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Relationship Connection: Top 5 Self-Help Books

Question:

What are your favorite self-help books?

Answer:

There are so many good books and so little time (and space in this column) to talk about them all.  So, I’ll just list off my top five and say a little about each book.  They aren’t in any particular order, except that these are five books that I recommend to others on a regular basis. Other writings that inspire me aren’t listed here (such as the Holy Scriptures, certain sermons and speeches, and other sources of great inspiration). I’m only including books by psychologists and therapists in this top five list of pop psychology self-help:

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

Dr. Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher who has done a tremendous job making the concept of living an authentic life accessible to the masses. These vague and confusing concepts have certainly been covered in other books, but she really puts herself out there in this books and makes it safe for the reader to challenge their own self-defeating thoughts. She’s not just spouting “feel good” psychobabble to make people feel better. She systematically shows us how to dismantle shame and self-blame. The subtitle says it all: “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.”

Hold Me Tight – Susan Johnson

This is hands-down the best marriage self-help book available. Sue Johnson has studied marriages for almost thirty years and is the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, the most effective form of marriage therapy. She and her team have 25 years of peer-reviewed research on this therapy model and have helped thousands of couples restore their relationships back to full health. In this book, she breaks down the complexities of how couples bond, disconnect, and unintentionally make things worse by working against each other in order to restore their connection.

Bonds That Make Us Free – Terry Warner

Dr. Warner gently teaches the reader that the very people we feel are making our lives difficult are the very people that will help us feel more free as we recognize our part in the conflict. He is the founder of the Arbinger Institute, which has helped businesses, organizations, and individuals worldwide learn how to resolve conflict and build more unity. This is a book that will change the way you see yourself and others. It will help you become more honest about your own interactions with others.

Between Parent and Child – Haim Ginott

This book is the first parenting book I recommend to people. Sure, there are others that are good and have helpful information, but this one lays the foundation for successful parent/child relationships. Dr. Ginott teaches parents how to strike the balance between being too strict and too soft with children through emotional validation. He tells parents they need to be permissive with feelings but strict with behavior. He teaches parents how to create emotional safety with their children. I wish the “Tiger Mom” lady would read this book.

Alone Together – Sherry Turkle

This is a newcomer to my list, but it’s already had a profound impact on my own life and the lives of those who have read it (it’s only been out since January 11, 2011). Dr. Turkle clearly explains what technology is doing to us individually and our relationships. She gently invites us to consider the fact that we expect a lot from technology, but very little from each other. As a result, we live lives where we want to maintain control of the intensity and closeness of our relationships through technology (think of the last time you chose to text instead of call because you didn’t want drama). She warns us that these tools only bring more loneliness and dissatisfaction. A must read for anyone who owns a computer or cell phone.

If you have books that have moved and inspired you, I’d love to hear about them. Please email me at geoff@lovingmarriage.com and pass along your favorites!

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