Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Love’s Executioner

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023 | Books

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy is a book by Irvin Yalom. It presents ten cases from his work as a psychiatrist in story form.

By story form, I mean it is written as a narrative. Each case is based on a real client and their real story, but many of the details have been changed to protect their identities. Yalom writes in a compelling way that attempt to teach psychologists something but has also earned the book a great deal of popularity with the general public and would be highly accessible to everyone who wants to read some interesting stories.

None more so than the story from which the book takes its title, Love’s Executioner, which almost reads like a thrilling Agatha Christie mystery. For me, none of the other stories quite matched the first but each was interesting and I was excited to pick up the book each time.

The Body Keeps the Score

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023 | Books

The Body Keeps the Score is a book on trauma by Bessel van der Kolk. van der Kolk makes the case that trauma is the most pressing public health crisis. It is everywhere, affects a huge number of people and is the number one treatable condition that can improve people’s mental health, give millions of people a chance to live a better life and reduce intergenerational abuse.

He discusses both PTSD, which occurs when someone experiences a traumatic event or events as adults, and childhood trauma, which affects the individual’s development, attachment style and ability to form relationships. Memories of the event(s) are often frozen in time with the individual unable to process it. By process, we’re talking about our ability to form a coherent narrative, with closure, that allows the memory to fade into the background and allow us to move on with our lives even if the scars remain.

He discusses the limitations of talking therapy, though somewhat focusing on CBT over more humanistic approaches, and explores what other evidence-based approaches may work. Notably EMDR, but given the need to physically rewrite the body, also the possibility of using yoga, theatre and other lived-out approaches.

King of the Vagabonds

Friday, January 6th, 2023 | Books

King of the Vagabonds is the second book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, following on from Quicksilver. When I say “following on” the story is unrelated but just the next in the series. It follows the adventures of a commoner, Jack Shaftoe, and his adventures around Europe and the world.

The Coddling of the American Mind

Thursday, January 5th, 2023 | Books

The Coddling of the American Mind is a book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. It makes the case that people are “anti-fragile” and that by protecting people from ideas they disagree with, we are actually doing them harm.

The book focuses on the limitations of free speech being introduced across university campuses and the idea that everyone should feel safe. This is antithetical to the way CBT works. If a client comes to therapy and says “I don’t feel safe because I think I will be killed by a tiger” we would look for the evidence around how many tigers live in their local area and whether they typically attack humans. But on many university campuses, and wider society, people are using the idea of “feeling unsafe” to try and shut down freedom of speech. This is bad foe society but also for the individual because we amplify their anxiety.

The book also argues that it creates divisions in society. It argues that teaching things like micro-aggressions and consent workshops is currently done on the basis of negatively, encouraging people to give the least charitable rather than most charitable interpretation of ambiguous actions and therefore creating a negative interpretation bias (which again is something we would try to do the opposite of in therapy).

It also touches on the idea of trigger warnings. Again, in therapy, we would typically talk about how avoidance can be a maintaining factor in mental health problems. Removing avoidance in the safety of a therapeutic alliance is somewhat different to randomly doing it in real life, but it should at least give us a moment to stop and pause and consider how many of the strategies we think are helping people are actually making things worse.

The arguments and nuances in this book are complex and it is not possible for me to do it justice in this blog post. But I would encourage you to read the book yourself because it would be fascinating to hear other informed opinions on it.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Friday, December 30th, 2022 | Books

Man’s Search for Meaning is a book by Viktor Frankl. The majority of the book talks about his experience as a Nazi prisoner of war and his experience in the concentration camps.

The second part of the book discusses logotherapy, which is Frankl’s own form of therapy. It is similar to existential therapy and looks to find meaning in life. Life is suffering but if you can find meaning in the suffering, it becomes bearable.

One of the techniques, paradoxical intention encourages clients to do the opposite of what they fear. For example, if you are worried about blushing in public, go out into public and try to blush as much as possible. Similar experiments are often described in modern CBT textbooks.

Triathlon For Beginners book

Monday, July 18th, 2022 | Books

My new book is out! It is aimed at people who are looking to do their first ever triathlon and answers over 50 of the most common questions. It also includes swim, bike and run workouts, and 12-week training plans for both sprint and standard distances.

Exclusively available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, ISBN-13: 979-8840393970.

To Sell is Human

Sunday, December 12th, 2021 | Books, Business & Marketing

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others is a book by Dan Pink. In it, he argues that the old ABCs of sales (always be closing) have been replaced by a new, more authentic and honest approach to sales.

His case is essentially this: the old way of sales relied on information asymmetry. The salesperson knew more than the customer and could use that to their advantage. However, in the information age, the customer has often done a lot of research and in many cases knows more than the salesperson (such as competitor offerings) and therefore you cannot bullshit a customer anymore.

So, what do we do about it? Pink argues that we need to be empathetic towards our customers. Understand how we can help them and build a way to win together, rather than seeing sales as a zero-sum game where we have to get one over on the customer.

We should give them all in the information they need and not be afraid of doing so. He gives the example of CarMax, an American car superstore brand that provides computers for customers to research what their competitors are doing so they know that CarMax is offering the best deal.

Finally, be clear on what you are offering. Pink suggests an elevator pitch may be too long for the modern generation who are used to 140-character tweets. Pink suggests a number of successors to the elevator pitch including one-word pitches (when I say “search”…), questions and rhymes.

Running For Beginners book

Monday, March 22nd, 2021 | Books

Several years ago I launched a free Running For Beginners course to help people get into running. Thousands of people have since taken the course and we have a large community of over 8,000 runners on Facebook sharing success stories and advise.

Over the years, I have enjoyed answering questions and helping new runners, and I have also noticed that the same questions come up time after time. So, to save people time, I have compiled the most common questions and answers into a book. There are 69 questions but I wanted to avoid jokes about the number, I subtitled 50 questions with the view to under-promise and over-deliver.

The book is now available in both paperback and Kindle format from Amazon. Preview Running For Beginners: 50 Things You Should Know.

Family Therapy: 100 Key Points & Techniques

Monday, March 15th, 2021 | Books

Family Therapy: 100 Key Points & Techniques is a book by Eddy Street and Mark Rivett on practising family therapy.

Rather than being a therapy for families (although it is also this), family therapy is a modality of psychotherapy in itself that involves multiple members of a family. While there are individual schools that focus on narrative or other areas of focus, most of the theory revolves around systems and is also referred to as systematic therapy.

These systems allow us to take in a wider view of the issue. For example, a child may be misbehaving, which can be addressed by itself but is better addressed by understanding that this is a cry for attention when the parents are arguing. And that by addressing the problems with the systems, the result of the problems will resolve themselves.

As you may guess from the title, the book is broken down into 100 short sections of a couple of pages. Each one looks at a particular issue, technique or discussion inside family therapy. It follows a rough structure rather than jumping around too much, so can still serve as an introduction to family therapy.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Sunday, March 14th, 2021 | Books

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is a non-fiction book by Scott Adams. Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comic and in this book, he puts forward his wisdom on how he has been successful. It’s a sort of a cross between a biography, self-help book and fun read.

Adams emphasises systems over goals. He suggests goals are a bad idea because you are always failing to reach one, or it is accomplished and done. For example, if you want to lose weight, you could set a goal that you are not achieving, or you could exercise every day. The latter is a system: you follow the system and the goal happens anyway at some point.

He suggests failure is good as you always learn something. I suspect most of us would agree with that. He debates simplicity vs optimisation. For example, should you try to squeeze in a supermarket trip on the way to meet a friend? Probably, if you can remain cool if you get delayed. Should you do the same thing before a job interview? Probably not.

He likes talent and suggests that if you are normally risk-averse, but willing to take risks in one area, that is probably an indicator you have some natural talent. The best way to utilise talent is not to focus solely on the thing but to build a talent stack: complementary skills that produce a uniquely good result.

If you are launching a new product, try to find one where the market is strong from day one, even if your product is not. Mobile phones, laptops and fax machines were all terrible to start with but they sold from day one and got better.

Adams suggests there are some all-round skills that are valuable in life regardless of what you do. These include public speaking, psychology, business writing, accounting, design, conversation, persuasion, technology and vocal technique.

He also offers four keys to success: lack of fear of embarrassment, education, exercise and treating success as a learnable skill. In the latter case, this means finding out what skills need to succeed in your chosen endeavour and going out and getting them.