Have you ever considered it might be a good idea to read a self-help book (as a nation we spent over £60 million on self-help books in the last five years) and walked into a bookshop to look at the selection available? Believe me, the number of books available on some subjects takes up masses of space in larger bookshops and it can be bewildering to know which book to choose. So I thought this week I would make some suggestions to give you a starting point from which you can decide whether a particular book is the most interesting/insightful/suitable for your needs.
My own field is helping people to deal with anxiety and stress and I have found ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers (Vermilion, £7.99) to be of great value. Ms Jeffers subtitles her book, ‘how to turn your fear and indecision into confidence and action’. She suggests that there are three levels to our fears. The first is the actual event that you fear – for example losing your job. The second level is the fear that what is happening will have greater consequences: losing your home, the break-down of your family, the fear of being unemployable for example. Beneath that is the third level which is the greatest fear: that you won’t be able to cope with what is happening. Ms Jeffers argues that if you know in advance you can manage when such a crisis occurs, there is much less to be afraid of and the overwhelming anxiety can be reduced to a manageable level. On the book’s page on Amazon is a recommendation from the famous actress Julie Walters who wrote: ‘reading this book was a revelation. It’s a wonderful book for life’ and I believe she is right, it gave me the tools I needed to handle difficult phases of my life.
Mike Fisher is director of the British Institute of Anger Management. His book ‘Beating Anger’ (Rider, £8.99) helps anyone seeking help for their concern about controlling anger to identify their core beliefs, address their anger-management style and practice effective tools to manage anger constructively. The publishers’ summary states: ‘We all feel angry at times. It can be an uncomfortable emotion, yet it is almost a taboo subject. We get very little guidance in our culture on how to deal with it, and the guilt or violence that may accompany it. Here is the perfect book to help anyone from 16-75 years old to beat their anger – or help anyone else to do the same.’ It’s as equally relevant for everyone; from parents, families, young adults and teachers to social and youth workers and health care professionals. The book puts forward an eight point plan to help the reader cope with their own or a loved one’s stress, anger or rage.
It has long been recognised that negative mental processes can actually create physical illness. While health professionals are familiar with how physical symptoms are often associated with mental ill-health, it can be difficult for the sufferer to accept that their thoughts can impact on their reality. ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ by Louse L. Hay (Hay House UK, £9.99) is written by a much respected self help author who takes experience from her own life and the lives of the many people she has helped to transform over the years. Ms Hay believes life is a learning journey and we learn from every experience. No matter how painful a period of our lives may be to experience, we will always be able to take something away from it that will help us grow and learn. In particular she supports the thinking that all illnesses or ailments are a direct result of what’s going on in our minds and that the body is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs. Included in the book is a list of probable mental patterns that create illnesses in the body as well as a list of suggested new thought patterns or affirmations to be used to create good health.
Next is one of the most popular books I’ve ever read: ‘The Road less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck (Arrow, £8.99). A graduate of Harvard University who served in the US Army Medical Corps and had a private practice in psychiatry, Dr Peck offers not only comfort and support but motivation and realistic, practical suggestions to help the reader find their own road through life. At no point does he try to convince you that the world is a wonderful place, but instead is completely honest about the difficulties out there to be faced. The book contains a balance of psychology, philosophy, case studies, and the author’s own experiences. It takes a conversational approach and is at no point patronising. In particular, Dr Peck shows how to distinguish between dependency and love and why burying problems only makes us feel worse, whereas confronting them with honesty can help lead to a happier, healthier life.
A book that is actually available on the NHS in the UK through the ‘Books on Prescription’ scheme is Dr Melanie Fennell’s ‘Overcoming Low Self-Esteem’ (Robinson, £10.99). A classic of self-help literature, winning acclaim for its practical and user-friendly approach, this book helps the reader to better understand their condition enabling them to break out of the vicious circle of negative self-image, learn the art of self-acceptance and alter their lives for the better. Dr Fennell explains the nature of low self-esteem and self destructive thinking and provides a complete self-help programme with sheets you can use to monitor your progress. Genuinely compassionate, warm, understanding and always down-to-earth, Dr Fennell’s book is totally free of ‘techie speak’ in its explanation of how to recognise the triggers to low self-esteem and then devise ways to overcome them.
In her first book, ‘On Death and Dying’, Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of coming to terms with the process of mortality: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Believing that these stages apply not only to the process of accepting death, but also to accepting other difficult and catastrophic life experiences, Dr Kubler-Ross and co-author David Kessler have written ‘On Grief and Grieving’ (Simon & Schuster £5.99) which revisits the five stages in order to create a deeply empathetic and accessible guide for those in grief. The authors deliver insights and advice designed to help readers normalise their lives and find the courage to continue. Featuring sections on sadness, coping, isolation, children and healing, the book brings together practical wisdom and spiritual insight. I’d like to quote the comments of someone who bought the book and wrote on Amazon: ‘When I lost a loved one I searched the bookshops for something that could help me through such a traumatic time. I bought some books which were quite helpful and some that were not. Then I bought ‘On Grief and Grieving’ and finally I had the answers, the understanding and the help I had been searching for so long. This is an absolute must for all those who are suffering the awful hopelessness of losing someone. I can’t recommend this book enough and recently bought another copy for a relative who had just lost her husband. It covers every aspect and stage of grieving whether for a parent, partner, child, soul-mate, sibling or pet.’
These are just six recommendations on the most fundamental problems men and women face in their lives. I sincerely believe that reading a book on what troubles you can be the first – constructive – step toward doing something about that problem because it offers you greater knowledge, understanding and support. That someone has taken the trouble to write a book on ‘your’ problem emphasises that you are not alone – indicating that many other people are also doing their best to make a beneficial change in their lives and I hope I have provided you with a guide to choosing a book that speaks to you personally.