Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category

Review of Soar Above, by Steven Stosny

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

soar_above_largeSoar Above

How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress

by Steven Stosny, PhD

Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2016. 229 pages.
Starred Review

I think of Steven Stosny as a relationship guru. His book, You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore (retitled Love Without Hurt) dramatically changed my outlook when my marriage was falling apart and helped transform my own anger into compassion. More recently, his book Living and Loving After Betrayal helped my healing process after divorce. I also attended his Compassion Power Boot Camp years ago and enjoy reading his “Anger in the Age of Entitlement” Psychology Today blog.

It was from the blog that I learned about his new book, Soar Above. At last a book for everyone and for every situation of life – not just when you’re in a tough relationship. This book I can recommend to everyone without fearing they’ll think I’m saying something negative about their relationships.

The Preface of the book lists the questions Dr. Stosny is trying to answer:

Why do so many smart and creative people make the same mistakes over and over, in life, work, and love?

At what point does the unavoidable emotional pain of life become entirely avoidable suffering?

How do we escape suffering while remaining vibrant and passionate about life?

Most of this book talks about the tension between the Toddler brain and the Adult brain. They are specific sections of our brain. The Adult brain does develop later in life – but sometimes it’s hard to get out of the habit of reacting with our Toddler brain.

He explains the problem:

The downside of late maturity in the Adult brain is that it comes online after the Toddler brain has already formed habits of coping with the alarms it raises, mostly through blame, denial, and avoidance. Many Adult brain interpretations and explanations under stress are dominated by those habits, which lowers the accuracy of its reality-testing and impairs its ability to make viable judgments. To the extent that Toddler brain habits are reinforced in adulthood, the Adult confuses the alarm with reality, which makes Toddler brain alarms self-validating:

“If I’m angry at you, you must be doing something wrong. If I’m anxious, you must be threatening, rejecting, or manipulative.”

The result is self-fulfilling prophecy. Other people are bound to react negatively to the negativity I transmit.

Fortunately, the Adult brain has the power to override Toddler brain habits and intentionally develop new ones that serve one’s long-term best interests. Developing new habits is not an easy process, but it’s utterly necessary to soaring above.

The Adult brain is good at lots of things, including calming down Toddler brain alarms. But where it really helps us is with its ability to create Value, Meaning, and Purpose.

Value is a special kind of importance that goes beyond survival and biological needs. To value is to make people, things, and ideas important enough to appreciate, nurture, and protect. We create meaning and purpose in our lives by honoring the value we bestow on people, objects, concepts, behaviors, and some notion of spirituality.

A sunset has value if and only if we give it value – that is, invest energy and effort to fully perceive it, which allows us to appreciate it. While it does nothing for the sunset if we value it, valuing it does wonders for us. The moment of value creation makes us feel more vital, engaged, interested, and appreciative – in short, more alive. Life means more at the instant we create value, just as it means less when we’re not creating value. Most positive emotion, passion, meaning, purpose, and conviction come from creating and protecting value, and much emptiness, aggression, and depression result from failure to create value.

I’m posting lots of quotations from this book on my Sonderquotes blog. I’m also going to reread it to help its message sink in.

If you ever feel bogged down in your Toddler brain, reacting with blame, denial, and avoidance; if you’d like to feel more Meaning and Purpose in your life, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Anger in the Age of Entitlement
Compassionpower.com
hcibooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/soar_above.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own book, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

rising_strong_largeRising Strong

The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution

by Brené Brown

Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2015. 301 pages.
Starred Review

I have perfectionistic tendencies, so the first book of Brené Brown’s that I read, The Gifts of Imperfection, hit the spot for me. It was a 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out. Then came Daring Greatly, a 2014 Sonderbooks Stand-out. Daring Greatly talks about vulnerability and wholeheartedness.

Now she’s written Rising Strong, about getting up when you fall down — which is going to happen if you are Daring Greatly.

In the Introduction, she says:

While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for — love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few — the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.

She says that if we’re carrying out the call of her other books, we’re going to need this one.

If we’re going to put ourselves out there and love with our whole hearts, we’re going to experience heartbreak. If we’re going to try new, innovative things, we’re going to fail. If we’re going to risk caring and engaging, we’re going to experience disappointment. It doesn’t matter if our hurt is caused by a painful breakup or we’re struggling with something smaller, like an offhand comment by a colleague or an argument with an in-law. If we can learn how to feel our way through these experiences and own our stories of struggle, we can write our own brave endings. When we own our stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in stories someone else is telling.

Basically, this book gives us a procedure for getting back on our feet when we fall on our face in the arena. That’s where the subtitle comes in.

Here’s a summary of the Rising Strong process:

The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.

The Reckoning: Walking into Our Story
Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.

The Rumble: Owning Our Story
Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to live more wholehearted lives.

The Revolution
Write a new ending to our story based on the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.

The book fleshes out these ideas with lots of examples, explaining what this looks like.

It was interesting to me that while I was in the middle of reading this book, something came up that reminded me of a hurt at the end of my marriage. It popped up seemingly out of nowhere. But armed by this book, I looked at the stories I was telling myself about that incident, and was able to examine what was true and what wasn’t true. I was able to do some forgiveness work and tell myself a better story.

The whole idea of saying, “The story I’m telling myself is…” can be eye-opening, and gives us more power over our feelings and the ability to revolutionize our lives and relationships.

You can tell I love Brené Brown’s writings, because once again, lots of quotes from this book show up in Sonderquotes. I bought myself a copy so I can look through it again.

I highly recommend all of her books. If you ever face difficulty? Grab this one. It will help you rise strongly, ready to dare greatly again.

BreneBrown.com
randomhousebooks.com
spiegelandgrau.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/rising_strong.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Loveability, by Robert Holden

Friday, January 15th, 2016

loveability_largeLoveability

Knowing How to Love and Be Loved

by Robert Holden

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2013. 219 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Other Nonfiction

Robert Holden’s books are written in a conversational style and the concepts aren’t hard to understand. But they pack a surprising punch. Carrying out these ideas isn’t necessarily as simple as they sound, and the results can be life-changing.

This one’s about one of the fundamentals of a happy life: Knowing how to love and be loved.

Here’s how Robert Holden puts it in the introduction:

This book, Loveability, is a meditation on love. It addresses the most important thing you will ever learn. All the happiness, health, and abundance you experience in life comes directly from your ability to love and be loved. This ability is innate, not acquired. It does not need to be taught afresh, in the way you might learn some new algebra theory or memorize lines from Romeo and Juliet. It is a natural ability that is encoded in the essence of who you are. Any learning feels more like remembering something you have always known about.

He does start with self-love. He says that the basic truth is “I am loveable” and the basic fear is “I am not loveable.” He gives exercises that will help you access that basic truth. And the book goes on to help you build your love for others by looking at common blocks to love, such as trying to place conditions on love and refusal to forgive.

This book resonated with me, and I found myself quoting from it often in Sonderquotes. Check those quotes, and if this sounds like a message that would do you good, you may want to take a closer look. I guarantee you will be uplifted and your life will be enriched by this closer look and helpful advice on how to love.

robertholden.org
hayhouse.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/loveability.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased at a bookstore in Portland, Oregon.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Thresholds, by Sherre Hirsch

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

thresholds_largeThresholds

How to Thrive Through Life’s Transitions to Live Fearlessly and Regret-free

by Sherre Hirsch

Harmony Books, New York, 2015. 192 pages.

Here’s a book written by a rabbi with advice, tips, and encouragement about getting through life’s transitions.

When I talk about the thresholds of our lives, I am referring to those moments when we are in transition, those moments when we are standing between the way we were accustomed to living and a new way of thinking, feeling, and being. I’m talking about those moments when we are preparing to enter a new “room,” to take the next step on the journey of our lives.

Maybe we are in the hallway because our circumstances have changed: we became engaged or our parents got divorced. Other times it may be that something has changed within us: our job is fine but we have outgrown the work, or after five years we have become bored as a stay-at-home mother.

These moments can be disorienting and scary, sometimes painful or even heartbreaking. Other times they can be exciting, hopeful, filled with possibility. For years anthropologists have studied these hallways, these “liminal moments,” a tern derived from the Latin word limen, meaning “threshold.” They have examined why we respond to them so differently when these moments are woven into the fabric of our lives. Why do some of us struggle to cross while others don’t? Why do some feel paralyzing fear at any sign of change while others feel intense excitement and others immense faith? Why do some of us refuse to move forward – or worse, move backward – while others lunge ahead with gusto? Why do some burst into tears, burst into joy, or not burst at all? Why is it that we may respond one way to one transition and completely differently to another?

As I read this, I thought I wasn’t really in a transitional phase right now, and was appreciating her words from a distance. But the truth is, the fact that my son is in his last semester of college has been giving me bouts with the Empty Nest Blues – and that would certainly qualify in Sherre Hirsch’s definition of a Threshold.

And I’ve certainly been through plenty of such phases, and am, in fact, in a place right now where I never expected to be when I was younger. My journey has not gone as planned, and her words are helpful for my situation, too.

This book doesn’t necessarily present striking new ideas, but it does give encouraging reminders. It will help you face your next phase in life – and the transition to it – with less fear and more joy.

Several quotes from this book made their way to Sonderquotes. Read them for an idea of the wisdom and encouragement found here.

harmonybooks.com
crownpublishing.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/thresholds.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Life Loves You, by Louise Hay & Robert Holden

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

life_loves_you_largeLife Loves You

7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life

by Louise Hay and Robert Holden

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2015. 236 pages.
Starred Review

Although this book lists Louise Hay as the first author, the book is written by Robert Holden, and in each chapter he talks about the discussions he had with Louise Hay. But the voice of the book is his, and the book is self-referential, talking about what Louise Hay said he should write about.

With that format, the book feels a little lightweight, but that’s rather deceptive. The spiritual practices in this book are surprisingly healing. And the format does make it easy to read. I found it uplifting to read a bit each morning, and pause when I got to each of the practices, which they want you to do for seven days to solidify them.

Here are the practices:

1. Letting life love you. This includes affirmations in the mirror. It feels a little cheesy, but I have to say that it is life-affirming.

2. Affirming your life. In this section, you put up 10 dots around your home to remind you that life loves you. I used post-it hearts, which seem completely appropriate.

3. Following your joy. Here you create an affirmation board of everything you say yes to.

You create your affirmation board by listening within. You are listening for your Sacred Yesses. These Sacred Yesses belong to you. They’re not your parents’ yesses or your partner’s, your children’s, or anybody else’s. They’re not about what you should do with your life; they are about following your joy. They affirm what you love, what you believe in, and what you cherish and value. They are about you living your truth.

4. Forgiving the past. Here they present a meditation using “The Forgiveness Scale” that helps you gradually let go and forgive.

5. Being grateful now. This practice is about noticing what you’re grateful for.

Gratitude brings you back to now. Practicing gratitude helps you to be more present in your life. The more present you are, the less you feel like something is missing. Recently somebody posted this message on my Facebook page: “You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but if you take the time to water your own grass it will be just as green.” Practicing gratitude helps you to water your own grass. Gratitude helps you to make the most of everything as it happens. Gratitude teaches you that happiness is always now.

I so believe in this practice! These authors aren’t the first who’ve pointed out that gratitude is rooted in the present.

6. Learning to receive. This practice is a step up from gratitude. It’s noticing and being open to the ways life is loving you.

Receiving is a great big Yes. “The universe says yes to you,” says Louise. “It wants you to experience your highest good. When you ask for your highest good, the Universe doesn’t say, ‘I’ll think about it’; it says yes. The universe is always saying yes to your highest good.” And you have to say yes, too. The key to receiving is willingness, or readiness. When you declare, “I am ready to receive my highest good in this situation,” it shifts your perception and your circumstances.

7. Healing the future. Here the practice involves blessing the world. This involves a meditation that starts with blessing yourself, moves to blessing your loved ones, your neighborhood, your enemies, and finally the world.

Maybe some of these practices sound corny. But I am impressed by how positive they all are, and, yes, how healing.

Yes, this book is very New Age-y. But as a Christian, I have to agree with everything behind this teaching. I believe that God, behind Life itself, loves me. I believe in following my joy, in being grateful, in forgiving my past. And yes, I want to be ready to receive God’s blessings and also ready to turn around and bless the world. This is a wonderfully positive way to live.

robertholden.org
LouiseHay.com
HealYourLife.com
hayhouse.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/life_loves_you.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Real Thing, by Ellen McCarthy

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

real_thing_largeThe Real Thing

Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook

by Ellen McCarthy

Ballantine Books, New York, 2015. 263 pages.

Written by a wedding reporter, this book is composed of stories — stories of people committing to each other. But Ellen McCarthy didn’t stop with weddings and also includes stories of couples whose love has lasted decades. Along the way, she throws in some good advice about finding and keeping the love of your life.

Bottom line, even if you don’t take any of the advice, this book is fun to read. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded that people out there are finding love.

The author throws in her own story — she started as a wedding reporter when she’d just finished a major break-up, but wrote the book as part of a married couple with a child.

Here’s some of her introduction:

When I first started on the weddings beat — also starting, as I’ve mentioned, a new chapter of single life — I wasn’t sure how it would affect me to spend my days interviewing deliriously happy couples and watching them walk down the aisle. It could have been like salt in a wound.

But the job had the opposite effect. All of these people — young, old, rich, poor, plain, beautiful, sophisticated, and simple — they’d all found someone. I was reminded again and again that love happens every day, in all kinds of ways, to all kinds of people. And when it does, it adds a beauty and richness to life that nothing else can match.

So a couple of months after the breakup, I found my dating legs again. This time I had the lessons of the people I’d written about swirling around in my head. Their experiences pushed me to be more open and optimistic, and at least try to enjoy it.

Even more important, the collective wisdom of these couples challenged me to rethink what I was looking for. So much of what they taught me about love ran contrary to what we learn in pop culture and society. Don’t look for lightning. Forget about presenting your best self — it’s your real self that counts. And dreams do come true, but almost never how you dreamed them.

Yes, reading these stories could have been like pouring salt in my wounds. But it wasn’t. Instead, this book left me smiling and encouraged.

ellen-mccarthy.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/real_thing.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

book_of_forgiving_largeThe Book of Forgiving

The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World

by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

HarperOne, 2014. 229 pages.
Starred Review

I don’t think you can have too many books on forgiveness. Even though it’s now been a long time since my divorce, I’ve been reading this book slowly, trying to absorb it. It articulates things I’d already learned about forgiveness as well as showing me new things to consider and new ways to look at it.

Forgiving isn’t a journey you’ll ever completely finish, but Desmond and Mpho Tutu present a Fourfold Path that will help you deal with those who have wronged you and people you have wronged as well.

This book doesn’t come from a trivial place. Here’s some of the background Desmond Tutu gives in the Introduction:

As chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I have often been asked how the people of South Africa were able to forgive the atrocities and injustices they suffered under apartheid. Our journey in South Africa was quite long and treacherous. Today it is hard to believe that, up until our first democratic election in 1994, ours was a country that institutionalized racism, inequality, and oppression. In apartheid South Africa only white people could vote, earn a high-quality education, and expect advancement or opportunity. There were decades of protest and violence. Much blood was shed during our long march to freedom. When, at last, our leaders were released from prison, it was feared that our transition to democracy would become a bloodbath of revenge and retaliation. Miraculously we chose another future. We chose forgiveness. At the time, we knew that telling the truth and healing our history was the only way to save our country from certain destruction. We did not know where this choice would lead us. The process we embarked on through the TRC was, as all real growth proves to be, astoundingly painful and profoundly beautiful….

I would like to share with you two simple truths: there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness. When you can see and understand that we are all bound to one another – whether by birth, by circumstance, or simply by our shared humanity – then you will know this to be true. I have often said that in South Africa there would have been no future without forgiveness. Our rage and our quest for revenge would have been our destruction. This is as true for us individually as it is for us globally.

There have been times when each and every one of us has needed to forgive. There have also been times when each and every one of us has needed to be forgiven. And there will be many times again. In our own ways, we are all broken. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing the broken parts. It is how we become whole again.

The book begins by laying the groundwork. The authors explain why we need to forgive for our own sakes. It explains what forgiveness is and is not. (Forgiveness is not weakness, is not a subversion of justice, and is not forgetting. Forgiveness is also not easy.) Then it explains the Fourfold Path of Forgiveness, an alternative to the cycle of Revenge.

The first step on the Fourfold Path is Telling the Story.

Telling the story is how we get our dignity back after we have been harmed. It is how we begin to take back what was taken from us, and how we begin to understand and make meaning out of our hurting….

It is not always easy to tell your story, but it is the first critical step on the path to freedom and forgiveness. We saw this so palpably in the TRC, when the victims of apartheid were able to come forward to tell their stories. They were relieved to have a place of safety and affirmation in which to share their experiences. They were also relieved of the ongoing victimization they suffered from believing that no one would ever truly know what they had endured or believe the stories they had to tell. When you tell your story, you no longer have to carry your burden alone….

We may need to tell our stories many times over, to many different people, and in many different forms before we are ready to move forward in the forgiveness process. We also may find that just telling our stories relieves a burden we have carried. When we tell our stories, we are practicing a form of acceptance. When we tell our stories, we are saying, “This horrible thing has happened. I cannot go back and change it, but I can refuse to stay trapped in the past forever.” We have reached acceptance when we finally recognize that paying back someone in kind will never make us feel better or undo what has been done. To quote the comedian Lily Tomlin, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

The second step on the Fourfold Path is Naming the Hurt.

Every one of us has a story to tell of when we were hurt. Once we are done telling our stories – the technical details of who, when, where, and what was done to us – we must name the hurt. Giving the emotion a name is the way we come to understand how what happened affected us. After we’ve told the facts of what happened, we must face our feelings. We are each hurt in our own unique ways, and when we give voice to this pain, we begin to heal it….

Often it can seem easier or safer to simply dismiss a hurt, stuff it down, push it away, pretend it didn’t happen, or rationalize it, telling ourselves we really shouldn’t feel the way we do. But a hurt is a hurt. A loss is a loss. And a harm felt but denied will always find a way to express itself. When I bury my hurt in shame or silence, it begins to fester from the inside out. I feel the pain more acutely, and I suffer even more because of it….

If you cannot, or choose not to, name your hurt to the perpetrator, then you can talk to a trusted friend or family member, a spiritual advisor, a counselor, another who has experienced the same kind of harm, or anyone who will not judge you and who will be able to listen with love and empathy. Just as in telling the story, you can write your hurt down in a letter or journal. The most important thing is to share with someone who is able to receive your feelings without judging or shaming you for having them. Indeed, because it is never easy to confront the one who has harmed us directly, I strongly encourage you to name the hurt to others first.

When we give voice to our hurt, it loses its stranglehold on our lives and our identities. It stops being the central character in our stories. Ultimately, as we will discuss in the next chapter, the act of forgiving helps us create a new story. Forgiveness lets us become the author of our own future, unfettered by the past. But in order to begin to tell a new story, we must first have the courage to speak…. It is human to want to retaliate, to feel anger, and to feel a profound sense of resentment toward those who have harmed us. When we share these feelings, however, when we give voice to our desire for revenge, our rage, and the many ways we feel our dignity has been violated, the desire for revenge lessens. There is relief. Feeling this relief does not mean that there is no justice, or that it was okay for someone to hurt us. It simply means we don’t have to let our suffering make us perpetual victims. When we name the hurt, just as when we tell the story, we are in the process of reclaiming our dignity and building something new from the wreckage of what was lost.

The third step on the Fourfold Path is Granting Forgiveness.

I like this observation: “Raising children has sometimes felt like training for a forgiveness marathon.”

As our own children grew, they found new (and remarkably creative) ways of testing our patience, our resolve, and our rules and limits. We learned time and again to use the teaching moments their transgressions offered. But mostly we learned to forgive them over and over again, and fold them back into our embrace. We know our children are so much more than the sum of everything they have done wrong. Their stories are more than rehearsals of their repeated need for forgiveness. We know that even the things they did wrong were opportunities for us to teach them to be citizens of the world. We have been able to forgive them because we have known their humanity. We have seen the good in them. We have prayed for them. It was easy to pray for them. They are our children. It is easy to want the best for them.

But I also pray for other people who may irk or hurt me. When my heart holds anger or resentment toward someone, I pray for that person’s well-being. It is a powerful practice and has often opened the doorway to finding forgiveness.

It might be obvious that this step is crucial, but he reiterates why that is so.

We choose forgiveness because it is how we find freedom and keep from remaining trapped in an endless loop of telling our stories and naming our hurts. It is how we move from victim to hero. A victim is in a position of weakness and subject to the whims of others. Heroes are people who determine their own fate and their own future. A victim has nothing to give and no choices to make. A hero has the strength and ability to be generous and forgiving, and the power and freedom that come from being able to make the choice to grant forgiveness.

The final step on the Fourfold Path is Renewing or Releasing the Relationship.

Forgiveness is not the end of the Fourfold Path, because the granting of forgiveness is not the end of the process of healing. We all live in a delicate web of community, visible and invisible, and time and again the connecting threads get damaged and must be repaired. Once you have been able to forgive, the final step is to either renew or release the relationship you have with the one who has harmed you. Indeed, even if you never speak to the person again, even if you never see them again, even if they are dead, they live on in ways that affect your life profoundly. To finish the forgiveness journey and create the wholeness and peace you crave, you must choose whether to renew or release the relationship. After this final step in the Fourfold Path, you wipe the slate clean of all that caused a breach in the past. No more debts are owed. No more resentments fester. Only when you renew or release the relationship can you have a future unfettered by the past.

This scratches the surface of what’s in this book. There are examples and exercises to help you along the way. Concluding chapters talk about when you are the one who needs forgiveness and about forgiving yourself.

This is a beautiful book on a life-giving topic. I’ve got to admit, I’d like to wish readers a life where they never have to forgive anyone. But come to think of it, that would not be as rich a life. When you do find yourself needing to forgive, this book is a wonderful resource.

tutu.org.za
humanjourney.com/forgiveness
harperone.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/book_of_forgiving.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Four Ways to Click, by Amy Banks

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

4_ways_to_click_largeFour Ways to Click

Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships

by Amy Banks, M.D.
with Leigh Ann Hirschman

Tarcher, 2015. 320 pages.
Starred Review

The premise of this book is an easy one to believe: We are wired for connection. Connection with people is good for us. However, the authors point out that this seemingly obvious truth goes against accepted wisdom about mental health.

The book begins like this:

Boundaries are overrated.

If you want healthier, more mature relationships; if you want to stop repeating old patterns that cause you pain; if you are tired of feeling emotionally disconnected from the people you spend your time with; if you want to grow your inner life, you can begin by questioning the idea that there is a clear, crisp line between you and the people you interact with most frequently.

The authors expand on that idea further in the introductory chapter:

This book is going to show you a different way of thinking about your emotional needs and what it means to be a healthy, mature adult. A new field of scientific study, one I call relational neuroscience, has shown us that there is hardwiring throughout our brains and bodies designed to help us engage in satisfying emotional connection with others. This hardwiring includes four primary neural pathways that are featured in this book. Relational neuroscience has also shown that when we are cut off from others, these neural pathways suffer. The result is a neurological cascade that can result in chronic irritability and anger, depression, addiction, and chronic physical illness. We are just not as healthy when we try to stand on our own, and that’s because the human brain is built to operate within a network of caring human relationships. How do we reach our personal and professional potential? By being warmly, safely connected to partners, friends, coworkers, and family. Only then do our neural pathways get the stimulation they need to make our brains calmer, more tolerant, more resonant, and more productive.

The good news for those of us whose relationships don’t always feel so warm or safe: it is possible to heal and strengthen those four neural pathways that are weakened when you don’t have strong connections. Relationships and your brain form a virtuous circle, so by strengthening your neural pathways for connection, you will also make it easier to build the healthy relationships that are essential for your psychological and physical health.

This book consists essentially of information about the four main neural pathways and ideas for strengthening each one. There’s a self-assessment at the start to see how your brain and relationships are doing.

The author calls her approach the C.A.R.E. Plan. C. stands for Calm; A. stands for Accepted; R. stands for Resonant; and E. stands for Energetic.

Each of these four pathways is a feedback loop. Supply the loop with good relationships, and most of the time, the pathway will become stronger. Strengthen the pathway, and your relationships become more rewarding. There are plenty of places in each loop to step in and boost the entire system.

I came away from the book feeling that I’m in a pretty good place. This book looks at the relationships to which you give the most time – in terms of thought and energy – so you aren’t counted “down” if you are not in a romantic relationship. Living alone, I wasn’t quite sure if I was cheating by counting the three people I email with daily or almost daily, but I do give them a lot of thought energy, and filling out the questionnaire confirmed that this connection is good for me.

The book did give me things to think about. For example, if I’m feeling a need for a pick-me-up, it might be a good idea to reach for the phone rather than play a game of Candy Crush. If I reinforce getting dopamine by reaching out and connecting, that pathway will become all the stronger.

This book is about all relationships – with family, friends, and coworkers, as well as with a “significant other.” It gives you plenty to think about for strengthening this crucial part of human life.

I’m thinking this might be a great gift for a college graduate. Rather than giving the message, “Okay, time to stand on your own two feet!”, this book reinforces the message that they will need other people in their lives – and will be healthier and happier the more they learn to connect with others.

tarcherbooks.com
penguin.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/4_ways_to_click.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Deeper Dating, by Ken Page

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

deeper_dating_largeDeeper Dating

How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy

by Ken Page, LCSW

Shambhala, Boston. 2015. 255 pages.
Starred Review

I like the philosophy of this book so much, almost as soon as I’d read the Introduction, I ordered myself a copy. I will confess that I haven’t actually dated anyone while I’ve been reading it, and I haven’t done all the exercises. (There are some designed to help you find someone to date.)

However, I still love the principles behind this book, and I have a better idea of what I’m looking for, and I’m happier while I’m waiting to find someone, as well.

Let me quote from the Introduction to give you an idea of what’s found in this book:

The path to a loving relationship is about something much more profound, essential, and life changing than we have ever been taught. The real search for love is about embracing our most authentic self, sharing that true self with the precious people who know how to honor it, and learning to offer others the same in return. The amazing paradox is that the parts of our personality we think we must fix in order to find love are usually the keys to finding that love. On the path you’ll be taking, the focus won’t be on fixing yourself; it will be on honoring and expressing your innate gifts. And that changes everything. Instead of holding the whip of self-improvement over yourself, as many of us have spent so much time doing, you will learn to value, trust, and express what I call your Core Gifts.

What are Core Gifts? They are simply your points of deepest sensitivity to life. You will find them in the things that inspire you most, the things that touch you most deeply — and in the things that hurt you the most. Often we think we need to conceal these vulnerable parts of ourselves, to hide them or fix them in order to make ourselves more attractive, but the absolute reverse is true: they are the bullet train to authentic intimacy. When we learn to lead with our Core Gifts, our lives shift on their very axes. Our personal magnetism becomes stronger. We experience more passion and more connection to ourselves and others. Most important, we move closer to the love that may have previously eluded us, a love that empowers us and brings us joy.

This book explores how these ideas relate to your dating life. I especially enjoyed the section about finding your Core Gifts — because these things make life more rich, even while you’re still single.

The more you feel close to your joys, the more the people who are right for you will notice you and become attracted to you. Your joys are some of the very things your partner-to-be will love most about you, and will need most from you….

Also, the more time you spend with the things that touch you and move you, the more you will be noticed by the people who are good for you. The kind of person you are seeking is someone who is drawn to your Core Gifts, your authentic self. If you wait until you know someone loves you before you reveal these parts of yourself, it’s as though you’re waiting for the harvest without planting the seeds. It’s the vulnerability, warmth, and humanity of your gifts that will make the right person notice and come to love you.

Would you like to think about how these ideas can play out in your dating life? I highly recommend this book.

deeperdating.com
shambhala.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/deeper_dating.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of You Can Heal Your Heart, by Louise Hay and David Kessler

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

you_can_heal_your_heart_largeYou Can Heal Your Heart

Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death

by Louise L. Hay and David Kessler

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2014. 182 pages.
Starred Review

I picked up this book because I like Louise Hay’s work, and of course can always use more healing after my divorce. I also recently broke up with a boyfriend for the first time in my life. We’d only been dating two months, but still, this was new to me.

David Kessler I hadn’t heard of before, but he is an expert on grief and loss, so he brings solid credentials to the book. I think of Louise Hay as New Age-y. She focuses mainly on the power of affirmations, which I have some skepticism about. However, they take a solid look at your self-talk after loss and help you reframe your thinking and choose to see the positive. And Christians will find nothing to fault here. They may want to substitute “God” where Louise Hay uses “the Universe,” but everything else I think they can agree with.

In the Introduction, the authors explain how they’re trying to help:

A broken heart is also an open heart. Whatever the circumstances, when you love someone and your time together ends, you will naturally feel pain. The pain of losing a person you love is part of life, part of this journey, but suffering doesn’t have to be. Although it’s natural to forget your power after you lose a loved one, the truth is that after a breakup, divorce, or death, there remains an ability within you to create a new reality.

Let’s be clear here: We’re asking you to change your thinking after a loss occurs – not to avoid the pain of grief, but to keep moving through it. We want your thoughts to live in a place where you remember your loved one only with love, not with sadness or regret. Even after the worst breakup, the meanest divorce, and the most tragic death, it is possible to achieve this over time. That doesn’t mean that you deny or run away from the pain. Instead, you let yourself experience it and then allow a new life to unfold – one where you hold the love dear, not the sorrow.

The three main areas they focus on are helping you feel your feelings, allowing old wounds to come up for healing, and changing distorted thinking about relationships, love, and life.

Here’s a paragraph from the chapter that most interested me, on divorce:

Grief is a time of mourning all that has been lost – the dreams that have been shattered, and the loss of hope for the marriage you thought you were going to always have. However, when you can arrive at sweet acceptance that what has happened did actually happen, you will find that grief is also a time of renewal, rebuilding and reforming. You now have the opportunity to create yourself anew. Who will you be after the divorce? Don’t just leave a void for others and your past to fill and define you. Choose who you want to be. This is a new chapter, and you have the opportunity to start again. If you’re thinking, It’s too late for me to start again, just know that that is only a thought – and one that isn’t true. If you’re still residing on the planet, it’s never too late for you to start over.

I did like that, after the chapters on break-ups, divorce, and death, there was a chapter on the death of a pet, and then a chapter on other losses, such as job loss or miscarriages. Here’s a paragraph from the chapter “Honoring Pet Loss”:

The reality is that grief from pet loss is not as easily fixed as some would have us believe. It’s hard to live in grief that’s judged as unworthy. Grief is about love, and our animal companions often show us some of the most unconditional love we could ever experience. How often, despite our best efforts, do we absorb some of society’s judgments and think, I shouldn’t be grieving this much? Yet when we let these thoughts in, we betray our genuine feelings.

This is a gentle, hopeful and encouraging book which reminds you that a broken heart is also an open heart.

Let your thinking manifest hope to your sorrow. Choose your thoughts wisely. Be kind to yourself, and reflect on the loss with love. If you’re grieving the death of a loved one, remember how you loved them when they were present; know that you can continue loving them in their absence. You can go from grief to peace.

LouiseHay.com
DavidKessler.org
hayhouse.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/you_can_heal_your_heart.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.