As a young child I used to love reading and would rush through my work in my favourite teachers’ class because she rewarded me with reading time. Then, I grew up and unintentionally stopped reading. Move forward to 2005 going on a 2 week holiday to the Dominican Republic and I finally bought some books to read. Since then I’m never far away from a good book be it my favourite authors’ latest thriller or a non-fiction book about the Mafia. I love to read and further understand the world and myself a little better.
Over the years, lots of things have happened to me and at each point I have tried to read a book that furthers my understanding of my time in that life so here are 4 books that have changed my life…
Compassionate mind approach to trauma (which you can read about here)
Back in 2012/2013 I suffered a breakdown. I’ve never really discussed what brought me to that point in my life in detail (my job) and I still don’t quite feel ready to talk about it but I will say this; the reasons behind it caused something I never thought I would experience in my life – post-traumatic stress disorder.
You’re only supposed to experience PTSD if you’ve been at War or an abused child right?! Wrong. I had to have mandatory counselling during my breakdown (rules at work) and my therapist made me realise that everything I was feeling was due to trauma and the PTSD that came from it. She made me see trauma in a different light; namely that we often undervalue just how much something can affect us on an emotional level and so I accepted that, however mild it may be, I had PTSD. In all honesty, I still suffer from it now over two years later and on the other side of the world.
My therapist recognised that I was someone who needed to understand a condition to be able to move forward and so she recommended the book Trauma and PTSD and it was just what I needed to understand the intricacies’ of the condition and how to find small but powerful coping mechanisms. I’m not saying that the book will work for everyone and I don’t, on the whole, agree with the cognitive approach to mental health. However, I took powerful lessons away from it and for that reason, I’m recommending it.
After reading this book, I spent a weekend in Brighton with a friend that I had made on my trip around sub-Sahara Africa. She was a girl who had been through a lot in her life and had experienced her fair share of trauma so we began talking about the trauma book. She is very introspective like me and likes to read books to understand her suffering on a better level and in doing so, she discovered a book that she recommended to me…
Highly Sensitive Person (which you can read about here)
I’ll warn you now that it’s an old book in desperate need of an update both in its look and the studies it sites but it’s definitely the first book that I can say truly changed my life because it changed how I viewed myself. It made me realise and accept that I haven’t just been an introvert all my life but that I was highly sensitive with it.
It finally opened my eyes to why I struggle so much with sensory overload in cities and large crowds, why I need more alone time than others (however much it can simultaneously make me feel lonely at times), why I can’t watch violent TV/movies and why I avoid as much negativity as I can in life.
Reading the book, it felt like I could have written it myself. All the ‘problems’ I had struggled with throughout the years and apologies I had made for my behaviour weren’t problems at all but simply a different kind of personality.
The book, does, get a little preachy at times and suggests that parents ‘failed us’ by not recognising we were highly sensitive children (which I don’t agree with) but on the whole, it helped to open up a whole new level of self-understanding for me and I will be forever grateful that my friend recommended it to me.
I no longer felt like a weak person in life – I felt like an exceptionally strong person for living in a world that my body and mind find so overwhelming.
After finishing this book, I knew the next one I had to buy was the one considered to be the ‘bible’ for introverts…
Quiet (which you can read about here)
It took me a lot longer than it should have to read this book, particularly given that I read the post that changed my entire self-perspective years ago. After reading this book I realise that this should have been the first one I reached for particularly as it mentions the fact that so many introverts also resonate with being on the highly sensitive person scale.
As I said, when I read the article that first told me of introversion, I was blown away so reading a whole book dedicated to the subject truly allowed me to understand myself on a level I hadn’t experienced before. There are studies proving how introversion can be a useful tool and how it works in the ‘big, bad world’.
Antidote: Happiness for people that can’t stand positive thinking (which you can read about here)
I have never loved a book for self-understanding as much as I have this one. The byline spoke to me like no other because I really can’t stand positive thinking. Apologies if you are one of those who believe that life works on a positive mindset but nothing in the history of my life has proven anything other than a real approach works.
When I picked up this book, I had no idea how much it would shift my mindset and clear my thinking. I always believed that I was a pessimist who was simply a little embittered about her struggles to see the rainbows and fairy dust. However, this book made me realise that there was an entirely different path to happiness; one in which I had spent years, unknowingly, already following.
The premise of being a ‘stoic’ (not to be confused with being a stoical person) or realist is that whilst you can still hope for the best, it is better to plan for the worst for several reasons – the ‘worst’ outcome never usually happens which means you learn that things are almost as never as bad as you imagine them to be, you’re not as distraught when things don’t go as planned and you’ve normally got a Plan B you can turn to.
These four books have turned my life around and enable to see myself on an incredibly introspective level. Some may argue that it’s not necessarily healthy to constantly seek ‘labels’ but I disagree. I love a good label in life (more on that at a later date) and if it helps you identify yourself on a deeper level then what’s the harm? I’m a better, more emotionally in-tune, person due to these four books and I wouldn’t have it any other way!