The Counselor's Bookshelf:
The Counselor's Bookshelf:
I love beautiful things, especially beautiful art, so I get excited at calendar buying time (aka, December). It's a chance to purchase 12 prints of images I like and hang them on my wall to enjoy throughout the year. Usually I try to stick to one or two calendars I hang in my home and office... but this year, I found myself buying a third. This one, Nikki McClure's 2018 offering, had to come home with me. I'll tell you why: The art is beautiful and inspiring; but more than that, the words chosen as a theme for each month remind me of what I do, daily, in my therapy practice. (Click on the calendar image to follow a link to Nikki's website).
Here are my thoughts on each month's theme:
January: RECTIFY- We repair our mistakes, apologize, make right what we made wrong. We let other's know where they have harmed us. We heal our relationship with ourselves, halting self criticism and embracing a more loving way of relating to our experiences.
February: RENEW- We let go of what is over, set free what needs releasing, and clear out our closets to make room for the new. We forgive. We shed our skin so our new, bright, shiny coat can be seen. We plant seeds, dream, scheme and find inspiration in life's incessant insistence on creation.
I can't remember how I heard about this book. I think it showed up while searching online for something else. Regardless, I bought it on a whim and put it on my Books-To-Read pile. When I finally picked it up, I was hooked by the first page. In honest, compelling, and remarkably lucid language, Keira Van Gelder tells the story of her evolution from self-proclaimed "mentally ill, suicidal drug addict" to grounded, self-aware, hopeful, connected woman. The book is sometimes fun to read, and sometimes hard. She doesn't pull any punches as she shares candidly about suicide, self-harm, anger, depression, overwhelm, broken relationships and powerlessness. Her experience navigating the mental health system is challenging, and even harrowing, until she finally finds a diagnosis, treatment center, and modality that fit her needs. Most importantly, Keira's story shines a very human light on the possibility for recovery from one of the most feared and stigmatized mental illnesses: borderline personality disorder.
Here's an excerpt:
In DBT group Simon explains that emotions serve a purpose. "Despite how horrible they feel or how much trouble they seem to cause, they do important things for us: They communicate. They motivate. They self-validate. They give our lives richness and meaning." As the season turns, I try to find meaning in my intense loneliness without concluding that I'm a pathetic loser. My work at the office remains steady, challenging, exhausting, and occasionally satisfying. My walks to work become my mindfulness practice.
I recently stumbled upon this article by Carolina Gonzáles in the On Being blog. It talks about the decision to have children, or not, and also about the roles we play in our extended families given those decisions. She looks at assumptions we have about what the nuclear family consists of in the United States, and in her native country of the Dominican Republic where family lines extend well beyond the immediate family. We are moving out of a period in history when having children is expected if you have a partner and the biological ability, and into one in which we can choose to be parents, to adopt, foster, or otherwise play supportive roles (or not) in the lives of the next generation. I appreciate this thoughtful, expressive and honest piece about the bittersweet nature of the decisions we face today, and the ways we can and can't be there for each other as we create 21st century families.
Here's an excerpt from Carolina's essay:
In mainstream U.S. culture, aunts and uncles have no special status. The focus is on the sanctity of the nuclear family, with some indulgence granted to grandparents and their doting.
I recently came across a collection of letters to The Atlantic in which people shared their experiences with anxiety. Readers were prompted to write after the magazine published an article by Scott Stossel, author of the 2013 book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, hope, dread, and the search for peace of mind. I read this book a few years ago and found it to be exceptionally good. It reads like an encyclopedia entry/memoir hybrid. He artfully melds research, history, and anecdotal musings from famous people with his own challenging and inspiring personal story. I'll do a blog post on this book soon- it's one I recommend.
In the meantime, I'm sharing this collection of letters to The Atlantic because they are a beautiful expression of the ways we experience anxiety in our lives. Anxiety is a tenacious, idiosyncratic, sometimes agonizing, other times energizing, and often downright baffling malady. It affects each of us in different ways and the stories that come out of our experiences are diverse. I hope this will help you feel less alone in your own struggles. Check it out HERE.
I just finished reading Option B: Facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The book tells the story of the sudden death of Dave Goldberg, Sheryl's husband, and her family's process of rebuilding their lives after. It strikes a nice balance between personal narrative and how-to manual for overcoming hardship and building resilience. Adam Grant's contribution, as a psychologist and educator, rounds out the story by providing research and relevant advice for moving through a period of pain and struggle and reclaiming joy.
One of the tools they talk about is the Three P's. The following excerpt explains how this tool can be useful in getting out of the stuck places our mind takes us in stressful circumstances:
We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P's can stunt recovery:
One of the tools we teach at the outpatient mental health treatment program where I work is G.L.A.D. Here's how it works: When you're feeling sad, depressed, in a rut, discouraged, or find yourself the guest of honor at tonight's Pity Party, give this tool a try.
Come up with at least one example of:
G- Something you're grateful for
L- Something you learned today
A- Something you accomplished today
D- Something that brings you delight
I like this technique because it goes beyond the simple gratitude list, which I can easily scoff at when I'm feeling down. It forces me to reframe my day into experiences and accomplishments that I can take responsibility for (Yes, I DID accomplish something today). It also forces me to move out of focusing on the negative and into a frame of mind where delight is possible.
Here's my GLAD list for today:
Tattoos on the Heart is one of my favorite books of all time. The authenticity, clarity, humility and compassion that Father Boyle brings to his work with Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in Los Angeles, is deeply moving and inspiring. I cried and laughed equal amounts as stories of loss, hardship, courage and profound transformation flowed seamlessly from one to the next.
Here's an excerpt:
I'm working at my desk one day, eyes pouring over something. You know how you can feel when two eyeballs are staring at you. I look up and it's Danny. He's a short, chubby ten-year-old who lives in the projects and is one of the fixtures around the office...
Lately, as I have felt pummeled by the rapid fire news coming from all corners of the Earth, a sense of sadness and powerlessness arises in the face of the enormity of the problems we face. It is at moments like these that I am finding myself, more and more, soothed and supported by the words and images of poets, artists, philosophers and otherwise authentic, engaged and deeply feeling human beings who grapple with these issues. Their ability to find peace, love and possibility woven into challenge reassures my worried heart. John Donohue was one of these people. Here are some excerpts from one of his last interviews ever, with Krista Tippett of On Being:
I mean I think that — and it’s the question of beauty, I mean you’re asking, essentially — as we are speaking, that there are individuals holding out on frontlines, holding the humane tissue alive in areas of ultimate barbarity, where things are visible that the human eye should never see. And they’re able to sustain it, because there is, in them, some kind of sense of beauty that knows the horizon that we are really called to in some way...
Hello and thanks for joining me. I will be sharing the books, podcasts, and other resources I am finding valuable in my own life, and in my work with clients. I hope you find this collection of resources inspiring and enriching- and that it prompts you to engage in your own search for the words and voices that resonate with you as you travel through your days.
The Counselor's Bookshelf:
Sharing the books, articles, podcasts, and other resources I'm drawing from personally, and in my work as a counselor.