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Cultivating Curiosity Book Club

 Every month, I recommend a mental health-related book to help curious minds learn more about psychology, mental health, and themselves. I also send out a monthly newsletter reviewing the book and providing reflections and thoughts as a licensed psychologist. 

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August 2023

It's Okay That You're Not Ok by Megan Devine 

You may have seen Megan’s work discussing grief on Instagram under @refugeingrief where she provides all of those who grieve refuge in the truth about grief. Although many cultures have rich traditions and rituals surrounding death and loss, in the West (in general), we have very little. In fact, as a society, we tend to be very dismissive and invalidating of grief, which leaves so many people alone in their loss and confusion. Megan’s book offers an alternative. A validating, normalizing approach to grief that has us sit in the pain in the discomfort instead of running from it. An approach that says, “Of course, your life will never be the same. How could it?” and “You will find a way to live in this new reality.” It is hopeful and honest, brutal and validating. Whether you are currently grieving or know someone who is, this book is for you.

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July 2023

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In this incredible work, the author shares her experience of domestic violence in a queer relationship. Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and blisteringly honest, she captures the confusion, betrayal, and trauma of these types of experiences. There is something universal about her words, so anyone who has been or currently is in an abusive relationship will recognize the gaslighting, the loss of self, & the anger turned inward. Then there is something so specific about her experience. As she discusses in detail, there are very few resources, accounts, and writings about domestic violence in queer relationships, particularly lesbian relationships. In this way, she writes her memoir to fill this space. To speak to the specificity, the silence, the erasure that creates a very particular type of trauma and reminds the reader that specificity and representation are tools of liberation and tools of prevention.

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June 2023

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Dr. Peter Walker 

This is a classic and highly important work in the world of trauma and recovery. It fills an enormous gap in our understanding of trauma and treatment, as the diagnosis of PTSD may not fully encompass the experience of many people who have lived through trauma for an extended period of time. Many have experienced repeated, ongoing trauma (e.g., childhood abuse and neglect, domestic violence, ongoing sexual trauma, war, etc.), which is a different experience from those who may have experienced a singular trauma event. (This is not a comparison or competition of trauma, just that the approach and treatment of each type of trauma can be different according to the experience). People who have experienced complex PTSD often feel very lost and misunderstood, even in the world of psychotherapy. This book can be SO validating if this is your experience. 

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May 2023

How To Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis

This is a book all about how we can approach maintaining our spaces and homes in a functional and nonjudgmental way. Keeping up with our spaces can be challenging on days we feel our best, but it can feel like an overwhelming burden when we are tired, anxious, depressed, grieving, stressed, etc. The author, K.C. Davis, helps us approach our spaces with compassion and functionality, making them work for us instead of the other way around. There are very helpful and practical tips for managing our spaces when we need help and ideas on how to change how we view caring for our homes. Usually, there is a lot of underlying morality to keep our spaces clean and organized (e.g., “cleanliness is next to godliness.”). This morality can lead to so much judgment and shame, which in turn creates barriers to having a functional and workable space as well as comfort & kindness about our homes in general. This book was such a breath of fresh air, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

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April 2023

Drama Free by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Nedra Glover Tawwab is the boundary expert we all have been searching for. In her first book, she taught us all about what boundaries mean and how to set them in many different contexts. Her newest book provides us with a way to navigate difficult family relationships. Often, this is the place in which setting boundaries is the most difficult. This is because this is the first place we learn how we should be, what emotions are okay, and whether our needs matter. The book begins with mapping out what dysfunction in a family can look like, which is extremely helpful because sometimes we have no idea that the patterns in our family are dysfunctional. They seem normal to us! The author outlines how we can break away from these patterns, which I found to be a really hopeful part of the book as so many people struggle with hopelessness when it comes to family dynamics. Finally, she provides solid tips on managing all types of family relationships (with siblings, parents, children, etc.). Overall, this is a very concrete & helpful book if you are starting your journey of understanding & changing your dynamics with family.

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March 2023

Platonic by Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D. 

In Western society, we tend to downplay the importance of friendships in favor of romantic love. Although there is nothing wrong with valuing romantic relationships, it is the devaluing or lack of acknowledgment of the importance of friendships that is detrimental. This book is about making and maintaining friendships, which is difficult for many of us. When we have a hard time making or keeping friends, we can feel helpless, sad, and, of course, lonely. The author discusses how we can look at our attachment style to understand how we can deepen our relationships by knowing our patterns and what we need from others. We talk about attachment a lot when it comes to romantic relationships, but rarely when we are talking about friendships. But guess what? Attachment affects our friendships as well. This book is for anyone who wants to make friends, especially in adulthood (which is just so hard anyway), or anyone who wants to learn more about maintaining and deepening friendships.  The author deftly weaves attachment and relational research with real-life examples and practical suggestions.  I hope you are excited to dive in with all the amazing research and wisdom throughout the book!

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February 2023

The Sugar Jar by Yasmine Cheyenne

Throughout her book, Yasmine Cheyenne helps us all understand how we give away pieces of ourselves (energetically, emotionally, physically, mentally, etc.) both consciously and unconsciously that keep our “sugar jar” low. Our sugar jar is a metaphor for our time, resources, money, emotions, energy, love, and on and on. All the things we are and all the things that we have. She helps us see that when we do not have a lid for our sugar jar, we give it away freely and spill it all over the place, and we tend to feel disconnected, depressed, anxious, and unfulfilled. Although everyone can benefit from this book, it is especially powerful and liberating for those who are marginalized, ignored, and dehumanized in our society. Because she speaks from this space, her work has an intensely powerful authenticity and groundedness. So many times throughout this book, I said, “Yes, exactly!” out loud. She just gets it. She gets what we all need to hear about our own worthiness and helps us understand how we can keep our sugar jar protected but still able to be shared.

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January 2023

A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney

Rob Delaney is the creator and actor of the hit TV show Catastrophe. His book chronicles his journey of grief after losing his very young son to cancer while he was creating and filming his show. In his work, he shares all the aspects of his grief: sadness, anger, despair, hope, confusion, peace, heartbreak, loneliness, etc. It is heartbreaking, it is gut-wrenching, and it is funny? Not in a "trying to make light of grief' or "make it more palatable" sort of way. It is funny because he has allowed grief to be as complex as it is. His writing is so funny because it is so real. He does not treat grief with the reverence or fragile "respect" we usually do. He treats it as the authentic, complex, absurd experience that it is. And it's funny at times. He divulges his need to share his grief. To be seen and heard, even when he knows that so many will never understand his experience. He is okay with that because he needs us to know what it is like for him and his family. This book is an invitation and a permission slip to all who grieve to share instead of hide.

Click here for 2022 Book Club Picks!

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