GOOD BOOKS, AND OTHER RESOURCES
A good book is one way to begin to understand the things that perplex us. Below I list a few of the best books I have come across, in six important areas of life.
All these books are accessible, and shed useful light on their subject: this being human. Below that, you will find my professional links.
E E Cummings
Psychotherapy and everyday life
These three books give an insight into psychotherapy and what psychological work can offer.
Families & How To Survive Them
Robin Skynner & John Cleese wrote this classic introduction to how our family and our personality weave together; it's also very funny. It reveals how we all get shaped in our early years, in a simple and clear way.
The Gift Of Therapy
Irvin Yalom's book, with its bite-sized chapters, explains what happens, and what kind of healing is possible, in psychotherapy.
A General Theory of Love
Three psychiatrists look at love, intimacy, relationships, and how our biology and our emotional lives are deeply intertwined.
Healing shock, trauma and PTSD
Traumatic events shock and overwhelm us, and can leave us frozen, frightened, dissociated, and unable to function well. They can remain with us, held in the body and the soul, sometimes for a long time.
Trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are almost endemic, but remain something of a 'hidden secret', little acknowledged, let alone understood.
They are the source of much, perhaps even most, suffering and pain, self-destructive behaviour and violence, both within us as individuals and within our communities and societies.
As just one example, neurologist, psychologist and psychiatrist Gabor Mate sees trauma at the root of addiction difficulties.
The books I list below are excellent if you want to develop an understanding of this territory and to learn how to heal trauma safely and effectively.
Sandra Bloom's remarkable book on the impact of trauma on society is outstanding; of all the books I have read in my many years of studying psychology and psychotherapy, hers is a, perhaps the, must-read.
All these books - and many others - are products of the huge amount of scientific research and learning about shock, trauma and PTSD that has been happening in only the last twenty years or so.
Sandra Bloom: Creating Sanctuary: Toward The Evolution Of Sane Societies
Peter Levine: Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma
Babette Rothschild: Eight Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery
Pete Walker: Complex PTSD: From Surviving To Thriving
Bessel van der Kolk: The Body Keeps The Score
I can also recommend Trauma Is Really Strange, a 32-page graphic book/comic, written by Steve Haines and illustrated by Sophie Standing, as an easy and clear way into this subject.
Attending to soul
If you want to learn more about attending to soul - attending to your own subtle inner experience, your own being, which is actually a common and everyday dimension of experience, and surprisingly accessible to many people - then learning a little about focusing and the felt sense - described as "a process for helping your mind listen to the wisdom of your body" - is an excellent way to start.
Hameed Ali's book, The Unfolding Now, is a guide to exploring your inner life, and to bringing curiosity, interest and awareness to your inner experience, so that you can begin to open and transform.
This book is a good place to start for anyone new to psychotherapeutic work who wants to learn how to go about it. It will be very helpful to anyone already experienced in psychotherapy or counselling, but who wants to discover how to bring more spiritual or awareness-based dimensions into their inner work. And it will help those with committed religious/spiritual orientations who want to learn how to integrate their everyday emotional and psychological life into their spiritual practice.
Hunter Beaumont's book, Toward A Spiritual Psychotherapy, looks at how profoundly our family history and patterns shape and influence our own lives, and how healing it can be when we take all this ancestral history, all that our parents, grandparents and ancestors went through, into account as we attend to our own inner journey. Another more recent book that also addresses this important aspect of our soul life is It Didn't Start With You, by Mark Wolynn.
And the following three books are also excellent ways to start learning about the subtler dimensions of your own soul/psyche:
Jack Kornfield: After The Ecstasy, The Laundry
Richard Riso & Russ Hudson: The Wisdom Of The Enneagram
Idries Shah: The Sufis
John Welwood has written several excellent books on improving the quality of our intimate relationships. Anne Geraghty has also written two good, helpful books on this important subject, 'How To Make Your Relationship Work', and 'How Loving Relationships Work'.
Diana Richardson writes well about sex and love-making. RELATE also publish many excellent self-help guides and books for couples about all aspects of love, sex, intimacy and relationship.
Finally, Attached, by Amir Levine & Rachel Heller, is another accessible guide that makes use of the science of attachment theory, helping us understand the different styles with which we relate to one another.
Rainer Maria Rilke
The importance of poetry
Good poetry gets straight to the heart of the matter. Poetry has always been one of the most important vehicles for communicating wisdom and insight, in every culture. Even in our frantically hurried contemporary western culture, hunger for this wisdom is always close to the surface. As just one example, one of the best-selling poets of the last twenty years here in the west is a revered Muslim saint who lived 750 years ago in Konya, Turkey.
Poetry Chaikhana and Poet Seers
Two websites dedicated to wisdom-poetry from every corner and culture of the world.
Daniel Ladinsky, Coleman Barks and Jawid Mojaddedi
Three poet-translators who have laboured to bring Rumi and Hafiz, and the magical spirit of their poetry, to the English-speaking world.
The fine arts of relaxation, concentration & meditation
Tim Ferriss, a best-selling author and successful tech investor, was interviewed recently by The Observer.
He was asked: "If someone was looking for a quick, straightforward way to improve their life, what would you advise?"
His answer was simple: "I'd recommend some type of very short meditation or mindfulness practice - neither of which term I'm in love with - on a daily basis. And the daily is more important than the duration."
What was once considered unusual or quirky is now mainstream. These profound practices for developing awareness, relaxation and concentration are being taught in the NHS, at universities, in schools and colleges and in businesses. If you are thinking about exploring these important practices and skills, here are five resources that may help you to get started:
An accessible and thoroughly well-researched practice, first brought to the world's attention by The Beatles. You may find these articles from The Independent and GQ Magazine enlightening and surprising.
Gaia House, Devon
A world-renowned Buddhist insight meditation retreat centre in south Devon, located near Newton Abbot. You can learn more about the practice of insight meditation here.
The Sharpham Trust, Devon
Another organisation teaching insight meditation in Devon, located on the River Dart, just south of Totnes.
A free app and website to support your practice, with many courses and guided meditations, music, talks, help for stress and sleep difficulties, and many other resources.
The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration & Meditation
A classic introductory guide by Michelle & Joel Levey, to start learning about this subject and about some of the many different kinds and types of awareness practice.
Do not expect any praise or reward.
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.
Your struggles with the world will have come to an end."
MY PROFESSIONAL REGISTRATIONS:
Association of Core Process Psychotherapists
United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy
Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy College
WHERE I HAVE TRAINED / AM TRAINING:
Institute of Group Analysis