Recommended Books on Dealing with Shame and Guilt
Shame is often the forgotten emotion but the havoc it plays on both our mental and physical health is quite profound. A brilliant exploration of the difficult consequences of shame with powerful coping strategies that can be life-transforming for women from breaking down barriers to love and parenting to building better relationships.
These are a selection of books, some that deal with shame directly and some that are a little more indirect but which might help you look at life a little differently. (You might also find it helpful to explore your feelings of shame in a bibliotherapy session or explore our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course.)
Brené Brown catalogues women’s experiences of shame with remarkable sharpness and insight, explaining how modern day culture makes us all vulnerable to shame – the ever omnipresent narratives of society that dictate how women should behave, live and operate.
Shame keeps us from truly connecting with others and ourselves. However being aware of it and recognising its influence over us, reduces its power over us. We can then begin to accept ourselves unconditionally, opening the door to being true to ourselves.
What’s uplifting about Brené Brown’s book is not only does she validate our experiences of shame; she also shows us how we can overcome these and invite an infinite amount of personal possibilities.
Ironically, the habits we follow to reduce our shame, are induced by shame in the first place. The author, John Bradshaw, drank heavily to get away from his shame, yet the more he drank, the closer to shame he felt.
Bradshaw writes uninhibitedly about personal shame, the underlying reasons for it and how addressing its root causes helps release the shame that binds.
This book is particularly helpful for those working with unresolved family issues and includes some excellent coping strategies such as affirmations, visualisations and inner voice exercises. It comes highly recommended by counsellors and mental health professionals.
This book provides a fascinating insight into the human ability to survive in the harshest of conditions, making sense of tough situations and finding our purpose in life.
The author, an Auschwitz Nazi death camp survivor, illustrates, that through suffering, we find meaning and the drive to keep us going. Our goal in life is not to attain pleasure or power but to ‘discover meaning’ and it is the pursuit of this meaning that provides the purpose of life.
Specifically, the book advocates finding meaning in three different ways: through making ourselves useful to others, through unconditionally loving others and through suffering.
A significant book that continues to shine its wisdom whatever our circumstances.
This dynamic book explores what we don’t discuss within our most intimate of relationships — the relationship with our mother.
Michele Filgate, whilst still an undergraduate at university, began an essay about her stepfather’s abuse but only finished it a decade later — needing the time to work out what she actually wanted to talk about — the effect of the abuse on the relationship with her mother. Upon publication it went viral and was shared by notable authors including Rebecca Solnit. There was a clear need for this type of conversation to be had — and the appetite of writers to share their stories was not exactly limited. An anthology was born showcasing a collection of essays and stories that looked at a starkly exposed view of our relationships with our mothers.
A portrayal of both super close and irreparably estranged relationships with our mothers, André Aciman writes about having a deaf mother, whilst Cathi Hanauer talks about trying to have a conversation with her mother in the presence of her dominating and controlling father. Then there are the mothers on the opposite end of the spectrum — ones who need to share everything with their daughters to the ones to those that are seemingly perfect.
Beautifully written Filgate writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” Our relationships with our mothers are often the relationships that we replicate with others, particularly close ones and in working this relationship out do we work out the other ones, bringing hope, relief and healing.
Contributors include Cathi Hanauer, Melissa Febos, Alexander Chee, Dylan Landis, Bernice L. McFadden, Julianna Baggott, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, André Aciman, Sari Botton, Nayomi Munaweera, Brandon Taylor, and Leslie Jamison
Related recommended reading lists:
More book prescriptions can be found at our A-Z of Book Prescriptions.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. If you’d like to self-prescribe literature you can learn the art of bibliotherapy through my online course Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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