Mental Health

Neff, Kristin. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. William Morris, 2011.

                Much in the self-help domain focuses on increasing self-esteem for adults and children, but Neff illustrates how the self-esteem focus misses the target for true growth and health. Rather than self-esteem being a marker for actually being a healthy person, it has a person thinking that they are a healthy, accomplished person. Self-compassion guides people into accepting themselves where they actually are, with their inventory of strengths and weaknesses, and not over-emphasizing or under-estimating them. Neff explains the tenets of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. These pillars allow people to live in the moment and identify humanely with others. Those practicing self-compassion neither deride themselves as below others nor hoist themselves as better than others. Authentic connection is facilitated by seeing oneself as an imperfect human being like every other person. The soothing and kindness we would show a friend also has to show up in a relationship to ourselves. Judgment that we would never dream of heaping on another person needs to vanish in our own relationship with ourselves. Otherwise, Neff argues, negativity and harshness (or the reverse, grandiosity) cloud our relationship to others by blocking vulnerable, equal-footing connecting. Self-compassion allows for gently acknowledging one’s mistakes with degrading or demoralizing or dismissing (for example, being irritable with a partner) which aligns with being open to practicing solid relationship skills such as delivering needed apologies. Neff presents academic research and vulnerable personal experience (albeit anecdotal) that documents the three components to self-compassion and how those components can help readers with emotional resilience, personal growth, parenting, and love relationships. Cultivation of self-compassion can come from the book’s many activities based around the three components, including basic mindfulness and self-kindness. Tangential skills such as boosting gratitude and extending forgiveness are also offered. Readers will also find ways to wish kindness on the world as much as oneself through mantras and a frank and self-compassionate self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses. Neff finds self-compassion and self-validation as more critical than validation and compassion from others. While self-compassion is absolutely key, other research (such as attachment research) finds us very socially oriented as needing love and validating from others, and Neff approaches viewing wanting validation from others as “neediness”. That aside, Neff makes a compelling case as to why self-compassion is critical to one’s mental health and one’s love relationship.

Plank, Liz. For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity. St. Martin’s Press, 2019. 

Patriarchal rules insidiously and overtly harming women have received much attention for awareness and remediation. Much less discussed is how a patriarchal society with pronounced and severe gender roles has harmed men. Men are locked from being vulnerable, seen as a primary or significant caretakers, sharing emotion, needing mental health support for conditions such as a depression, asking for directions, seeking more than sex, being too close to other men, and from not being the breadwinner or choosing to opt out of the work force as stay-at-home fathers. Plank provides anecdotal evidence from her New York City non-scientific experiment (where participants self-selected) on masculinity with couples’ therapist Esther Perel where men approached them for free advice about women. With prodding, men disclosed to Perel and Plank their reluctance to be vulnerable and deviate from the narrow code of masculinity. Raising daughters to be assertive and career-minded is no longer as revolutionary as it once was; Plank argues to finish the revolution sons’ emotional intelligence, including vulnerability and caring for others, must be prioritized. Letting men be human with wants, needs, fears, vulnerabilities means better mental health for us. Plank claims it may also sweep from the personal to the economical (men would no longer feel pressure to avoid careers deemed feminine such as nursing) to the political (less terrorism and hatred in the world). Plank includes research from relationship scientists, sociologists, doctors, and public health experts. Each chapter anecdotally presents the arenas that rigid gender roles harm men (several are health, work, emotions, romantic relationships, friendships with other men, on a macro-economic level). Plank has emphatically not delivered a relationship how-to, but because toxic masculinity can affect straight or gay romantic relationships in both relationship dynamics and in a whole host of wider arenas Plank discuses, this is an excellent book for couples to consider the sweep of how a rigid gender role of a “real” man has impacted their relationship.

Articles

Davis, Vauna. “Recognizing the Red Flags of Shame.” Reach 10, n.d., https://reach10.org/recognizing-red-flags-shame/

  • See the Map of Emotions in the body

Dermendzhiyska, Elitsa. “How You Attach to People May Explain A Lot About Your Inner World.” The Guardian, 10 Jan. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/10/psychotherapy-childhood-mental-health

Diamond, Jed. “Shame: The Silent Killer of Relationships.” Good Therapy, 21 Nov. 2012, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/shame-relationships-men-women-1121127

Lusinski, Natalie. “Couples Who Talk About Their Mental Health Are Happier, According to a New Study.” Bustle, 8 Feb. 2019, https://www.bustle.com/p/couples-who-talk-about-their-mental-health-are-happier-according-to-new-study-15937446

Weber, Jill. “How to Express Your Feelings.” Psychology Today, 27 Nov. 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201911/how-express-your-feelings