If you are like me, you’ve probably read hundreds of books through the years to help you get past whatever suffering just happened in your life. Whether it is a recommendation by a friend or even your therapist, reading a book and collecting new knowledge can be extremely helpful in the recovery process.
Some books, however, are simply better at helping you contemplate which healing path you need to take after you’ve had a bad breakup. These are the books I’ve turned to through the years and often recommend to my clients.
Best Book to Deal with Overall MAJOR Life Changes
Transitions: Making Sense of Life Changes by William Bridges, Ph.D. is celebrating its 40th year in the publication as one of the top 50 self-help books of all times. Dr. Bridges, in fact, highlights his own career difficulties and how he stumbled on to writing as an example of an unexpected career transition. What I love about this book, however, is that even if you have an unexpected positive life transition coming your way, we all have to grieve. Grieving is the first step for ANY transition and it single-handedly takes the pathologizing out of your feelings. This normative and positive approach to handling change is helpful to us all. He helps delineate what many therapists know as the sequence for change: ending-chaos-beginning. Too many of us try to skip the ending and the chaos stages only to find ourselves stuck. I can’t recommend this book more than enough as a reference book for how we get through any difficult change.
“…transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old…”
― William Bridges
Best Book to Deal with a Breakup That May be Part of Your Spiritual Journey
As I continue to work on my forthcoming book, I’ve been writing a lot about karmic relationships. These are often the crushing, difficult, crazy-making relationships (often with narcissists) that we have as part of our journey. Yet, we don’t talk about relationships and dating as an actual journey. We often learn the most about life through these relationships. Again, we are not taught to view them in this manner. For that reason, it can be helpful to read a book that talks about a spiritual journey while you are trying to heal your heart. I love Jack Kornfield’s book, A Path with Heart.
“We must look at ourselves over and over again in order to learn to love, to discover what has kept our hearts closed, and what it means to allow our hearts to open.”
― Jack Kornfield,
Best Book to Understand How to Deal with a Narcissistic Ex — Because I know you Already think they are a Narcissist!
I don’t think there has ever been another time in history where we have become more obsessed with a particular psychological diagnosis than we are right now with trying to figure out if someone is a narcissist. When we go down this path, we will see that everyone narcissistic traits. Anxiety makes us self-absorbed about our own problems. We erroneously judge people for having a lack of empathy when, in reality, our own heart has been closed off so much by the pain of breakups we don’t realize we are contributing to our own suffering. At this point, I no longer think it is helpful to read a book on what is narcissism. Rather, it is likely more helpful to read a book on how to deal with difficult people. For this reason, I love the work of Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD. His book, It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips of Managing People with Blame Others for Everything, can help take down your anger a couple of notches.
If you are so inclined to also explore how these high conflict people end up in politics, Mr. Eddy has published a new book, Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths And How We Can Stop. It applies the concepts learned above to an entire culture and teaches all of us to take responsibility for our own communication with difficult people.
As you will learn, we don’t deal with these people well and often make things worst than they need to be. Best to learn some new skills when you are sitting on the couch eating ice cream and rehashing the latest breakup!
Best Book to Motivate you To Get Back out into the World
I have always loved Ryan Holiday’s writing but his recent series of books aimed at simplifying philosophic wisdom into actionable and thought-provoking lessons are really helpful. I recently gave a copy of, The Obstacle is the Way to a stranger when I was moving. I love this simple book and refer back to it quite often. It is a helpful kick in the butt regarding our mindset with actionable ideas of how to move forward even when it seems impossible to do so! Perception truly is our enemy but it can certainly be harnessed for future success.
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
― Ryan Holiday
Best Relationship Book to Teach How to Get Your Own Life
If you haven’t listened to Esther Perel’s podcast, Where Should We Begin, and are interested in what couple or family therapy is like, I do recommend listening to it. I am in agreement that often the biggest issue couples face is the lack of individual personal growth which often leads to extramarital affairs and breakups. If you are trying to recover from such a breakup, NOW is the time to take an inventory of your life and see if you are living your life in the way you actually desire. In the United States, unlike in other cultures, we have a strong tendency to look toward our partner to fulfill all of our desires. Unfortunately, one person cannot do this and the responsibility is up to us to, for the lack of another phrase, get a life. Mating in Captivity is, therefore, an important read for all of us.
“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.”
― Esther Perel
And if you want to continue to read why marriage is one of the best ways for all of us to grow up (which supports the point made by Esther Perel), you can read the work of David Scharch, PhD summarized in this Psychology Today article.
“No matter how differentiated, how self sufficient, how resilient you become, a relationship can still veer off track. Differentiation is necessary to salvage a marriage, but it isn’t quite enough because, Schnarch has found, people play mind games with each other that keep the relationship going but destroy intimacy.” — Pam Weintraub
A breakup is always an opportunity. Many of the people we meet are not supposed to accompany us on the next stage of our journey. It is a time for inner contemplation and inner growth. If you are brave enough to do your work, you will likely end up in a healthier relationship next time. If, however, the same people keep showing up (including the narcissists)— well, that is the sign that you need to dig deeper, remove the blame you place on others and make some life-altering decisions.
I hope these books give you permission to explore and grow! Far too many of us stay stuck blaming our ex for failing us and not learning the valuable life lessons that are actually more important than the relationship itself.
Previously published on Medium.com.
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