Bookshelf Additions- Summer & Fall 2018

Due to too many things on my plate, this bookshelf addition comes terribly late and probably incomplete.  But in the spirit of good-enough, here is what I’ve read the 2nd half of 2018.

Parenting From the Inside Out, How a Deeper Self-Understanding can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive-  Daniel Siegel

A must-read for parents.  Dr. Siegel makes a compelling case for parents doing their own “work” for the benefit of themselves, their children, and the parent-child relationship.  He has some great reflection questions and action steps for how to do this, and how to repair relationship ruptures when parents miss the mark (as we all do!).

“The amazing finding that the most powerful predictor of a child’s attachment is the coherence of the parent’s life narrative allows us to understand how to strengthen our children’s attachment to us.  We are not destined to repeat that patterns of the past because we can earn our security as an adult by making sense of our life experiences.  In this way, those of us who have had difficult early life experiences can create coherence by making sense of the past and understanding its impact on the present and how it shapes our interactions with our children.  Making sense of our life stories enables us to have deeper connections with our children, and to live a more joyful and coherent life.”

Hands Free Life, 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More- Rachel Macy Stafford

I turned to this book after weeks of feeling the pull to slow down and be more present.  It has some good strategies and some gentle encouragement to do just that.

Savor, Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are-  Shauna Niequist

This devotional book went hand-in-hand with the Hands Free book (above)-  filled with grace and reminders about what is truly important.

Five Minutes’ Peace- Jill Murphy

A dear friend sent me this adorable kids’ book, and I chuckled all the way through as the Mama Elephant’s daily life mirrors my own.

Together is Better, A Little Book of Inspiration-  Simon Sinek

Cute.  I enjoyed talking it through with my kiddos.

Girl Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis

I didn’t find this book as inspiring as I had hoped based on others’ recommendations, but I do love people’s stories and reading about their lives.  I have yet to read a memoir that I didn’t like.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery-  Ian Cron

I think at this point I have to admit to being near-obsessed with the Enneagram, thanks in part to this book and some interesting conversations about it.

It’s such a potentially-powerful tool to understand ourselves and each other, not in a pathologizing way but in a way that encourages continued growth and healing.

“The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.”

It can help us remember who we were, before the world told us who we have to be.

“Human beings are wired for survival. As little kids we instinctually place a mask called personality over parts of our authentic self to protect us from harm and make our way in the world. Made up of innate qualities, coping strategies, conditioned reflexes and defense mechanisms, among lots of other things, our personality helps us know and do what we sense is required to please our parents, to fit in and relate well to our friends, to satisfy the expectations of our culture and to get our basic needs met.”

I’ve got more Enneagram books on the way, and am looking forward to going even deeper.

The Miracle on Voodoo Mountain, A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti- Meghan Boudreaux

I have a dear friend in the long, arduous process of adopting a child from Haiti and she gave me this beautiful and inspiring story.  Reminds me of Kisses from Katie from several years back, and I know for sure that we need more people in the world like the author.

Inspired, Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again-  Rachel Held Evans

A beautiful faith read… I appreciate the author’s transparent account of her faith and doubts and trying to make sense of it all, and ending up with more questions than answers.  Her wrestling with God in the wilderness gives permission for, and even encourages, others to do the same.  Underlines throughout the book as I learned through her research and related to her questions.

 

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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- 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.

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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: 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!

 

artofwork

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.”

 

forgiveness

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

Forgiveness:

  • 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.”

My Top 10 Books of 2015

1.  Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

This is probably my favorite read of the year.  I highly recommend it for anyone who desires to live “wholeheartedly”- which Brown defines as engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.  She offers 10 characteristics of wholehearted living for us to cultivate, and the 10 counterparts that we can work on letting go of.  She discusses shame and vulnerability in the most powerful and accessible way I can ever remember reading.

Some more of my favorite quotes and ideas from the book:

  • Brown describes the crux of vulnerability-  how I want to experience yours, but I don’t want to be vulnerable myself.  I see your vulnerability as courage, but I see mine as inadequacy.
  • I liked how she discussed disengagement as a more insidious form of betrayal than 1 big event;  how not caring, letting the connection go, turning away is dangerous, crazy-making, and shame-inducing.  This is consistent with Gottman’s research.

    “Joy comes to us in moments- ordinary moments.  We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

  • She gives 4 elements of shame resilience:
  1. Recognizing shame & understanding triggers
  2. Practicing critical awareness (reality-checking our messages & expectations)
  3. Reaching out- own and share your story
  4. Speaking shame

    “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen & known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.  Love isn’t something we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them-  we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.  Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal & the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.  Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”

2.  168 Hours- You Have More Time than you Think,  Laura Vanderkam

This was an interesting read- and I picked it up at just the right time for me to dive in.  I didn’t learn a lot of new information, but I did feel challenged to think through some important questions (I have pages of notes!) and I felt a renewed responsibility for the things that I allow or disallow to take up my time.

  • Vanderkam introduced me to the idea of time blocking-  scheduling absolutely everything during the week.  That alone caused me to scrutinize and reorganize my priorities, weeding out the things that weren’t necessary or furthering my goals.  I felt empowered to own those hours, and use them wisely.
  • The author urges you to identify your Core Competencies, and to specialize in the things that only you can do (or do well). Taking control of the schedule means getting rid of non-core-competency tasks by ignoring, minimizing, or outsourcing them.

“Career doesn’t have to conflict with a full personal life!”

3.  The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron

This book was published over a decade ago, but it remains relevant and helpful even now.  The author introduces some exercises recommended to break writer’s block, or bypass the inner critic, or get around whatever obstacles are in our way to practicing and pursuing creativity.  Admittedly, I did not complete the majority of the exercies (such as the Morning Pages or the Artist’s Date) but I found it inspiring still.

“Necessity, not virtue, was the beginning of my spirituality.”

 

“The quality of life is in proportion always to the capacity for delight.  The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”

4.  What Makes Love Last, John Gottman

I like Gottman’s methods working with couples, and I like how most of his books are interesting and accessible to read for anyone who wants to improve their relationship.  In this book he describes the importance of attunement (to understand your partern’s inner world) and “sliding door moments” (answering partner’s bid for connection, and turning toward them instead of away).  He also discusses how flooding and negative comparisons can be deadly to relationships, and how to move past “regrettable incidents.”  He touches on the 4 Horsemen of the Apolcalypse (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling), which poison relationships and, Gottman asserts, predict divorce.

“Many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a candlelit dinner or a a by-the-sea vacation.  The real secret is to turntowards each other in little ways every day.”

“To make a relationship last:  couples must become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes and dreams.”

5.  The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin

This was a really fun book to read, and described Rubin’s own Happiness Project where she tackled one area of her life for each month of the year in an effort to become, well, happier.  She weaves in her extensive research on happiness in with her personal experiences as she works on her marriage, friendships, work, money, etc.  I was inspired to try some of her suggestions, and I love the idea of readers carrying our their own happiness project (although I have yet to pull the trigger on that one).

She quotes William Buter Yeats in one of my favorite lines:

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.”

6.  Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin

In this book about habits, Rubin outlines 4 tendencies around how people respond to expectations.  Upholders respond to both outer and inner expectations, Obligers respond to outer but not inner expectations (so they need accountability), Questioners respond to inner but not outer expectations (so outer expectations need to turn into inner ones to be met), and Rebels respond to neither.

Much of the book is about self-knowledge, and she poses questions such as lark or owl?  Simplicity or abundance lover? Familiarity or novelty lover?  Then she discusses strategies for changing or starting new habits (many of which have been helpful for myself as well as with clients):

  • Scheduling
  • Accountability
  • First steps
  • Clean slate
  • Convenience
  • Loophole spotting
  • Distracting
  • Rewards & treats
  • Pairing
  • Clarity

7.  Rising Strong, Brene Brown

This one follows Brown’s Daring Greatly.  She asserts that anyone who attempts to live wholeheartedly (by showing up in the arena, daring greatly) is going to fall.  Rising Strong describes the 3-step process of picking yourself up and moving on.  First is the Reckoning, walking into your story.  Here you recognize your emotions, get curious about your feelings, and try to make connections.  Next is the Rumbling, owning your story.  Here you get honest about your narrative and challenge your assumptions.  Finally is the Revolution, where you get to write a new, braver ending to your story.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or acceptable, but our wholeness, even our wholehearted news- actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

“Breath and mindfulness give us the awareness and space we need to make choices that are aligned with our values.”

8.  Loving Your Kids on Purpose, Danny Silk

This book is a great read for parents who are Christians, or who are open to reading a parenting book from that perspective.  In it he promotes love & relationship above rules & discipline-  not eliminating consequences but rather allowing consequences in a way that preserves and even promotes the parent-child relationship.

The author walks parents through setting healthy boundaries with their children as an important part of self-care;  then thoughtfully and calmly allowing the child to experience the consequences of their choices.  There is also discussion around letting our kids fail, challenging the assumption that violence and anger are power, and making sure the correct person feels the weight of the problem (hint: it’s not the parent!).

I love the focus on building and protecting heart connections, and learning that discipline doesn’t have to happen at the expense of your relationship.  Children and parents alike crave and benefit from close, trusting, safe relationships and the author explains how this is possible.

“Many parents believe that when their children present failure, rebellion, disrespect, irresponsibility, or other willful or sinful actions, they must gain control by intimidating their children into changing their minds.”

“We need to learn how to be OK no matter what they do.”

“But when my heart is connected to your heart, my decisions are designed to protect our relationship no matter how far out of my presence you are.”

9.  Bread & Wine, Shauna Niequest

This book was about so much more than the food (although the recipes alone are great!)-  family, faith, friends, and how life just shows up and plays out around the table.  It was beautiful, and inspirational.  As someone who can be intimidated in the kitchen, I found it practical and also encouraging-  I like to think I’ll be more confident next time I approach unchartered territory with cooking or entertaining.  And there’s something about cooking, eating, or sharing a meal with someone- it’s a part of our shared humanity that we interact with daily.  It’s ordinary, but can be so much more.  I made her bacon-wrapped dates on Christmas night, and they were a hit.

10.  Food- A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan

This one is strictly for laughs (it’s great self-care!).  It’s good, (mostly) clean fun.  I actually listened to the audio version, that Gaffigan himself narrates.  Several bits had me wiping tears and replaying way too many times.