Book Review

“Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart”

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is one of those truly rare gems of a book.  Written by Gordon Linvingston, M.D., a psychiatrist who at the time of writing had been in private practice for thirty years, this book is teeming with wisdom that can and will benefit every person’s life.  It does so by providing true wisdom about humanity and what it means to be truly human with our capacity for success, greatness, kindness, courage and all those traits that bring us a healthy sense of pride, as well as our capacity to be human and limited with all those traits that too often bring us shame, when instead they should bring us compassion towards ourselves and others, forgiveness, learning, acceptance, self-care and strength.

There are so many great statements in this book that I have more of it highlighted than not.  I was considering sharing some of my favorite quotes but how do you choose from sentence after sentence of what would ideally constitute every person’s inner library of common sense?  Statements that would spare so many people from learning things the hard way, and too often by needless and painful repetition and wasted youth and years…

I will provide the chapter titles in the hopes that I entice every ready of this blog to purchase this book either through my link or otherwise, and to pass it on to every person they care about, particularly the young, and possibly even to those they don’t care about.  Place it in your office, waiting rooms, schools, etc.  It is a gift that is meant to be shared.  And I do feel the same about its sequel too…

Here are the chapter titles.  Please read through them all.  One or a few are bound to resonate with you meaning they have something within them you are meant to hear and benefit from.  And for those who aren’t into reading, or don’t have much time, be assured that this gem is a tiny gem, each chapter takes only a minute or two to read…

  1. If the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong.
  2. We are what we do.
  3. It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not placed there by logic in the first place.
  4. The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas.
  5. Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least.
  6. Feelings follow behavior.
  7. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.
  8. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  9. Life’s two most important questions are “Why?” and “Why not?”  The trick is knowing which one to ask.
  10. Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses.
  11. The most secure prisons are those we construct for ourselves.
  12. The problems of the elderly are frequently serious but seldom interesting.
  13. Happiness is the ultimate risk.
  14. True love is the apple of Eden.
  15. Only bad things happen quickly.
  16. Not all who wander are lost.
  17. Unrequited love is painful but not romantic.
  18. There is nothing more pointless, or common, than doing the same thing and expecting different results.
  19. We flee from the truth in vain.
  20. It’s a poor idea to lie to oneself.
  21. We are all prone to the myth of the perfect stranger.
  22. Love is never lost, not even in death.
  23. Nobody likes to be told what to do.
  24. The major advantage of illness is that it provides relief from responsibility.
  25. We are afraid of the wrong things.
  26. Parents have a limited ability to shape children’s behavior, except for the worse.
  27. The only real paradises are those we have lost.
  28. Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh is the most therapeutic.
  29. Mental health requires freedom of choice.
  30. Forgiveness is a form of letting go, but they are not the same thing.

Enjoy and keep well…

 

And My Age of Anxiety… And for yours…

It is somewhat ironic that I return to my blog after a seven month absence to write about a book I recently read called My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel. While it is clearly not ironic or surprising to encounter a blog entry on anxiety at 4peaceofmind, it is ironic because it is anxiety that has kept me away from my blog.

Those who have explored my site thoroughly will know that the theme of my blog is the following quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” To put it simply, that is the kind of year I had last year. It was difficult, but necessary. Painful, but in many ways quite helpful, and like all challenges, a great learning experience. And being me, of course anxiety was holding my hand tightly the whole way through like my own personal vigilante superhero.

To be honest, anxiety has kept me away from a lot of things. Having had it since the age of 8, I do not expect to ever be completely without it. Although I definitely do hope to eventually be without it and have integrated many strategies for managing it. And I think that’s the best I can do. Accept it as a part of who I am and be willing to take it along for the ride.  And of course on many occasions, hate it and curse it as the relentless terrorizer that it is.

A close friend bought me this book for Christmas and I had it finished in little time. Anyone with anxiety will likely already be familiar with the various treatment approaches outlined in the book. What they may not be familiar with are the different perspectives described in the book, both historical and current, and all quite interesting. They may also not realize how many famous people also suffer, or have suffered from, some form of anxiety. These people include Cicero, Gandhi, Barbara Streisand, Hugh Grant, Moses, Freud, and the list goes on and on.  Very successful people struggle with anxiety too yet still persevere and reach their full potential.

Anxiety kills relatively few people, but many more would welcome death as an alternative to the paralysis and suffering resulting from anxiety in its severe forms.

David H. Barlow, Anxiety and Its Disorders (2004) in My Age of Anxiety, Scott Stossel (2013)

I wouldn’t necessarily call this a self-help book or recommend it for that purpose. While it is easy to read, at times it does read like a textbook due to all the research and information which is so thorough and comprehensive. It really is beyond impressive.

I would still recommend this book though to those who struggle with any form of anxiety. The reason I would do so is the writer Scott Stossel. He is so honest and open with his own struggles with this exhausting and torturing source and symptom of a variety of disorders. Not only is the book completely validating, it also gives you the gift of really knowing and truly feeling that you are not alone in this. Sometimes just that knowledge and feeling grants strength, courage, and peace of mind more than anything else can…

Keep well…

Putting Things in Perspective…

Have you ever gone through weeks of feeling like you’re just spread too thin and have a million-and-one things to worry about?  That’s how the last several months have felt for me.  Although much of the stress may be considered positive stress, when you’re constantly being pulled in multiple directions it still feels the same, and it doesn’t feel good.

Last week I found myself drawn to a book that I first read in high school.  Although I have read it several times over, it has been many years since I have done so.  The book is called Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.  Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and founder of logotherapy, a branch of existential psychotherapy that focuses on finding personal meaning in our lives.  The book is a memoir of his experiences living in concentration camps during World War II.  It includes life lessons learned from life in the camps, as well as a brief synopsis of logotherapy.

There are so many different books that I recommend to people.  If I had to choose just one that I think every person should read at some point in their life, this would be the one I would choose.

Anyone having the least bit of knowledge about what occurred during World War II in the concentration camps, does not need to be warned that in this book they will read things that are simply horrifying.  What is much more important though, is that they will read a story that is truly profound and absolutely inspiring.  They will encounter and receive a gift from one of the most admirable men who have ever lived.

I do not recommend this book in the hopes that it will literally diminish your struggle in the sense that what you’re going through will likely pale in comparison.  I don’t find that that approach is helpful to anyone.  I recommend it because I know that his approach and attitude toward suffering and struggle adds a sense of dignity to it which renders it far more bearable.  It will not put things in perspective for you relative to all of the suffering in history and present times, it will put things in perspective for you in terms of the meaning that they bring to your own history and personal journey through life.

I will leave you with a quote that Frankl cites in the book.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Please read it and pass this on to your loved ones.  I am sure it is a story you will never forget.

Keep well…

 

 

Self-Compassion is the new Self-Esteem

 

Prior to publishing my eBook, Peace of Mind for Custody and Divorce, I had my former internship adviser read it and offer me her thoughts.  One of the notes she had written was “Self-compassion is  the new self-esteem”.  That statement really resonated with me, both personally and professionally.  Cultivating self-esteem is one of those things that appears to be much easier said than done.  I have seen this struggle to some extent or another in myself and in every single one of my clients.  We are all more hard on ourselves than we are on others, and much harder than we need to be as well.

I have only three enemies.  My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better, is the British Empire.  My second enemy, the Indian people, is by far more difficult.  But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi.  With him I seem to have very little influence.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

It’s unfortunate that we may often feel that we are alone in our troubles when we certainly are not. If someone as strong and courageous as Gandhi is subject to the same human struggles with himself, then it must follow that cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves is just not that simple.   While its tricky to pin-down and foster self-esteem, by its very nature, self-compassion is far more easily attained.  Both are worthy goals, and each is fundamental to the other.  What I’ve consistently noticed though is that if compassion for self and others can be firmly established, then improvement in self-esteem isn’t far behind.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines self-esteem as the following:

A person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth.  It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self.

They define self-compassion as the following:

Extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.  Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-kindness:  Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.

Common humanity:  Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.

Mindfulness:  Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness.  Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.

Neff, K. D. (2003a). “The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion”. Self and Identity 2 (3): 223–250.

One factor that plays a particularly prominent role is how we assume that others have it easier than us in a variety of ways.  We assume they’re more confident, successful, happy, etcetera.  We also often assume that if others knew what was going on with us inside, they would judge us and look down on us, rather than view us with compassion.  Although I wouldn’t say that any one person or group has the market cornered on human suffering, I also wouldn’t say that any one person or group has the market cornered on human perfection either.  In countless ways we are all more alike than different.  We are all very human, and we all possess human strengths and weaknesses.

But how does the average person, not normally privy to the internal workings of the minds of others, gain contact with this idea to the extent that they can benefit from it?  Certainly you can take a casual or conscious look around to see what your neighbors and fellow human beings are up to.  However, casual observation only offers us a view of behavior and possibly the less subtle aspects of motivating factors.  This is really just like looking at the tip of an iceberg though.

To quickly and easily gain an understanding of what it means to be human, and a good look into the workings of the human mind, I will sometimes suggest that my clients read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.  I realize that this might come as a surprise, but if you have had the pleasure of completing the Harry Potter series, or even watching the movies, you will know what I mean when I say that J.K. Rowling understands humanity.  In The Casual Vacancy, Rowling demonstrates a gift for compassion that is really extraordinary.  The characters are spread out on a continuum that ranges from psychopath to altruist.  The story is written in such a way that the reader will inevitably empathize with at least one, if not several characters, thereby facilitating self-acceptance and compassion towards oneself.  I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to improve on their self-acceptance, self-esteem, and compassion towards themselves and others.