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WOMAN OF SUBSTANCES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Jenny Valentish

I learned more in this book than I have in years of reading about psychology. Woman of Substances shares the contributing factors which can make some people more susceptible to addiction, including temperament, personality type, what events we are exposed to between the ages of one to seven, socialisation, exposure to childhood trauma and environment. Valentish shares her own journey through addiction and what factors contributed to her behaviour with a chilling honesty that is part memoir, part research piece, and part call to action on what opportunities there are for providers, families, friends and people who suffer from addiction to seek support. Valentish has translated academic research into rememberable highlights that will help you become a better support person to those who may suffer from addiction or more aware of your behaviours if addiction, or addictive behaviours plays a role in your life - be it success, work, drugs, sex, food, or love. This book covers everything from physiology, psychology and real life experience including her lessons through recovery with refreshing cynicism, as though you're talking to a close friend.

In case you were wondering, an addiction story doesn’t necessarily involve trauma... in any case, it’s likely the messages we receive as children do more damage than any incidents themselves. But to flip that into reverse, it’s rare for a trauma story not to involve addiction.
— page 126, 127
It doesn’t take much imagination to visualise the desire for success - be it work goals, sporting achievements, or platinum records - malfunctioning, so that punishing the body becomes its own feat of endurance.
— page 71
The deliberate self harm on addictions, or the self harm of being involved in harmful relationships - are all expressions of rage taken onwards and of really poor self esteem.
— Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre
Bingeing - on food, drugs, or alcohol - is often trans-generational, in that it can be influenced by parental over indulgence or dieting behaviours. Family dysfunction and trauma can also lead to a lack of the behavioural skills required to process deficit emotions.
— page 73
Stealing releases dopamine, the same way that drug and alcohol does... Scientists hypothesise that it’s released in a flood every time a reward is anticipated, rather than the reward itself. It’s evolutionary purpose is to motivate you towards goals necessary for survival such as feeding yourself and procreating but it’s also released when you walk into a clothes shop and start salivating, or when you reach for your phone to check for Instagram likes or when you rummage for your packet of smokes.
— page 174
The criminogenic profile of women prisoners in Australia is very different from that of men, with at least 85% plus of women prisoners in Australia being victims of abuse... Women detainees are more likely to have used drugs to ease psychological distress of mental illness and child abuse, and so drugs have a much greater influence on women’s pathways into prison than they have for men.
— page 257
We did a survey of whether clinicians working in mental health took a history of trauma in females admitted to the service. More than half did not. Somebody once said to me ‘the social workers are dealing with that.’ The social workers are saying ‘what?’
— Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre

SO, YOU'VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED

- Jon Ronson

Fascinating look into the psychology of what makes us feel mortified, embarrassed, and why we're more likely to divulge our deepest secrets when someone else shares theirs (see also: how to un-fuck up). If you love true stories, mixed with people / behaviour / psychology, backed by research and a healthy dose of cynicism - you'll enjoy this. 

It was some toxic mixture of insecurity and ambition... I felt like I was going to be hot for a second and then I would disappear. So I had to act while I could. And then there was some ... very dangerous and reckless ambition. You combine insecurity and ambition and you get an inability to say no to things.
— Jonah Lehrer, NY Times and WIRED writer accused of self plagarism and profiled in the book.
Universal among the violent criminals was the fact they were keeping a secret, a central secret. And that secret was they felt ashamed - deeply ashamed, chronically ashamed... I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of being shamed or humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed...all violence being a person’s attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.
— James Gilligan, Psychiatrist profiled in the book and best known for his work on motivations for violence.

LOST AND FOUND

- Geneen Roth

I read this as a first step towards addressing my relationship with - or lack of attachment to - money (read also: why uber isn't a bank). Geneen literally teaches people the parallels between emotions, food and money through her first hand stories. Great if you're keen on taking a hard look at some of your money myths and peering into other peoples brains. Swap the lessons about food for basically any challenge you have in your life and there's some pretty confronting lessons in this book. Super interesting. 

It is virtually impossible to tell yourself something on the physical level that doesn’t also affect you emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. When you tell yourself you can’t eat what you want, you also tell yourself that you can’t have what you want. That you can’t be trusted. That you’re out of control. That what you want will destroy you. And in my experience of working with compulsive eaters for 33 years, no one can tolerate hearing this for very long without reacting to it by either restricting themselves further or giving up the battle and bingeing. Or both.
— Geneen Roth, Lost and Found
Until I am willing to name by beliefs, either because circumstances force my hand or because I wake up to the pain of seeing through distorted lenses, I will continue to act on my fantasy version of reality, which is why lottery winners blog through their cash and end up broke; even with tens of millions they believe they are poor, and actions always conform to beliefs. And I will continue to believe that my version of reality is the way it is, not the way I choose it to be base on my beliefs.
— Geneen Roth, Lost and Found

THE WAY WE'RE WORKING ISN'T WORKING

- Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes, Catherine McCarthy.

Major research suggests the way we're working is broken. This book suggests the way we kick ass at work is actually less about the work and more about how we're looking after ourselves. 

If we can regularly recover, rest and rejuvenate our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual selves we're more likely to produce kick ass work.

The book also delivers super complex info into digestible chunks to outline how our brain works and what emotions and beliefs trigger our not so hot behaviours (see also: my traffic light system if you're interested in the behaviour stuff).

This is the research and practically backed book you want to read if you're a people manager and the book you wanna show your boss if you want to advocate for a different way of working. (See also: perspective: you rock).

A hardwired response to danger was especially useful to use thousands of years ago, when we faced life-or-death threats from predators every day. Today, we rarely face such dangers. Our bodies, however, don’t make the distinction between a real threat to our survival and our more everyday fears. An angry boss, a conflict with a colleague, a difficult deadline... can all prompt our fight or flight response. The problem is that when our survival isn’t literally at stake, the benefits of fight-or-flight are often outweighed by the costs.
— The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance
... the self we’re aware of operates under the aegis of our prefontal cortex. It has a limitless ability to learn and grow. In this state, we’re capable of making rational choices based on a careful consideration of the costs and benefits. Our second, more primitive self, run by our sympathetic nervous system, falls under the province of our limbic system - emotions, impulses, instincts, and habits. This self runs automatically and reactively, mostly outside of our conscious control, and is designed to ensure our immediate survival and safety. It’s incapable of reflective thinking.
— The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance

FOCUS

- Daniel Goleman

A dry read that has some helpful points for people leaders. Kick ass strategy is more likely to be produced when we combine creativity and insight, argues Goleman. Backed by case studies, he outlines how the biggest tech brands in the world are able to look  Internally (at themselves as individuals, what their skill gaps are, address them, recruit to fill them), Externally (what is going on outside the organisation in complimentary industries that can affect how our product / service is sold / distributed), and at the 'Other' detail of the organisation (what's working well? What element of our kick ass company can we better exploit / investigate?). I took out of this book that kick ass brands can exploit (market what they do hella well, shamelessly and to the point) while also looking for opportunities to explore different ways of doing things. I think we can apply this model to our own careers as well as building businesses.

People make their choices about where to focus based on their perception of what matters to leaders. This ripple effect gives leaders an extra load of responsiblity: they are guiding not just their own attention but to a large extent, everyone else’s.
— Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence
Companies with a winning strategy tend to refine their current operations and offerings, not explore radical shifts in what they offer. A mental balancing act - exploring the new while exploiting what’s working - does not come naturally. But those companies that can both exploit and explore ... are ‘ambidextrous’: they separate each strategy into units, with very different ways of operating and cultures. At the same time they have a right-knit team of senior leaders who keep an eye on the balance of inner, outer and other focus.
— Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Have reading recommendations? I'd love to hear them!

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