Discover more from Holistic Psychiatry
Books for the Right Brain
10 Favorites for Opening the Heart & Mind
Some of My Closest Friends
Since my relatively introverted childhood, books have been some of my closest friends. They too were quiet. They never asked anything of me, but to be present. I loved them for that.
As an adult, I used to proselytize when it came to books. “You should really read this.” Now, I’m more like - “You should really listen to your inner authority,”.....Okay, I’ve never said that about a book, but I have backed off on recommending or buying books for people I’m close to. Now I’d be more inclined to say, “Find your own friends,.”
But, since you’re here, and you too have an interest in healing and thriving; and, since these books have been part of my healing journey; I'm sharing my friends with you. Likely you’ve already met some of them.
Serendipity & Transformation
As with friends, I didn’t go out looking for these books (or their topics). We serendipitously crossed paths. Like close friends, these books created a shift in how I see the world, my relationships and my life. They seemed to fire enough neurons to create lasting neuroplastic changes with every turn of the page. I couldn’t unread what I’d read. Even with that, there are a couple where I must have felt transformed enough (or they talked a little too much) that I didn’t keep turning pages until the end.
Mold Toxicity & Middle Age
I’m turning 56 as I write this. I like to think I’ve grown a lot, in 56 years. But I’m realizing that I read all but one of these in my 50’s. Part of that may be that it wasn’t until I was 49 that I learned that I had mold toxicity and began treatment. In the 10 years leading up to that discovery, I stopped reading; I put my friends away. It was hard to be present, but even harder to retain whatever it was I just read.
As with any “Dark Night of the Soul,” or any winter, there can be tremendous growth that we just don’t see.
I share this for anyone who feels they’ve stopped growing and to give hope to the person who thinks they’ll never enjoy books again.
The other part of this growth spurt, may reflect natural middle age development - where we start to look inward for answers and perhaps grapple with life’s big questions, including “Is this all there is?”
A big part of my health journey has been about expanding my mind and my heart - to grow beyond the more linear and controlling way I approached life. These books held my hand. They taught me how to be present, to feel and to trust.
A Life of One's Own (written in 1934- by Marion Milner - a British writer and psychoanalyst. Outside psychotherapeutic circles, she was better known by her pseudonym, Joanna Field -a pioneer of introspective journaling). “One woman's examination and recording of her own thoughts, daydreams and inclinations over several years and how observing these things pointed her to who she really is and what makes her happy.”
“It was only when I was actively passive, and content to wait and watch, that I really knew what I wanted.”
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist - psychiatrist, writer, and former literary scholar. “This book argues that the division of the brain into two hemispheres is essential to human existence, making possible incompatible versions of the world, with quite different priorities and values...He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences.” I reference much of McGilchrist’s work in Undermethylation and Strengthening the Right Brain in a Left Brain World.
“If the detached, highly focused attention of the left hemisphere is brought to bear on living things, and not later resolved into the whole picture by right-hemisphere attention, which yields depth and context, it is destructive. ”
“The only certainty, it seems to me, is that those who believe they are certainly right are certainly wrong.”
Codependency No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yoursef by Melody Beattie “...compassionate and insightful look into codependency — the concept of losing oneself in the name of helping another — has helped millions of readers understand that they are powerless to change anyone but themselves and that caring for the self is where healing begins.”
“The surest way to make ourselves crazy is to get involved in other people’s business, and the quickest way to become sane and happy is to tend to our own affairs.”
A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life - Palmer, Parker, an author, educator and activity - “Palmer is convinced that human beings need both solitude and community to do the inner work necessary to thrive. Using illustrations and practical experience ...the author discusses the many ways in which "circles of trust" can support the quest for integrity and meaning”
“In a circle of trust we are governed by a simple rule: ‘No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting each other straight.’”
Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead by Tosha Silver - author and teacher who “graduated from Yale with a degree in English literature but along the way fell madly in love with yogic philosophy.” This book is a “A compilation of funny, irreverently reverent stories on aligning with the Divine in daily life. It’s written for the passionately spiritual and bemusedly skeptical alike.
“Abundance is something to be, not seek or await.”
”Dance of the Dissident Daughter: by Sue Monk Kidd. You may know her as the author of the “Secret Life of Bees.” This “From a jarring encounter with sexism in a suburban drugstore, to monastery retreats, to rituals in the caves of Crete, she reveals a new level of feminine spiritual consciousness for all women, one that has the power to transform in the most positive ways every fundamental relationship in a woman's life—most notably her relationship with herself.” (I read this book in my early 30’s and it was my firsrt )
“For always, always, we are waking up and then waking up some more.”― Sue Monk Kid
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk MD - psychiatrist, author, researcher. “An insightful exploration of trauma, its effects on the body and mind, and various healing techniques.
“As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”
The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope - a psychotherapist, author and founder of the Kripalu Institute- “An inspiring guide to finding your life's purpose — what spiritual teachers call dharma—through mindfulness and self-exploration.” And, also by Stephen Cope…
The Dharma in Difficult Times: Finding Your Calling in Times of Loss, Change, Struggle, and Doubt by Stephen Cope. “Cope here takes the ancient yogic text the Bhagavad Gita... Then he builds on that foundation using the stories and teachings of famous figures (including Thoreau), as well as stories of ordinary people and his own rich personal experience.”
“The best place for each is where he stands,” wrote Thoreau. Because the whole world is right there. Your own deeds, as small as they may seem to you, will reverberate through the entire field. We think we have to do great things. No!No!No! What we must do over and over again are “small things well-done.”
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.”
I’d love to know what books have changed your life.
Until next time,
P.S. Paid Subscribers - look out for an upcoming post taking a deeper dive into that last book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”
Holistic Psychiatry is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
This newsletter is for educational purposes and not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment for either yourself or others, including but not limited to patients that you are treating (if you are a practitioner). Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having.