Radicalise your thinking
Updated: Feb 13
Change is hard. Staying the same makes us feel stagnant, like we are wasting time and our lives. Refusing to listen to the messages of old - who we are, who we should be, who we can be - is a frightening freedom to take. Reinventing that old story into one of possibilities seems overwhelming. Where do I start? Let me offer some titles to destabilise the old thinking patterns...
These are not self-help titles and will not give you direct strategies, advice, or ideas to try to apply to your life. Their usefulness is in offering a different perspective that opens up the greatest possibility of all: deciding for yourself how and who you want to be.
1. The Road Less Travelled by Scott M. Peck
The book’s central message of ‘life is suffering’ is not new; it is a long-standing idea in philosophy and spiritual traditions. This book’s power is in its message that emotional and psychological maturity releases us from despondency, dissatisfactions, and frustrations. Through examples from his own practice Scott Peck tells us about what love is and is not, what it means to update our cognitive map and why that matters, and how to challenge ourselves to grow in the service of a more meaningful life. It is a must-read for those interested in what psychological growth means, and what it requires of us.
2. The politics of the family by R.D. Laing
This slim volume by the anti-psychiatry psychiatrist R.D. Laing is the balm on the wound of having grown up in a family that has left one with a deeply negative self-perception or deep-seated beliefs about their place in the world. Laing exposes the workings of the family dynamic that requires one individual’s reality to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘family identity’. Laing’s work offers the opportunity to give name to family practices that have made us feel alienated, confused, and with a shaky sense of self.
3. The conspiracy against the human race by Thomas Ligotti
If you are drawn to the potential of the mind to visit some frightening places and you can withstand philosophy taken to its logical pessimistic extreme, then this book is for you. The ‘conspiracy’ in question is the daily mantra of ‘things are okay’ and ‘life is worth living’ and ‘happiness is out there to be found’ – the narratives that cover up the inherent horror of our existence: that we are aware of our mortality within an inherently (and mercilessly) meaningless existence. Why ‘against’ the human race? If we admitted the horror embedded in being alive, we would refuse to procreate, out of kindness towards future generations.
4. Mind fixers: Psychiatry's troubled search for the biology of mental illness by Anne Harrington
This book traces the history of the development of mainstream treatment approaches and diagnostic categories of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and anxiety. It is a very even-handed account of how our understanding and treatment of the major categories of mental illness is informed more by social and political factors like the power struggles between psychiatry and psychology and the advertising flair of the pharmaceutical industry rather than underpinned by any solid experimental findings in neuroscience or biochemistry.
(Photo credit: agsandrew - from psypost.org)