Sometimes in life it can be helpful to consider the experiences of others in order to realise that although our own individual experiences are unique, we human being are survivors. If they can survive then so can you. You might even see some similarities in how others have struggled through difficult circumstances, to trauma and pain and how they have made the choice to understand their reactions and move forward with their lives.
There are hundreds of books out there that focus on mental health and self-help but these are just a few that have inspired me both personally and in my work as a therapist.
Edith’s Eger’s The Gift (12 Lessons to Save Your Life)
Inspirational therapist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger reflects on the lessons her life has taught her. She encourages us to feel our feelings and change those thoughts and behaviours that hold us back. We all face loss, despair, fear and anxiety. Suffering is part of life, but we all have a choice in how we react.
This book does not focus on a specific type of struggle or mental health issue but shows how being kind to ourselves, listening to our feelings and working through them can set us free. Edith gives us 12 empowering lessons to help us find the strength that lies within.
Dorothy Rowe’s Depression (The way out of your prison)
“Depression is a prison which we build for ourselves. Just as we build it, so we can unlock the door and let ourselves out”.
Dorothy Rowe spent many years talking to those whose depression has persisted despite all the best medical treatments. Her book illustrates how depression is not an illness or a mental disorder but a defense against the pain and fear we experience when we suffer a disaster or discover that life is not what we thought it was. Depression is an unwanted consequence of how we see ourselves and the world. But by understanding how we interpret our lives, we can change those interpretations and create for ourselves a happier more fulfilling life.
This book is for those who suffer with depression and for the friends and families who support them.
Virginia Ironside’s You’ll Get Over It (The Rage of Bereavement)
The death of a loved one is the most traumatic experiences any of us will face. No two people cope with it the same way. Some cry while others remain dry-eyed. Some discover growth through pain, others find arid wastes. Some feel angry, others can only feel numb.
In an honest and straight forward way, Virginia Ironside describes the countless ways society discounts the emotions experienced by the bereaved including the well-meaning but unhelpful things people say like “You’ll get over it” and “At least you had them for a while”. Drawing on other’s people’s accounts as well as her own experiences, this book does not tell you how you should feel or what you should do but rather shows that your feelings are natural. You are not going crazy and you’ll never “get over it” but you will gradually be able to live with the loss.
Sue Gerhart’s Why Love Matters
Although a little technical in parts this book shows through scientific analysis (neuroscience) how the experiences we have as a child can have lasting consequences on our emotional and physical health.
“Why Love Matters” explains what happens to our brains and bodies as we start to grow and why loving relationships are essential to brain development. Sue Gerhart demonstrated that feelings should not be brushed aside because they are physiological activities of chemicals and hormones that effect the body as a whole. This book is not just for parents or prospective parents, it can help us all to better understand the origins of our own emotional selves and the impacts of our childhood experiences.
Alice Miller’s The Truth Will Set You Free
“Only by embracing the truth of our past histories can any of us hope to be free of pain in the present”.
Alice Miller’s main purpose in this book is to stimulate reflection on our own lives, the hidden stories in our families and the childhood realities. Reflecting on vivid true stories show how childhood trauma, punishment and humiliation produce form levels of denial, which lead in turn to emotional blindness and to mental barriers that cut off awareness and the ability to learn new ways of behaving. But through understanding why we are the way we are, the truth can set you free.
Irvin D. Yalom’s The Gift of Therapy
Written with more than thirty-five years of experience as a psychiatrist this humorous and informative book illustrates through real life stories some of the benefits of therapy.
Irvin Yalom has a casual, easy to read style of writing. Each chapter is its own story so it is a book you can pick up and put down whenever you have a few spare minutes. It is full of wisdom about the human condition, insights into how our minds work and wonderful examples about the positive changes we can make in our lives.
Viktor E. Frankl’s Mans’s Search For Meaning
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This autobiographical book by renowned psychiatrist Dr Frankl is the story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz. His traumatic experiences taught him what he believed to be the primary purpose in life – the quest for meaning. He believed that through a search for meaning we can all endure hardships and suffering. Based on his experiences Viktor Frankl founded the field of Logotherapy, a behaviour and thought based therapy that aims to help find personal meaning and purpose in our lives.