and alternative stories the client gained


Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel

“We all share a fundamental need for security, which propels us toward committed relationships in the first place; but we have an equally strong need for adventure and excitement….It’s hard to generate excitements, anticipation, and lust with the same person you look to for comfort and stability, but it’s not impossible.”

“…love and desire are not mutually exclusive, they just don’t always take place at the same time.”

“Love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery. Love likes to shrink the distance that exists between me and you, while desire is energized by it.  If intimacy grows through repetition and familiarity, eroticism is numbed by repetition.  It thrives on the mysterious, the novel, and the unexpected.  Love is about having; desire is about wanting.  An expression of longing, desire requires ongoing elusiveness.  It is less concerned with where it has already been than passionate about where it can still go.  But too often, as couples settle into the comforts of love, they cease to fan the flame of desire.  They forget that fire needs air.”


Tribes, Sebastian Junger

“…we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning…for many people-war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations.  Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary.  Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

“…modern society has gravely disrupted the social bonds that have always characterized the human experience, and that disasters thrust people back into a more ancient, organic way of relating.  Disasters…create a ‘community of sufferers’ that allows individuals to experience an immensely reassuring connection to others.  As people come together to face an existential threat…class differences are temporarily erased, income disparities become irrelevant, race is overlooked, and individuals are assessed simply by what they are willing to do for the group.  It is a kind of fleeting social utopia that…is enormously gratifying to the average person and downright therapeutic to people suffering from mental illness.”

After such a time, people talk about “how much they longed for those days.  More precisely, they longed for who they’d been back then.”

“…during disasters there is a net gain in well-being.  Most primates, including humans, are intensely social, and there are very few instances of lone primates surviving in the wild.  A modern soldier returning from combat- or a survivor of Sarajevo- goes from the kind of close-knit group that humans evolved for, back into a society where most people work outside the home, children are educated by strangers, families are isolated from wider communities, and personal gain almost completely eclipses collective good.  Even if he or she is part of a family, that is not the same as belonging to a group that shares resources and experiences almost everything collectively.  Whatever the technological advances of modern society- and they’re nearly miraculous- the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawn seem to be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.”

One “definition of community- of tribe- would be the group of people that you would both help feed and help defend.  A society that doesn’t offer its members the chance to act selflessly in these ways isn’t a society in any tribal sense of the word; it’s just a political entity that, lacking enemies, will probably fall apart on its own.

“This fundamental lack of connectedness allows people to act in trivial but incredibly selfish ways….littering as the perfect example of an everyday symbol of disunity in society.  ‘It’s a horrible thing to see because it sort of encapsulates this idea that you’re in it alone, that there isn’t a shared ethos of trying to protect something shared…’ In this sense, littering is an exceedingly petty version of claiming a billion-dollar bank bailout or fraudulently claiming disability payments.  When you throw trash on the ground, you apparently don’t see yourself as truly belonging to the world that you’re walking around in.  And when you fraudulently claim money from the government, you’re ultimately stealing you’re your friends, family, or neighbors…that diminishes you morally far more than it diminishes your country financially.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*@!, Mark Manson

I enjoyed this easy and funny read, and I took away from it encouragement to be deliberate about the things that I care about, and to stop caring about other things.

The Bright Hour, a Memoir of Living and Dying, Nina Riggs

This beautiful book was written by a beautiful soul who went to school with a good friend of mine.  It was moving, thought-provoking, and very funny at times.  Just beautiful.  I read it on the beach, and couldn’t wait to get home to my kiddos afterwards.

Bookshelf Additions- Spring 2017

Putting Children First, JoAnne Pedro-Carroll

This has become my go-to book suggestion for divorcing or divorced parents.  The author brings in her vast experience and joins it with relevant research as she touches on what parents can do to best help their children during and after their divorce. I’ll offer a brief outline of the book, and I encourage all co-parents to read it cover to cover.

“The vast majority of children are resilient and do well after a breakup…Divorce is unquestionably painful for children, but long-term negative outcomes are not inevitable.”

Children’s initial concern is usually “what is going to happen to me?”- “if their parents are unable to explain what is happening in ways they can understand, young children often fill in the blanks with their own fears and fantasies, which are often far worse than the reality.

Other common worries that children have:

  • A parent will “disappear”- physically or psychologically
  • Invisibility- no one really sees them or is aware of their feelings or needs
  • Worries about the future
  • Worries about money
  • Anxieties about loyalty
  • Concerns about parents’ well-being
  • Fear of losing a parent’s love

Kids needs your empathy-  all feelings are okay, even when all behaviors are not okay.  Your goal isn’t to fix their painful feelings, but rather to hear, acknowledge, and accept them.

“Research confirms that children need and want two responsive parents in their lives.  One of the best predictors of children’s well-being in marriage, and after divorce, is the psychological adjustment of their parents and the quality of the parenting they provide.”

The BIG message to your children, which will be communicated in many conversations over time:

  • “Whatever changes take place between Mom and Dad, one thing that will not change is our love for you. We will always be your parents and we will continue to take good care of you.  Both of us love you very much, and the kind of love we have for you is the kind that will never end.”
  • Our problems have nothing to do with you- you didn’t cause them and you cannot fix them or change them.
  • This is what will happen next…(some specifics….)

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for this first conversation-  the important thing is to keep communication lines open in the long-run

“Fostering a good relationship with the other parent is not a favor to your former partner, but a lifelong gift to your children.”

The author outlines what children in each age range need, and provides suggestions for what to tell them in an age-appropriate manner. She then discusses various “parenting plans,” and provides ideas for arrangements that have worked for other divorcing families.

“The schedule is an important tool, but regardless of how it is structured, research repeatedly reveals that it is the quality of parenting, the parents’ commitment to their children’s developmental needs, and their ability to contain conflict and work together that contribute most to children’s adjustment to living arrangements.”

Factors that reduce stress:

  • Minimal distance between households
  • Knowing the schedule
  • Positive preparation
  • Having special things at both homes
  • Letting children take belongings back and forth
  • Allowing children access to each parent through phone calls, email, and texting
  • Containing conflict during transitions
  • Creating opportunities for healing
  • Continuous open communication with children

“Sustained anger and rage hinder good judgment, rational thinking, and problem-solving- all of which are necessary for negotiating plans and parenting in ways that will positively impact children’s lives.  So even though it may be tempting to see your former partner as the enemy, it is better for your children if you can find ways to communicate with civility.  Your children will benefit enormously if you are able to manage your emotions in ways that help you work toward a reasonable plan for parenting for resilience- your and theirs.”

“Ongoing conflict is a destructive force in parents’ lives.  It erodes your ability to provide attentive and effective parenting…As a result, the warm, loving and attentive parent-child relationship…deteriorates.”

Aspects of conflict that are linked to the greatest difficulties for children:

  • Witnessing or overhearing parents’ aggressive or violent conflict, whether verbal or physical
  • Feeling guilt and responsibility for parents’ problems because of child-related conflict
  • Hearing one parent denigrate the other with sarcasm or criticism of their character or mistakes
  • Being caught in loyalty conflicts that require them directly or indirectly to side with one parent and against the other
  • Being used to carry hostile messages or convey a parent’s anger
  • Being forbidden to mention one parent in the presence of the other, either expressly or tacitly

Skills that promote resilience and emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness (ability to identify and express one’s own emotions in healthy ways)
  • Empathy (awareness of and sensitivity toward other’s feelings)
  • Self-regulation (ability to anticipate the consequences of choices, manage strong emotions, and control impulses)
  • Ability to solve interpersonal problems
  • Optimism
  • Self-motivation
  • Zeal and persistence
  • Hope for the future

“Early and often, they need to hear the message that they did not cause the marital problems and cannot change the divorce, but they can change their feelings and aspects of their lives by how they think and what choices they make.”

“Quality parenting is one of the best predictors of children’s adjustment when their parents are married, and it remains equally if not more important after divorce.  Loving, authoritative parenting is strongly related to academic success, children’s ability to manage their own behavior, reduced incidents of emotional difficulties, and increased long-term well-being…An authoritative parenting style includes warmth, emotional support, effective discipline, and age-appropriate expectations…at a time when so much may seem beyond your control, it’s especially important ot remember what a powerful differences your own parenting behavior can make for your children, even if your former partner does not share your views, or is unable to parent effectively.”

10 Emotionally Intelligent Parenting Practices that Promote Children’s Well-Being:

  1. Find time, make time
  2. Create one-on-one time
  3. Establish new family rituals and traditions
  4. Express appreciation and gratitude
  5. Convey hope and healing
  6. Listen beyond the words and respond with empathy
  7. Maintain household structure and routine
  8. Point out resilience role models
  9. Encourage spiritual experiences
  10. Engage in a community

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

I loved this book, I found myself smiling throughout this inspirational read about creativity, and living this human life well.  I especially enjoyed mulling over the paradoxes that she presented-  if we can hold onto to two opposing, yet true, ideas at the same time, well we’re on our way creative living beyond fear (as the subtitle reads).  Here’s a taste of what the book has to offer:

“I don’t demand a translation of the unknown.  I don’t need to understand what it all means, or where ideas are originally conceived, or why creativity plays out as unpredictably as it does.  I don’t need to know why we are sometimes able to converse freely with inspiration, when at other times we labor hard in solitude and come up with nothing.  I don’t need to know why an idea visited you today and not me…All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life– collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.  It’s a strange line of work, admittedly.  I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.”

“The poet David Whyte calls this sense of creative entitlement ‘the arrogance of belonging,’ and claims that it is an absolutely vital privilege to cultivate if you wish to interact more vividly with life…The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption.  In a strange way, it’s the opposite….Because often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection). The arrogance of belonging pulls you out of the darkest depths of self-hated- not by saying ‘I am the greatest!’ but merely by saying ‘I am here!’”

“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust- and those elements are universally accessible.  Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.”

“No shame, no despair- just a sense that it’s all very interesting.  Like: Isn’t it funny how sometimes things work and other times they don’t? Sometimes I think that the difference between a tormented creative life and a tranquil creative life is nothing more than the difference between the word awful and the word interesting.”

“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes- but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.  Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.  The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue…They wear their perfectionism like a badge of honor, as if it signals high tastes and exquisite standards.  But I see it differently.  I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear.  I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified…But we must break this habit in ourselves- and we are the only ones who can break it.  We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism.  No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it…At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is- if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart.  Which is the entire point.  Or should be.”

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver

I highly recommend this book that follows a family’s year-long journey to knowing where there food comes from.  It was challenging, made me evaluate the way I approach feeding my own family… I’m excited to implement some do-able, baby-steps with encouragement and guidance gleamed from this book.  And the writing was wonderful-  I laughed and teared up, which were nice surprises.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga, David Emerson

This is a practical and wonderful book about how to integrate Trauma Sensitive Yoga in therapy.   It makes yoga accessible and approachable to anyone, with the emphasis always on the internal experience of the client and not on achieving the proper form.

Research about trauma is discussed at length, with a focus on the effects in the body that largely go ignored.  Participants “became increasingly able and willing to notice how they were feeling in their body and formed greater tolerance for emotional states and bodily sensations, as they could experience them in a safe way, rather than from the lens of past trauma.”

“Interoception centers on our ability to feel the activity of our interior self, that is, it is interoception to feel our heartbeat, our stomach grumble, or a muscle stretch…Research on the brain suggests that traumatized people do not have a reliable self, a feelable self, a foundation from which to safely experience themselves, relationships, and the world around them  What is it like to live in a body that is unfeel-able and therefore unpredictable?  I would suggest that living with an unfeel-able and unpredictable body is one valid way to explain what complex trauma is.”

“Trauma is not primarily a problem of what I am thinking but a problem of what I am feeling in my body; either not feeling anything or feeling stuck forever in a painful, tortured, broken body that will never change…Our work is to help people find ways to have new body experiences right now that can effectively replace the constant replay button of trauma.”

“With TSY, we focus on using the (therapeutic) relationship to give our clients a safe space to begin to feel their body again and begin to notice what they want to do with their body in a given situation.  The facilitator supports their clients as they learn to trust what they feel, make their own choices about what to do based on what they feel, and take action based on what they choose to do.”


Women’s Ways of Knowing, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, Tarule

The authors interviewed 135 women in-depth, and this book describes why many women still feel silenced in their families and schools, and maps out the struggles and stages many go through in knowing what they know.

  1. Silence
    1. Powerlessness, obedience to authority, survival, disconnected from self and others, feel “deaf and dumb”
  2. Received knowledge- listing to the voice of others
    1. Authorities have “right answers”, listen to others for truth & direction, can’t tolerate ambiguity
  3. Subjective knowledge- inner voice
    1. They see their “gut”, still small voice, usually had a failed male authority figure, room for more than 1 opinion, think of self as a knowing person
  4. Subjective knowledge- quest for self
    1. “walk away from the past”, sometimes the escape is an overly eager promotion of self at the expense of others; view of self is tentative and unsettled
  5. Procedural knowledge- voice of reason
    1. The voice is more humble, and powerful, than previous chapter; maybe silent, but it’s not a passive silence- behind it is reasoning; knowledge is a process, multiple lenses
  6. Procedural knowledge- separate and connected knowing
    1. Separate knowers- weed the self out, logic/reason-focused, take out feeling, just “a game” (doubting game)
    2. Connected knowers- empathy is at the heart of connected knowing- it’s a believing game
  7. Constructed knowledge- integrating the voices
    1. Integrating the voices; aware of truths colliding within; can tolerate ambiguity; no longer want to suppress parts of self; the answers vary depending on the circumstance/perspective; passionate knowers


The One Thing, Gary Keller

Here are the nuggets I took away from this helpful productivity book:

  • Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
  • Willpower has a limited battery life, but can be recharged with some downtime. It is  a limited but renewable resource.  We act as though our supply of willpower were endless.  As a result we don’t consider it a personal resource to be managed, like sleep or food.
  • Willpower is depleted when we make decisions to focus our attention, suppress our feelings or impulses, or modify our behavior in pursuit of goals.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
  • Be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.
  • Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.
  • Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most, yet that is exactly how most play it on a daily basis.
  • Until my One Thing is done, everything else is a distraction.

4 thieves of productivity:

  1. Inability to say “no”
  2. Fear of chaos (the world won’t wait! Messes will pile up!)
  3. Poor health habits
  4. Environment doesn’t support your goals

Bookshelf Additions- Winter 2016


The Gift of Therapy, Irvin Yalom

This is a re-read, and every time I read it I tell myself to revisit it the following year.  It’s an inspirational account of therapy and the therapeutic relationship.  I love this description of a patient of his, who happens to also be a therapist:

“Moreover she felt more confident that she had much to offer:  she had grown wise, she had learned how to live more keenly, and felt dedicated to sharing her wisdom.  But most striking was her willingness to remain in uncertainty, not only uncertainly in her own life, but uncertainly in the therapeutic process.  No longer did she feel pressed to search for explanations, to make connections, to summarize and tie things neatly together.  As she put it, she was more comfortable holding uncertainly and, liberated from the task of explanation, was more able to offer powerful presence to her clients.”

As I tell each person who comes through the door, it really does always come back to relationship.

Yalom also quotes some of his favorite authors and thinkers:

“Become who you are.” – Nietsche

“Have patience with everything unresolved and try to love the questions themselves.” –Rilke


Drive, Daniel Pink

This was an interesting book about motivation.  My take-aways:

  • The old way of motivating people (carrots & sticks) can be effective for routine tasks that are boring and can be done autonomously, BUT they can crush creativity, extinguish intrinsic motivation, and encourage unethical behaviors and even addiction.
  • 3 things most important to motivation:
    1. Autonomy– Our default setting is to be autonomous and self-directed
    2. Mastery– Only engagement can produce mastery: becoming great at something that matters.  Mastery begins with “flow”- optimal experiences when the challenges we face are matched to our abilities.
    3. Purpose– Humans by their nature seek purpose- a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.



Bookshelf Additions- Fall 2016

Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff

Kristin Neff’s book is on such an important topic, that can be nothing less than life-changing for those who struggle in this area.  She defines self-compassion as the sum of three components:

First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.  Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.  Third, it requires mindfulness- that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.

There are so many exercises that I’m looking forward to using, and I was really interested in how she encourages parents to cultivate self-compassion in their kids:

“…focus on their actual behavior, rather than on their general character.  You want to emphasize that we are not defined by our failures and shortcomings but are instead all of us works in progress, in a continual state of learning.  It’s also important to validate the emotions underlying your child’s misbehavior before trying to correct it…If you make it safe for your child to take personal responsibility for his actions by using compassionate language combined with a kind and caring tone, however, he will find it much easier to acknowledge his problem behavior and work on changing it.”


Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton

“I am empty, alone, addicted- and still, invited…Something in me says yes to the idea that there is a God and that this God is trying to speak to me, trying to love me, trying to invite me back to life.  I decide to believe in a God who believes in a girl like me.”

 “Crisis comes from the word meaning ‘to sift.’ Let it all fall away and you’ll be left with what matters.”

 “I didn’t know that everyone feels the hot loneliness.  I didn’t know that it would pass.  So…I reached for an easy button- a book, a binge, a beer, a body, a shopping spree, a Facebook feed- to shove it back down…what if my anger, my fear, my loneliness were never mistakes, but invitations? What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons?  Maybe instead of slamming the door on pain, I need to throw open the door wide and say, ‘Come in.  Sit down with me.  And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.’“

“What if pain- like love- is just a place brave people visit?…I need to resist the easy buttons.  Maybe my reliance of numbing is keeping me from the two things I was born for: learning and loving.  I could go on hitting easy buttons until I die and feel no pain, but the cost of that decision could be that I’ll never learn, love, or be truly alive.”

“Grief is love’s souvenir.  It’s our proof that we once loved.  Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world:  Look!  Love was once mine.  I loved well.  Here is my proof that I paid the price.”


Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist

“If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.  In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”

“The only way through the emptiness is stillness: staring at that deep wound unflinchingly.  You can’t outrun anything…all you can do is show up in the stillness…I start to carry an inner stillness with me back into the noise, like a secret.”

“You were made by hand with great love by the God of the universe, and he planted deep inside of you a set of loves and dreams and idiosyncrasies, and you can ignore them as long as you want, but they will at some point start yelling.  Worse than that, if you ignore them long enough, they will go silent, and that’s the real tragedy…We get to shape our days and our weeks, and if we don’t they’ll get shaped by the side catch-all of ‘normal ‘ and ‘typical,’ and who wants that?…You get to make your life.  In fact, you have to.  And not only can you make it, you can remake it.”

“We get to decide, which is both so freeing and such a beautiful responsibility…What do you want? What do you love? What ways of living have you simply acquiesced to, because someone told you to?  Because it seemed smart or practical or easy?  Are those the best words to describe how you want to live?”

“Brave doesn’t always involve grand gestures.  Sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject…It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving.  It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wolly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.”

“I will spend my life on meaning, on connection, on love, on freedom.  I will not waste one more day trapped in comparison, competition, proving, and earning.  That’ the currency of a culture that has nothing to offer me.”



The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

“Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions.  It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

 “Whether we remember a particular event at all, and how accurate our memories of it are, largely depends on how personally meaningful it was and how emotional we felt about it at the time.  The key factor is our level of arousal…The mind works according to schemes or maps, and incidents that fall outside the established pattern are most likely to capture our attention…We remember insults and injuries best”

“The essence of a therapeutic relationship:  finding words where words were absent before and, as a result, being able to share your deepest pain and deepest feelings with another human being.  This is one of the most profound experiences we can have, and such resonance, in which hitherto unspoken words can be discovered, uttered, and received, is fundamental to healing the isolation of trauma- especially if other people in our lives have ignored or silenced us.  Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.“


Living Beautifully, with Uncertainty and Change  Pema Chodron

“The propensity to feel sorry for ourselves, the propensity to be jealous, the propensity to get angry- our habitual, all-to-o-familiar emotional responses are like seeds that we just keep watering and nurturing…But every time we pause and stay present with the underlying energy, we stop reinforcing these propensities and begin to open ourselves to refreshingly new possibilities….it’s important to realize that interrupting thoughts isn’t the same as repressing them.  Repression is denial of what’s happening, which only sends the thoughts underground where they can fester.  At the same time, we don’t want to keep chasing after the thoughts and getting hooked by them.  Interrupting thoughts is somewhere between clinging to them and pushing them away.  It’s a way of allowing the thoughts to come and go, to arise and pass, to not be such a big deal.”

“You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts…it’s the definition of having loving-kindness for yourself.  Loving-kindness for yourself does not mean making sure you’re feeling good all the time. ..Rather, it means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty.  In this way you become more attuned to seeing when you’re biting the hook, when you’re getting caught in the undertow of emotions, when you’re grasping and when you’re letting go.  This is the way you become a true friend to yourself just as you are.”

We can spend our lives consumed and hooked by chasing or avoiding the 8 worldly concerns (pleasure/pain, fame/disgrace, gain/loss, praise/blame) or we can work to liberate ourselves.

Tonglen- breathing in pain, breathing out relief.  It’s powerful for developing our courage- sense of oneness with others and awakens our empathy-  breaks down walls we’ve built for ourself and liberates us from the prison of self.  It reverses the usual logic of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

The author outlines 4 Commitments:

1- to not cause harm, in speech or action

2- to take care of one another

3- to embrace the world just as it is

“It’s not easy to keep this vow, of course.  But every time we break it, what’s important is that we recognize that we’ve closed someone out, that we’ve distanced ourselves from someone, that we’ve turned someone into the Other, the one on the opposite side of the fence.  Often we’re so full of righteous indignation, so charged up, that we don’t even see that we’ve been triggered.  But if we’re fortunate, we realize what’s happened- our it’s pointed out to us- and we acknowledge to ourselves what we’ve done.  Then we simply renew our commitment to stay open to others, aspiring to start fresh.”

 “Letting go of the fixed self isn’t something we can just wish to happen…It’s something we predispose ourselves to with every gesture, word, deed, thought…We’re either going in the direction of letting go and strengthening that ability or going in the direction of holding on and reinforcing that fear-based habit.  We can choose reality- stay with it, be here, show up, be open, turn toward the sights and the sounds and the thoughts that pass through our minds- or we can choose to turn away.  But if we turn away, we can pretty much count on staying stuck in the same old pattern of suffering, never getting closer to experiencing wakefulness, never getting closure to experiencing the sacredness of our existence.”

“We discover selflessness gradually, but always the prerequisite is being present.  When we can be present with an emotion without any distractions, we find out very quickly how insubstantial, how fleeting it is.  What seemed so threatening, so solid, so lasting, begins to dissolve, giving us an immediate experience of impermanence, as the feelings arise, dwell, and then pass away.  We feel an emotion and it threatens to take us over, but if we stay open to it and look directly at it, it either disappears altogether or morphs into something else.  Fear might become sadness.  Anger might become hopelessness. Joy might become vulnerability.  When emotions start to pass away, we never know what they will become.

“I realized then what it means to hold pain in my heart and simultaneously be deeply touched by the power and magic of the world.  Life doesn’t have to be one way or the other.  We don’t have to jump back and forth.  We can live beautifully with whatever comes- heartache and joy, success and failure, instability and change.”

Bookshelf Additions: Summer 2016

It was a challenge to read much this summer (at least the sort of reading worth sharing online!).  But I recently sat down with a couple of great books and have a lot of helpful take-aways for myself, some clients, and my children.


The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

I’ve been a fan of Dr. Siegel’s since I was introduced to his ideas a couple of years ago in a training.  He focuses on the integration of a person’s brain (in this case, a child’s)- which helps all the different functions of the brain work together as a whole.  He asserts that the brain is plastic, moldable, throughout life, and that, since neurons that fire together grow connections, we can use that to “rewire” the brain.

He talks about two kinds of integration:  1- horizontally: left brain (logical, literal, linear) and right brain (nonverbal, emotional, intuitive) and 2- vertically: “downstairs” (primitive-  anger, fear, survival, fight vs. flight) and “upstairs” (thinking, imagining, empathy).  We recognize when kids become “trapped downstairs” when they are flooded with the more primitive emotions and just don’t have access to the kind of thinking we want from the upstairs brain.  We can help them by:

  1. Connect & redirect-  when the child is in an emotional flood, we can connect first to the right brain  and then appeal to the logic of the left brain
  2. Name it to tame it- Retelling stories helps children make sense.  Journaling can be so helpful because it calms the right brain so that they can hear the left brain.
  3. Ask which part you’re appealing to (upstairs or downstairs).  Access their thinking by saying “convince me” or “come up with a solution that works for us both”.
  4. Exercise their upstairs brain-  decision making practice, breathing & calming, empathy.
  5. Move the body!
  6. Replaying memories (to integrate the explicit and implicit)- Storytelling is the most effective way to promote integration.  Use the idea of a DVD player with a remote control and ask them to pause, rewind, fast forward (especially when recounting something difficult).
  7. Making recollection a part of daily family life (tell me 2 things that really happened and 1 that didn’t;  tell me your high and low and one act of kindness).
  8. Let emotions roll by (like a cloud).
  9. SIFT-  pay attention to what’s going on inside sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts.
  10. Getting back to the hub- looking at mindsight or wheel of awareness, recognizing when they’re fixated on one of the rim points and can instead choose to return to the stable, calm, big picture center.
  11. Increase family fun factor.
  12. Teach kids to argue with “we” in mind.



Presence, Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy

I first heard of Amy Cuddy through her massively-popular TED Talk, and I finally read her book, which convinced me fully that our bodies have the ability to change our minds.  Through research and examples, she showed how people can get in their own way of being present with their self-monitoring, “imposter syndrome”, and communicating physically like they don’t deserve to be there.  She demonstrates how we can break out of that powerlessness with some powerful body languages (think Wonder Woman power poses!).

“When we feel powerless, we cannot be present.  In a way, presence is power- a special kind of power that we confer on ourselves.”

“Personal power is all about having the confidence to act based on one’s own beliefs, attitudes, and values, and having the sense that one’s actions will be effective.  Effective, in this context, doesn’t mean we will always get the result we desire; instead it means that we will come away from every interaction feeling that we fully and accurately represented who we are and what we want.”

“The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power- the kind of power that is the key to presence.  It’s the key that allows you to unlock yourself- your abilities, your creativity, your courage, and even your generosity.  It doesn’t give you skills or talents you don’t have; it help you to share the ones you do have.  It doesn’t make you smarter or better informed; it makes you more resilient and open.  It doesn’t change who you are; it allows you to be who you are.”

Why should you do a 2-minute power pose before doing something big or bold?  Expanding your body:

  • makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.
  • causes you to think about yourself in a positive light.
  • frees you to approach, act, persist.
  • physiologically prepares you to be present; it overrides your instinct to fight or flee, allowing you to be grounded, open, and engaged.
  • toughens your body to physical pain.

“In each challenging situation, we nudge ourselves: we encourage ourselves to feel a little more courageous, to act a bit more boldly- to step outside the walls of our fear, anxiety, and powerlessness.  To be a bit more present.  And incrementally, over time, we end up where we want to be…”

Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies.” – artist Frank Gelett Burgess

Bookshelf Additions: Spring 2016

This spring I read a couple of new books on anxiety, one geared more towards children and one written for parents of children who have anxiety symptoms.


What To Do When You Worry Too Much, Dawn Huebner

This is a great book written for kids who struggle with anxiety in some form.  In kid-friendly short chapters, the authors explain what anxiety (or worry) is, how to recognize it, and how to begin to interact it with if differently to get some relief.

  1. Using logic (realistic self-talk that replaces catastrophizing)
  2. Designating a “Worry Time” in order to spend less time with the worries
  3. Externalizing the worry, so you can talk back to the Worry Bully
  4. Resetting your system via activity (exercise or distraction) or relaxation (deep breathing, favorite memory, progressive relaxation)
  5. Self care to prevent them from coming back (adequate rest, exercise, etc.)

The book is best when read by both the parent and child, and then they can use the ideas and shared vocabulary to address the child’s anxiety.  There’s some exercises throughout the lessons, some of which I may incorporate into my work with clients.



Anxiety-Free Kids, Bonnie Zucker

The authors describe the symptoms of anxiety, and the different ways in which it’s typically manifested in children (generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.).  Lots of case studies are used, making it easy for parents to see what their own children’s struggles are.  The author then describes Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used to treat children struggling with anxiety.

“When your child avoids situations that evoke anxiety, this is called avoidance behavior….However, each time that your child avoids something because it makes her feel anxious, the anxiety wins and becomes reinforced and strengthened, and your child loses.  But each time your child does something that makes her feel anxious, she wins and the anxiety loses.”

She walks parents through the task of developing a list of anxiety-provoking situations, from least challenging (and anxiety-inducing) to most, which is structured as a ladder that the family will “climb.”

The author then describes more ways to get relief from anxiety through:

  1. calm breathing
  2. progressive muscle relaxation
  3. relaxing imagery
  4. perspective (think of the big picture…)
  5. scheduled “worry time”
  6. positive self-talk
  7. talking back to the anxiety
  8. challenging cognitive distortions (replacing thinking errors with more helpful thoughts, instead of catastrophizing, all-or-nothing, filtering, magnifying, mindreading, overgeneralization, etc.)

“Anxiety breeds self-doubt, which may weaken or threaten self-esteem, overcoming anxiety can be an incredibly powerful boost to your child’s confidence in himself.”



Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

This book was a re-read for me, and I might have found this meaningful book even more impactful this time around (with a few more years and life experiences under my belt).  It’s such a powerful book, and

Frankl is the father of logotherapy, which is centered around people needing to identify and pursue meaning in their lives.  He survived concentration and extermination camps in 1942-1945, and throughout part 1 of this book he weaves in stories about human suffering and loss, as well as resiliency and meaning which was found in even the worst of circumstances.   He outlines stages that he identified of the prisoners’ psychological reactions.  In part 2 he goes into more details about logotherapy.

“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”  -Nietzsche

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity- even under the most difficult circumstances- to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish.”

“These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment.  Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way….No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any of destiny.”

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life.  He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.””

“The crowning experience of all…is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more- except his God.”




The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

This was the first in a series of three books by Brown, the other two of which already have a prominent place on my bookshelf.  Because I read them out of “order,” this one felt like a review in some aspects, but still is full of important truths.

“Many of the truly committed compassion practitioners were also the most boundary-conscious people in the study. Compassionate people are boundaried people.”

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness- the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.  When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our live that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.”

“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.  Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

The author introduces the concept of 10 Guideposts, to set and strive for.  I like the phrase “cultivating” that she uses, as these are decisions and efforts made day by day, even moment by moment-  never arriving at perfection yet growing in the right direction.

1.  Cultivating authenticity…letting go of what people think.

2.  Cultivating self-compassion…letting go of perfectionism.

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

3.  Cultivating a resilient spirit…letting go of numbing and powerlessness.

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty.  All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” -Terri St. Cloud

4.  Cultivating gratitude and joy…letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

5.  Cultivating intuition and trusting faith…letting go of the need for certainty.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”- Anne Lamott

6.  Cultivating creativity…letting go of comparison.

7.  Cultivating play and rest…letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

8.  Cultivating calm and stillness…letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.

9. Cultivating meaningful work…letting go of doubt and “supposed to.”

10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance…letting go of being cool and “always in control.”

Bookshelf Additions: Winter 2016

Has this been a busy season for you like it has for me?  With a family move added into our already busy schedule, I haven’t been carving out time for reading as much as I’d like.  But I did manage to get a couple of good books in during winter!



The Art of Work, Jeff Goins

Admittedly, this one was an audiobook, but I enjoyed it and I found some good insights to hold onto.  Here were some of my favorites:

“I used to think that your calling was about doing something good in this world. Now I understand it’s about becoming someone good—and letting that goodness impact the world around you.”

“Every calling is marked by a season of insignificance, a period when nothing seems to make sense. This is a time of wandering in the wilderness, when you feel alone and misunderstood. To the outsider, such a time looks like failure, as if you are grasping at air or simply wasting time. But the reality is this is the most important experience a person can have if they make the most of it.”

“Sometimes failure is the best thing that can happen to you if you learn to listen to the lessons in it.”

“Remember: your vocation is more of a magnum opus than a single masterpiece. It’s an entire body of work, not a single piece.”



The Book of Forgiving, Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu wrote this beautiful book on how to grant and receive forgiveness. Tutu was the chair of South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission following apartheid in the 1990’s, and I had the privilege of hearing him speak at my graduation several years ago.   The need for forgiveness touches us all, and this book outlines the Fourfold Path to forgiveness as:

  1. Telling the story
  2. Naming the hurt
  3. Granting forgiveness
  4. Renewing or releasing the relationship

They dispel some of the common misunderstandings, and shares that


  • Is not Easy
  • Is not Weakness
  • Does not subvert justice (it creates space for justice to be enacted with a purity of purpose that does not include revenge)
  • Is not forgetting
  • Is not quick


“The response to hurt is universal.  Each of us will experience sadness, pain, anger, or shame, or a combination of any or all of these.  Now comes the moment of choice, although for most of us our reactions are so habitual we don’t even realize we have a choice. …The affront is so painful, so intolerable, that we cannot accept it, and instead of placing our hands on our hearts and weeping for what we have lost, we point our fingers or shake our fists at the one who has harmed us.  Instead of embracing our sadness, we stoke our anger.”

“When we cannot admit our own woundedness, we cannot see the other as a wounded person who has harmed us out of his or her own ignorance, pain, or brokenness.  We must reject our commonality.”

“When we can accept both our humanity and the perpetrator’s, we can write a new story, one in which we are no longer cast as a victim but as a survivor, even perhaps a hero.  In this new story, we are able to learn and grow from what has happened to us.  We may even be able to use our pain as an impulse to reduce the pain and suffering of others.  This is when we know we are healed.”

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”       – Lily Tomlin

“There are times when we truly did nothing, as when a stranger robs us, but even then we have a role in permitting or participating in a society where such desperation exists.  I do not say this to inspire guilt or apportion, blame, since no one person creates a society.  But each of us does have a role in the society we have created.  We can take responsibility for our part in a way that frees us from being a victim and allows us to open our hearts.  We are always at our best when compassion enables us to recognize the unique pressures and singular stories of the people on the other side of our conflicts.  This is true for any conflict, from a personal spat to an international dispute.”

“Marshall Duke [in his “Do You Know” scale] found out that the more children knew of their families’ history- the good, the bad, and the ugly- the more resilient the children turned out to be.   Dan Siegel explains that the best predictor of how well a child will be attached to his or her parents-  have positive, loving relationships- is whether the parents have a clear and coherent story about their lives and the traumas they have experienced.  In other words, if you are able to talk about your life and the joys and sorrows you have experienced – if you know your story- you are much more likely to be a skillful parent.”