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Reed’s best Psychotherapy Reads for 2017

By |December 20th, 2017|

Around this time of year, we all suddenly see many posts about new year’s resolutions and making next year the very best year ever! I wonder why this is? I imagine the psychology or logic is something like giving people hope and guidance for moving forward into the new year. For me, I can find it all a bit hollow and a little depressing… I think people have aspirations and goals all year round, not just at years end; at least, that is my experience.

So instead of boring you with something as prosaic as a new year’s resolution post, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the year in terms of what I’ve enjoyed reading and what I might recommend to my psychotherapy and counselling clients, couples and colleagues to pop onto their list of good reads for the new year.

Before I get started, I do want to say that I notice a 2017 theme. Like most people, my year has been a mixed bag of highs and lows. Like most people, I have moments where I find myself asking existential questions, like ‘why me?’, ‘what next?’, and ‘how can I make/do this better next year?’ Because of this, I have found myself drawn to books that fit centrally around two main pillars, Buddhism and psychotherapy.

These books resonate with me because they offer insight and steps to repair and change. Importantly, they also provide frameworks for seeing the world with new eyes and less baggage. It is a little bit like a breath of fresh air on a spring morning or a conversation with a good friend or therapist. This year, the following books have helped and supported me.

The Biology of Desire – Why Addiction is not a Disease – Marc Lewis 

I recommend this book to anyone struggling to understand the biology of addiction (desire). Lewis is a leading neuroscientist and professor of developmental psychology. The book includes case-studies, personal, and academic insight. I enjoyed this book because it goes beyond seeing addiction as a disease, it helped me reframe addiction, seeing it instead as an unfortunate outcome of a typical neural mechanism that evolved because it was useful! It also frames addiction as a habit that grows and self-perpetuates relatively quickly, when we repeatedly pursue the same highly attractive goal.

“Drugs, booze, gambling and porn take us out of ourselves. They focus our attention elsewhere. Addicts and ex-addicts know precisely how valuable these sources of succour become. We find something that relieves the gnawing sense of wrongness, we take it, we do it, and then we do it again”. (Lewis, M. 2015)

The Body Keeps the Score – Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma – Bessel Van der Kolk.

This book is packed with science and human stories. It is detailed and heartfelt and is a seminal work drawing on Van der Kolk’s thirty-plus years of clinical and academic experience. In particular, I very much enjoyed the last chapter, titled Paths to Recovery. It includes writing on the importance of finding your voice and joining the narrative dots of your individual story, inhabiting your body and owning the process.

“Every trauma survivor I’ve met is resilient in his or her way, and every one of their stories inspires awe at how people cope. Knowing how much energy the sheer act of survival requires keeps me from being surprised at the price they often pay: the absence of a loving relationship with their own bodies, minds and souls”. (Van der Kolk, B. 2014)

Going on Being – Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and Psychotherapy – Mark Epstein, M.D.

Part memoir and part instruction, he weaves together spiritual insights and a unique psychotherapeutic perspective. What I enjoy about his writing is that at its heart, Epstein reminds his readers that the human experience is just that, something we all share. He quietly reinforces the idea that what makes you and I unique is our capacity to be just like each other. We both have hopes and dreams, we suffer and grasp at things. We also can turn toward each other and begin to repair the broken bits.

I find the concept of interdependence inspiring. It is also like an antidote to many of the issues faced in our contemporary lives. I will conclude my reflections on this book with a small passage from a chapter subtitled, The Eye of the Storm. “But we did not emerge from this with more fear; we came out of it with more confidence. It was not fragility that made such an impact; it was our ability to meet it”. (Epstein, M. 2001)

In conclusion, 2017 has been a big year for building relationships, my clinical practice and greater personal resilience. Books have played a big part in achieving this. Other book highlights for me this year included Clinical Dharma by Stephen Dansiger; True Refuge by Tara Brach; 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; More Lemon by Julie Regan & Jai Waters; The Six Perfections by Dale S. Wright; a re-read of an all-time favorite, Dogs of India by Polly McGee, and an additional book by Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life.

Books are a big deal to me. They help me organise my thoughts and see the world through the eyes of the author. They also provide respite, support and offer me the opportunity to deepen my understanding and insight around the human condition and my work as a therapist. Wishing you all good health and much happiness as we approach the new year.

“Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.” ~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

REFERENCES:

Brach, T (2013). “True Refuge – Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart”, Hay House, UK.

Dansiger, S (2016). “Clinical Dharma”, StartAgain Media, USA.

Epstein, M (2001). “Going on Being – Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and Psychotherapy”, Wisdom Publications, Somerville, USA.

Epstein, M (2013). “The Trauma of Everyday Life”, Hay House, UK.

Lewis, M (2015). “The Biology of Desire – Why Addiction is not a Disease”, Scribe Publications, Australia.

McGee, P (2015) “Dogs of India”, Verbil.com, Australia.

Murakami, H (2012). “1Q84 – The Complete Trilogy”, Vintage Books, London.

Van der Kolk, B (2014). “The Body Keeps the Score – Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma”, Penguin Books, UK.

Waters, J & Regan, J (2016). “More Lemon – How to transition to a life with more ZEST”, Epub, Australia.

Wright, D.S (2009). “The Six Perfections – Buddhism & the Cultivation of Character”, Oxford University Press, NY.

Disclaimer: This article contains the views of the author and is not a replacement for therapeutic support. Please reach out to a registered therapist if you are experiencing distress and require assistance.

About the Author:

Reed is a tertiary-qualified therapist based in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. He offers a range of psychotherapy and counselling services for individuals, couples, and groups. For many years Reed has worked with a diverse group of clients with a focus on repair and integration. His work is trauma-informed, gender-affirmative, and person-centred.

This site takes its inspiration from the poem titled “Let this Darkness be a Bell Tower” by the Bohemian-Austrian poet & novelist Rainer Maria Rilke. The visuals are a mixture of original photos & stock images sourced from the wonderful folk at Unsplash.

Mannaz Therapy Space & Journal acknowledges the Gundungurra & Dharug people as the traditional custodians of this Blue Mountains land & pays respect to the Elders past, present, & emerging.

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