In the heads of the others

Books are like a view into another person’s head. Let yourself be surprised by entirely different perspectives and get mentally out of step. It’s worth it. All of the following books deal with elementary questions of life and change. They are non-fictional books, novels and dramatic texts. Grant yourself the luxury and ask yourself: ‘What if the story was about me? How would I deal with it?’ Pay attention to what you feel and to what goes through your mind!

Is it worth it and, if so, what for?

How are you doing at the moment? You are facing a scale from 1-10 describing your well-being. 10 would be the perfect situation;; you are newly in love; you, your friends and relatives are all completely healthy and happy. 5 is OK; some good things happening; some difficult challenges, but they are at least in some balance. 1 is not good at all; there are too many challenges and life is very difficult for you. Please note down your number on your scale.
Camus introduces his philosophy using the mythical character, Sisyphus, as the incarnation of pathetic humanity searching for the purpose of life in an allegedly meaningless world without ever finding it. Sounds quite bad… Then Camus writes that Sisyphus has to be seen as a ‘happy human being’. Could you see him as such? At the beginning of his book, he says: “The decision whether life is worth living or not, answers the main question of philosophy. Everything else – whether the world has 3 dimensions and whether the ghost has 9 or 12 categories – is not really important. In the first place answers must be given.” How do you answer this question for yourself? Is life worth living? What are your answers? Write them down! By now maybe five to ten minutes have passed and you have answered Camus’ question for yourself. Where do you see yourself on the scale from 1-10 now? What has changed now?

The ‘Letters to Lucilius’

The ‘Letters to Lucilius’ can be formulated as the remedy against ‘’inner unrest’’. Seneca wrote these letters in the first post-Christian century. Yet, they have not lost any of their relevance. For example, he states, ‘’Fear keeps pace with hope. Both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present’’. Exponents of the contemporary cognitive-behavioral psychology are using a very similar formulation. Seneca questions restrictive belief systems, which he makes clear to his ‘’student’’ Lucius by using everyday life examples and ongoing self-reflection ... Do you find yourself living too far in the future at the expense of both being aware of the present and making successful adaptations? Using Seneca’s ideas, you can learn to adapt in the present toward a more positive future.

The Night train to Lisbon

The novel ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ has a lot to offer: “The day that completely changed Raimund Gregorius’ life started like any other day.’’ Have you ever remembered something… The memory may be distant… or strong… but you are feeling that it exists. It certainly does. Gregorius, the main character in ‘’Night Train’’, all of a sudden gives up his whole life in order to follow a track which is more important than anything to him. Just like his creator, Peter Bieri alias Pascal Mercier. Bieri was a professor of philosophy until he left the academic system to become an author. In ‘’Night Train’’ he uses introspection as a way to understand one’s personal view of life, how we attempt to control and  construct our future and how fragile these constructions can be. Nevertheless, Mercier’s ideas are as helpful today in a process of self-change as they were in “Night Train!”

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, …

… Kill him!” This book is a real adventure! Sheldon Kopp uses works from world literature –from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Canterbury Tales to Franz Kafka’s “The Castle” – to illustrate observations and experiences from his own practice as a psychotherapist. As a psychotherapist, he lets you know that he is no guru – no Buddha – but just another struggling human being, like all of us. His realism is refreshing and helps us engage in the hard road to self-discovery and understanding with all its bumps and turns. The process of exploring your self-image can be a long and even painful road, as Kopp points out, but it is the road worth taking!

When suddenly everything turns out differently…

Helmut Dubiel, professor of sociology, was at the pinnacle of his career when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  The disease started “Deep inside the Brain”,’ also the title of the German version of one of his books describing Dubiel’s experiences with Parkinson’s. He reflects on his struggles with the disease especially in light of the constant challenges to his self-image an analytic’s/ scientist’s view. Dubiel’s personal fight against withdrawing from life in favor of reinventing himself is an inspiration.  It is a book which faces life and even has the power to light the darkest night.

‘Stop meandering …’

‘Are you distracted by things from the outside? Provide yourself the quiet to learn something good and stop meandering.’ Today one might say that Marc Aurel was one of the greatest leadership personalities. President-suites were strange to him, even though he ruled an empire. Instead of allowing himself the comforts of his status, he spent his last decade in camp with his soldiers defending his empire from the ‘barbarians’. Here, in the hot summers as well as wet and cold winter in the Byzantine Empire, the Roman emperor wrote his ‘’self-observations’’. When I read this book for the first time, I came across a different message based on his extensive appreciation for his teachers, or mentors as we call them today, who influenced Marc Aurel throughout his life. Who has influenced you?? How much influence do your mentors continue to have on you??  Which of their voices are talking today? Are you taking the time and energy to reflect on their influence today? These are questions we can explore in Coaching to help you gain a better perspective in today’s busy life challenges!