Two Books

When I began studying Buddhism I was able to discard most of the self-help books I had collected over the years. I just didn't need them anymore. But two self-help books in my library offer approaches that I still value. The concepts and techniques in them are complementary to my Buddhist practice, and I wanted to take a moment to get down a few notes about them.

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D.

Assertiveness does not have to mean aggression, as Gandhi and Martin Luther King showed. This is a book about learning to be more assertive, and to handle conflict with others.
It's not a book about winning arguments. It offers real techniques that will allow you to deal with others more directly, honestly, and effectively. I've found that the techniques taught in it are great for dealing with difficult people and situations in a firm and yet compassionate manner.

Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch, Ph.D.

This book proposes the seemingly strange idea that long-term relationships are actually supposed to be difficult. It is this difficulty, and learning to deal with it, that turns long-term relationships into "people-growing machines." The author talks a lot about something called "differentiation", which is your ability to have a different opinion from your partner, and yet still remain emotionally and physically near to them. The book also takes on the common knowledge that physical passion has to decrease the longer we are in a relationship, and shows how it can actually increase instead.

The concepts in both of these books overlap a great deal with Buddhist philosophy, and I've found the techniques they offer to be great ways to practice compassion and awareness in my everyday life.

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