Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The need for a little indulgence (and a good reading list)

Forgive me, for, yet again, I am writing another egotistical self-reflective post.
However, if it encourages you to keep reading, this one is more optimistic-- and I also want some help!


This past year has put me through the wringer in a long, drawn out sort of manner that seems to preclude any obvious side effects, but rather taps me on the shoulder when I least expect it.

While the emotional stuff is actually rationally dealt with (I've been an overemotional teenager, after all), what I think has been troubling me the most of all is my diminishing passion.

Part of my core identity is being driven. It's what I feel separates me from a lot of people-- it's hard to engage in self-pity about being so busy when you know what you are supposed to be doing and are fulfilled by it. However, something has recently sapped that out of me. I think part of it is just the absurdity of the demands made upon students in a clinical graduate program-- I've seen many a passionate person crumble prior to me under it all. I also think the particular stress of the last semester of my MA was the proverbial camel back-breaker, when I had to hold it together while it felt like I had to ignore the taken-for-granted aspects of my life disintegrating before me.

While the spark is still there (it may be cliche, but it amazes me how working with one client in particular almost rejuvenates me at times), it is more stifled than it has been in ages. I saw this at the conference I just attended-- I went to a variety of talks on things that were superficially interesting, but didn't get as engaged as usual. I find myself dodging thoughts of getting back to work now that several big projects are out of the way.

However, interestingly, over the past few days (after my conference talk, I decided to take a couple days to get settled in my new place and just be), I have spent a lot of time walking, reading, and watched two really fascinating documentaries. And I can feel my mind sparking again. It's exciting, actually.

Thus, I have decided, while I do have things to accomplish this summer (which the neurotic in me will guarantee to get done), what these next few months have to be about is a little indulgence. Not indulgence in the traditional sense (though I certainly hope to do a little lazing about and drink a few marguaritas), but rather indulgence of the mind. I want to read great novels and watch great films, and actually think about them. I want to ponder the great theorists in my field (and others) and connect their ideas to my research. I want to sit outside and discuss these ideas with people-- it is so funny how we forget the brilliant people around us in the midst of all these deadlines. I want to actually do that "self-reflection" that we psychologists are supposedly ethically obligated to do, but often ignore... I really believe it will make it better at what I do.

I've already hit up the public library once, and intend to go to the university library tomorrow. I'm finally going to read more Freud, who has such intriguing ideas and case studies, but I have only got to read in little smatterings. I'm reading more Yalom because I assumed his case studies must be delightful if he can make such engaging textbooks. And the video store by me is rife with great documentaries. I'm in geek heaven!!

I want you all to bombard me with suggestions! Throw out those books, academic or not, that have made you think, and even better, challenge the way you think, or just stimulated something in you. To all my fellow psych students, I would love any field specific suggestions. Movies are fair game, too. I want to drown in this stuff!!

EDIT: I didn't mean to imply that I only wanted psychology related stuff. I'm looking for anything that any of you may have found interesting, thought-provoking, enlightening, or even just damned entertaining!


John said...

I'm not a psychoey studenty thingy. I feel very excluded!

I can't offer any inspiring titles from the literary world based on your chosen subject matter, or even films. I can however suggest that toast & marmite, washed down by coke, is a great way to get over a hangover brought on by margaritas.

Also, it's excellent news that you're feeling more inspired! Positivity, the way forward!

iFreud said...

A few mindblowing books that I have read...

Sexual Personnae - Camile Paglia
Memories, Dreams, Reflections - C.G. Jung.
History of Sexuality - Michel Foucault (or any of Foucault's works).

And of course - some Freud... he had a brilliant mind. A lot of his ideas and writings were misinterpreted and taken out of context (e.g., he was a product of his time).
Soul's Code - James Hillman. A must read!

I too feel my creativity and love of knowledge being sapped right out of me by the rigid regiments of grad school. I hope you find your intellectual mojo!

Ant said...

When I finished my undergrad degree I went through a period of kidding myself that I really was up for the whole physics/astronomy malarky and tried to keep the emphasis going by delving into it extra-cirricular styley. I think it was some kind of denial - basically I had barely passed my degree and was trying to convince myself that I hadn't just wasted five years of my life...

Now you sound like you're a higher achiever than me, so the situation is going to be different. However what you've just described does sound scarily like what I told myself during that period of denial. Depending on how you feel about it, maybe a look at your fundamental feelings about the subject is in order?

As for books, it's only computery ones that have rocked my world recently. However a couple of good science-for-the-laypeople ones that I'd recommend are:

Anything by Simon Singh - Fermat's Last Theorem, The Code Book and The Big Bang.

Or Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything. Actually his book about language - Mother Tongue - is really good too.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Books: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1984, Brave New World.

Movies: King Ralph.

Beth said...

I could only recommend fiction - and I think you've already got that covered with a "To Read List."
I am so glad to hear you are "indulging" yourself by doing what you love and WANT to do! Just thinking about it and making these plans seems to have lifted your spirits. GOOD FOR YOU!

chris said...

I can't believe someone suggested marmite...that stuff should be left in the dregs of kegs where it belongs! Just kidding. It's definitely an acquired taste.

I'm in the same boat as you...in desperate need of a solid book but am presently stuck with, well, nothing. The last thing I read, and enjoyed, was william strunk jr's 'the essence of style'. It's a book about writing...tiny little book.

Eve said...

I must say, I love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (I know I know, not summer reading, but whatever.) I find that they capture human emotions and experience in such interesting and insightful ways. Kind of long, but Tolstoy has a bunch of short stories/novellas, too.

Mother Tongue is great, so's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Hmm, also The Girl from Zanzibar (kind of bleak too), and anything by Pico Iyer, the travel writer. He writes lovely insightful essays about travel and everything that makes you think about.

Jocelyn said...

Augusten Burroughs is an amazing writer. His RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, a pretty good book, is overexposed,though. But if you read it, then you get the payoff of reading DRY, his second memoir, which takes a look at the internal life of addiction in a most fascinating way...and then you're ready for MAGICAL THINKING, his next memoir...

I love that he's funny and dark and cynical and unapologetic.

Btw, your "diminishing passion" might just be a natural stage of maturation, wherein you are shifting the way you define yourself. I really like my job, and I'm very good at it, but that's it. It's about 20% of my self-definition.

LMizzle said...

I think the book that really inspired me after a drought of shitty books was a book called "Astonishing the Gods" by Ben Okri. It's a really creative read that lets you escape from reality for a while.
I also loved the book Winkie. The Duke has my copy of it, and I doubt he's read it yet, but it's actually a really great book that I couldn't put down.
Also, have you seen the Squid and the Whale? That's good times. Oh oh, actually i saw a really good movie the other day. I think it's called "house of the golden dragon" or something of the like. It's about the attempted assassination of an emperor by his second wife, after he tries to poison her to death.

Ultra once suggested The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and I read it in two days. SO GOOD.

LMizzle said...

Actually, Steve has also been reading a lot of interesting kurt vonnegut lately, and he's really loving them

Indiana James said...

Good to see that you're taking a little time for yourself. If not a vacation in the true sense of the word, at least a stark departure from the mind numbingness of your prior to summer routine. As just advised, Vonnegut is a great read and seeing as how he just passed, a good way to pay homage. On the flip side, perhaps try writing on your own.

Princess Pointful said...

Thanks, everyone! I've already gotten about 8 books out from the library (and gotten through 2!), but I am going to use these suggestions to craft up a master reading list. I figure I will alternate one "fun" fiction book with one psychology/philosophy/serious book.

I started with some Freud, and now I'm into a Douglas Coupland novel.

John- Nooooooo for exclusion! It's all about the love! Except for marmite....

iFreud- I haven't read any of those yet, except for Freud, who is fascinating me at the moment. It is funny how, in the very same piece, he can be completely off-base and then completely brilliant. I'm seriously blabbing about him a whole lot lately.

Ant- I've heard good things about "A Short history...". Truthfully, I don't think I am completely jaded by psychology as a whole. Through the little reading I have started on, and the manuscript I'm working on, I can tell it is still there. Actually, I find case studies really get my motor running (I'm such a geek).

Ultra- Nothing says inspirational like John Goodman clad in purple!

Beth- Much thanks. However, you seem to read a lot of novels that I would/have loved, so suggestions are always appreciated!

Chris- Use this summer before things start getting crazy for you to do loads of reading!

Eve- Another chunk I haven't read. I'm actually really bad- I read a ton, but I haven't read many of the "greats", which is a shame.

Jocelyn- Being in my field, a number of people have recommended Burrows to me, actually! Also, that is a good aspect to consider, rather than jumping to panicking right away.

Lmizzle- I really liked the Squid & The Whale and The Curious Incident (which was extra fascinating since I did some therapy with a girl with autism)

Indy J- Actually, writing is probably a good idea. This blog has been actually the closest I've gotten to writing for myself in a long while, and I'm surprised how much I enjoy it.

Am i almost there yet? said...

I would recommend 'A History of Love', by Nicole Krauss, as I found it a quick read, but also an excellent re-read. And then, to indulge your sense of voyeurism, you could try Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Everything Is Illuminated'. They are married to each other, and there has been much speculation on the book-review circuit about the impact of their relationship on their creative processes...

eric1313 said...

Hey, you! If it's not too late for a suggestion, I'd like to offer up "All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers" by Larry McMurtry. It's about an artist--a writier, specifically--who realizes that the life of an artist and a "normal life" (whaytever that is) are pretty much mutually exclusive. It may very well apply to things that youy think about. McMurtry is an awesome writer with a wide range from the touching and heartbreaking, to the hilarious and even absurd. He's fully deserving of the Pulitzer and the Oscars that he's won over the years. He invents lovely new terms you would totally adore, such as "Fuckist".

Also by him and highly recommended are "The Last Picture Show" and "Terms of Endearment". Both can be seen in movie form. He won his pulitzer for "Lonesome Dove", and his biggest Oscar acheivment, believe it or not, happens to be "Brokeback Mountain", but I don't hold that agaist him! I actually thought it was a briliant story.

Anyway, don't crack my friend! You'll be fine. You're still my number one, and I'm yours as well. Your writing draws me like it draws so many others. =D

It took literally a half hour + to load all these pages on this damned dial-up. I should be reading other pages, but I was compelled to read a bygone musing after a day of knuckle breaking labor on my car's engine.

No, I'm still not stalking! ;)

Talk to you soon. I hope I can wait through another long load time. Have a wonderful night.

And if you drop a long note, I may not get it if it's way back because gmail is a real bitch to load in these parts. It's like I'm on the edge of a black hole called Port Huron, MI. Wait a minute... I am on the edge of a black hole called Port Huron, MI!

Peace and love, sweet friend.

Self reflect away.

eric1313 said...

Don't mind the typos! No spell checker out here, and as always, I type looking down at my keyboard and really don't proofread like I should.