It’s winter time, and while I’m working, it also feels a little bit like hibernation time. In southern Ontario the temperature can fluctuate 40 degrees Celsius in the span of a few days. Just last week it was -30 and then we had 3 balmy days of 10 degrees. And then an ice storm. During my free time I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to podcasts. Here is a glimpse into what I’ve been into for the past 2 months. There’s Russell Brand‘s podcast Under The Skin, Tara Westover‘s memoir Educated, Daemon Fairless‘ book Mad Blood Stirring, and Dan Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson‘s parenting book The Yes Brain.
Under The Skin by Russell Brand
I’ve been a fan of Russell Brand since the movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Russell Brand’s podcast Under The Skin Podcast mixes three things I enjoy: spirituality, irreverance, and humour. Or any serious topic with a splash of irreverence and curiosity. I’ve listened to his interviews with Tony Robbins, Kehinde Andrews, and Gabor Maté. Gabor Maté’s interview (#053) has been my favourite so far – Damaged Leaders Rule An Addicted World.
Next on my list is an interview with Marianne Williamson.
Educated by Tara Westover. As a woman who grew up in a conservative Christian church, this book touched a lot of my edges. This is a memoir of her life growing up in rural Idaho in a Mormon household, with a father who had an undiagnosed mental illness, and never attending school. Through many acts of grace she gets her PhD. The mormon upbringing, like many religions is very patriarchal. She shares her journey of how she survived when the head of her household could not make a lot of rational decisions when he was in the manic phase of his mental illness. Her education through most of her childhood is of a different sort than her school-attending peers.
Mad Blood Stirring: The Inner Lives of Violent Men by Daemon Fairless. I recently saw an Osteopath, and one of his questions was whether I’d been in any bar fights. I laughed and said no. He said I’d be surprised at how many people say yes to that question. I was reading this book at the time, and I could believe that fact.
Try this: Ask yourself (whichever gender you are) and also ask a man in your life whether they think about the safety of those they cherish and what they’d do to protect them on any given basis (being at home, walking the streets, being near people fighting on the subway) . I was talking with a group of women who asked their male partners this question and we were all a little surprised about their responses. Many men, even if they have not grown up in dangerous or violent situations, think about this all the time according the book and according to the men our lives, but it is not something that gets talked about.
Take one look at this cover and you’ll either be drawn to read it or repelled. Daemon is a Canadian author who takes the reader on a personal journey reflecting on his own desire to be violent while adding research and interviews with men who are in prison for their violence. This book is all over the place, yet it’s worth persisting if anything to learn more about his own personal journey.
The Yes Brain by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson falls into the my favourite category of parenting – conscious parenting. In a nutshell, conscious parenting is being curious about when you are triggered by your child’s actions or emotions, and then doing your own work on why you were triggered instead of taking it out on your child.
Hitting never works in the long run, even if you rationalize that you grew up with it and turned out fine. Yelling is about you and less about your child. Conscious parenting does not mean that boundaries are not set or that your child will always be happy. Not setting boundaries sends a message to our children as well. If we have an anxious child and never have our children do anything uncomfortable, we send a message that we don’t believe they can do it either.
Like any book in the realm of conscious parenting, the journey is about being compassionate to yourself, because EVERY parent is triggered by their children (yes, me too). If you’ve yelled, hit, or have difficulty setting boundaries, get curious and consider that there are different approaches. There is NO such thing as a perfect parent. Here’s a link to my previous post The Myth of Perfect Parenting, which includes tips if you’re curious about the conscious parenting approach.
I liked how this book gives practical tips of teaching our children about self-soothing and identifying when they could make a different choice. The authors give guidance about teaching children about entering the red zone (anger/tantrums/bullying) and blue zones (anxiety, hiding, sadness). The tips include breathing methods, compassion, validation, and courage to make a different choice.
Sometimes when reading these types of books I get annoyed at very “therapyesque” conversations with children. This book has some of that too. I rarely speak like this with my kids either – it’s more important to take the essence of what the authors suggest and say it in your own words, otherwise it can come across as annoying and patronizing to our kids.
Russell Brand’s podcast and each of these books are pivot points to our own self-reflection about religion, education, parenting, politics, spirituality, violence & masculinity and more. They’re also great in discussion with friends, family, or peers. Let me know which one piques your interest the most or whether you’ve already listened to Russell Brand’s podcast or read any of the books. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Until next time….