If you’re interested in finding out more about what might be behind issues such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem and what you can do about it, I’ve listed some helpful book suggestions below.
Emotions/Childhood emotional neglect: Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect – Jonice Webb (with Christine Musello)
This is an accessible book introducing the concept of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) and highlighting what happens when children don’t have their feelings validated enough in childhood. Running on Empty can be particularly eye opening for those who feel like ‘nothing bad happened to me’ but still struggle with overwhelming feelings or often feel different and disconnected from others. The book includes concrete strategies to help you move on and was followed up by Running On Empty No More, which focuses more on CEN and relationships.
Art, creativity and play: The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
This book might seem a strange choice for this list, but I found The Artist’s Way a useful practical guide for connecting with play and creativity, both of which are crucial for our mental health and wellbeing.
“The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.” Dr Stuart Brown
When I recommend this book to people, I usually mention that Julia references God in the book, as I know this will be off-putting for some. Although Cameron writes about how atheists can work with this, if it is a deal breaker for you then check out Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry for more creativity exercises and advice.
Mindset and learning: Mindset – Carol Dweck
Dweck’s work is mostly known in education circles, but I think her concepts of growth vs fixed mindset also have relevance to therapy and counselling. The Growth mindset is linked to higher motivation and achievement and is characterised by embracing challenges rather than avoiding them, learning from constructive criticism rather than ignoring it, and by understanding effort as essential to success rather than a sign that you’re not a natural at something. A growth mindset can help us whenever we’re learning new skills in counselling and psychotherapy, such as developing self-awareness, emotional regulation, self-compassion, or relational skills such as assertiveness and communication. Dweck’s book helps identify which mindset you currently have and gives advice on how to switch from a fixed to a growth approach.
CPTSD, trauma: Complex PTSD – From Surviving to Thriving – Pete Walker
Pete Walker’s influential and well-regarded book on C-PTSD provides an in-depth guide and map to dealing with childhood trauma. C-PTSD is a term which is still gaining recognition and the book has been particularly helpful for those who originally felt their childhood was ‘normal’ to understand and deal with their experiences and current symptoms. Pete draws extensively on his own experience and I’ve found his concept of ‘emotional flashback’ (as opposed to the more widely known flashback of PTSD) particularly useful. You can read his Steps for Managing Flashbacks online here.
Although I list it here and know many find it helpful, I also know that the book can stir up a lot of difficult memories and feelings, so please take care with this one and access more support if needed.
Self-compassion/mindfulness: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive – Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer
Many of us struggle with perfectionism and an over-active inner critic who attacks us for even the slightest mistake. The habit of strong self-criticism may have begun as an attempt to protect and motivate us and sometimes we may worry that if we drop our critical voice, we’ll never get anything done. However, the research points to the opposite (which reminds me of Louise Hay’s quote ‘You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens’). The workbook can help counter our inner criticism with a range of powerful exercises to build self-compassion (which the authors define as “giving ourselves the kindness and care we’d give to a good friend”).
I expect this blog post might end up being part one of many but for now I’ve capped this list at 5 as I didn’t want it to end up too long and overwhelming! What would be on your list?
Self-help books can be really useful in helping us understand more about ourselves and giving us ideas of how to move forward, but sometimes we need more support to work through what’s holding us back. If you’d like to find out more about how we could work together to bring about the changes you want to see – get in touch