Mind Matters — Holiday 2008 Reading Lists

So here we are once again in the midst of the holiday season, past Thanksgiving and into Christmas, Hanukah, and the rest. Ironically, although it seems the darkest time of the year, it is the celebration of moving into the light, winter solstice marking the moments towards spring!

Nevertheless, the holiday season can also carry some bitter ironies. For those who grieve, media exhortations about sales and cultural expectations about celebrations can be difficult. Those who remember painful holiday experiences during their childhood might also suffer. Meanwhile blended families have to jostle visitation schedules.

Amidst these ironies, I’d like to offer a different shopping list—a booklist. Consider a book for yourself or for your friends or family. I often say to clients (and to myself), “remember to take care of yourself first and to be conscious of your emotional response in a situation.” I like to use the following analogy: whenever you are on an airplane, the flight attendant always reminds passengers, “if in the event that oxygen masks are needed, please place your mask on yourself before attending to the welfare of your child or the person next to you.” In other words, if you’re not breathing and conscious, you can’t help anyone else. That seems to be a sound adage for our psychological life as well. Several books I can recommend that carry forward this notion of self-care are the following:

  1. Whose Life Is It Anyway? When to Stop Taking Care of their Feelings and Start Taking Care of Your Own, by Nina Brown (New Harbinger, 2002).
    Filled with creative experiences, this book is a good read for those who feel they may be emotional sponges and who believe they continually need to please and take cae of others.
  2. Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life, by Dr. Les Carter (Jossey-Bass, 2005).
    This book also can be a help to those who tend to defer their own feelings in the face of partners or employers who may be considered “self-centered.” Dr. Carter describes narcissistic patterns and gives antidotes for how to “stay in you own skin” and retain your own emotional integrity.
  3. When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment, by Kenneth Adams and Alexander Morgan (Fireside, 2007).
    This book is a survey of what occurs when there are skewed family of origin dynamics that continue to weigh heavily on present day relationships. It is especially pertinent for men who may consider their mothers to figure prominently to the detriment of their relationship.

More books to gift yourself or others might be those that have a more spiritual, meditative bent to handling life’s vicissitudes:

  1. A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle (Plume, 2005).
    This is the Oprah choice that had its own web event. “About awakening to your life’s purpose,” this is a lovely description of how we indeed can have a transformation of consciousness, a new awakening from the individual to the collective.
  2. The Wise Heart, by Jack Kornfield (Bantam, 2008).
    This book describes itself as a “guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology.” Read this book, not to become “a Buddhist,” but to learn the ways of being present to yourself and others with kindness and compassion.
  3. Coming To Our Senses, by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Hyperion, 2005).
    This book’s self description, “healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness,” also refers to meditation as a means to self awareness and compassion. So why not consider some reflective time this holiday season (or thereafter) for yourself or your loved one—some enlightenment in the darkness?