Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Top 5 Books I Read in 2013

Well, 2013 is now behind us and in reflecting on how things went for New Leaf Counseling, I can say that it was a year of “settling” or I guess I could even say “marinating.”  My normal inclination is to continuously grow, grow, grow — but this year seemed to take on more of a moderate pace, and I decided to take that as a sign that New Leaf Counseling needed time to take root.  And it DID!  I received more new clients than ever, and was happy to have worked with people from all over the northern parts of Cincinnati!

Over the course of the year, I also read several books, and I wanted to share my Top 5 and give a brief description of what I learned from each of them.  As many of my clients know, I often mention books that I’m reading (or have read) and share some of the wisdom from them, and even recommend buying them for themselves, at times.  So, here are the ones that resonated with what I was needing to learn and, often, share with others this year:

Is He Depressed or What?
What to do when the man you love is irritable, moody, and withdrawn?

By David B. Wexler, Ph.D.

This was a book I picked up because I was working with more male clients who were suffering from anger management problems which were primarily resulting in relationship problems — whether they were at home, at the office, or out in public.  I learned that male depression is quite different than depression in women because ANGER seems to be, more often than not, the better alternative to acting sad or depressed.  It’s even better to be apathetic or stoic, if you’re a guy!  

This made sense to me.

Despite some men appearing to be successful on the outside, they can frequently be masking underlying depression with workaholism, substance abuse, and being physically and emotionally withdrawn from intimate relationships.  They’re also more likely to be defensive when they’re confronted on their behaviors, rather than apologetic, and they talk more about physical symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia, and stomach upset, rather than emotional symptoms.

Dr. Wexler has suggestions for how to connect with the depressed guy and communicate with him, without being his punching bag or enabling any of his “bad behaviors.”  It give tips on how to get him into treatment, how to address intimacy issues (sexual and emotional), how to take care yourself (as their partner or other loved ), and then knowing when to leave.  So for wives or girlfriends out there who have a gut feeling that their partner is displaying any of these tendencies, this might a good book to start with.

The Courage To Be Yourself
A Woman’s Guide to Emotional Strength and Self-Esteem

By Sue Patton Thoele

To the same extent that I was seeing self-defeating behaviors in male clients that were keeping them stuck and unhappy, I was also seeing a pattern of FEAR that was evident in a lot of my female clients, which was generally their reason for not moving past major obstacles.  This book served as somewhat of a pep-rally for all women who just never really BELIEVED in themselves, or who were conditioned to assume the position of “lesser than” in their family and culture.  Now in its 10th edition, first written in 1991, the book gives credit for many social, professional, and political changes that women have made since its debut.  But, there are some core beliefs that many women still hang onto that keep them from truly being themselves.  Instead, it’s a struggle to keep up with being whomever they need to be to make other happy or get the attention they crave.

Ms. Thoele writes a lot about how to develop and then nurture the courage needed to break out of comfort zones and declare new boundaries and attributes of yourself, including using therapy to rewrite your old scripts, putting new behaviors and boundaries into practice, and soliciting support from other women.  Ultimately, the book inspires one to “own your own excellence.”  This might be a workshop I’ll offer sometime this year, so stay tuned!

The Untethered Soul
The Journey Beyond Yourself

By Michael A. Singer

This was probably my favorite book of the year.  I’ve heard and read plenty about “the ability to be The Observer in your life,” but wasn’t really sure how I could explain such a complex concept to clients, in an effort to know the true essence of themselves and manage dramatic, and sometimes traumatic, events.  This book helped me wrap my arms around this essentially Buddhist concept, because it gave a lot of great analogies.

And I LOVE analogies!

So when Michael Singer talked about sitting in a movie theater and watching a move, and explained how some people are conscious of the fact that they are simply sitting in a seat as the Observer, while others are sitting there getting so immersed in the film that they forget they are in a theater and actually become attached to characters and events, becoming emotionally charged, as if they themselves ARE the characters — well, I got it!

He wrote that we are actually meant to be like colanders, moving through various people and experiences then letting them move past us so we’re ready for the next thing that presents itself in our lives.  But instead, we hang on to certain people or experiences (good or bad) and they cause blockages in us, which prevent the new “scenes” to come on our path.  These fester, over time, and become toxic to us, if they were painful.  And if they were pleasurable, we can become overly attached to that one person or experience as the only way to happiness or safety.  So he helps explain how to free yourself, by letting go of those blockages, in order to allow Life to present and teach your more.  A must read for people who are interested in learning and incorporating a more Zen-like way of managing stress.  Even Oprah put this on her Book List!

In the Meantime
Finding Yourself and the Love You Want
By Iyanla Vanzant

This book is about what to work on while you are waiting for the right kind of love to enter your life.  I know that sounds cheesy.  But there are a LOT of people out there who either haven’t found their “perfect mate” or they’ve gotten divorced and are in limbo, between relationships who don’t do ANY work on themselves to prepare for a better, more nurturing and fulfilling relationship when it DOES show up.  Iyanla is very clear that the “Meantime” is a time for you to do some introspection to discover what you may have done wrong in the last relationship that you want to do better in the next one (maybe you were too jealous, or demanding, or didn’t listen enough, or whatever).  But maybe you didn’t have the courage to ask for and seek out what you really wanted in the relationship.

One of the most interesting challenges she presented in the book was to ask yourself 3 questions: 
1) What am I feeling?
2) What is it that I want?
3) What am I feeling about what I want?

She says that what you feel usually determines what you want, what you feel about what you want always determines what you end up doing.  Do you truly believe you deserve love, attention, fidelity, and other qualities in a mate?  Have you been trying to get those needs met in unhealthy or passive-aggressive ways, or in constructive and loving ways?  There are a lot of questions to ask yourself and Iyanla does a great job of walking you through the process, getting deep, developing compassion for yourself, and loving yourself enough to build new awareness and strength so you’re ready for whomever shows up on your path, down the line.

Making Sense of Life’s Changes
By William Bridges

I honestly believe this is a must-read for all of you who are going through any major transitions in your life — either currently or in the near future.  It presented the process of moving from one way of doing things to another, in a whole different light.  The author first talks about all the normal developmental transitions we go through as human beings — all the stages of childhood, adolescence, and then adulthood — that subtly disengage us from various dependencies and lead us to more independent and interdependent ones. He reminds us that the term de-velop-ment means “unfolding” and that this continues throughout the course of your lifetime.

Bridges postulates that some people don’t really “come into their own” until their middle years, because they’re too afraid (consciously or subconsciously) of letting go of people, patterns, or beliefs that have served them so well in the past.  But, as Dr. Phil would ask these people, “How are these working for you now?”  It’s during periods of transitions when you shed old skin and grow new skin.  

Yes, it’s scary and unsettling in the midst of things.  But I explain it to clients like this:  If you wanted to remodel your kitchen so that it’s more attractive and functional for your way of living, there would be a period of time when there was demolition, right?  There would be holes in the walls, drywall dust everywhere, your water lines would be shut off and you may have to do dishes in your tub.  It’s a MESS!!  But this is where you need to SURRENDER and accept the way things are for now.  Little by little, you’ll see the transformation come together — the new cherry cabinets go up, the beautiful slate tile gets laid, the new island gets installed, opening up more counter space! 

So the book recommends asking yourself these two questions:  “What is it time to let go of in my own life right now?” and then “What is standing backstage, in the wings of my life, waiting to make its entrance?”  It’s a book that can be read many times over and have different meanings each time.  A definite “How To” for getting through life’s roller coaster.

So those are the books I read and recommend to you.  New years are good for new beginnings and awarenesses, so consider delving into one or more of these resources of wisdom for your journey.  🙂

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