What are some self-help, therapy-ish books that have really helped you?
February 26, 2016 3:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations on self-help, self-therapy type books that have made a big difference in your life. Especially helpful would be books about emotional regulation, procrastination, perfectionism, and avoidance as a coping mechanism.
posted by mossicle to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 125 users marked this as a favorite
This book on self-guided CBT was a game changer for me.
posted by ananci at 3:27 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

This sounds like the punchline to a silly joke, but genuinely I've heard "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore has helped many people conquer their procrastination habit, and it's on my shelf but I've never got round to reading it. Grrr@self! Hopefully there's reviews on Goodreads from people with a bit more follow-up than me!

Amongst the things I've actually read or listened to, the works of Jim Rohn have been the most helpful. Not to much researched psychology sorts of books, but full of common-sense wisdom.

I do enjoy reading self-help books as a genre, but it's easy to get faked out and feel you are making progress because you're understanding things intellectually meanwhile your actions haven't actually changed. After doing this for many years and struggling to change myself I found I actually made little bits of progress from working with real people and having that accountability, and I still enjoy the self-help books but treat them the way others might enjoy romance novels, and enjoy the ideas without the expectation the book will change my life.
posted by AuroraSky at 3:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Steven Pressfield's The War of Art.
posted by shiny blue object at 3:50 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

There have only ever been two self-help books that helped me, but I return to them often: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, and The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick.
posted by jbickers at 3:55 PM on February 26, 2016

I really liked Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:05 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Constructive Living
posted by Ideefixe at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Artist's Way
posted by instamatic at 4:13 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just recommended to a friend "crucial conversations", specifically for dealing with other people (and her own conflict avoidance habit).
posted by Lady Li at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. It helped me understand where many of my own issues around emotional regulation, procrastination, perfectionism and avoidance arose from. If your childhood contained some unpleasantness, this may be an excellent book for you.
posted by Thella at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

[Found this thread via Gopher/Lynxlet...wow I love it] My suggestions are a bit offbeat probably, but:

"8 Keys to Self Leadership" by Dario Nardi -- [Perfection, Procrastination, Avoidance] Dr. Nardi's book is a masterpiece if you are a) interested in exploring MBTI/typology at deeper levels than usual and b) are wondering how it suggests you make the best of who you are. It has exercises for every cognitive function and advice on the functions to develop for each personality. As I did the exercises for my secondary function (a commonly recommended problem-solving function) I ended up losing 30% of my (unhealthy) body weight and kind of turning over a new leaf in life in other ways, too. The book is pretty dense (though not thick). Regarding perfection, procrastination, and avoidance, I recommend leaning really hard on whatever your secondary function is.

"Beside Ourselves: How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality" by Naomi Quenk -- Lays out the personality model above, but most importantly, describes each personality under heavy stress and gives strategies to break through.

"The New Diary" by Tristine Rainer -- This book + a journal to write in is phenomenal. Changes the definition of "diary" or "journal" from "recounting of day's events" to an all-around useful tool/practice. Contains a large number of different exercises and viewpoints from which to use a journal. I find exercises like writing about myself in third person very helpful in times of procrastination & avoidance. Key to my weight loss above was a "life improvement journal" where I just wrote whether things were better today and what I was going to do about it tomorrow. Some days I just wrote "this sucks" until I had a breakthrough.

"When I Say No I Feel Guilty" by Can't Remember -- Has helped with big decisions. From what I understand, a lot of people end up in avoidance situations because they have poor boundaries. Learning to be someone who is OK saying, "no, this doesn't work for me, I'm not doing this anymore" can be absolutely huge.

"Travels" by Michael Crichton -- As he relates his experiences in his early career, Crichton (inadvertently?) writes about some common adulthood struggles, especially in the beginning of the book. I'm not sure if I'm completely alone but they are really comforting to read and this book has helped me every time I've felt a bit off.
posted by circular at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

I found Feeling Good quite helpful in that I never finished it as I was feeling much better quite quickly. So, there's that...

Also, seconding The Now Habit. Seriously, I came into to type with one finger on my smartphone because I love The Now Habit so much. There are a couple of good summaries online if you'd like an idea. The Unschedule was SO helpful during grad school!
posted by ticketmaster10 at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I found Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living to be uncannily complementary to Feeling Good by David Burns. CBT and mindfulness really do seem to go hand in hand, and both are really helpful for procrastination etc.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 6:22 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you don't mind some Buddhism mixed in with your self-help, Cheri Huber's book There is Nothing Wrong With You is pretty amazing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also in the Buddhist vein, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of Pema Chodron's The Wisdom of No Escape.
posted by doctord at 6:40 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency unequivocally changed my life in my mid-20s. Even if you don't at all relate to the label "codependent," these are books about helping you come into your own life, live by your own values, and pay attention to your own needs rather than projecting your hopes and dreams onto other people. This was vital to me in my mid-20s. The difference between the time before I read them and the time after was night and day; they really helped correct my thinking about what relationship choices in life were all about, whether I needed a partner to feel whole, how to be a good friend and not an emotional blackmailer, and that sort of thing. Highly recommended.
posted by Miko at 9:27 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

Not specifically the topics you mentioned, but I think in some ways on the fringes of them, since so much goes into the dynamics of relationships...

The following three books have put me on a MUCH happier path than I was six months or a year ago:
- Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can--and Should--be Saved
- Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship
- When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships
posted by stormyteal at 11:03 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Harriet Lerner's books (Dance of... Intimacy, Anger, Connection)

Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart
posted by salvia at 12:30 AM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I like these Paul McKenna hypnosis ones, because it's kind of cheesy and low-brow, but if you start off accepting that, it kind of disarms some of your analytic resistance to these things. You're not investing your faith in it, but it works a bit anyway.
posted by colie at 2:05 AM on February 27, 2016

I recommend /The Road Less Traveled/ by Scott Peck. It touches on some of the subjects you mentioned, and it is kind of a catch-all for self-regulation/discipline as a form of self-love in various areas of life. It gets a little weird at parts and the last chapter leans religious (to be honest, he almost totally lost me there). I don't agree with everything he has to say, but that book has given me a lot of good food for thought and has really impacted me.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 7:02 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I actually highly recommend going through the TinyBuddha archives. Example. It was reading several very concise articles that went to the heart of what I was struggling with that really helped me process, plus they have a fantastic search engine.

Also useful article here - Addiction and Emotional Immaturity

Overall, what really helped me was understanding that I do not need to push away my fears and feelings to cope, but learning how to cope it through tools like emotional regulation and sitting with difficult feelings. My previous traumas negatively skewed my thinking for years and always put me in a great deal of pain due to dichotomous thinking and being very self-judgmental, so working from a place of self-love and improvement helped with relieving the stress from avoiding my issues and feelings. The books below were very helpful in helping me process and move forward, as well as giving frameworks and tools.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer's Block
The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
posted by yueliang at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

No more Mr Nice guy. Helped me understand some of my character traits. Some things are definitely anecdotal and arguable but a lot are helpful. Stopping people-pleasing and avoidant behavior, understanding your own identity, etc. Overall the book was very helpful.
posted by aeighty at 3:55 PM on February 27, 2016

You Are Not The Target by Laura Huxley

Shaving the Inside of Your Skull by Mel Ash
posted by monopas at 5:06 PM on February 27, 2016

You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! has been a big help for me.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:35 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Late to the party, but All About Love, by bell hooks!
posted by likeatoaster at 1:42 PM on February 28, 2016

Playing Ball on Running Water: The Japanese Way to Building a Better Life Paperback – September, 1984 by David K. Reynolds (Author) It's a different approach to managing one's own behavior, neuroses,, whatever, that I found useful. Time to read it again.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on March 6, 2016

Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. There's other goodies in there but the squares or quadrants of change helped me understand how I'm never going to find some final pinnacle of achievement to live happily ever after upon, but that my life will always involve change and growth, often times rather uncomfortable change.

Being, Belonging, Doing: Balancing Your Three Greatest Needs by Ronald Potter-Efron. This small book helped me articulate how the American penchant of defining oneself by what your job is ("so, what do you do?") was compounding my inability to learn how to be with myself.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:22 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

This book was recommended in an AskMe awhile ago and it truly helped me change my life:
The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger
posted by FuzzyVerde at 7:43 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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